By BEN GRAFTON
Before a fair sized crowd at the Freeport City Council meeting of Oct. 8 City Planner Latilda Henninger reported that she has received a request from Watkins Development to extend a conditional development. The order was originally issued in 2009 for the “Shops at Freeport,” a Publix property. This development order has been previously extended. Publix has reaffirmed its intent to build a store in Freeport. Start of construction is planned for the 4th quarter of 2015 with an opening date set for June 2016. Publix asked the city to extend its development order to 2016. Publix notes that if market conditions become more favorable it will be inclined to advance the opening date. The Council approved extending the development order.
Hughes reminded the Council that at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13, a musical event titled “Pickin’ on the Porch” will be presented on the porch of Freeport’s City Hall. Hughes reported she is getting phone calls every day from people interested in this event.
Councilwoman Janice McLean reported that, in the month to date, the fire department has answered nine calls. She also requested Council approval to sell three trucks that are not used or will not start and a boat that is very expensive to maintain. Before taking action on the boat McLean will talk to Mr. Massey, who donated the boat to the fire department, to get his views on selling the boat. The Council approved the proposal and receipts will be credited to the general fund.
McLean opened a discussion about fire hydrants that are located outside of the city limits. At this time she does not know whether the fire department or the county is supposed to maintain these hydrants. The city has some 4,100 water customers who pay $1 per month to maintain fire hydrants. There are a total of about 900 fire hydrants, of which, about 550 are outside of the city and are used by the county . McLean figures the cost to maintain a hydrant is about $75 per year. Councilman Ray Jackson told the Council that, in a conversation, County Administrator Larry Jones said the county would not maintain the hydrants outside of the city limits. McLean wants Adkinson to write the county a letter which says the city wants to talk to the county about this issue, about reimbursement for water used and about an interlocal agreement to define the conditions under which either party may call on the other for assistance.
McLean asked the Council to approve getting a new Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating for the city. The Council approved the request.
The committee to review applications for the open water operator job reports that it has selected from applications four applicants and one alternate for interviews by the Council. The interviews will be held at 7 p.m. on October 16.
The Council, with knowledge that an employee has scheduled a qualification test to become a certified lead water operator, authorized advertising for a lead water operator. Interviews of applicants will be scheduled after the test date on Nov. 22, so that the employee seeking qualification may apply for the job if he passes the test.
Perhaps because the Freeport Fire Department is now the first responder only for calls inside of the city limits, there are calls coming in from people south of the city asking about having property annexed into the city. A letter outlining advantages of annexation and asking for feedback will be sent out. City employees will use available time to review replies to identify where property of interested owners is located. The situation will be evaluated when results of feedback are available.
Complaints are coming in about impact fee costs. Hughes reports there are a number of development projects that are on hold because of the impact fee issue. It is reported that DeFuniak Springs has placed a moratorium on its impact fees for the last two years. There has not been an impact fee study in Freeport for nine years. In view of these points, a City Council workshop for additional discussion has been set for Oct. 16.
Tim Ard advised the Council that there will be a ribbon cutting for the Heritage Center at 2 p.m. on Nov. 3 and that there will be a Veterans Day ceremony at the monument at City Hall at 2 p.m. on Nov. 11.