DeFuniak Springs City Council hears public input on Eagle Aviation lease issue

ERIC MENGELSON requested that his business lease at the airport not be terminated.

Story by ADRIANNE WALLINE CAMPBELL 

The DeFuniak Springs City Council held its regular meeting on Sept. 25, 2023, at the DeFuniak City Hall. 

Mayor Bob Campbell requested that a Letter of Support for North Walton Medical Doctors Hospital be approved. It failed, however, for lack of a motion. 

Approval was given to submit an application for the Walmart Community Grant, in which each department (Fire and Police) share $5,000.00 with an equal split of $2,500.00 each. This money is used for community outreach items that are used throughout our community during events, school visits and community outreach programs. 

There were four changes in the Northwest Florida Police Benevolent Association Agreement Amendments. 

• Article 14 – Uniforms, Equipment and Vehicles. The phrase “and if a spare vehicle is unavailable” is added to the provision, allowing officers to use a personal vehicle for transport to and from work and off-duty assignments if the officer’s take-home vehicle and a spare vehicle are unavailable.

• Article 15 – Out of Title Work. For employees who are designated to perform duties of a higher-level position in an acting capacity, which, as a practical matter, occurs when the employee is being considered for promotion to a higher-level position or when a position is vacant and needs to be filled on an interim basis, the period for the employee to begin receiving the rate of pay for the higher-level position is shortened from sixty (60) consecutive days to forty-five (45) calendar days.

DFS INTERIM CITY MANAGER MIKE BARKER

• Article 18 – Wages. For fiscal year 2023-2024, the City shall provide a 3.5% cost of living adjustment to the base salary of all bargaining unit members.

• Article 19 – Benefits. Section 3(C) of the article is amended to incorporate by reference the definition of “immediate family” as set forth in the City Personnel Policy.

It was approved to pay for a pump replacement for the Wastewater Spray Field. They agreed to pay Gulf Coast Electric Motor Service $26,543 for a replacement. 

Approval was given for the new Holiday schedule for non-emergency office closures beginning on Monday, January 1, 2024. 

Tim Parson of Liberty Partnerswent through the list to identify 2024 Legislative Appropriation Requests and prioritize them. 

Chris Wallace, Planning Director, presented several items for review. 

• Final Plat for the Bay Springs Townhomes was approved. 

• Final Plat for the Country Ridge Estates was approved by 4 – 1 vote, Amy Heavilin voted nay. The subdivision has city water available, but not sewer. They would need septic systems. In order to bring city sewer to them, a couple of lift stations would need to be installed. 

• Final Detailed Plan for the CEFCO located on Highway 331 South was approved. It will be on the northwest corner of I10 and Hwy 331. 

• Text Amendment as it Relates to Stormwater Management. The text amendment would require the developer of a pre-existing lot to submit a plan to address stormwater runoff both during construction and upon completion. The intent is to limit the effects of stormwater runoff and erosion on adjoining property owners. It was approved. 

Melinda Henderson announced a meet and greet upstairs at Bogey’s on Sept. 28, at 5:30 p.m. for Forward DeFuniak. 

Eric Mengelson, Eagle Aviation Maintenance INC.- EAM Lease spoke discussing his discontinued lease at the municipal airport. He has been there 13 years and leases a hangar to operate as an airplane mechanic. A large number of people were there to support him. Interim City Manager Mike Barker had given Mengelson 45 days to vacate the premises, due to a breach of FAA regulations. He or his crew had crossed the airfield. Council member Josh Sconiers suggested a new lease could be created after this one was terminated. Mengelson replied that the current lease was in his business name and if a new lease was written, it would be in his name. His current liability insurance would be affected. He also said that the regulations for the hangars were that an owner or tenant was not allowed to work on their aircraft. 

Mayor Campbell relayed the views of three individuals he had spoken with that knew Mengelson; they highly recommended him and said that he would be difficult to replace.  Council member Amy Heavilin asked Barker if there was any resolution that they could come to, and he replied that he would be glad to try to work something out. Barker said there were no mistakes made on his part that day, that he was just enforcing the rules of the city. Also, that there was no heated argument on his part. Heavilin said she had not heard anything about it until the last meeting two weeks ago, and asked if his termination could be extended until the end of November. She said that terminating the lease after 13 years of no issues was harsh. Heavilin made a motion to withdraw the termination letter, but it failed due to lack of second. 

Attendee Ramsey Solomon spoke in support of Mengelson but was ruled out of order and was asked to sit down. Others present in Mengelson’s support were increasingly vocal about the matter. Mengelson’s lease will expire on October 7, 2023. 

Barb Whitman, Tory and Lisa Sorrells proposed to hire a Seasonal Tennis Instructor (part time) to initiate, direct, and promote tennis programs- Clinics, Lessons/Round Robins, Social Events to promote the love of tennis (adults, teens and Children) in DeFuniak Springs. They were told that the North Walton TDC does not support this kind of thing. 

Julie Mooney, Ammyruth Hanson, and Kathi Heapy seeking support for a regional aquatic center for Okaloosa and Walton counties’ use. They did not request money but wanted support to try to obtain a grant with Triumph Gulf Coast. There was no motion, but they were told to keep checking back. 

Meeting agendas, agenda forms, and supporting documents for items brought before the council can be accessed and/or linked to on the city’s website. Minutes from meetings are also available on the website, defuniaksprings.net