By REID TUCKER
If the report given by Walton Area Chamber of Commerce representatives to the DeFuniak Springs City Council is any indication, the Municipal Airport’s 2012 Marvel of Flight event is going to be huge.
Chamber President Kitty Whitney told the board at its regularly scheduled meeting on April 9 that 87 aircraft have already been booked to attend this year’s Marvel of Flight fly-in expo, which is set to take place on May 19. Whitney said all indicators point to record-setting attendance figures, and airport staff and the Chamber are preparing for a crowd numbering between 2,000 and 3,000 people. This year’s event will include demonstrations from Eastern-Bloc military aircraft, rides in helicopters and fixed-wing craft, participation from piloting groups, and potential involvement from nearby Air Force bases, among other aviation-related events and activities.
Whitney also updated the Council on upcoming events aimed at promoting DeFuniak Springs and the Florida Chautauqua to residents in the south end of the county and presented a brochure commissioned by the Chamber that highlights historical areas around the city.
However, Whitney’s presentation was not all good news, as she also made official her intentions to step down as Chamber president to spend more time with her family.
Whitney conveyed her appreciation to the Council for its help during her time with the Chamber.
“I really am a better person for having had this opportunity,” she said.
She assured the Council, which had unanimous praise for her efforts during her years at the Chamber, of her intention to remain involved in the community, saying that will continue to serve on several committees in the area. Whitney also said the Chamber’s board of directors has narrowed down its choices for her replacement to six finalists and she asked the Council members to support and work with the chosen applicant.
The Council also heard an update on another major upcoming event in the city, this time from Code Enforcement Officer Jason O’Daniels, who spearheaded efforts to organize the first-ever Energy Conservation Discovery Expo. The event is set to take place on May 5 around Circle Drive and will include hands-on activities and live demonstrations of new technologies in areas ranging from bio-diesel and compressed natural gas vehicles, solar power, geothermal heating and cooling, and recycling. O’Daniels told the Council that mayors and elected officials from Escambia County in the west to Live Oak County in the east had all confirmed their attendance at the expo, which he hopes will become an annual event.
O’Daniels said it was his intention to make DeFuniak Springs a place of not only great historical significance but also a place where people will come from around the state to see new and innovative technology at work. He also indicated that the event had the support of schools from around the city as well as Peddlars Alley organizers, as that event will take place on the same day as the expo.
The Council voted 5-0 to approve O’Daniels’ request to put in a road block on Circle Drive for the duration of the expo, which will run from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
In addition to hearing those updates, the City Council attended to business requiring action at the meeting.
The Council reached a majority decision regarding the city’s annexation of 20.5 acres of property belonging to City Marshal Mark Weeks. Councilman Mac Work opposed adoption of the resolution, which passed 4-1, on the grounds that he is against any new annexation until all work on existing infrastructure has been completed.
The board members also voted unanimously to approve requests from City Manager Sara Bowers to adopt a revised personnel policy and to renew a lease agreement with the Walton County Council on Aging. They also voted to approve the annually recurring $47,909.72 contract with the Florida Department of Transportation for roadside maintenance within the city limits.
Finally, the Council voted 5-0 to authorize city staff to go ahead with an agreement with URS Corporation, an engineering firm, to begin the design phase for the municipal airport’s gate upgrade project. Bowers could not attach a definite dollar amount associated with soliciting designs from URS, but she said a 90- percent grant with a 10-percent local match from the Federal Aviation Administration should cover the costs of the entire project.
Bowers said the city has accumulated approximately $421,000 in entitlement funds with the FAA that, if the grant is awarded, can be put toward the gate construction project as it concerns airport security.