DFS City Council votes to extend application process for city manager position 

D.A.R. REPRESENTATIVE Melissa Mote presented a request to the council to place an historical reservation plaque on the Walton-DeFuniak Library building.

Story by ADRIANNE WALLINE CAMPBELL 

The DeFuniak City Council held its regular meeting on March 11, 2024, at City Hall. Council member Henry Ennis and City Attorney Clay Adkinson were not present. 

The council approved Mayor Bob Campbell’s request to appoint Jack Rhodes to the Planning Board. 

The official results from the Feb. 26, 2024, election were formally accepted. Neither referendum passed. 

Mayor Campbell said the same arrangements are planned again for Lakefest as last year, at a cost of $6,500. 

Campbell also requested compensation for the added work he is responsible for doing because of the lack of a city manager. He said that it has gotten to be quite a bit. The issue will be discussed at the next meeting. 

The council approved for city staff to seek funding from FDOT through the Small County Outreach Program for Rural Areas of Opportunity (SCOP-Municipalities) in the amount of $625,434.03 with city match money of $156,358.51 for design, construction, and consultant engineering inspection fees associated with roadway and drainage improvements to Twin Lake Drive. The award announcement will be in fall of 2024 (Oct-Nov 2024). 

The council approved continuing to keep the city manager application process open for another two weeks beginning tomorrow, March 12, 2024. The applicants that have already applied and are qualified are to be contacted. The plan is to hire an interim city manager to fill in until a permanent one can be found. As Council member Ennis is still unable to attend the meetings, it is not known how long a period of time would be required, as a unanimous 5-0 vote is necessary, per the city charter. An interim city manager can be hired for nine months, plus a three-month extension. 

A standing approval for the mayor to hire upon the selection of hire recommendation of the director and HR director in order to be able to fill positions during the absence of a city manager was granted. The city currently has the following positions advertising for employment: Facility Maintenance Tech, Part-time Firefighter, Water/Wastewater Tech, Grounds Tech, Utility Billing Assistant, and IT Support Specialist. 

The council approved an addition to Phase One of the Veterans Lodge, a 2,400 square foot maintenance barn. 

A Public Hearing and the 1st Reading of the Rezoning Ordinance of the old City Hall property was held to rezone to C-2 Commercial from Industrial. A public hearing and 1st Reading of the SSA (Small Scale Amendment) Ordinance was also held on the same property. Both were approved. 

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the DeFuniak Springs Police Department entered into an agreement. The SAFE in Florida Program, (State Assistance for Fentanyl Eradication) provided $25,000 towards the goal of eradicating Fentanyl. Of that, $5,000 will go towards equipment, and the remaining $20,000 towards enforcement. 

Next item was an Interlocal Agreement for Mutual Aid Agreement between DeFuniak Springs Fire Department, and the Secretary of the Air Force (Air Force) acting by and through the Commander 96th Test Wing, Eglin AFB pursuant to the authority of 42 U.S.C. § 1856a. These additional resources will provide additional equipment and firefighters during emergency calls that stress current fire department resources. All parties (DeFuniak Springs Fire Department, and the Secretary of the Air Force (the “Air Force”) acting by and through the Commander 96th Test Wing, Eglin AFB pursuant to the authority of 42 U.S.C. § 1856a) approved the Interlocal Agreement for Mutual Aid. 

Public Information Officer Kristie Seigler reported that the main DeFuniak Springs Facebook page had been hacked on Jan. 21, 2024. She has attempted to correspond with Facebook and META but has not yet been able to come to a resolution. The original owner of the page had been shut down but not taken down. They hope to come to a resolution with Facebook about this page without taking it down and starting over. 

The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) received approval to place a bronze plaque either inside or outside of the DeFuniak Library. It has a notable place in history. 

The plantings on Baldwin Avenue have irrigation which in the summer of 2023 was shut off for an extended period. During this time the Nuttall Oaks became stressed. They hope the oaks will recover.  Approval was given for the irrigation system to be repaired to allow for an automated operation. 

Sara Commander of the DeFuniak Springs Business and Professional Association announced that their upcoming golf tournament will be held at Blackstone on April 19, 2024. They are collecting funds to pay for the Fourth of July Fireworks. 

Council member Todd Bierbaum spoke to the council on the future of the city budget, seeking general discussion as well as input from Finance Director Morgan Hulion on what they want future budgets to look like, including priorities, with the goal of getting “a proper budget.” 

During discussion, Council member Josh Sconiers favored the procedure of specific justification of budget items by department directors. Council member Anthony Vallee expressed the need not to start off with budgets that require increasing millage. Youth and adult recreation, adequate restroom facilities, and expansion of city recreation opportunities (e.g. pickleball) are all part of a practicable wish list. 

Bierbaum asked Hulion for input on her idea of how the budget should look. Council member Amy Heavilin urged looking at “the basics” first. Vallee supported the procedure of a list of department directors’ budget needs being submitted first to the finance director, who would make a “first pass.” The council would review the full list, reserving its right to put back or revise something that might have been cut on the first pass. 

Bierbaum also announced that Uriah Matthews of the Walton Economic Development Alliance, told of the HCA Florida Twin Cities Hospital’s plans to open a new freestanding emergency room in DeFuniak Springs. It will be 11,000 square feet freestanding ER on nine acres at the southeast corner of U.S. 331 and I-10. They expect to open later next year. 

Meeting agendas, agenda forms, and supporting documents and reports 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