By REID TUCKER
A year-long effort to bring Dollar General to Paxton finally paid off, as Mayor Hayward Thomas announced that the retailer has committed to install a store location south of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office substation.
The Town Council voted 5-0 its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, April 17, to donate two acres of land for the physical location of the store, per Dollar General’s request. The board members also voted to waive some utilities fees to further incentivize the deal.
City Attorney Lori Bytell advised the Council that the final terms of agreement between the city and Dollar General should include a “reverter clause,” which will stipulate that the donated property would return to the city’s ownership should the land cease to be used as a retail location after a given time period. Bytell also advised that the final agreement should include language preventing “certain legal but unwanted businesses” from moving into the location in the event of Dollar General’s unforeseen pull-out. The Council concurred, stating its desire to reserve the property’s use for “family-oriented businesses.”
“That way we would secure our investment because, certainly, we don’t want them to come, set up shop for a year, close [the store] down, and then they have our land,” Bytell said. “We want some assurance with that. That way we’re protected.”
Councilman Charles Cook said sealing the deal with Dollar General is the first step to bringing other kinds of businesses and services to the city and its people.
“If we can get one business in there and get it started then more will gradually come,” said Councilman Charles cook. “It’ll take a while, but we need a grocery store and some other things (in Paxton) too.”
Bytell was directed to draft a letter of the city’s intent to work together with Dollar General in order to hash out the final agreement between the two entities.
The other main items of discussion at the Council meeting revolved around activities such as the monthly livestock sales and Dixie Youth League baseball games. Since both make use of the 83-space parking lot near the Paxton Agriculture Complex, auction proprietor Dale Anderson, who attended the meeting to renew his lease agreement with the city, requested that Dixie Youth events not be scheduled on the same day as farm sales in order to avoid overcrowding. Anderson said such scheduling conflicts put children at risk because livestock sellers and buyers are forced to maneuver animal haulers within the tight confines of the Ag Complex parking lot, which becomes crowded enough when only one event is using it.
Paxton Dixie Youth League President Matt Mitchell said instances of both farm sales and home games occurring on the same day were rare, and the recent events Anderson spoke of where the result of games that had been rescheduled due to inclement weather the week before.
Though alternative parking areas for both kinds of events were discussed, including having attendees cross U.S. 331 from parking lots at Paxton School, Bytell said this too created a problem, as the city would be held liable for any injuries that occurred on city property. The Council also discussed soliciting help from sheriff’s deputies to assist with parking and requesting that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection allow sections of an area designated as protected wetlands be used for excess parking.
In the end, it was decided between Anderson and Mitchell that representatives of both organizations would meet to work out schedules in advance so as to prevent conflicts from developing in the future.
After concluding that portion of the meeting, Mitchell and other members of the Paxton Dixie Youth League Board of Directors came before the Council to get a decision to allow or disallow registered sex offenders with a “released” designation from attending League events.
Two individuals in particular, parents of children that play for Dixie Youth League teams, are known to officials, and neither is currently serving any sanction for their prior offenses. Registered offenders with this designation are not prohibited by Florida Statute from living within a certain distance of places frequented by children, nor are they prohibited from attending school functions involving their own children. However, in light of the sensitivity of the issue, Mitchell said he wanted to take the decision to prohibit these individuals from attending functions at the ballpark, which counts as city property, out of the Board of Directors’ hands.
Bytell said an ordinance was required to enact the Council’s will one way or another. While the Council members discussed all alternatives at length, they eventually requested that Bytell put together a packet outlining their legal options so that the matter can be further discussed at next month’s meeting.