By BEN GRAFTON
The Freeport Council meeting of Oct. 27 opened with the introduction of Mark Sittig of the Florida League of Cities who presented Mayor Mickey Marse and Councilman Earl King with framed individual copies of League of Cities resolutions commending the dedication and work each man has given to Freeport as an elected official over an uninterrupted span of 20 years.
City Planner Latilda Henninger followed with a report addressing several issues including: a request to approve a development order for the addition of three classrooms to the Freeport Church of Christ. The project has received necessary approvals from planning, engineering and the fire department and the Planning Board recommends approval. The Council approved the request.
On Friday, Oct. 21, representatives from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) toured the Lafayette Creek, Four Mile Creek and LaGrange Bayou area and met with city and Walton County staff to explore the possibility of finding funding to develop a master plan and establish economic development incentives for the waterfront area. The effort is a part of the Waterfronts Florida Program. City tasks will include up-dating the working waterfront portion of the Comprehensive Plan.
The DEO representatives recommended that Henninger attend a symposium to be presented in Steinhatchee, Fla. in order to learn more about the Waterfronts Florida Program and to have an opportunity to get information from other participants in the program. The Council approved attendance at the symposium.
City Attorney Clayton Adkinson reported that he had been trying to get more information from the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) about their interest in using Freeport water department revenues as security for a loan to pay for relocating utility lines along U.S. 331. The relocation is a requirement for the DOT project to four-lane the highway. He said that the person he spoke to did not seem too concerned about the issue.
Fire Chief Ben Greenslait asked the Council for approval to submit an application for a grant to acquire a stationary breathing air system to charge firemen’s air tanks. The project cost is estimated at $71,000 and the city would have to provide $4,000 in matching funds. The request to apply for the grant was approved.
Greenslait also reviewed plans for the 5th Annual Halloween Safe Night; announced plans for the Christmas Parade at 5 p.m. on Dec. 2; and asked permission to hold a car show on the City Hall parking lot on Dec. 3.
Engineering announced that the low bid for the energy grant project has been reduced $21,000 by changing the equipment to be used. The project is still subject to approval by the state.
Frank Fabre of Fabre Engineering appeared before the Council to lodge a complaint about the sixth-place ranking given to his company in the evaluation of firms to provide continuing engineering services. He said he did not think the system used was equitable. A letter was given to the city on this subject.
Adkinson said that the Fabre complaint would not affect the first-place ranking given to Preble-Rish. Councilman Earl King said the city should study the letter to see what Fabre’s points were. If the Council agreed, they would consider revisions, but if they did not, no further changes would be made. Adkinson said that the firms ranked second and third would be advised of the issue.
Marse said that he had received word that the county would not provide additional fire department funding to the city and, as a result, the city will limit its fire and emergency medical service activities to calls within the city limits beginning at midnight Oct. 31. King commented that negotiations could be resumed in the future if the county wishes. Greenslait said that this action would cause insurance rates to rise for those outside of the city limits who were formerly served by Freeport. The city will notify the county and prepare a press release on this matter.
Councilman Charlie Simmons reported that he has talked to all three of the gas stations in Freeport and that the Shell station has offered a 5-percent rebate at the end of each month if the city buys all of its gasoline there. Simmons said he has not received any feedback from the other two suppliers. A diesel tank for the fire station is still under consideration, but no decision is needed now.
Engineer Cliff Knauer told the Council that he appreciated the vote of confidence that was reflected by the ranking given Preble-Rish for continuing engineering services. He also reported that 4,100 feet of water main pipe for the North Bay project has been installed in the ground. He said that directional drilling in the Eglin area was expected to start on Nov. 7.