DeFuniak Springs City Council hears hospital update, talks water improvement grant

PICTURED HERE: Dr. Jon Ward MD, DFS Mayor Bob Campbell, and Scott Lunato, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Surgical Services.

Story by ADRIANNE WALLINE CAMPBELL 

The DeFuniak City Council held its regular meeting on Aug. 28, 2023, at the DeFuniak City Hall. Council member Amy Heavilin was not present. 

Dr. Jon Ward M.D., founder and 1994 Walton High School graduate, announced that a group of doctors, investors, and himself took over the old Healthmark Hospital. Barring any unforeseen circumstance, they plan on opening on Jan. 1, 2024. They plan to rename it North Walton Doctors Hospital. 

Interim City Manager Mike Barker reported:

The transportation department received approval to purchase 140 tons of asphalt material and tack for the north side of Shoemaker Dr. Material costs are $14,500 and they expect to complete the job in approximately a week. 

The council approved having a survey done of the old city hall property to remove the city well from the description, to locate the sewer lines, and to have a new legal description established. 

The council approved the purchase of replacement meter registers from Empire Pipe and Supply Meter Registers, a sole source vendor, for $60,500. 

Approval was given to add Odorization Solution INC as a sole source vendor. They also approved adding Devtech Sales INC, as an Exclusive Representative to Honeywell for gas meters, and Devtech Sales INC, Authorized to Sale YZ Systems Products for odorization machine pumps. 

The budget workshop that was scheduled for Aug. 29, 2023, has been canceled. They have two public hearings scheduled in September. 

Tim Parson of Liberty Partners spoke about the DEP Water Quality Improvement Grant. There is about $400 million available, and no matching fund is needed. He also said the House Appropriation Project Reforms were released last week for the appropriation requests for the Florida Legislature. The Walton County Legislative Delegation will be having their annual meeting on October 5, 2023, at 5:30 pm at the South Walton Courthouse Annex. The legislative delegation consists of Rep. Shane Abbott and Sen. Jay Trumbull. 

City Marshal James W. Hurley said that the annual JAG Grant portion of $4,063 will be spent on Crime Scene Investigation Equipment.

Alex Rouchaleau of Dewberry Engineering gave a presentation for Wastewater Treatment Facility Effluent Force Main Replacement, Planning Study. The proposed project involves the installation of approximately 29,000-linear feet of 24-inch DI (Ductile Iron Pipe) force main to replace the existing 18-inch PVC force main that serves as the effluent disposal line leaving the Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF) which has reached its “Useful Life.” The construction cost of the proposed wastewater effluent conveyance replacement and upgrade is estimated at $5.5 million in addition to the previously approved plan from the 2015 Wastewater Facilities Plan and 2018 Wastewater Facilities Plan; $9.5 million for construction and a total project cost of $11 million. The city may be able to get an 80% grant, 20% loan from the SRF (State Revolving Fund) program. 

A wreath-placing ceremony at Magnolia Cemetery on Dec. 16, 2023, is scheduled, as part of the Wreaths Across America program. Wreaths are placed on veterans’ graves. Community participation and attendance is encouraged.

Citizen Jene Robinson commented about the amount of trash that is left on the curb for weeks at a time. He noticed it mainly on Hubbard, Bruce, and Hill Streets. He was told that the city would need a new boom truck and an employee to service it. Mayor Bob Campbell commented that it needed to be worked on. 

Council member Anthony Vallee requested a review and update of the city’s water rates. Key Concerns:

• Adjust rates for low-volume users to be comparable with neighboring utilities.

• Link volume rates with meter size.

• General update on rates.

• Consider the impacts of conservation strategies, including the utilization of reclaimed water and the adoption of above-code fixture efficiency standards.

Cliff Knauer gave an update about the work at the airport. It is approaching the 70% completion mark and they are scheduled to be finished sometime around the middle of April. 

Interim City Manager Mike Barker reported that they were closing on the sale of the old police headquarters for $135,000.