By BRUCE COLLIER
The April 20 meeting of the Paxton City Council featured the reading of a proclamation honoring the “long life and service” and distinguished public career of the late Bobby Kemp, a “pillar of this community.” It was resolved to create a “Bobby Kemp Day” (April 21, 2021) Kemp died of injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident on March 17. He was 88 years old, and had served on Paxton’s City Council more than 45 years. Kemp also worked for Walton County as an Emergency Medical Technician for more than 40 years. In an article from the DeFuniak Springs Herald in 2009, Kemp was recognized for his service as a Walton County EMT; the article stated that local officials believed Kemp, at that time, to be the oldest licensed EMT in the state. Several council members and attendees briefly expressed reminiscences about Kemp’s kindness and good character. The council heard a presentation, first by Planning Director Latilda Hughes-Neel and then by Paxton resident Corey Fink for council approval to commence the administrative process for moderate-income rental apartment housing in the area of Cannon Drive in Paxton. The 60-unit project (15 buildings, four apartments each) would be the first of its kind in Paxton in years. It is hoped that the homes would attract law enforcement personnel, healthcare workers, and other moderate-income working people in need of affordable homes conveniently located for their work. Fink described the construction of the apartments, stating that he would open it to “some HUD,” and wishes to offer a discount to first responders (particularly law enforcement) who would live there and, presumably, offer security. Fink, who plans to purchase the land on which the apartments would be built, said he would serve as property manager.
Some members of the public in attendance expressed concerns, from the effect of increased traffic on Cannon Drive, to possible rentals to “crackheads,” to the quality of the housing and yards. Fink countered that renting to responsible moderate-income tenants would have the effect of keeping the crackheads out. “I want families to come in…and have a safe place….”
Relating to the subject of HUD, Fink spoke of overcoming his own financial hardships, and said that people need to be given a chance to improve themselves and their standard of living. “This is a legacy for my [own] family,” he said, and “I want to give people a fighting chance.”
The council voted to approve beginning the evaluation and administrative process for the project. This would entail more information gathering, a traffic study, and other preparations before public hearings could be held on the eventual development application. No other nation was warranted or taken at that time.
Walton County Commissioner Danny Glidewell next gave an update on Cannon Drive. Cannon “needs attention, sooner rather than later,” said Glidewell. He noted the existence of various grants to fund improvements. The city of Paxton must itself apply for these grants, and the county could offer assistance in preparing the applications. The council heard details on the grants, including grants that do not require matching funds by the city, not only for Cannon Drive, but other necessary improvements for “rural areas of opportunity.” The council voted its approval of moving forward to seek and apply for these grants.
Kristen Shell was scheduled to speak on the Mobility Plan, but was not in attendance. Glidewell spoke briefly on the plan, which entails $750 million for projects countywide. He listed a few projects in the north part of Walton County, adding that there are projects in DeFuniak Springs, Freeport, and “a lot in South Walton.” Glidewell gave some details on the proposed fees contemplated by the plan, mentioning the meetings and workshops that have been going on in Walton County. Glidewell emphasized that he was not making a personal statement for or against the plan at this time, but cautioned that it was “a big step for the county,” and a “big step for you.”
There were comments from council members, to the effect that north Walton County (specifically Paxton) needs to be kept fully informed on what is being contemplated, and to have an opportunity for input. Glidewell promised to make sure the north was properly informed, and that there would be “a north-end meeting.” No council action was required or taken at this time.
Brief discussions followed on renovations and improvements in various city buildings, including floor tile and air conditioning. Construction is complete on the sewer treatment plant project and the engineers have certified it. Council was asked to approve final payment, which was so moved and passed.
The Paxton City Council meets the third Tuesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. at Paxton Town Hall, 21872 U.S. 331 N, Paxton, FL.