By BEN GRAFTON
City Planner Latilda Hughes opened the Aug. 22 Freeport City Council meeting before a good sized audience. Her first order of business was to ask for approval of the first public hearing of a draft Military Sustainment Amendment to the Comprehensive Plan. The Council approved the request.
Hughes then advised the Council of a requirement to appoint a floodplain manager to oversee floodplain regulation compliance. Mayor Russ Barley nominated Hughes to take on this added responsibility and the Council approved the appointment.
Hughes also asked for and received approval to develop a “New Resident Information Packet.”
The Council approved a request from Ricki McWilliams of the Walton County Extension Office to use the City Hall conference room as a weigh-in/ weigh-out site as a part of the “Freeze the Gain Challenge” program. The Council approved the request.
The Council approved nominations of Russ Beatty, Jan Hooks, Mark Miller, Sue Ann Cagle and Ron Brannon Jr. as members of the Freeport Planning Board.
Parks Director Shane Supple reported lightning strike damage to the electric system for one of the ball fields.
Councilman Harold Taunton reported to the Council that a review of the request to extend swimming pool operation beyond the budgeted plan is not justified because of the drop in attendance, the lack of budgeted funds to cover operating costs and the need to perform year end maintenance. The Council agreed and pool operation will end after the Labor Day weekend.
Engineer Cliff Knauer advised the Council that there is an opportunity to apply for a Water District grant for small cities. A grant could enable activation of the Rock Hill well and provide service for the Rock Hill area, or for another area. He said, “Requests for the grants are due in October and they are expected to be very competitive.” Ideas for the application must be submitted by early September.
A broad discussion of the sewage system debt and service problem for the area east and west of U.S. 331 north of the Bay Bridge ensued. It was pointed out that there are about 375 septic tanks in service in the McDaniel’s Fish Camp area and they are contributing to heavy pollution of Choctawhatchee Bay. Fecal coliform counts are reported to be in the range of 2,000 to 3,000 in this area. In addition there are septic tanks in the area from south of Ramsey Branch to the bay that should be closed. Subsidized connection for those who can’t afford the hookup fees was suggested. The city would receive benefits in the form of monthly service fees and improved sewage plant operating efficiency. It was pointed out that even though the sewage lines are in place, the overall cost of removing tanks and installing grinder pumps would be very expensive – the cost of grinder pumps and connections would be nearly $2,000 per unit. It was also reported that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was, “… very excited that this discussion was taking place in Freeport.”
Knauer told the Council, “There is no guarantee for a grant. All of the homes are outside of the city limits in the county. The county and the city need to work together on this problem.”
A general discussion about the fire department budget took place. McLean said she had some ideas about funding, but she felt the Council should wait until more information about county action on fire departments is known. This may require scheduling a special Council meeting.
The Council approved a project to replace the master lift station pumps. The lowest bid on this project was reported to be $28,000.