Freeport Mayor: Walton County needs to pay its proportional share of fire department and swimming pool costs
By BEN GRAFTON
At the Freeport City Council meeting of July 12, for the second time in recent months, Mayor Mickey Marse reported that Walton County’s contribution for fire department funding has been about the same for the last two to three years, but he says this level of funding is not acceptable given the fact that the majority of the calls (53 percent in June) are outside of the city limits. Marse said that county officials have said that there is no problem in splitting the cost, but if they don’t come up with a fair share, the trucks will not make calls outside of the city limits.
In a similar problem, Marse reported that the county does not have funds for swimming pool operations budgeted at this time. If the county does not participate in funding pool operations, the city will find it necessary to establish a user fee structure in which one rate will be charged to Freeport residents and a separate higher rate will be set for non-resident users.
In other business, City Attorney Clayton Adkinson presented the first reading of an annexation ordinance to take the Gillespie property into the city. The Council approved the reading and authorized advertising for the second reading.
Fire Chief Ben Greenslait provided a written report of fire department activities for June. The total number of calls for the month (85) and year to date (468) exceed those for the same period in 2010. The majority of the calls in June were for medical assistance.
Praestare Engineering, which handles a number of Freeport projects, submitted a written status report saying construction is underway on the building for Well No 2; that a bid of $24,707 has been received for relocation of the Shipyard Road Lift Station; that instrumentation problems are still interfering with the operation of the new waste water re-use facility; and that a meeting with Department of Transportation officials to discuss relocation of utility lines along U.S. 331 South was scheduled for July 13.
Councilman Earl King advised Praestare that he wants verification of completion dates for the sewer plant and lift station projects.
Prebble-Rish Engineering reported that the start of field work on the North Bay water main extension is waiting on the bond for the project and that the design and engineering for the Wagon Wheel well project is nearing completion.
Prebble-Rish also reported that discussions were underway with CHELCO about the energy grant for refitting the Sports Complex parking lot lights to use solar power. The lights are the property of CHELCO. It was reported that CHELCO sees no problem with selling the lights to the city. Conditions for this sale have not yet been discussed.
City Clerk Robin Haynes advised the Council that it is time for annual budget workshops. She believes two or three workshops and a public hearing will be required. The Council approved scheduling the first workshop next week and the public hearing on Sept. 13, a regularly scheduled City Council meeting date.
Haynes said the tentative budget millage rate is 4.73 mils. In the coming fiscal year this rate would provide the same number of dollars from lower estimated property values as were received this year.
Haynes announced that as of July 9, Marse and King have each served on the Freeport City Council for 20 years. A service recognition event will be held later in the year.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Brannon, Freeport’s representative to the Northwest Florida League of Cities, announced that the League of Cities will hold a board meeting, followed by a general meeting in Freeport on July 21. The board meeting starts at 5 p.m. in City Hall.