By BEN GRAFTON
As the first order of business at the Freeport City Council meeting of May 13, Mayor Russ Barley announced that Councilwoman Elizabeth Brannon has been elected to serve as the new president of the Northwest Florida League of Cities, an organization of 63 cities in 17 counties. The announcement was followed by a round of applause from the audience.
City Planner Latilda Hughes-Neel then presented the first reading of an ordinance adopting Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR) based changes to the Freeport Comprehensive Plan. These changes incorporate the design charrette provisions for the Freeport Working Waterfront. The second reading of this ordinance will be presented at the Council meeting of May 22.
Hughes-Neel also reported that the city has received a letter from Governor Scott concurring with the Okaloosa-Walton Transportation Planning Organization’s (TPO) reaffirmation of its boundaries and Board membership. This is important as Freeport now holds a position on the TPO.
City Attorney Clayton Adkinson briefed the Council on the status of a five- year lease agreement between the city and CHELCO providing for installation of a drive-up utility pay kiosk at city hall. The city will receive a $100 per month use fee from this arrangement. The Council approved going ahead with the lease agreement.
Fire Chief Chad Harrell reported the department answered 50 calls in April including 23 medical calls, five structure fires, four vehicle accidents and one water rescue. Maintenance was performed on 50 fire hydrants and the department put in 120 total training hours.
Councilwoman Janice McLean asked that the Council approve the hiring of Brad Blackaby to fill the existing fire fighter vacancy. Brannon also asked that the Council retain the interviews with three other interviewed fire fighters so they might be selected in the event of another fire department vacancy. The Council approved both requests.
Councilman Ray Jackson reported that the flag football games at the Sports Complex were a good success. Teams from four states, including teams from Atlanta and Hattiesburg, participated.
Anna Hudson of Preble-Rish reported that an extension to complete the water management and use report was received from the Water Management District. She also reported that work was continuing on the water and sewer models and that additional field data for the water model is needed. A proposal for remediation of wetland areas for the Business 331 sewer upgrade project is being developed.
Engineer Cliff Knauer told the Council that the city, “…borrowed a flag pole…” for the ceremony at Marse Landing declaring Freeport a Waterfront Florida Community. The borrowed pole has been returned. Knauer recommended the city purchase and install a permanent flag pole. The Council agreed and asked that prices for a 50-foot pole be obtained.
Knauer commented on the Marse Landing Phase II parking lot project. Property that drains into Four Mile Creek is needed to provide mitigation for the wetlands involved in the project. If the city can obtain the six-acre parcel by the marina from the Department of the Interior, it would provide the property needed. Efforts to fill this need will continue.
Knauer also reported that a bridge contractor working on the U.S. 331 expansion project wants to obtain two to three million gallons of city water over a six to seven month period for mixing concrete. The contractor will run pipe to a city water system connection point. The city will install a meter to measure the contractor’s water consumption. The Council approved the arrangement.
Hughes-Neel reported that the developer of the Cross Creek subdivision has received a permit from the Northwest Florida Water Management District for the rebuild of the failed storm water retention pond. The preconstruction meeting has been held and project completion of July 1 is expected provided additional rain does not interfere with work.
Scott Seidler petitioned the city to provide relief from a water bill of $3,470 for water spilled as the result of breakage in an underground water pipe on the property at 157 Andy Drive. At the time the property was undergoing rehabilitation for marketing following foreclosure. Necessary repairs have been made. This is the only incident of this type at this address. The Council approved an adjustment of one-half to the bill.
The Council approved a fee waiver for use of the Community Center by Jennifer Adams who provides free service to the community by identifying children with development problems for the School District. The request was approved.
Brannon reported that she has talked to Senator Evers about repaving the intersection of SR-20 and U.S. 331 and that he indicated he would help. Hughes-Neel added that the city needs to show what the problem with the intersection is and that one death has already occurred there.
McLean asked the Council to approve a write-off of uncollected utility bills. She recommends: a policy to write-off all bills due for more than 120 days; retaining a collection agency, C B Services, Inc. for a fee of 30 percent of amount due on bills; the collection agency service can be cancelled with 30 days written notice; and, to send any bill due for more than 90 days to the collection agency. The Council approved the proposal.
By BEN GRAFTON