By REID TUCKER
It was (almost) all presentations at the first DeFuniak Springs City Council meeting in two weeks, but the rest of the agenda wasn’t exactly short on material either.
The board heard a pitch for a mobile application service for the city, information on two transportation projects, and information about the possibility of another medical school being constructed in DeFuniak, all while taking care of varied city business at the April 14 meeting.
First off, representatives of the Tennessee-based iCity corporation engaged in a conference-call with the councilmen in which the merits of DeFuniak Springs getting its very own smartphone application were discussed at length. Elvin Carrero, iCity’s vice president of sales and marketing, and Board Member (and DeFuniak Springs-born) Duncan Dashiff told the board members about the benefits of such a system, which take advantage of the proliferation of mobile phones using either Apple’s iOS or the Android operating system. The primary selling points of the iCity system are improved communication between the city and residents in areas like news stories, important calendar events, social media connectivity, economic development opportunities for local businesses, and safety and weather alerts.
A number of other municipal governments around the country are iCity clients, with the biggest being Utah’s Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation Department.
The cost to DeFuniak Springs, should the Council members vote to join the iCity stable when they pick up discussion at the next regularly scheduled meeting, consists of a $1,000 initiation fee and a $5,000 subscription agreement fee to be paid at the beginning of each term. The investment costs include training services, and iCity will handle the various aspects of customer support and application maintenance.
Next, the Council received updates on the Okaloosa-Walton 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan and the environmental study associated with the project to widen U.S. 331 from Interstate 10 to the Alabama state line. Included in the former presentation was information regarding a proposed amendment to the Long Range Transportation Plan that made provisions for design, right of way acquisition and construction funds for the project to widen the major highway all the way to the border with Alabama.
The total distance for the project is approximately 25 miles. Included in the environmental study is a preliminary evaluation to determine possible safety and access improvements in light of recently acquired traffic data as well as the viability studies for alternate or entirely new roadway sections.
Finally, Walton County Economic Development Alliance Director Steve Jaeger discussed with the Council a proposal from a Tennessee developer to potentially purchase 1,400 acres near I-10 at which could be constructed a medical school housing 300 students at a time. The biggest problem with the proposal, Jaeger said, is that the developer has not as yet secured the funding to cover even the most preliminary start-up expenses. Given that the Lake Erie College of Medicine has already purchased the nearby Microspine property and will within a year begin construction on a dental school and medical training facility, the council members decided to wait and see what develops with the business plan of the other proposed school.
Having concluded the first half of the meeting, the Council approved several items brought forward by the city attorney, city manager and public works director.
The board members voted unanimously to hear the first reading of and to advertise for the adoption of an amendment to the city ordinance that will allow rental fees of city buildings to be set by resolution rather than ordinance. The Council also unanimously approved an amendment to the Public Works Department’s take-home vehicle policy to allow on-call personal who live within five miles of the city’s utilities service range to take their work vehicles home with them. Lastly, the board cast straight votes to approve the interlocal agreement between the fire departments of Walton County and the city of DeFuniak Springs and to renew the lease agreement with the Walton-Okaloosa Council on Aging.
Finally, at the quarterly town hall meeting held just before the main Council meeting, Kay Stripling turned in her resume for the city’s open grant-writer position. Stripling will take the Council’s questions at an upcoming meeting. The Council held off on deciding whether or not to hire her as the city has not as yet begun advertising for the position.
By REID TUCKER