Comp plan presented to city

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By Pat Hibbs

The Aug. 19 meeting of Williston's City Council consisted largely of planning and housekeeping items.

The annual modifications to the city's comprehensive plan were presented to the council. This exercise is undertaken each year during the budgeting period. The changes reflect projects undertaken or completed during the previous year and changes in projections for future activity.

Bruce Day, Principal Planner for the Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council, briefly explained the process and then directed the attention of the council members to the most important element of the plan, the Capital Improvement Program.

Elements of that plan scheduled for fiscal year 2008-2009 include fencing and work on the apron, taxiways and FBO at the airport. The new water well, already in progress, is noted at a cost of $600,000, to be paid for with a Community Block Development Grant.

Funds are earmarked for the East Williston and WYAA parks and those monies are expected to come from FRDAP grants.

More general items include continuing repairs to streets and sidewalks, an upgrade to the sewer plant, gas gate station improvements, and work on the sewer lines. The purchase of two vehicles is anticipated, one a line/service truck and the other a new garbage truck, which is projected to cost $275,000.

Council president Debra Jones noted pointedly that any expenditure on a new city hall has been postponed to fiscal year 2010. The purchase of the building at the north end of the Linear Park as a new city hall was effectively abandoned at the last council meeting. Jones had been an enthusiastic champion of that project.

Day and Finance Director Mark Schiefer reassured the panel that any changes during the year can be handled with budget amendments, should the pleasure of the council change once again on the city hall matter, for example.

The council approved Ordinance 586, the amendment to the Comprehensive Plan, on its first reading. The ordinance will go to the Planning and Zoning Commission at its meeting next week, and then, upon approval, be returned to the council for its second and final reading at the Sept. 2 meeting.

The public is invited to inspect the ordinance and supporting material at the city offices during regular business hours and, if appropriate, to comment at the next council meeting.

Kathie Niloff, a resident of Southeast 7th Avenue in the Woodfields subdivision, presented a petition signed by 12 homeowners, 11 living on Southeast 7th Avenue, requesting that the city install speed tables at the main entrance to Woodfields. The residents cite speeding vehicles entering the area, which is home to many children and pets who are put in danger. Each of the petitioners indicated that they would have no objection to having the speed table in front of their home.

Niloff also suggested consideration of a four-way stop sign at the intersection of Southeast 7th Avenue and Southeast 1st Street.

Jones explained that policy requires sign-off by the police, fire and EMS services before speed tables can be installed. In addition, the city is required to send a letter to residents of the affected streets. Ms. Niloff will continue to work with city officials to get the project completed.

Council gave its blessing to signing of a promissory note to Perkins State Bank for $300,411 to pay for the new fire truck. The initial interest rate is 4.25 percent, which may be adjusted annually, but may never fall below 4.25 percent.

Approval was given to apply for a Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP) for a $200,000 grant for phase two of the East Williston Park. Two FRDAP grants have already been received for the project. The first was used to purchase the property and the second is being devoted to fields and infrastructure.

Phase Two will include additional lighting, a soccer field, a basketball court and a tennis court, among other amenities, and money is set aside for perimeter fencing.

The council also approved continuation of AVMED medical coverage for all city employees. The plan chosen is the most beneficial to the employees, and is the most expensive as well. Total premium is expected to be almost $365,000, an almost $14,000, or four percent, increase over fiscal year 2007-2008. The city pays the full premium for employees, while the employee pays for spousal and family coverage.

Council members received, for information only, a copy of a 25-page document that is the Determination of Need for the two nuclear power plants scheduled to be built in southern Levy County. City Attorney Norm Fugate explained that the determination of need had been approved by the Public Service Commission, but that it was only the beginning of a very long process, including modification of the county's comprehensive plan and land use permitting, for example. He said that the documentation required for full approval already ran to nine large volumes.

During the comment period on non-agenda items, WPD Chief Dan Davis announced closure of several outstanding cases. Some of those cases reflected the active market in used metal, including a stolen garage door. Investigators also resolved a break-in two years ago at the Main Street office of Dr. Ken Schwiebert, and a series of auto burglaries in the country club area.

Mayor R. Gerald Hethcoat indicated that he was going to open discussions once again with the U.S. Postal Service about a new postal facility for Williston. Past talks have foundered because the Postal Service found all of the offered parcels to be unsuitable for one reason or another.

Hethcoat also mentioned the need for a FEMA-approved plan for debris removal after natural disasters like hurricanes. While the city does have a documented plan, it needs to be accepted by FEMA or no federal reimbursement will be offered. City staff was asked to follow up.

Councilman Steve Holcomb asked about the status of OSHA-mandated safety meetings and training. Public Works Director James Arrington said that supervisors held and documented such meetings. Fire Chief Lamar Stegall and firefighter Danny Wallace said that the requirements are complicated, and they doubted that the city was in compliance. Stegall, Wallace and Arrington were asked to investigate further.

City Clerk Barbara Henson announced that 12 resumes had been received for the position of City Manager. Jones asked that the resumes be copied and given to council members for their inspection before any course of action is settled on.

The council will hold a budget workshop on Aug. 21 at 7:30, and its next regular meeting is scheduled for Sept. 2. The agenda for regular meetings is available at city hall and online on the Friday afternoon prior to the meeting.