By BEN GRAFTON
At the well attended Council meeting of Oct. 24, Freeport City Attorney Clayton Adkinson, with regard to the annexation of King properties, reported he met with the property appraiser and found that the records show a portion of the King properties had been annexed in 2008. However, with respect to 40 acres for which annexation is now desired, it would be necessary to also annex other privately held properties south of this parcel, otherwise an enclave would be created and this would block the annexation of the 40 acres. A letter has been sent to King explaining the situation.
Adkinson also advised the Council that he had a letter to send to County Administrator Larry Jones concerning county use of water from city-owned fire hydrants. The Council approved sending the letter on to Jones.
Councilman Harold Taunton reported that the Freeport Sports Complex property has been seeded with rye grass for winter cover. He also reported that several teams will be holding a soccer tournament at the complex this weekend.
Anna Hudson of Preble-Rish Engineering reported that data collection work is continuing for the models of the city water and sewer systems. She also said that preparatory work is underway on applications for grants to submit to the Northwest Florida Water Management District.
City Clerk Robin Haynes asked for and received Council approval for a revised agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation under which Freeport will handle maintenance of the right-of-way for U.S. 331 and SR-20.
Haynes reviewed the status of a proposal to send letters to property owners of parcels adjacent to the city limits offering reduced annexation fees for applications submitted within a period of six months. Properties voluntarily annexed during this period would benefit from better fire insurance, water and sewer rates that are enjoyed by property within the city limits. The letter would ask for a response within 30 days. The Council approved sending the letters.
Haynes opened a discussion of a proposal to offer a city financing agreement for sewer impact fees to owners of single family residences in an effort to get more needed customers for city sewer services. An agreement currently used by Regional Utilities could serve as a model for a Freeport agreement. A discussion ensued about the impact this move might have on the repayment of the sewer construction loan owed by the city to the county. The loan agreement calls for the city to repay $2,000 to the county for every new customer connected in the area covered by the loan. The Council approved having Adkinson discus this matter with county administration.
Several other considerations were presented in the sewer financing discussion that followed: Haynes asked if, in addition to impact fees, sewer connection fees might be involved. Councilwoman Elizabeth Brannon said, “There is no need to rush to a decision,” and proposed more research to better educate the Council about consequences to the city. The Council asked the city staff to give a report on pertinent accounts at the next Council meeting.
Jack Rhodes, a member of the development community, noted, “Impact fees buy developers capacity in the system.” Adkinson suggested that the impact fee rules might be revised so that developers would not pay impact fees until development units are completed instead of paid in advance. Former Councilman Mark Martin cautioned the Council to take into consideration expected growth along the U.S. 331 corridor. Bob Mims also offered to help provide guidance at a Council workshop.
Following the discussion the Council agreed to hold a workshop to gain further information about options to pursue on the subject of sewer impact fees, re-payment of the construction loan and plant capacity. The workshop will be held on a date to be announced later.
In other routine matters, the Council approved a fee waiver for the St. Joe Company to hold a November meeting in the Community Center and installation of a building sign to identify City Hall.