Freeport City Council hears report on public art project, criteria for new businesses

TRACY LOUTHAIN spoke on the Anchors for Freeport public art project.

Story by ADRIANNE WALLINE CAMPBELL 

 The Freeport City Council held its regular meeting on March 28, 2024, at the Freeport City Hall. The 2024 Freeport Queens were present, Miss Freeport Madison Wilson, Teen Miss Freeport Tinleigh Tripp, Jr. Teen Miss Freeport Scarlett Nunes, Young Miss Freeport Cheyenne Trapp, Jr. Miss Freeport Lillyana B., Little Miss Freeport Annalee C.

South Walton Recreation Coordinator Joe Ribaudo spoke concerning sports field space. He said that their first season they had 70 children with only a fall season. Currently they are doing spring and fall. The spring registration for soccer is 384 children. Now there is soccer, little league, and travel baseball ongoing. He said the county is constantly looking for space including with the school system. As a county, they have no space in Freeport. 

Anne McKenzie, Freeport Recreation & Events Manager, said that there is undeveloped land behind the Freeport Complex behind the parks building. The council approved the motion to create a multi-purpose field behind the parks building. The rodeo cannot be held there, however, because it would be a turf field. District 1 County Commissioner William “Boots” McCormick reported that the county fully supports having more sports fields available. He said the closest one to Freeport he knew of that was large enough was on Antioch Cemetery Road off Hwy 20, about 10 miles from U.S. 331. 

Ben Blitch. Of Dewberry Engineering received approval for a change order to the 83A West Watermain Improvement Phase 2 project in the amount of $26,400. This is for construction, engineering, and inspection services to include full-time inspector staffing (40 hours per week) for the remaining 12 weeks. A change order was also approved that would provide additional resident construction inspection time for the CR-3280 Watermain Extension Project Phases 1 and 2. Inspection services would go from part-time to full-time for the entirety of the project in the amount of $85,000. 

Both the City Clerk and the City Planning Department had items that were approved for deletion. They include label maker, paper shredder, paper cutter, and so on. All are non-functioning. 

MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL with attending Freeport Misses.

Tracy Louthain spoke concerning the Anchors for Freeport public art project she is working on. They plan on creating an anchor cast that will be decorated by local artists and placed around the city. They are soliciting contributions at various levels to the project: 

“• Captain: $2000 (one business) With this sponsorship, one business is the captain of the ship, and a custom anchor will be fabricated for your city approved location. The sponsorship includes:

• Opportunity to select your location with City approval.

• Opportunity to choose from partner artist from list of approved artist applicants.

• Logo/Name inclusion on base monument along with artist name and QR code to Anchored in Freeport Page on City Website.

• Top level logo inclusion on Anchored in Freeport Page on City Website. 

• Dedicated “Thankyou” post on Facebook featuring your name and logo recognizing your support on both City of Freeport and Anchored in Freeport Facebook pages.

• Name inclusion in press release announcement of inaugural project. 

• Logo inclusion on locator map identifying Anchor locations.

• Top level logo inclusion as Captain Sponsor on sponsor banner at launch event.

• First Mate: $1000 (two businesses) With this sponsorship, 2 businesses team up to have a custom anchor fabricated for a city approved location. This sponsorship includes:

• An Anchor placed by Anchored in Freeport Committee and the City of Freeport. (Sponsored requests will be considered)

• Two Sponsor names on a plaque on the base of the monument of anchor along with artist name and QR code to Anchored in Freeport Page on City Website. 

• Named with Frist Mate Sponsors on “Thankyou” post on Facebook recognizing your support on both the City of Freeport and Anchored in Freeport Facebook pages.

• Name inclusion in press release announcement of inaugural project. 

• Named as sponsor on locator map identifying Anchor locations. 

• Second level logo inclusion on banner at launch event. 

• Crew: $500 (four businesses)  With this sponsorship, each sponsor is one of 4 businesses named on a custom anchor fabricated for a city approved location. This sponsorship includes:

• 4 Businesses named on a plaque on the base of the monument. 

• Name or logo inclusion on Anchored in Freeport page on the City website.

• Named with Crew Sponsors on “Thankyou” post on Facebook on both the City of Freeport and the Anchored in Freeport Facebook pages.

• Named as sponsor on locator map identifying Anchor locations.

• Name or logo on banner at launch event.

• If all anchors are sold, crew sponsors will receive all benefits listed above except name on the sponsor plaque.” [end of list]

In other agenda items: 

The Watson-Elliott FLU change and Rezoning Request was approved. This is a 6.7-acre part of a 100-acre parcel. 

The language of the Freeport Land Development Code was amended to include a 30’ wide driveway for homes with 3 garages. The Council approved. 

The contract with Dewberry Engineering contract for the Freeport North Zone 0.5 MGD (Million Gallons per Day) Wastewater Treatment Facility, located on Bulldog Road and Hwy 331, was approved for $1,205,000. 

Approval was given to the Water Department to advertise to bid to repaint the interior and exterior of the water storage tank #4. It is a 500,000 Gallon Elevated Water Tank. Ed Chapman will perform the construction inspections for this project at a cost of $750 per inspection, for a total of $12,750. They expect it will cost $300,000 to repaint the water tank. 

City Planning Director Latilda Hughes-Neal presented the council with a list of possible replies to questions concerning adding new businesses to Freeport so they would be prepared. They have been inundated with opinions on social media regarding this topic. There are several basic/pro forma requirements that must be met:

• The population must be sufficient to provide enough targeted customers. This includes specific numbers of rooftops, tourism factors and the perceived success of smaller businesses already located here. 

• Employee base with the correct skills and training to sustain their business model. 

• Locational criteria, including access to an interstate, railway in certain cases, airports, etc. 

The City Council does not have the ability to pick and choose which companies want to be in Freeport. Until the City matches the criteria above, especially in terms of growing population, we will continue to see small and medium-sized commercial growth. 

Related, but on the opposite side of these views, are complaints regarding traffic on US 331 and SR 20. In order to attract larger businesses, big-box development and high-end retail and restaurants, the City will need to grow somewhat larger. More people means more traffic on all our roadways.

The Florida Department of Transportation decides when and if roadway improvements are warranted on state roads AND if they can apply funding toward improvements to those roadways. Roadway improvement funding is highly competitive all over the State and there is never enough funding to go around. 

Your staff is conscientiously evaluating increases of population on Hwy 331 and 20, particularly population concentrations at intersections and are advising developers to have warrant studies for roadway improvements submitted to FDOT as a requirement of development approval. [end of report] 

Council member Elizabeth Brannon told of an issue of the county negotiating to purchase a piece of property just outside of the city limits on Hwy 20 East to build a transfer station. She had been contacted by several citizens that owned property close to it who were upset. She said she was opposed to the purchase. Commissioner Boots McCormick said the purchase was not finalized as yet, adding that he was open to other suggestions as to where to put it. He said it would be set back off the highway, camouflaged, and wouldn’t be visible or noticeable to any neighbors. He did not feel it would add anything to traffic and would need to be centrally located in the county. As the current landfill is north of DeFuniak and serves the entire county, something else is necessary.