PONCE DE LEON – Ponce de Leon residents will soon see a slight increase in their water bills following the approval water rate study results presented by Bob Mearns of Florida Rural Water Association during Thursday's meeting of the town council.

Study results showed a disparity between the current rates and what is needed to fund the town's public works.

The board voted to approve Mearns' recommendation to increase rates by three percent over a three-year period. Another study will be conducted at the end of the three years to determine if another increase is needed.

Council members also heard an update from Town Attorney Lyndia Spears regarding distribution of funds generated by Holmes County's Local Option Gas Tax.

Accounting firm Carr, Riggs and Ingram is studying the issue to help determine how the monies will be split between all participating municipalities and the county.

“I spoke with the accountant and was informed that not all municipalities have turned in the required paperwork by the December 31 deadline,” said Spears. “We cannot move ahead with the needed study until everyone has done their part.”

In other items, Jason Thomas was approved as a key holder for the town’s recreation center. Thomas is head of the Ponce de Leon’s Men’s Basketball Group, which plays Wednesday and Sunday evenings. Local business owner Johnny Mac Ferrell also advised the board of the opening of an ice cream stand sometime in June or July. Hand dipped ice cream, milkshakes and novelty ice cream products will be available. The location is right next to the Lunchbox at 1578 West Main Street in Ponce de Leon.

The council accepted the resignation of Fire Chief Patrick Dee, who cited a lack of time to do the job "the way that it should be done." Dee agreed to stay on as chief until a replacement is found and will remain an active firefighter.

A fundraiser for improvements at the fire station will take place May 20. Firefighters hope to fund a new roof, paint the building, and add landscaping.

Ponce de Leon will have a special visitor Wednesday, April 12, as United States Congressman Matt Gaetz hosts “Open Gaetz Day” in Ponce de Leon. The itinerary includes a meet and greet with first responders, a round table discussion with council members, school tours, and a mobile office where residents can meet with him and discuss concerns. An appointment is recommended for the mobile office. Gaetz will also host a Town Hall meeting at 4 p.m. at United Methodist Church of Ponce de Leon.

The Ponce de Leon Town Council will meet again in regular session on May 4 at 6 p.m.