By BEN GRAFTON
Opening the Freeport City Council meeting of May 23, City Planner Latilda Hughes announced, for those who had not heard, that the Walton County School Board has accepted the donation of land from Hammock Bay development as a site for a new school to be built in the future.
Parks Director Shane Supple opened a discussion about batting cages for the Sports Complex at Hammock Bay. A site near the children’s playground has been selected for the cages. Councilman Charlie Simmons told the Council that a power supply for the cages is an issue. He offered two alternate solutions: Tie into the power supply at one of the lamp posts or (preferred) run a 270-foot extension from the power panel at a cost of about $12 per foot for the wiring. He proposed that the city build the pole building for the cages first and then decide what to do about the power and the turf. Supple told the Council that “…the city can get all of the fill dirt it needs for the ball fields…”, but a delivery route for the fill must be worked out with Hammock Bay. The city will clarify some of the problems before approving the project. It was noted that at the last Council meeting, Calypso RV Park has pledged a donation of $5,000 to be used for the batting cage project.
City Clerk Robin Haynes asked the Council to approve a motion authorizing engineer Cliff Knauer of Preble-Rish to apply for a recreational grant on the city’s behalf. The Council approved the request.
The Council approved a request by Calypso RV Park to use previously paid fees for connecting active RV sites in the first phase of the development to the city’s sewage system.
The Council moved toward enforcing a state statute that requires residents of an area to connect to available municipal sewer systems within 365 days after the system is operational at their location. The action would apply to residents in a subdivision near Bay Grove. Haynes proposed notifying the residents and establishing a deadline of Sept. 14, 2014 for the residents to connect to the system. Simmons said that the county must play a major role in the action because of the part the county played when the system was installed in this area. Councilman Ray Jackson said that the failure of residents to connect to the system has an impact all the way to the sewage plant.
Resident Mike Standley addressed the Council and said, “…the proposed action on having residents to connect to the sewage system has a lot of merit.” He would favor a move to charge these residents “in city” connection rates to get residences off of septic tanks and onto the sewage system.
The Council will hold a workshop meeting to discuss the sewage problem. The city will then arrange a joint workshop with the Board of County Commissioners to get input from them about addressing the problem.
The Council approved accepting the 2012 financial audit report. The report was received late because of delays that occurred when the accounting firm doing the audit was sold to another firm.
An extended discussion took place about employees’ accrued sick leave. At the present time employees accrue eight hours of sick leave for every month of service. The city follows a practice of buying back sick leave accrued in excess of 120 days, but there is no policy that permits employees to donate part of their accrued sick leave to another seriously ill employee. It is understood that sick leave donation policies exist in other area municipalities. Presently there is a city employee recovering from cancer and a number of his peers would like to donate sick leave to him. Attorney Clay Adkinson advised the Council that this subject should be covered by a written personnel policy. Additional information about sick leave donation practices in the local area will be collected. The Council approved a motion to deal with the current situation with a one time authorization for individual employees to donate portions of their accrued sick leave to the ill employee. A cap, equal to one month of accrued sick leave, will limit the combined total these donations. The motion passed by a vote of 3 to 2 with Councilwoman Elizabeth Brannon saying she voted “nay” only because of the cap placed on the donations. A permanent policy will be considered when additional information is available.