City discusses traffic

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By Pat Hibbs

The first City Council meeting of 2008 was largely a nuts and bolts session, concentrating on administrative matters. The only intense discussion was engendered by discussions of traffic control in the city.

Councilman Jerry Robinson, who is adamantly opposed to charging for police response to vehicle crashes, indicated his intention to place Ordinance 576 on a future agenda. That ordinance repeals Ordinance 570, which established fees for police intervention. The subject generated such public outcry when it was introduced last year that council reconsidered and, on Oct. 16, voted, three to two (council president Debra Jones and councilman Cal Byrd dissenting) to accept, on its first reading, Ordinance 576 to repeal the imposition of fees.

However, when the repeal was introduced on Nov. 6 for final adoption, only Robinson supported it, and the motion died for lack of a second. The whole matter was tabled at that point. Now it's back, and will be scheduled for a vote as soon as the required advertising can be placed.

The other traffic matter was the cameras for tracking vehicles that run red lights. City attorney Norm Fugate has expressed reservations about the legality of the system, admitting, however, that there is disagreement among municipal attorneys in Florida on the point. He told council that there are two bills set to come before Florida legislators this year specifically allowing such systems, but cautioned that a similar bill had failed last year.

Traffipax, the company that has proposed the system to Williston, will do a feasibility study for installing its system at no cost to the city (other than a percentage of the fines collected), but only if an ordinance is approved allowing such a system. By a three to two vote (councilmen Cason and Holcomb strongly in dissent), the council directed Fugate to prepare the ordinance, based on one from Gulf Breeze, a panhandle community that already employs the system.

Back to the nuts and bolts.

Two religious organizations were permitted waivers for the customary fee for use of the pavilion in Linear Park. Each wishes to hold Christian singing and preaching events on separate Saturdays of each month. Council agreed, with the provision that, should another event be scheduled in advance, the churches would cede use of the pavilion. Each of the organizations also agreed to pay $100 per year for city services at the pavilion.

After a presentation from Joe Delfino, president of the Williston Animal Group, council agreed to waive impact fees for the group's facility at the airport industrial park. Delfino enumerated the savings that the group is affording the city through its work with abused and abandoned animals and council members agreed to waive the approximately $1,000 in fees.

Council accepted a resolution declaring that the expenditure of public funds is acceptable to express the city's opposition to Amendment One on the January 29 ballot, the property tax relief amendment. While it was presented as a broader measure, the text of the ordinance appears to be specific to the measure on the Jan. 29 ballot. Council president Debra Jones opposed the resolution.

Council accepted three resolutions that relate to development of the city's aviation facilities. They concern joint participation with the Florida Department of Transportation for design and reconstruction of the terminal building and purchase of equipment for the FBO operation; a parking apron; and a new taxiway, plus upgrading of existing taxiways and appropriate lighting.

In each case, FDOT would pay 80 percent of the cost, with the city contributing 20 percent.

In other airport matters, council accepted the bid of Tom Sumpter, a current airport tenant, to assume the debts of the bankrupt World Aircraft Connection and to continue operating from the defunct company's facilities at the airport.

They agreed, too, to setting the date for the annual Airport Festival for March 29 (rain date March 30).

Public works director James Arrington was asked to look into cosmetic repairs to the Community Center, which needs painting and roof work.

Mayor Gerald Hethcoat suggested that council consider constructing an industrial building on speculation at the airport industrial park. Jones agreed that such a building could be rented quickly and would add to the airport revenue.

Hethcoat also talked about "shade hangars," essentially carports for airplanes. He said that a company called Day-Jet has been conducting training exercises at Williston airport but keeping its planes in Gainesville in order to keep them sheltered from the weather when they're not in the air.

City manager Jim Coleman will look into appropriate facilities.

Police Chief Dan Davis announced that the city had sold a surplus police car for $3,000 and sold stray bicycles accumulated during the year for five dollars apiece.

Coleman announced that the Rotary Club will sponsor a talk on Jan. 22 by Levy County Property Appraiser Francis Akins on the subject of the property tax amendment that will appear on the Jan. 29 ballot. All interested citizens are invited to attend. Rotary meets at noon in the Chamber of Commerce conference room on South Main Street.

The next council meeting will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 7 p.m. in the City Council chambers. The agenda is available online at www.willistonfl.com on the Friday before the meeting. A hardcopy may be picked up at the City Hall offices. Public participation in all city meetings is encouraged.