By REID TUCKER
The Paxton Town Council unanimously approved the ordinance to include the city in Walton County’s municipal service benefit unit for fire rescue services.
The Council voted 3-0 in favor of the ordinance, as Councilmen Travis McMillian and Charles Cook were not in attendance at the meeting, held Sept. 17. The ordinance affects only those residences and properties in unincorporated areas and in those that did not already receive services from Walton County Fire Rescue. Paxton homeowners will now pay $75 per year for fire rescue services, up from the $25 per year assessed since the municipal service benefit unit’s creation in the mid-‘90s, while property owners will pay 7 cents per acre for undeveloped land or land zoned for agricultural use.
There were several other items on the Council’s consent agenda, and all met with unanimous approval from the board.
Next up, the Council approved for first reading Ordinance 13-02, which will, if approved after next month’s meeting and second reading, raise the city’s water and sewer rates effective Oct. 1. The changes amount to an annually recurring 3- percent increase for inflation, a lift on the $35 cap on monthly bills, and a hike in the base rate from $17.25 to $20. The Council also discussed an option to change the ordinance to allow for future changes to water and sewer fees to be set by resolution rather than the current process, which involves passing a new ordinance each time changes are made.
The Council also cast straight votes to renew the city’s annual roadside maintenance agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation, from which Paxton receives $8,566.28, or $2,141.57 quarterly. The city uses the FDOT funds to contract ARC of DeFuniak Springs for cutting the grass and other maintenance along the stretch of U.S. 331 North that runs through the city limits. Additionally, the Council voted to re-up the city’s agreement for maintenance of its two water tanks, which includes a 3-percent annual increase per tank.
Finally, representatives from the Florida Department of Health’s Walton County branch briefed the City Council on the federal government’s Health Insurance Marketplace program. The Marketplace is essentially a clearinghouse for health insurance providers, and is intended to assist eligible individuals and businesses by enabling easier comparison between insurance plans. Open enrollment in the program begins Oct. 1, and coverage begins at the start of 2014.
Public Assistance Specialist Carrie Foxhall, who delivered the presentation to the Council, said she planned to be in Paxton weekly beginning this week to assist residents with enrollment in the Marketplace program. The modular building recently acquired by the city for use as a mobile Health Department-staffed healthcare facility will serve as the community’s central location for Marketplace applications. The building was projected for a Sept. 23 delivery and will be staffed by two Health Department employees.