By BEN GRAFTON
A Freeport City Council workshop meeting was held at 5 p.m., ahead of the regular Council meeting at 7 p.m. on Feb. 12. Two subjects were discussed at the workshop: A revised draft of changes to the Industrial Use Category of the Land Development Code and procedures to review applications and conduct interviews with candidates for the open Freeport fire chief job.
To open the regular Council meeting at 7 p.m. City Planner Latilda Hughes reviewed the draft of changes proposed for the Industrial Use Category of the Land Development Code for the Council. Except for minor changes to provisions for the Light Industrial District (I-2) classification the Council agreed that the draft was consistent with what had been discussed. Hughes then said she would prepare an ordinance and a clean copy of the revised draft for the first public reading at the next regular Council meeting.
A discussion of the process to be used by a panel to screen applicants for the fire chief job was conducted. Fifteen application forms have already been sent to potential candidates and the city projects as many as 40 applications may be received by the cutoff date of Feb. 28. The panel, made up of Al Ford, Russell Beaty, Gary Swearingen, Ryan Crawford and Councilman Harold Taunton will select the top five applicants for the job and present them to the Council for interviews. When necessary in the screening process, the panel may refer to a negotiable salary range of $48,500 to $55,000 with benefits. Council members agree that the new chief will be expected to become a resident of the Freeport Fire District.
Attorney Clayton Adkinson reminded the Council that the city has a contract with an attorneys group out of Birmingham in regard to its British Petroleum (BP) claims. The expiration date for filing claims against BP is April 20. Adkinson thought that perhaps there will be a settlement offer from BP before the expiration date, but he wanted Council approval, if a settlement is not offered by sometime before the expiration date, for the city to go ahead and file suit. If a settlement offer is made by BP, the city will be advised. Meanwhile the city will be pursuing a strategy of participation in a lawsuit by the Alabama attorneys. The Council approved pursuing this course of action.
Interim Fire Chief Al Ford presented the fire department report for January. The report included 46 medical calls, eight car accidents (two of which required occupant extractions), one structure fire, five brush/grass/tree fires and other calls for a total of 72 calls in the month.
In other work, Ford reported a heavy training schedule including handling forest fires, a house fire and an auto fire. Good progress was made in the fire hydrant maintenance program and three free smoke detectors were received and installed in local businesses.
Parks Director Shane Supple reported that six loads of sand/clay mixtures have been delivered to the park by the county and used for renovation of the baseball fields. The new Sand Pro has been delivered and, “…it works great.” He also reported that an effort is underway to provide a batting practice facility, that there have been two police reports of vandalism in the last week and a half and that the sheriff’s response has been helpful. Supple said that the planned installation of additional lights will improve the effectiveness of the security camera system.
In addition Supple commented that Freeport Middle School has conducted a 16-team spring baseball tourney at the Sports Complex and that 5,000 eggs have been ordered for the annual Freeport Easter Egg. The fifth annual auto show will be held on the Saturday before Easter.
Engineer Charlie Cotton of Preble-Rish reported that the work on the water system is still waiting on delivery of the altitude valve for the Portland facility. Receipt is expected by the end of the month and installation should be complete two weeks after that. He also reported that the work on the new control house for the No. 4 Well should be complete by the end of February.
A discussion of step pay increases for individuals selected as lieutenant or captain in the new organizational chart for the fire department was conducted. The one captain will get a 10-percent increase and the lieutenants will get 5 percent each. The captain will assist the fire chief and will be available to supervise one of the shifts in the absence of its lieutenant. The Council approved the proposal.
City Clerk Robin Haynes introduced a request for Budget Amendment #2 to transfer $47,000 in impact fee account funds to take care of qualified capital outlay for the work on SR-20. The Council approved the request.
Water operator Ben Lewis advised the Council that one of the two new water department hires has demonstrated the ability to perform all of the tasks expected of him. He can do any of the work that the other permanent employees do. Lewis recommends moving this employee to permanent status with a pay rate of $12 per hour. The Council approved the recommendation.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Brannon will go to Tallahassee as a member of the League of Cities group to discuss issues with legislators.
Notice has been received from the attorney handling the matter that the annexation reading for property in the Waterview Cove development will be done at the Council meeting on Feb. 28.