Story by JEFFREY POWELL
The Freeport City Council held their first regularly scheduled meeting of the month on May 9, 2017, at the Freeport City Hall. All council members were present with under a dozen members of the general public in attendance.
After approving a consent agenda council members heard from Freeport City Clerk Becky Podraza concerning several issues. First of all she briefed the council about an upcoming waiver of fees workshop which will be held on May 16. The workshop is intended to inform a variety of organizations, which may or may not qualify for a waiver of fees at Freeport municipal facilities. Podraza also spoke of a strategic planning meeting which requires city hall to be closed on May 24, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.. The meeting will include employee team building and is intended for Freeport staff only.
Under the Engineering heading Dewberry Vice-President Cliff Knauer opened an extended conversation concerning the Freeport municipal pool. City officials have been discussing pool repairs for several months and had hoped to open by Memorial Day. Knauer briefed the council that Panama Pool & Spas was the only organization to submit their bid in accordance to requrements. Their bid of just under $128,000 will not solve every problem but would get the pool operational by Memorial Day.
This brought about a discussion as to whether the money could be spent more wisely elsewhere. Council member Kasey Cuchens suggested building a splash pad at Freeport Regional Sports Complex as a water feature that would require less maintenance in the coming years. She also cautioned the council that this expenditure could inhibit future projects. Council member Eddie Farris responded that in his experience citizens had expressed to him that they wanted the pool opened. “We need to make this sacrifice for the kids of Freeport,” said Farris. “This pool is all some of these people have, I cannot deny the kids of Freeport and Walton County this pool.” Council members approved the pool repairs, plus a new chemical feeder, at a cost of just over $130.000.
At the end of the meeting Mayor Russ Barley asked for public comment and Parks Director Dana Weiler addressed the gathering. She informed the council that a Freeport ordinance requires her to have two lifeguards on duty during pool operating hours. Currently she only has one and has not received any more qualified applicants. Weiler expressed her concern that if applicants need training they might not be ready to open on Memorial Day. The council stressed that all possible avenues and efforts to get more qualified lifeguards hired should be expedited as the plan is to open the pool.
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