By BEN GRAFTON
At the beginning of the Freeport City Council meeting of Feb. 28, City Attorney Clay Adkinson presented the second reading of an annexation ordinance advertised on Feb. 7 and 14 for property in the Waterview Cove development. The reading was approved by the Council.
Interim Fire Chief Al Ford reported that he and Interim Chief Russell Beaty interviewed Thomas Palmer for the job of captain in the Freeport Fire Department. He said that Palmer was the only applicant for the captain’s job, he is qualified and he has the support of other members of the department. Ford and Beaty recommend that Palmer be appointed to fill the captain’s job. The Council approved the appointment.
Ford also advised the Council that there were five applicants for the lieutenants’ positions in the Department. Everything is complete for testing the applicants. Filling these can be placed on the agenda for the next Council meeting.
City Clerk Robin Haynes advised the Council that 28 applications with documentation have been received for the open fire chief’s position. Inquiries about the job were received from another 17 people but no applications were submitted by this group. The application period is now closed and the appointed committee will review applications and present selected candidates to the Council for interviews.
Haynes gave the Council members a proposed schedule for swimming pool operations in the coming season. At this time, the schedule is for review only. The subject will be put on the agenda for action at the next Council meeting.
A general discussion about the batting machines installed in the park behind city hall took place. Haynes asked for direction about what to do with these old machines. Mayor Mickey Marse said, “… those machines were designed to go inside, not out in the weather. If you buy more of them, all the service is in Arkansas. If you buy two new ones and put them in, within a year we will be in the same shape we are in right now.” Parks Director Shane Supple reported that similar machines installed in south Walton and in DeFuniak Springs do not work. He would like to see just the batting cages with power outlets installed at the Sports Complex. The old machines will be dismantled and disposed of.
Supple said, “I tagged on with the county to do a formal letter of complaint to the warden about our prison [work] crew. They have been hit and miss for awhile. Public works has had the same problem.” Apparently the workers were being assigned to other jobs and the work agreed to was not being done. This is supposed to be corrected and the work crews should be back doing the work they are supposed to do.
Supple introduced a plan to hold a rodeo with barrel racing, bull riding and other events. This would be on one of the soccer fields at the Sports Complex. The event would be directed by Bo Campbell of Robertsdale, Ala. Supple pointed out that other communities hold rodeos on school football fields and similar grass areas without creating unmanageable field maintenance problems. Nothing is scheduled for the soccer fields in April, May or June and the rodeo will be scheduled for the nights of Friday and Saturday, April 5 and 6. Gates would open at 5:30 – 6 p.m. and events would start at 7 – 7:30 p.m. About 300 entrants are expected and attendance is project to be about 1,200 people seated in portable seats that will be brought in. It is understood that the sheriff’s office will be a sponsor. The Council responded favorably to this proposal.
A workshop was requested by Haynes for discussion of sewer rates and by Councilman Ray Jackson to discuss improvements to U.S. 331 North. The workshop is approved for 7 p.m. on March 13.
Haynes recommended having changes made to the billing system that would allow electronic payments. A user’s fee for this service, possibly $3.95 for up to a $200 transaction, would be charged by the company managing the billing system. An expenditure of $800 would be required to upgrade the system. The Council approved going ahead with the change.
Marse reported that the city’s data flow system does not work and that it will take an estimated $66,700 to correct the problem. The Council approved getting the system fixed. A budget amendment was approved to use impact fees to cover the expense.
Eleanor Turner of the Town Planters advised the Council that the annual Miss Freeport Pagent would be held at the high school auditorium at 6 p.m. on March 9. A scholarship goes to the winner. Turner asked for approval to advertise the event on the city’s electric sign in front of city hall. The council approved the request.
Cliff Knauer of Preble-Rish will look into a storm water retention pond percolation problem reported by Jackson. Knauer also has been going over Four Mile Creek park improvement estimates and told the Council that he thinks a canoe/kayak launch should be added to the facility. The Council agreed with the recommendation.