SWFD discusses interlocal agreement, labor negotiations, free community classes

By RUBY KEARCE 

The South Walton Fire District (SWFD) board of Commissioners met for their regular meeting on Monday, Feb. 12. The meeting began with Fire Chief Ryan Crawford giving his chief’s report beginning with an update on the interlocal agreement between SWFD and Walton County regarding revenue sharing with the short term rental registration program, stating that the board approved of this program back in December of 2023. This issue was pulled from the Walton County Board of County Commissioners’ agenda due to staff having outstanding questions. Currently the agreement is undergoing some minor edits to reflect the current calendar year as well as referencing the newly appointed board chair of the BCC thus resulting in a change of signatures on the document. This newly edited document is scheduled to go before the BCC at the Feb. 27 meeting. This document also memorializes when the short term rental ordinance was adopted in January of 2023, meaning that SWFD has been working on this document for approximately one year. 

Crawford moved on to announce that SWFD’s Beach safety division is gearing up for the commencement of the seasonal return to Walton County beaches. Lifeguards return on Friday, March 1, with their presence resuming daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the regional county beach accesses. This means that it is time to begin the recruitment process of seasonal lifeguards so the training and certification process can begin. Crawford informed the board that the lifeguard towers will not be deployed along the beaches until the end of spring break due to past vandalism to the towers around that time. SWFD intends to deploy a roving lifeguard model for the duration of that period. 

Crawford also informed the council of the beginning of labor negotiations, and that there will be a continuation of professional services received from Linda Edwards who did the labor negotiations previously. Crawford stated that he is anticipating a formal request to begin the bargaining process at any time, and the existing labor agreement expires on September 30, 2024. Once the process moves forward there will be a board meeting set to further discuss. 

There will be free CPR classes held every month this year using funds received from this year’s Polar Bear Plunge. The first class is set to take place on Friday Feb. 16 at 9:30 a.m.. For more information regarding times and locations view SWFD’s facebook page, or send an email to CPR@SWFD.org. Classes are limited to 10 people per class. SWFD has also recently announced a campaign to register all public access automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in the area.

Crawford also presented the council with the recently updated district attorney contract. Chair Maurice Gilbert and Crawford were requested by the commissioners at the Nov. 13, 2023 board meeting to review the agreement between District Attorney Rene Youell and SWFD. Youell began her services with SWFD on April 1, 2013. Following the parties meeting on Jan. 18, there was an agreement made on the proposed changes to the agreement between SWFD and Attorney Rene Youell. Some of the changes include the highlighting of the importance of accessibility and responsiveness when contacting Youell, the introduction of one hour of billing for meetings that last less than one hour, and a clause allowing for an associate attorney to attend meetings in Youell’s place in case of emergency absences. There was also an increase in Youell’s hourly rate from $175 to $200, and the introduction of a pro-rata hourly rate for telephone calls which last longer than five minutes. This adds up to a 14.3 percent increase in Youell’s hourly rate since the start in 2013. There was a motion passed to accept the proposed new contract.