By BEN GRAFTON
At the Freeport City Council meeting of April 8, Mayor Russ Barley announced he had received a letter of resignation from City Clerk Robin Haynes. The effective date of the resignation is April 18. Barley said he was asking the Council for directions to deal with this matter.
Haynes said, “I do want to thank everybody. I have enjoyed my stay here, but I have been presented with an opportunity that I have to follow up. ” Haynes did not say what the opportunity was.
City Attorney Clayton Adkinson said, “The Council will have to work up the qualifications, duties and salary range and advertise for applicants for the position.” He also expressed doubt that the city could find a new city clerk in two weeks.
The Council approved a special meeting on April 17 to deal with the city clerk issue.
In other business: The Council approved a request to set public hearings on May 13 and on May 22 for a large scale amendment to the Comprehensive Plan.
Fire Chief Chad Harrell reported on three matters: The department answered 44 calls in March including 24 medical emergencies, nine motor vehicle accidents and six structure fires. Firefighter J. Whedon left the department to take a job with Walton County Fire and Rescue. And of great interest, the ISO inspector was here and the city should know the results of his inspection in about 90 days.
The Council discussed the fire department manning problems and approved Harrell’s recommendation to hire a new full-time firefighter to fill the open job.
Parks Director Shane Supple announced that from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. on April 19 there will be an arts and crafts festival, a car show and an egg hunt at the Freeport Sports Complex. Egg hunt times will start at 10 a.m. for children 5 and under; then at 11:30 a.m. for those 6 to 8 years old, and last, at 1 p.m. for those 9 to 12 years old. The Easter Bunny will be on hand to support the Relay for Life.
Cliff Knauer of Preble-Rish reported that British Petroleum (BP) has funded a 400-foot expansion of the dock at the Marse Park on Lafayette Creek. Environmental permitting issues must be resolved before the project can go forward.
Knauer said, “Later on this month the Florida Boating Improvement Program (FBIP) comes out and the Council has already approved moving forward to try and get some money for the next phase of the parking at Marse Landing. We will be on top of that as soon as it comes out.”
Knauer turned his attention to the U.S. 331 expansion project and said, “HDR has been working on the plans and alerted the city that there were some utility conflicts from…Highway 20 headed north,…primarily a 10-inch water line…and a force main that serve the post office. At a meeting on the site, I met HDR on the site…they felt they had conflicts….about 2,000 feet of 10-inch water line were going to be in conflict and would need to be moved. They had only two tests that were made for 3,000 feet of line. We got some additional information. Your water guys did a ‘pot hole’ on the line every 200 feet or so and then we had our surveyors go out and survey that whole stretch to check the elevation of the line. Now we are down to about 200 feet that are in conflict…there are also two crossings that go under the highway that may be an issue. HDR is still finalizing their plans, so we are working back and forth to see if anything further that can be done to reduce the impact on city utilities. We don’t have the final answer, but we are narrowing it down and eliminating cost wherever we can.”
Knauer reported discussing a Business 331 sewer issue with Councilman Jackson and a representative from the sewer department and said, “The best plan to take care of the sewer issues from in front of the Palms, where two force mains dump into the gravity sewer, is to redo the gravity sewer coming south to the park. A new lift station would be installed at the park. This requires a revision to 3,900 feet of the gravity flow sewer line. Contractors agree that the Preble-Rish preliminary estimate of $810,000 is good. If impact fee funds can be used, work to survey, design and permit this project should be started. After the design work is done it will probably take two months to get the permit approved. This project should take care of the sewer line north of the city.” The Council approved going ahead with this work.
Knauer then turned his attention to the proposal for installing street lights along SR-20. He believes getting the poles is one of the lesser costs of doing this work because the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires directional boring to install underground electrical supply in the right-of-way. Knauer agrees that solar powered lights are an option and the cost to use this approach will be checked. It might be possible to get a DOT grant to fund this project.
Barley reported that his trip to Dothan, Ala. with DeFuniak Springs Mayor Campbell, to learn about the possibility of getting Chinese distribution or manufacturing investment in the two cities. They learned that a consortium of Alabama’s city, county and state governments were working together to attract investments there. The trip was an interesting experience that taught “… more than two small cities are necessary to make things happen.”
By BEN GRAFTON