Story and photo by STACY MARTIN
On Jan. 12, the Freeport City Council met to hold its regular council meeting at city hall. In attendance were Mayor Russ Barley, council members Elizabeth Brannon, Amanda Green, Elizabeth Haffner, and Mark Martin. The meeting began with a utility bill adjustment request from Jake Barley. The Barleys stated that in one month they were billed for 63,000 gallons. Readings from the city were verified and lined up with the meter reading and no leak was detected. The Barleys declined a meeter accuracy test that would have cost $125 to the customer unless there was a flaw in the meter in which the city would cover the cost of the test and the charges on the water bill. Council voted to decline a waiver request but will work with the Barleys on a payment plan or the one-time fee adjustment.
The board then voted to approve the consent agenda and the regular agenda and began with staff reports, hearing updates from the parks department. Parks director Travis Diggs gave an update on several city project completions, including shading at the playground area at the Freeport Sports complex, boat ramp at Marse Landing, the canopy at the baseball field updated on the pool area being the next area of focus.
Next was from City Manager Charlie Simmons, who presented updates from the 2021-22 Legislative Appropriations Projects. The projects listed are the U.S. 331 Water and Sewer Improvements, South Jackson Street roadway and stormwater improvements, City Community Center, and the downtown lift station upgrades for hurricane preparedness. The council listened to Jennifer Green’s and Tim Parsons’ presentation with Liberty Partners lobbying firm on their plans and hopes for project funding with the new house member positions and process.
The last item from Simmons was in regard to the sewer operator position. Simmons stated that it is in the city’s best interest to be proactive with the city’s growth and future. Once this new water and sewer plant is completed, the city will be looking at another plant to address growth needs. The position will be a Class A Operator, and the recommended pay rate is $80,000 – $100,000 annually, depending on experience. The council voted unanimously with a motion from Martin and a second from Brannon.
From the planning department was a request for a motion on the Trails at Hammock Bay final plat. The Trails is an 88-acre lot subdivision west of the Meadows. Council voted unanimously for the request. Latilda Hughes-Neel also introduced Adam Williams as the new city planner.
At the end of the meeting, Mayor Russ Barley informed the attendees and the council that on Thursday, January 14, a groundbreaking with the Walton County School District at Freeport Elementary will be held at 11 a.m. and at 1 p.m. at the new Freeport Transportation Facility next to the High School. Barley informed the council that the Veterans Group that made Freeport the City Of The Year locally named them the City Of The Year for Florida, honoring their work with the Veterans Memorial. The reward ceremony will be held in Orlando this Saturday. The next city council meeting will be held on Thursday, Jan. 28, at 6 p.m. in the city hall.