By REID TUCKER
The DeFuniak Springs City Council has about a month to decide to move forward with financing the construction of the long-planned compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station.
However, that decision was not reached at the Council’s March 24 regularly scheduled meeting, as the board members’ opinions were divided on the matter. Councilmen Mac Carpenter and Henry Ennis called for due diligence on the city’s part, and a few members of the audience spoke against taking out the nearly million-dollar, 15-year loan needed to construct and set up the CNG station.
The primary caveats put forward by those in favor of holding off on a vote were both related to fleet vehicles: First, the city should get written commitments from the Board of County Commissioners, School Board and Sheriff’s Office to convert some of their fleet vehicles to run on CNG. Second, that an investigation into the costs associated with converting the city’s own fleet over several years should be carried out before a decision was reached.
Nevertheless, the Council did vote 5-0 to hire Harper Financial Group – representatives of which have already gone to bat for the city to help secure the 15-year, 4.5 percent loan from BBVA Compass Bank – to be the its financial advisor. The agreement to pay Harper Financial is contingent upon the city moving forward with financing the CNG station. The project has been in the works for the better part of two years, with the hope being to use the abundant, clean-burning and more-affordable natural gas to greatly reducing the city’s annual fleet vehicle fuel expenses.
Once written commitments have been gathered from the other local governmental bodies, the City Council will convene a special meeting to decide whether or not to move forward with the project.
In other meeting news, Mayor Bob Campbell presented a proclamation establishing the third Saturday in February as Black History Parade Day. The first-annual Black History Month parade was held Feb. 15 around Circle Drive and was met with enthusiastic support from the entire DeFuniak Springs community. The Rev. Tyrone Broadus, one of the major figures in establishing the parade, accepted the mayor’s written proclamation on behalf of the parade organization.
Next, the Council voted unanimously to follow the planning board’s recommendation to affect three zoning and land use requests made by the owners of Tony’s Paint & Body Shop. The requests called for rezoning .33 acres from C-1 restricted commercial to C-2 general commercial, rezoning 1.25 acres from R-2 multi-family residential to general commercial, and changing the land use on .13 acres from medium density residential to commercial. The property, located near 9th Street and Morris Drive, will be the new site of the body shop, with the plan being to be open for business by May or June.
The Council wrapped up the meeting with a little housekeeping. The board unanimously approved the purchase of 200 new 95-gallon garbage carts at a cost of $55.75 per cart, as well as voting to surplus and sell the Municipal Airport’s old aircraft tug, with the expected return being somewhere in the $4,000 area. Finally, the Council authorized road closures around Circle Drive for the city’s upcoming Lakefest event, setting the dates at June 21 for the primary and June 28 as a backup or rain-out date.
By REID TUCKER