By ALICIA LEONARD
The DeFuniak Springs City Council held their regularly scheduled session on Feb. 14. Among items on the agenda were multiple request for fee waivers for use of facilities and equipment from non-profits, a discussion on downtown redevelopment, and community redevelopment area findings of necessity and plan with negotiation committee recommendations.
Walton Academy requested use and a waiver of the fee of use for the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood for their prom. The Council approved the request five to zero.
Covenant Hospice received approval for a fee waiver for the use of the sound system at the city’s amphitheater for their annual Easter egg hunt. Mayor C. Harold Carpenter responded with his thoughts to the request, “This is a pretty big egg hunt and I think that would be very beneficial to out community.” The Council approved the request unanimously.
Edward D. Armbruster approached the Council and questioned them as to why only the downtown area was a part of the Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) being discussed. “I’d like to request that you look beyond downtown and towards Highway 90 West. Business out in that area tends to be forgotten.” Armbruster also questioned if all businesses would be paying for the redevelopment of downtown business. Councilman Don Harrison told Armbruster that it was his understanding through staff members that only businesses that would profit from the upgrades would have the choice to participate through an increase in Ad Valorem taxes. DeFuniak Springs City Manager Kim Kirby concurred and also responded, “Once the CRA area is established those increases can be used to leverage grants and other things that can help the downtown businesses or whatever that area is defined as.”
Pamela Campbell, representing Relay for Life for DeFuniak Springs requested and received, unanimously, a waiver of fees for the use of the civic center for an April 8 performance by Elvis impersonator Jerome Jackson to raise funds for cancer research. The DeFuniak relay is scheduled for May 13 and 14 at Walton High School.
Marie Hinson, representing Grit and Grace as well as the Heritage Museum received a unanimous vote in favor of waiving fees for use of the Hall of Brotherhood on Feb. 24 for a Grit and Grace storytelling session and a March 14 for another fundraising effort to be held at the civic center.
The Council then discussed the CRA with Planning Director Greg Scoville and Stantec representative Ray Grear. Scoville said the committee had moved to go ahead with the preliminary study. Harrison responded, “I’ve expressed concern over the cost of studies, especially when those studies are done by contractors that are the only bidders on the project, through no fault of themselves. I think we would do well to reject this bid and go out for another that might bring more competition and a lower price in the future.”
The first round of the study would have cost the city $15,000, and the second phase $41,000 with an additional $12,000 tacked on for Swan development advisors for a grand total of $68,000. Harrison concluded, “I would vote against the $68,000 for a study that we are not even sure that businesses will want to invest in this, because it’s their money.” Kirby responded “No one will be forced to participate in this. Businesses will understand that if they want to take part, those extra taxes will be set aside to reinvest in improving that area so their property values increase and when the CRA goes away they have improved their area and business.” Kirby said the funds were available under this years budget, but not solely under the planning budget. The Council voted to reject the bid and start over four to one with Mayor Pro Tempore James Huffman being the dissenting vote….
Read the full story in the February 17, 2011 edition of the Herald Breeze.