By ALICIA LEONARD
In a surprise move, the city of DeFuniak Springs was informed on Monday that another grant was available through the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for land purchase to expand the runway at the city’s municipal airport. The grant will pay for 80 percent of the land purchase, with the city filling in the remaining 20 percent from reserves. The total amount with matching funds will be $983,000. The Council approved unanimously to approve the 20 percent match which will be $196,000. The Herald received information before publication that the Council had voted on a slightly decreased version of the numbers previously, therefore the Council will have to put the issue to a vote again, now that the new figures have been confirmed and when the FDOT returns with the final agreement for the 80/20 grant.
DeFuniak Springs Financial Director Sarah Bowers confirmed that the money was available in reserves to make the match and the Council had favorable comments about the expansion of the runway. Council member Don Harrison said he believed it would be a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to get the grant funds, yet was cautious about the bargaining process and wanted to make sure the city paid fair market value for the land and not more. Kirby reassured Harrison that checks and balances were in place within grant guidelines to safeguard any overpricing. Councilman James Huffman said, “I think this airport has the possibility of driving our economy for the next 50 years and it’s very important.” Council member Henry Ennis concurred and said, “I think this airport is the future for our city.”
The Council decided on the date of November 18 at 5:30 p.m. for a sign ordinance workshop. Harrison requested that variances and wavers from the “last five or 10 years,” be pulled for that meeting to see if there was continuity in the Council’s past decisions. “I think that would be helpful to see. I would like to see that,” he said. “I think it’s important that we strive to keep the esthetic quality of our city as closely as possible.”
The Council also moved to cancel the regularly scheduled meeting on December 22. The Council also approved unanimously to close north Park Street and the east end of Quebec Avenue (from Beachwood Place to Park Street) from 9 a.m. until noon on Nov. 11, 2008 for the city’s third annual Veterans Ceremony to be held at Magnolia Cemetery. The event is scheduled to begin at 10:15 a.m and a fly-over by the 60th Fighter Squadron from Eglin AFB is scheduled at 11:11 a.m.
During citizen comments, Roy McCloud approached the Council and requested they investigate the possibility of alternative fuels, such as natural gas, for transportation. Mike Sasser, natural gas utilities services supervisor, responded to the Council that he had been investigating the possibility, but was getting widely varying prices for conversions, as well as varying rates for the cost of building a supply station. “The supply station is where I am finding the real cost lies,” Sasser told the Council. Sasser promised to investigate the process more and bring the Council some solid information as soon as possible.
Mayor Harold Carpenter requested that the Council become more active in pursuing the widening of U.S. 331 to continue from Edward’s Circle to Interstate 10. “If we work together, it’s a possibility that we could get this done,” Carpenter said.