By BEN GRAFTON
At the Freeport City Council meeting of Oct. 14, a brisk discussion took place about the number and type of boats now available to the Freeport Fire Department. Recently the department acquired a fire boat donated by a contractor in the area. Now there is a 19-foot Boston Whaler, reconditioned and given to the department by the U.S. Air Force, which the department intends to use for water rescue. Still, there is a third boat at the site that a donor wants to give, but which Fire Chief Ben Greenslait says will be rejected.
Councilman Earl King, who understood storage was available for the fire boat, commented that he drove by the station and saw the boat stored outside. Granslait said that this was just a temporary situation and that storage was available. King then said that if the trend continued, the department would not have enough people to use the boats.
City Clerk Robin Haynes said that she was not advised about the new boats. Noting a proper inventory must be provided for the auditors and that declarations must be made to ensure that the equipment is covered under the city’s insurance policy. Both King and City Attorney Clayton Adkinson reemphasized the need to promptly advise Haynes of all newly acquired equipment. King also asked for and received assurance from Greenslait that the boats were city property with no strings attached.
Greenslait also asked the Council for approval of a purchase order for mobile computer and communications equipment to provide better information on map locations and hazard identifications when responding to calls. The Council approved the request.
On another subject, Greenslait asked for and received approval to add three part-time firemen to the department.
City Planner Latilda Henninger presented the second reading of an ordinance to re-zone the 13.95-acre Watson property on the east side of U.S. 331 south of SR-20. Zoning would change from C-1 commercial to R-3 high-density residential which allows up to fourteen units per acre. Mayor Mickey Marse pointed out that the city is trying to downsize the number of units allowed in R-3 zones to assure adequate access for city water and sewer mains. After a general discussion of items about this and other issues that limit the number of units that can be put on an acre of property, the Council approved changing the zoning to R-3 but with a cap of 10 units per acre.
Park Director Shaun Arntz reported that he met with Dogwood Service to assure that both Dogwood and the Department of Corrections crew know what each is supposed to take care of. Plans are in place to treat for pre-emergent weeds within the next 10 days.
Arntz said that flag football games will start Oct. 29 and run for five weeks. Baseball starts Oct. 28 for four weeks. A soccer league will use the facilities and two games will be played on Saturday. A softball tournament is scheduled for Nov. 8, and Arntz wants to do a 5K run.
Arntz gave a tentative fee schedule to the Council for review and approval. King said that if you don’t charge enough to make people honest they will destroy everything there. Marse said he wants to make sure the park is available for residents’ use. With the understanding that the fees can be revisited and revised, the Council approved the schedule.
Arntz said he is trying to get data on the cost per hour for lights and because of this expense, he wants to encourage daytime events. In the discussion, it was said that the lights are on a demand meter billing system which is not to the city’s advantage. The system will be reviewed and if possible it will be revised.
City Engineer Charles Peters reported that the Lazy Days area sewer is now functional. The pump station was started last week. Project completion will be about three weeks overdue.
Haynes reported that the new computer software is up and running. The city is having issue after issue with its meter reading equipment. She expects it will be necessary to talk about new meter reading equipment. The postcard bills have been reviewed by the post office, however, some are being split up by processing machines. The city is being told that the problem is due, in part, to perforations in cards.
Haynes has explored another option: A firm in Fort Walton Beach is equipped to handle the printing and mailing for the city. Invoice data would be sent electronically to the company, where the bills would be printed, enclosed in an envelope with a return envelope and, if the city chooses, include an insert for notices, etc. The cost would be 46-cents each, compared with current cost of 24 cents. The company would also handle the mailing. The extra cost would be offset since city staff would not be stuffing envelopes and handling mailing.