By BEN GRAFTON
At the Freeport Council meeting of April 24, Councilwoman Elizabeth Brannon reported that Senate Bill SB218, with effective date of July 1, 2014 has been passed. This bill reverses the Department of Transportation (DOT) practice of requiring cities to shoulder the costs of relocating municipal utility lines when they are in the path of highway construction projects. Brannon said that as a result of this legislation Freeport’s $2.3 million debt encumbered for relocation of utility lines on U.S. 331 will, potentially, be dissolved. As soon as the bill becomes effective a letter will be hand-carried to the DOT.
In other business, City Planner Latilda Hughes-Neel asked the Council for approval of a draft resolution to be sent to the governor’s office in support of continuing Freeport’s status as a “Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern.” The Council approved the request.
Councilwoman Janice McLean reported that reviews of the four applications submitted for the open firefighter job have been completed. The review committee is prepared to provide a recommendation. Councilman Ray Jackson commented that in the past the review committee brings the top applicants to the Council for interview and selection. After discussion, since there are only four applicants, a motion to have all of the applicants interviewed by the Council was approved. The interviews will be conducted at 6 p.m. prior to the regular Council meeting on May 13.
Mayor Russ Barley proposed that a draft city clerk job description based on one developed by the Florida League of Cities, but with some modifications, be used in the search for a new city clerk. City Attorney Clayton Adkinson advised the Council that the requirement for a drug test was presently contrary to state policy. The draft, less the drug test requirement, was approved and will be used in advertisements to run for two weeks in the Florida League of Cities’ newsletter and in the local newspaper.
Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) from Walton High School, speaking individually, spoke against the dangers of tobacco noting that tobacco companies are luring young, inexperienced, students to take up the use of tobacco with flavored products. The student group is working on an educational campaign to counter the tobacco companies program and it asked the Council for a resolution supporting its efforts. The Council’s approval of the request was followed by applause from the audience.
McLean advised the Council that, because of the motor vehicle accident rate at the intersection of U.S. 331 and SR-20, the traffic control there will be changed to provide “Turn on Arrow Only.”
McLean also requested that the accountant presently working on the city’s audit be asked to confirm the balance in the Sewer Impact Fund so that those funds can be used for upgrades of the sewer system.
Barley reported that a group of local churches sponsored an Easter sunrise service on property behind city hall and that he had received letters of thanks for use of the property from the churches.
Barley reported receiving a phone call from a lady who wanted a fee waiver to use the Community Center one night per week for square dancing. Attendees at the event would be charged $3 to attend. Adkinson cautioned agreeing to this request could set a precedent and Councilman Harold Taunton said, “The only time fees are waived are for non-profit organizations.” Barley will return the call and decline the request.
Barley said, “Brendan Day took and passed the water operator’s test. He now needs to successfully complete 2,000 hours, some of which has already been completed, under supervision. When this is complete, he can work as a certified operator without supervision.” Now that Day has passed the test, Barley does not want him to relocate to another job, so Barley asked the Council to approve a 15-percent pay increase to recognize the accomplishment and to hold Day in his job. The Council approved the request.
It was also said that another employee has already passed the “backflow preventer’s” qualification. Jackson thinks the Council should confirm the information about the backflow preventer qualification. McLean suggested that qualifications of all employees should be checked for these types of qualifications.
Jackson reported that some manholes in the sidewalks at the Cross Creek development have caved in and washed out under the sidewalks and the road. He added that a permanent repair to the retention pond that failed last year has not been done. Halifax is the developer. From the audience it was reported that one of the city’s vehicles had fallen through at one spot. Hughes-Neel will arrange a meeting with the developer, the mayor and herself and explain the entire situation. If necessary the city can use the money it is holding for the developer to make appropriate repairs.
By BEN GRAFTON