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Freeport Fire Department swap raises concern about home insurance rates

Sep 19th, 2013 | 0

By BEN GRAFTON

Attendance at the Freeport City Council meeting of Sept. 10, following the trend in place since the recent city election, left few vacant seats in the Council chamber. The audience included good representation from the Freeport Fire Department.

Councilman Ray Jackson opened a discussion about the impact that transferring the Freeport Fire Department to Walton County would have on revised Insurance Service Office (ISO) ratings. Jackson said that there is reason to be concerned that rates for city and county residents, now served by the Freeport Fire Department, would rise precipitously. City Attorney Adkinson said that clarification of the impact is needed and he will follow up on this issue. Jackson also asked residents to call their insurance agents for information and he proposed that the city hold a workshop on this issue before a final decision is made to transfer the fire department to the county.

Mayor Russ Barley said that he does not want to give up the fire department but there is a problem in financing department operations. He hopes to receive input from the county about this problem within the next week.

In other business: Fire Chief Chad Harrell presented the department summary report. There were 82 calls answered  in August including 67 medical emergencies, two structure fires and seven motor vehicle incidents. Members of the department also gave cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) instructions at the high school and performed routine maintenance on 295 fire hydrants.

Councilman Harold Taunton reported that activities at the Sports Complex include spraying for mole crickets and pruning bushes down to a manageable size. Planning is underway on a festival and on preparations are underway for the coming soccer season.

City Clerk Robin Haynes reported that an account has been set up to manage donations coming in for establishing the Freeport History Museum in the Old Post Office. Tim Ard added that Cash and Carry provided paint for the interior of the building. Sheet rock work is underway. A security system is under development and a sign matching the style of the sign on the Blount House will be provided. Training classes for volunteer museum workers will be conducted in October and plans are going forward for a grand opening on the afternoon of Nov. 3.

Haynes advised the Council that a revision is being made to the city’s personnel policy. A temporary job classification is being developed to define temporary employees as those who work no more than six months in a 12-month period and who will be limited  to a maximum 25 hour  work week.

City Attorney Clayton Adkinson has reviewed the city’s policy on reprimands. He found that there are conflicts in the policy and revision is needed. Revisions should clarify those who have the authority and responsibility for issuing reprimands.

Representatives of the Regional Health Center asked the city to provide a resolution calling for realignment of the U.S. 331 right-of-way at the Health Center to deal with the taking of 200 feet of property and to provide adequate lighting for the entrance. They reported that the Department of Transportation (DOT) is willing to discuss the matter and that DeFuniak Springs and Walton County have already issued resolutions supporting the Health Center. The Freeport City Council approved the request.

Haynes asked the Council to approved a new three-year contract with DOT under which the city will perform grass cutting and cleaning services for U.S. 331 within the city. The request was approved.

Barley announced that the first meeting of the Freeport Festival Committee will be held on Sept. 25 in the Council Chamber.

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