DeFuniak Springs City Council meeting discusses special event permits. [PREMIUM]

Story by STACY MARTIN

The July 27 regular council meeting took place at the Community Center, starting at 9am. Council began the meeting approving the consent and regular agenda.

The next item was a request for direction from City Manager Carisse LeJeune on a draft copy of a special event permit’s policy and procedures. The city currently does not have any special event policy and procedures, so a draft was created for review and discussion. Councilmember Kevin Crystal made a motion to hold a special workshop on the draft stating areas of concern within the document, and Councilmember Robert McKnight seconded the motion. The council voted in favor of the motion as presented with a date, time, and location to be determined. The floor was then open to the public and to the council to discuss the draft in progress, with several residents and speakers on behalf of local non-profits stated issues and concerns on the draft including a liability insurance requirement. McKnight stated that there were issues with the language within the draft and areas open for discussion on whether or not to allow beer or hard liquor at city buildings such as the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood.

The next item was a presentation and request for action from Labour Attorney Holly Dincman. The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a Union that represents Public Work employees, sent a written request for a voluntary recognition of Supervisors Union. In Dincman’s presentation, she stated that in Florida’s collective bargaining law for public employees, Public Employees Relation Act (PERA), supervisors can form a union, but there are some exceptions and exclusions. Dincman also states that if the city council was to vote in favor of the voluntary recognition, forms must be signed and submitted to the Public Employees Relations Comision (PERC) who helps organize elections, and with its passing, the city would then enter into negotiation collective bargaining situations. If the council voted to not voluntarily recognize the Supervisors Union, then all parties will be notified, and a hearing process will be conducted. According to Dincman, a hearing officer will look to determine if the proposed positions for the union have a community of interest, how wages of employment are determined, employee’s desires, and the history of collective bargaining within the city. Dincman states that there are several other areas of observation the hearing officer considers including how the government functions, the city’s interest in limiting the number of unions, authority, and any conflicts of interest of the employees. A list of job titles was given, including Shop Supervisor (Fleet Maintenance), Streets and Sanitation Supervisor, Parks Supervisor, Water and Sewer Supervisor, Natural Gas, Maintenance, Mapping and GIS (CAD Coordinator) Supervisor, and Finance and Utility Billing Supervisors. Dincman then states that most of the positions within the city are managerial and confidential employee positions and advised the council not to agree to voluntary recognition, and to move forward with the hearing process. A motion to deny the request for voluntary recognition was made by Crystal and seconded by councilmember Wayne Graham. The motion carried unanimously.

The next item on the agenda was under executive requests. Councilmember McKnight gave an update on the Charter Review Committee(CRC). McKnight presented a proposed timeline, which includes the final draft revision posted to the website by August 8. The final draft will then be added to the agenda for the Monday, August 10 City Council Meeting. The August 10 meeting agenda will also include a request for the first reading will be August 24. The CRC requested for a council and public workshop to be held on August 17. According to McKnight, they will also seek, should everything pass, second reading to be held on September 14. If all goes well and passes according to McKnight’s timeline, the new charter will become effective January 1, 2021. McKnight made a motion to hold the charter review workshop for August 17 at 5:30pm. The location will be determined at another time.

McKnight then asked about council procedures of Robert’s Rules of discussion from the council before and after motions. Legal departments advised after budget that the city hold a workshop on procedures.

The last item from McKnight was asking the council if they want to collectively be silent on any COVID-19 related recommendations for the citizens. McKnight stated that he feels there is not enough support from the council for a mandate to wear masks, six-feet of social distancing mandate, or a mandate on COVID-19 testing. “In the midst of this pandemic, this particular council has not been very vocal in encouraging its citizens to do things recommended (CDC),” McKnight states. McKnight made a motion that the council encourages its citizens to practice social distancing, use face coverings, and consider being tested for the COVID-19 virus. “It lets us say something rather than being silent.” Councilmember Henry Ennis stated that he feels it should be left up to the public to do as they feel best, and “I don’t see where we need to tell them what all to do.” The motion failed for lack of a second.

A request was made from the Finance Department to set the first public hearing on September 8 at 5:30pm to approve the tentative 5% millage rate. A motion was made by councilmember Todd Bierbaum and seconded by councilmember Wayne Graham. The motion carried unanimously.

A request was made from the Public Works department to approve the design proposal for the blower project for the WWTP. According to the agenda packet, “Jacobs has been working on the installation of the first blower for the WWTP. Due to DEP requirements, we must proceed with the second blower. This will allow Jacobs to complete the second phase of this project, which will include the design of new electrical MCC for blowers, and current plant equipment and design piping for blower header for both blowers.” The motion to approve the design proposal carried unanimously from the council. The council then was advised to make a motion for approval of the scope of services for the blower replacement Phase II would be awarded and not exceed $59,260.00. The recommended motion carried unanimously.

Under Staff reports, city manager Mell Smigielski reminded the council of the budget meeting held at the community center on the morning of July 28. Another update informed the council that this is the year in which staff goes out for new bids on health insurance.

Under closing comments, McKnight held up a brochure for the Parade of Homes of Okaloosa and Walton County. McKnight points out that the city of DeFuniak Springs was not on the map. McKnight states that this is telling of what the city needs to be looking at to encourage the development of new housing in the city, saying that it insists the city doesn’t exist when it comes to new homes. Councilmember Crystal stated, in his closing comments, concerning the parade of homes, that it’s an economic issue with an example that you can make money at $100 per square foot for a new house or you can go to south Walton area and build for $300 a square foot.

The next city council meeting will be held on August 10.