By REID TUCKER
Representatives from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) began making their yearly rounds, laying out the department’s five-year work plan for Walton County to the Paxton Town Council.
The Town Council members heard a presentation on the rural Walton County work program from Christy Johnson, who serves on the FDOT Development Council out of Pensacola, at its June 18 meeting. The Town Council voted to add another item – a request to have the now-dirt stretch of Parker Lane paved – to the list that includes several projects directly affecting the Paxton community and others in northern Walton County. The work program, which is slated to begin in 2014 and finish in 2018, includes plans to widen and resurface CR-285 from the intersection with U.S. 331 to the Alabama state line and also to resurface SR-85 from the Okaloosa County line to the Alabama border.
Perhaps the biggest news of the five-year plan is a $3 million study to work out the design particulars of four-laning U.S. 331 from U.S. 90 in DeFuniak Springs north to Alabama. Johnson told the Council that programs, such as one intended for use by rural counties with populations of 100,000 or less and another for counties of less than 75,000 people with a local fuel tax option, should provide 100 percent funding for the study.
In other Council news, a special meeting was set to be convened at noon on June 25 to review and select between the submissions of the two engineering firms out for bid on a proposed upgrade to the city’s sewer system. Also, Mayor Hayward Thomas gave the board an update on the progress of the city’s pending purchase of four acres-worth of commercial property just off U.S. 331, saying that the required environmental studies should be completed within a few weeks. The Council approved the purchase of the two parcels at a total appraised value of $52,500 at a special meeting held the week prior to the regularly scheduled June 18 meeting.
Council Chairman Bobby Kemp said the purchase was a good investment for the city, as the Council could then have a greater degree of control over the kinds of businesses wishing to open in Paxton while also giving the Council more leverage in terms of offering incentives to new businesses.