By BEN GRAFTON
Mayor Russ Barley presented a State of the City address at the Freeport Council meeting of June 26 in which he said “…I am happy to report that the state of our city is improving and our future is bright.” Barley went on to review significant events that have taken place in the past 11 months including: the opening of the Freeport Heritage Museum and the first annual Mayor’s Charity Ball where funds are donated to help out less fortunate families with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and gifts at Christmas for the children of those families.
Barley also said, “We’ve applied for two grants totaling $2,472,000 to connect our water system on corridor 331 from Freeport to DeFuniak Springs. …as well as, adding 50,000 feet of water mains in Freeport ….We have commenced working on our first annual City Festival Freeport “Bayfest” scheduled for the third weekend in September each year and beginning Sept. 20, 2014. We have also implemented a community [Blue Grass and Country music] event … “called Picking on the Porch….”
He continued, “We are also working on getting street lights to enhance Highway 20 from the 331 Corridor down past City Hall. We have voted to keep our fire department intact….We’re working on annexation of properties into the city which would be very beneficial to the city…”
In other business Fire Chief Chad Harrell asked the Council to give him the authority to sign, in behalf of the city, a mutual aid agreement between the fire departments of the city and Eglin Air Force Base. The Council approved the request.
Councilwoman Janice McLean advised the Council that information has been received that, because of backlog, it will be about four more months before the new Insurance Service Office (ISO) ratings report will be received.
Anna Hudson of Preble-Rish, Inc. reporting about engineering activity said that work is underway on Freeport’s Water Department 5 Year Consumptive Use Compliance Report for submission to the Northwest Florida Water District and on analyses of fire flow for residential and commercial scenarios.
Hudson reported that the environmental portion of the Business Highway 331 sewer upgrade has been completed. The wetland lines have been delineated and the endangered species identified.
It was also reported that the video examination of the West Bay Loop water line is scheduled for the week of July 15.
Cliff Knauer of Preble-Rish explained to the Council that on U.S. 331 North (US 331 N), the section from SR-20 to Rock Hill road is identified as Section B, north of that is C and north of that is A. The only place the city will have work to do is in Section B. Initially the Department of Transportation (DOT) said there were 2,000 feet of water line that had to be relocated. Some survey work was done following which it was possible to narrow down the amount of pipe to be relocated to only 60 feet. The DOT Contractor is anxious to have the work done by August. The city will have to get a permit from DOT, then, in order to “fast track” the work, get quotes to be approved by the Council and then proceed with the work. The total cost to relocate the line and to fill an abandoned bore is expected to be between $6,000 – $8,000. The Council authorized Knauer to proceed with the plan.
Councilman Ray Jackson asked City Attorney Clayton Adkinson about the status of fire hydrant maintenance on Freeport system hydrants used by Walton County. Adkinson said he had received no response from the county. McLean added that she had been told by County Administrator Larry Jones that the matter did not go to the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) and that the county would not do anything about the question. Adkinson will contact Jones and set up a meeting to discuss this problem. Depending on the outcome of this effort, the city may take the matter to the BCC.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Brannon reported that the Northwest Florida League of Cities has scheduled a dinner meeting. About 100 elected officials are expected to attend. There will be meetings all day leading up to the dinner. The need for street lights and revisions to the turning lanes and signals at the intersection of SR-20 and U.S. 331 will be pursued for Freeport.
The city’s annual audit has been completed. A workshop will be scheduled to discuss issues in the report.
Larry Tuggle asked for approval to do annual tree trimming within the next month. The Council approved the request. Tuggle also asked for approval to go ahead with a state-required backflow test on city properties. A quote of $2,000 [50 tests at $40 each] has been received from David Fannin. The Council approved the request.
The Council approved purchasing flag poles for Marse Landing. Barley will prepare a letter to Woodmen of the World to go ahead with the purchase.
It was announced that Al Wilson, who has been with the city for 25 years, will retire on Aug. 1. Information about a retirement celebration will be circulated.
By BEN GRAFTON