By REID TUCKER
The DeFuniak Springs City Council was primed to discuss the ordinance, passed about a year ago, that requires all prospective city employee hires and eliminations to come before the board.
However, a consensus was reached between the councilmen at the Sept. 9 regular meeting to defer discussion until next time, when Councilman Kermit Wright, who did not attend due to recovery from surgery, is expected to be present. Councilman Mac Carpenter proposed rescinding the ordinance in question, which amended the responsibilities of the city manager such that all hires were subject to Council approval, following the last regular meeting in August.
While the original intention of this ordinance was to make the hiring process more transparent, Carpenter argued that the process was unnecessary, given the confidence the Council has in the city manager, assistant city manager, chief of police and other department heads. Furthermore, Carpenter said the city could be “jumping off into some deep labor law water” if it continued the policy of making disciplinary actions resulting in terminations or suspensions a matter for the Council, and consequently a very public matter.
“We have people that we pay a lot of money to manage those (job) positions, and I think each of them is quite capable of performing the duties of their offices,” Carpenter said. “I’d like to see them have the authority to carry out that responsibility. I do not think every single hire needs to come before this Council and I do not think every single disciplinary action needs to come before this Council.”
Upon recommendation from the city attorney, Carpenter agreed to bring to the next meeting his suggestions as to the specifics of a new hiring and firing policy for the city.
The Council also agreed to table discussion about the city attorney position, another agenda item brought forward by Carpenter following the previous regular board meeting, until Wright could be in attendance.
Two resolutions related to the imminent construction of a four-lane U.S. 331 were passed unanimously by the Council, both of which amounted to requests to the Florida Department of Transportation, the agency in charge of the project.
The first resolution showed support for a request from Healthmark Regional Medical Center to ask FDOT to adjust its construction plans in such a way that the four-lane highway will move from the east side of the hospital to the west side. Hospital representatives made a presentation to the Council in which they contended that the route proposed by FDOT would bring construction in close proximity to existing emergency rooms, operating suites and intensive care units while also limiting the hospital’s ability to expand its facilities to the east. Mayor Bob Campbell spoke in favor of the resolution, stating the importance of allowing the hospital to grow to meet the needs of the community, which itself will almost surely grow with the widening of the U.S. 331 corridor.
The second resolution requested that FDOT begin construction on the north end of the Interstate 10-to-Rock Hill Road phase of the project. The Council voted to amend the language of the resolution to request that construction begin on the segment from I-10 to County Highway 278 S, more commonly known as Coy Burgess Loop. This was requested so that construction on the highway would not interfere with the plans to expand hospital facilities at Healthmark, which lies directly between Rock Hill Road and Coy Burgess Loop.
Finally, DeFuniak Springs will have its very first Mardi Gras parade come 2014 as the Council approved a request from the Yakkers of Walton County, Inc., otherwise known as the Krewe De Yak, for a street closure around Circle Drive. The parade, which will be held Saturday, Feb. 8, will include all the usual trappings of a Mardi Gras parade, with floats and costumes, and is expected to attract krewes from nearby counties and cities to participate.