By BEN GRAFTON
Before a fair sized audience, the Freeport City Council meeting of March 11 opened when City Planner Latilda Hughes initiated discussion about the proposed Freeport golf cart ordinance. City Attorney Clayton Adkinson joined the presentation by saying that in his opinion Freeport was not ready to enact the ordinance. Adkinson said that the state requires an in depth study of the impact the ordinance would have on traffic flow and safety on roads and trails affected and this study has not yet been done. To enact the ordinance prior to providing the study would be in violation of state statutes. Hughes agreed with Adkinson.
The discussion that followed centered in large part upon the present use of golf carts in the Hammock Bay development. Several points were made. The roads and rights-of-way there are dedicated to the city. One resident from Hammock Bay said there have been incidents in which children under the legal driving age have been allowed to drive golf carts in the development and in some instances this has led to carts being driven into retention ponds. A “gentleman’s agreement” governing golf cart use in Hammock Bay would not meet state requirements. Neither the identity of a provider qualified to do a traffic study nor the cost of such a study is known at this time. The possibility of a local area study for Hammock Bay, funded by its residents, will be explored. The Cove development in Panama City has just adopted a golf cart ordinance that might be used as a guide for Hammock Bay.
Following the discussion, a motion by Councilwoman Elizabeth Brannon to reject the proposed Freeport ordinance was approved.
Fire Chief Chad Harrell reported that during February the department answered a total of 30 calls including 21 medical emergencies and five vehicle accidents. A total of 210 training hours were completed including a hazmat refresher course funded by Murphy Oil for several firefighters. Routine inspection and maintenance was completed on 106 fire hydrants.
The Council approved the installation of a drive-up payment kiosk by CHELCO “out front” of City Hall. This kiosk could include the ability for drive-up payments of city utility bills.
The Council approved the addition of a budget line item in the Parks and Recreation account for funds associated with an annual Freeport festival. Some funds for the 2014 September festival were approved at the Council meeting of Feb. 27.
Hughes reported that, “nearly 300 responses” have been received from area water customers interested in taking advantage of the city’s annexation initiative. Phone calls and “walk ins” are adding to the number of interested property owners. Additional letters about the initiative have also been sent to the approximately 400 owners of vacant properties adjacent to those of Freeport water customers already contacted. Property eligibility research is underway. The Council approved waiving the property survey requirements for annexation applications and accepting correct legal descriptions instead. Hughes estimates this program may require 2 – 3 years for completion.
The Council approved requiring customers to absorb the cost of necessary horizontal under roadway drilling as a part of the sewer connection financing program.
The Council approved waiving the large water bill to Alfred Buford that was the result of leaks from a pipe that broke while Buford was in the hospital. The Council agreed it would deal with situations like this on a case by case basis as they occur.
The Council also approved adopting “Picking on the Porch” as a city event. These events will scheduled monthly from April through October.
Councilman Harold Taunton provided photographs of a handicapped-suitable ball field in Pensacola that is overlaid with a polymer surface. His recommendation that the city pursue grant funding for a field of this type for the Sports Complex was approved by the Council.
By BEN GRAFTON