By ALICIA LEONARD
Donna Huxhold approached the DeFuniak Springs City Council with a request for possible utility budget billing change, due to citizens’ increased gas use during winter months. Huxhold compared the plan to the budget billing style that Gulf Power offers their customers, where one year’s worth of billing is broken down evenly among a 12-month period allowing customers to pay a flat fee every month without much variance in their bill.
Huxhold told the Council that she was representing the Council on Aging and that many elderly customers were having a hard time paying their winter heating bills and the budget billing would be an option for them. The Council deferred Huxhold to DeFuniak Springs City Finance Director Sara Bowers.
Bowers responded that she would be happy to speak with Huxhold and the topic had been discussed before, but that she and other staff feared the volatility of the natural gas market prices would not allow for as much flexibility in averaging cost for clients. Further, the uncertain natural gas prices could cause some customers to have to pay back large amount during the “true-up” period that comes at the end of the year when someone has underpaid.
Bowers said, “It’s that true-up month that worries us for our customers. That can be in the hundreds to the thousands. I would gladly sit down and discuss this, but it’s the “true-up” month that makes us feel uncomfortable for the customer.” Bowers and Huxhold agreed to discuss the matter later and look into the possibility of letting customers pay extra when their bills are low and they would have credit in those utility accounts when the bills are higher.
Another request that came before the Council was by Brian McBroom on behalf of the Walton County Tax Collector Employee Fund, Inc. Broom requested permission to sell tickets and waive rental fees at the DeFuniak Springs Community Center for a gospel sing/fund raiser with all proceeds going to St. Jude’s Children Hospital.
Broom explained the group he belonged to and their mission to the Council, “We were organized as a community outreach program. We consist of employees of the Walton County Tax Collector’s office. We support employee fundraising, such as community benefits, family appreciation, family emergencies and family/employees support and bereavement. The employees club will donate 100 percent of what we collect to St. Judes from this fundraiser gospel sing scheduled for Feb. 28. We intend to sell tickets for $5 or a donation and all children under 12 will be admitted for free.” The Council approved McBroom’s request by unanimous approval.
Leigh Morrison gave the Council her quarterly report on the Life Enrichment Senior Center. Morrison said, “We have a total of 165 members, which is up by 19 this quarter. In the month of November, we had 248 people sign in and in Dec. we had 261. We collected and deposited funds totaling $3100.50 this quarter. Every thing is going well at the Senior Center.” The Council congratulated Morrison on her work with the Senior Center and it’s progress.
The Council then moved to awarding the contract for the professional engineering for the proposed phase three of the city’s water improvements. Peters Municipals received the top scores among the Council, with Goodyn Mills and Associates following closely behind in the scores determined by the Council. The Council voted unanimously to accept the proposal and award the contracts to Peters Municipal Associates.
The Council then unanimously approved four health insurance options for employees. DFS Mayor Harold Carpenter appointed Jack Hicks to the Magnolia Cemetery Board. Hicks nomination was approved unanimously by the Council.
The next meeting of the DeFuniak Springs City Council is scheduled for Feb. 23 at 6 p.m.