CHIPLEY -- As Hurricane Irma inches closer to west Florida than previously predicted, Chipley council and officials urge residents to pay close attention to storm forecasts, and evacuate if necessary.
"We just need to keep our eye on the storm," Mayor Lee Dell Kennedy said during a Chipley City Council workshop Thursday. "If it comes directly here, we probably don't need to stay around."
According to a 5 a.m. Friday update by National Weather Service, Irma is on track to directly hit South Florida early Sunday morning. The storm's cone for probably path includes much of Northwest Florida, including Washington, Holmes and Bay counties.
City officials are on standby and in close communication with the Emergency Operations Center.
Governor Rick Scott canceled school Friday and Monday statewide.
"We've gone out and purchased supplies in case we have to work 24-7," said City Administrator Dan Miner. "We've checked all of our barricades, serviced our generators, topped off out excess fuel tanks ... so that we can keep our water and sewer."
Crews have cleaned out ditches and moved any debris, Miner said.
"You can't be ready, completely, for a hurricane, you just be as prepared as you can," he added.
"If it's a Category 5, everybody needs to leave," interjected Kennedy.
Kennedy, reflecting on previous evacuations using highways that run through the area, was confident, if an evacuation was issued, residents would be able to effectively do so -- "though it may take us a little while."
Also at Thursday's workshop, the council heard from Attorney Michelle Jordan regarding the moratorium on distribution of medical marijuana dispensaries. After learning the city's 365-day moratorium was put in place in February, the council decided to table discussion.
Other items on the workshop agenda included: a new regulation allowing code enforcement officers to access properties that are unreasonably out of compliance, a fixed-rate utility and fee increase -- which goes into effect Oct. 1 -- that about doubles that of current rates, and a $131,529 budget amendment which increases the city's budget.
The council will hold its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 1442 Jackson Ave.
Other upcoming Chipley City Council meetings: Monday, Sept. 11 - a budget workshop at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 12 - public hearing to set tentative millage and budget adoption at 5:50 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 28 - public hearing for final millage and budget adoption at 5:05 p.m. and a special council meeting that same day at 5:15 p.m.