By REID TUCKER
The DeFuniak Springs City Council heard a presentation regarding the estimated start-up costs associated with live-streaming video of meetings over the Internet but decided to continue investigating the matter before making a decision.
Robert Nelson, owner of I Fix Computers, Inc., which provides IT service to the city, presented information at the March 2 meeting about streaming video of future Council meetings over the Internet in real time. Nelson acquired a quote from a company involved in a similar project in Panama City Beach that showed start-up costs to be $4,060 plus a monthly fee of $125 for a total yearly cost of $5,560, with recurring costs to come in at $1,500. However, Nelson and a colleague devised a means to use only one camera rather than the two called for in the original plan, which could reduce start up costs by $2,250, to bring in first-year costs to $3,330.
The Council asked Nelson to continue looking into the matter and to present his findings for the board’s approval at a future date.
The other main presentation from a community member in attendance at the meeting came from Jeannine Cole, who requested that the Council amend the city code to include a contract for the city attorney position that would include provisions for competitive advertising and term limitations. The Council did not take action at the time of the meeting.
When it came to matters in need of a vote, the Council had no fewer than 12 items on the agenda requiring action from the board at the March 26 meeting and all but one passed with the original motion intact.
That one motion that did not pass was a call from Councilman Mac Work to re-advertise for the city’s finance director position, vacated when then-finance director Sara Bowers became the interim and later full-time city manager. Work originally proposed to re-advertise for a period of two weeks in order to hopefully attract more applicants, as so far only two individuals had submitted resumés for the Council’s consideration for the position. However, while Work was for keeping both current applicants in the mix, he was against Bowers’ recommendation to change some of the position’s qualifications.
The motion failed 1-4 when put to the vote, and the Council decided to set the interview date with the two prospective employees for April 9 at 9 a.m. A regularly scheduled Council meeting will follow that same evening.
The Council voted 5-0 to approve a sanitation exemption for Bob Campbell, owner of Gulf-Comm Electric LLC, a business he runs from his residential property. Campbell’s property was annexed by the city about three years ago and during that time he continued to use Walton County’s garbage collection services as he had prior to annexation. Campbell argued that, since he receives neither DeFuniak Springs Police nor city fire protection services, living as he does outside the city limits proper, he asked the Council to exempt him from a requirement to have city garbage collection services, which are $115 per month versus $65 per month through the county.
Planning Director Greg Scoville presented two items to the council members for their approval.
The first, discussed at the last meeting on March 12, was a request to amend the city’s land development regulations as they relate to the timeframe of site plan review for the purpose of providing expedited permitting. The need for the change, Scoville said, is to help local businesses qualify for BP oil spill recovery funds. The Council voted 5-0 in favor of hearing a second reading and to adopt the amendment.
The next item brought forward by Scoville was a variance request by Thriftway Supermarket owner J.W. Adkison, who wished to construct a 7-foot-tall, 18-by-21-foot open-sided structure in an area currently used for parking. Approximately half of the pre-engineered structure (similar to a pre-fab carport) would encroach into the historic district. Adkison requested the installation of such a structure to have a more permanent location for charity cookout events on his property that have traditionally been held in the open air or in temporary tents.
The Council heard the opinions of several members of the community at a brief public hearing, with some for and some against allowing the variance. Rodney Holston, the retailer who sells the structure in question, allayed the concerns of some citizens, by showing the structures he sells to be far from temporary, as they are certified to withstand up to 135 mph winds when anchored in the ground. The Council passed the variance request with a straight vote, with the requirements being a 25-foot setback from nearby buildings and that the building should not have enclosed sides.
Assistant City Manager Bill Holloway got approval from the Council to terminate a sanitation mechanic who had been a city employee for roughly one year’s time. Holloway cited two disciplinary actions and an unsatisfactory performance appraisal as the reason for the employee’s termination. Holloway also got unanimous approval to accept a proposal from Black Belt Energy Gas District for cathodic protection services and to designate a negotiating committee for the purpose of working out contractual details with the firm.
City Manager Sara Bowers got unanimous approval to go ahead with several measures, including renewing the city’s contract with the Florida Department of Transportation and the Walton County ARC for roadside maintenance, as well as the appointment of Perry Deneau to the Economic Development and Tourism Committee.
The Council also voted to set the lease of a hangar at the DeFuniak Springs Municipal Airport to Monarch Aviation Maintenance, Inc. at $625 per month for a period of 10 years, or $1.53 per square foot per year. Discussion among members of the Council centered around whether or not it was better to keep Monarch on as a tenant or to charge more money for rent at the risk of losing the firm’s business. Councilman Kermit Wright took the latter position and voted against the measure to approve the new terms of the lease, with the final 4-1 vote going in favor of the new terms.
The City Council also voted unanimously to approve a 12-month natural gas supply purchase proposal from Florida Gas Utilty. An oversupply of natural gas in the domestic market combined with a mild winter caused the market for gas to experience a substantial drop in price to their lowest levels in more than six years, while a warmer than normal summer could cause prices to rise, Bowers informed the Council. With the market at a low point, Bowers advised the board to consider purchasing a year’s supply of gas at the current low rate, which is almost 50 percent less than was forecasted for April in July of 2011.
Florida Gas Utility recommended that the city agree to a fixed-cost supply acquisition of $2.95 per unit for volumes between 39 and 63 dekatherms per day, which represents 12 percent to 20 percent of average daily consumption city wide. Savings to the city could be up to $59.85 per day.