By REID TUCKER
The DeFuniak Springs City Council voted unanimously to proceed with the third phase of the Gulf Power Site Evaluation and Certification program at the city’s airport.
Co-developed by the utilities provider and South Carolina’s McCallum Sweeny Consulting, the program is designed to provide business firms looking to locate in Florida with comprehensive data about industrial sites. Completing the checklist of documentation and engineering required by the certification program lets prospective businesses know that a given site – in this case the DeFuniak Springs Municipal Airport – is ready for industrial development. This kind of certification is a “tremendous marketing tool,” said Walton County Economic Development Alliance Executive Director Steven Yaeger, who, along with City Manager Sara Bowers, briefed the City Council on the certification process at the board’s Sept. 23 meeting.
The Council members enthusiastically voted 5-0 to authorize the payment of $7,750 for evaluation fees to move ahead with the certification program. While that amount is included in the FY2014 budget, the $176,500 the city’s engineering firm estimates will be needed to meet the requirements of Phase III certification is not. Though that money will have to come from reserves, Bowers said it will not have to be paid until September of next year, nearly the entire fiscal year away.
Yaeger also made a presentation to the Council regarding the upcoming opening of European aircraft manufacturer Airbus’ Mobile, Ala., factory and the opportunity such an opening presented for diversification of the local economy. The Economic Development five counties of Northwest Florida will send a delegation to Hamburg, Germany, for the firm’s annual supply chain conference in the first week of December so as to cultivate a relationship with the companies looking to supply Airbus following the opening of the Mobile plant. Yaeger said Walton County could greatly benefit from courting suppliers of everything from aircraft paints to fabricated metals, as these companies will aim to provide materials for Airbus’ first U.S. manufacturing facility as well as those of Boeing in Savannah, Ga., and Brazilian firm Embraer in Jacksonville.
The remainder of the regularly scheduled meeting consisted of housekeeping items to be put to the vote.
The Council approved a memorandum of agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation to receive $47,904 for roadside maintenance, and then re-upped the agreement between the city and the ARC of Walton County, to which the city pays the FDOT money for the care of the medians along DeFuniak’s roads. FDOT had initially proposed only paying $28,660 for the same amount of work as last year, in an effort to cut out what they termed “waste,” but an understanding was reached to allow the city, and by extension the ARC, to receive the same amount as in years past. However, next year the amount will roughly be cut in half as per FDOT’s original intention.
The board approved two road closures for upcoming special events. Circle Drive from 7th Street to the Gulf Power building will be closed to traffic on Oct. 5 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. to accommodate that day’s Energy Expo and the gospel concert planned by the Economic Tourist Development Council. Also, the stretch of Baldwin Avenue between 6th and 9th Streets will be closed to all traffic for the Halloween Happenings trick-or-treat event on Oct. 31.
Public Works Director Bill Holloway also got authorization for a request to use $19,960 for emergency repairs to the southern intersection of Business Park and U.S. 331.
Finally, the Council set the date and time of a workshop regarding to organizational requests for Tuesday, Oct. 22, at 5 p.m. This workshop was conceived of after a budget workshop last month revealed differing opinions with regard to whether the city should accept requests for funding from the community and civic organizations.