By BEN GRAFTON
At Freeport’s City Council meeting of Jan. 10, Mayor Mickey Morse reported that over the Christmas weekend a Century Link work crew had cut a trench in the ground and installed fiber optic cable where the city’s North Bay project water line is being installed in its dedicated easement within the right-of-way of SR-20 through Eglin Air Force Base property. Archeological restraints exist in this section and the Air Force required the city to conduct environmental and archeological surveys before granting the easement. According to Marse and other Council members the process to get the easement took about two years at a cost of about $200,000 before construction started. In addition, the pipe installation through this sector must be done using directional drilling techniques to install the pipe beneath the strata containing the relics without disturbing the surface of the ground. This work must be done under the supervision of a qualified archeologist. The drilling procedure adds another $150,000 to the project cost.
That the cable was installed over the Christmas weekend drew expressions of skepticism from members of the Council and the audience.
According to City Clerk Robin Haynes, the city only found out about the Century Link work when they hit some water lines and the city crew had to go out and make repairs.
Marse reported he learned that the Century Link crew reported they had a permit from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to install the cable. Marse said, “I talked to DOT this morning and chewed their tails out. I’ll call Eglin today, with your permission.”
City Attorney Clayton Adkinson commented that the city was permitted, but it also has an easement and it needs to find out how Century Link got into its easement and Eglin didn’t do anything to stop it. The Council agreed that Adkinson and Marse should continue to investigate the incident.
In other matters: Marse reported on the status of the project to install multiple electric meters at the Sports Complex. Two bids, one from Don Early and one from Wisco, based on an engineer’s drawing, have been received. One of the bidders reported that there was a problem in the drawing. It was learned that some specified parts are not acceptable to CHELCO. The engineer drew it up wrong. The project needs to be redesigned and re-bid.
Adkinson reported that the engineer acknowledged the project cannot be built according to information in the drawing.
Haynes requested Council approval to send the project back to engineering for redesign and then re-bid the work. The Council approved this request.
Haynes asked the Council to approve granting waivers of the $750 impact fee to new customers signing up for city water service along the North Bay water line extension route.
Marse offered the opinion that, when the water service is operational, people using the city water will talk to their neighbors and within a month there will be a flood of new applications for water service.
Councilman Earl King suggested approving Haynes’ proposal but fixing a cut-off date of June 15 for waiver of the impact fee. The Council approved a motion based on King’s suggestion.
Shelton Stone, General Manager of Owl’s Head development on U.S. 331 North, told the Council that lawsuits between the developers and banks have been settled and that last November Doug Duncan purchased about 900 acres of the Owl’s Head property and wants to move ahead with development plans. As a part of this, Owl’s Head would like to move the one house (just a shell), that was built. This house, which is owned by Duncan, will be relocated from its present site, which Owl’s Head will no longer own, to a commercial site across the highway in the vicinity of the Owl’s Head sales center. The house will not be used as a residence but it may at some time in the future be used as an office building.
A motion to move the house, subject to a provision that prevents the house from being used as a residence, was approved by the Council.
Councilman Harold Taunton reported being asked by a few of the Town Planters if lights could be installed for the sidewalk along SR-20. Marse offered the opinion that grants for projects of this type might be available. The city will look into this matter.