DeFuniak City Council talks insurance, cemetery ordinances

Story by ADRIANNE WALLINE CAMPBELL 

Note: This story covers Part Two of the business conducted at the Nov. 8 city council meeting. Part One was published in the Nov. 10, 2021 edition of the Herald – Breeze. 

The DeFuniak Springs City Council held its regularly scheduled meeting on November 8, 2021, at the Walton County Courthouse. 

Health insurance with Barnes Insurance requested renewal for Florida Blue 2022. A 6.79% increase in the plan with a savings of $57,847 to the city. The current rate for the city is $687,794, the renewals $792,818. The cost for family of four with one adult working for the city and two children is $1,800 with the city paying roughly $570 monthly. Claims experience and medical trend drives the prices. Mayor Pro-Tempore Todd Bierbaum said that he knew individuals considering employment with the city that walked away because the health insurance rates were too high. The council agreed to renew with a 10-month renewal cycle. 

The council approved a request from One Walton, We the People – Town Hall for Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, from 6 to 8 p.m. to include a street closure on Circle Drive from the old Gulf Power parking lot to the old train station. 

The council approved annexing 72.63 acres of Bay Springs development into the city. 

Dr. Melinda Henderson representing Forward DeFuniak, spoke requesting a partnership to submit the National Historic Landmark (NHL) nomination and the Request for Proposal for seeking a Consultant Historian for this process. 

Citizen comment was made by Rev. Tyrone Broadus thanking the council for recognizing and appreciating the veterans.

Council member Bob McKnight requested that the ordinances governing the city be re-evaluated along with Mayor Pro-Tempore Todd Bierbaum. He also felt that some of the ordinances concerning Magnolia Cemetery were too restrictive and the fines too high. 

Clay Adkinson, City Attorney, presented an option to change banks from Trustmark to Regions. The savings is considerable for the debt repayment. Regions requires all accounts be transferred, however. A savings of $73,000 per year over 30 years is $2,190,000, with a realized savings of $1,375,000. The amount of debt the city owes is $6,800,000. The council agreed to inquire further into the matter.

Council member Anthony Vallee requested consideration of criteria that define conditions and develop a numerical scoring system for mitigation of substandard dwellings within the city and develop a retention and mitigation strategy. He also requested to begin the process of amending the Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code for the Inclusion of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) on single family parcels. The council agreed more information is necessary. Public comment will be vital.

Council member Kevin Crystal requested renaming Railroad Street to Anthony M. Johnson Avenue. The topic was tabled until the next meeting. Several citizens were present supporting this change.