DeFuniak Springs City Council addresses library repairs, cybersecurity grant

Story by ADRIANNE WALLINE CAMPBELL 

The DeFuniak City Council held its regular meeting on Feb. 27, 2023, at the Walton County Courthouse. Mike Barker took his place as interim city manager, Todd Bierbaum, Mayor Pro-tempore moved to sit next to him, and Councilman Kevin Crystal moved to sit in Bierbaum’s previous seat. Barker had announced his resignation from the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) on Feb. 23.

The Florida Chautauqua Association was approved to host a multi-location (indoor and outdoor) event in Chipley Park from Thursday, 4/13/2023, through Sunday, 4/16/2023, from 10am to 5pm. There will be a map distributed to event goers providing directions to each event. The events include:

• Dancing to the Past and Drone demonstration #1 – Amphitheater 

• Tin Can Tourists #2 – on Circle Drive 

• Chalk drawing on sidewalk #3  

• Winnie the pooh Storytime #4 – Library 

• 1920’s Settlement Camp #5 

• Muskocee Nation Camp #6 

• Art Pillar #7 – Chautauqua Building 

• Forestry Service #8 – behind Chautauqua Building 

• Disc Golf #9

DeFunk Disco is hosting a one (1) week disc golf course for citizen’s enjoyment and a 1-day disc golf tournament at Chipley Park on Saturday, 5/6/2023, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

First Baptist Church will be hosting an outdoor Easter Egg Hunt and Fellowship at Chipley Park with the area divided into four sections for different age categories. The event is scheduled for Saturday, April 1, 2023, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will include face painting and various activity tables. 

The DeFuniak Springs Police Department received council approval to apply for the Florida Local Government Cybersecurity Grant with the assistance of Liberty Partners. The grant is designed to help cities and counties improve their cybersecurity posture and resiliency. Awards will not consist of cash funding, but rather provision of cybersecurity capabilities, including software, licenses, and other technological solutions and tools. The state is seeking to offer licenses to software packages. 

The city of DeFuniak Springs received approval to partner with Air Methods Corporation by providing crew quarters and office space located in the vacant west end of the current airport Fixed Base Operator (FBO)/terminal. This agreement will facilitate air ambulance operations based out of the DeFuniak Springs Municipal Airport. 

Under Finance: A representative (Mr. Stevens) of Thomas, Howell & Ferguson, CPA, was asked about time spent on financial items for various account reconciliation purposes. City Interim Finance Director Morgan Hulion stated that financial information had been provided; Stevens said he had not had access to all necessary records, but had provided an estimate of the fee for services. Council member Kevin Crystal motioned to deny Thomas, Howell, and Ferguson, CPA’s additional services, only what needs to be done to complete the remaining reconciliation process. The vote was 4-1 with Councilman Henry Ennis voting nay. It was moved to direct the interim city manager work on a replacement to perform financial services. 

Walton County Library Director Caitie Cerise spoke about the Walton-DeFuniak Library, and  received approval to determine what repairs are needed for it, who would do the repairs, and how they would be repaired. Noting that the city is responsible for exterior repairs, Cerise said the library needs repairs to mitigate further damage and ensure the safety of staff and residents until plans for restoration can be made. The library is not on the Liberty Partners list. 

Asked for specifics, Cerise stated that the first need is to locate and repair the significant roof leaks. Several computers have been destroyed; three light fixtures have fallen off the ceiling. She relayed that there reportedly is a “significant” foundation crack believed to be caused by pooling of water coming off the roof. That could be remedied by gutters. These repairs could be done by the city workforce. 

City Attorney Clay Adkinson, asked about a possible need to obtain an historical building expert to address the repairs, noted that the addition on the library has already caused it to be disqualified from historical grants, but that an expert would be helpful. A motion was made to get the list of needed repairs, and an assessment of cost. Council member Tony Vallee clarified that it should be “triage” at first, and that making changes in materials used could be a way to get the building back on historical lists. 

A discussion followed on the city’s obligation to maintain the library, the requirements of budget constraints, and various areas where the city is “short-handed.” Mayor Campbell suggested that the city “strategize” on how to meet its coming obligations, including those involving available workforce. 

Vallee moved to put the library on the city’s capital improvements list and on Liberty Partners’ list, which was approved. 

A follow up for ACEing Autism (Fundraiser) was made by Barb Whitman. There are four days in April planned, April 1, 8, 22, and 29. She had requested a portable toilet for one of the event days, and Bierbaum said he was told someone was donating them at no charge for each event.