CHIPLEY - Chipley City Council voted to terminate an option to purchase two parcels for waste water usage, resulting in a $40,000 penalty.

At a council meeting Tuesday, the board unanimously approved the termination of a 2015 contract for the option to purchase real property from couple Gene A. and Priscilla Prough for 239 acres. The $40,000 binder fee was assessed according to the contract, and, since the City voted to no longer pursue the purchase, for the couple keeping the property off the market in anticipation of the sale to the City.

The City was looking at a purchase price of $2.2 million for the two parcels, the agreement shows.

When council woman Tracey Andrews questioned City Administrator Dan Miner concerning the binder, asking if it had to "honor the $40,000 binder to the landowners?" Miner deferred the question to City Attorney Michelle Jordan, who responded that it was "a decision for the council to make."

Jordan noted, the money had been held in a trust account and that it was optional for the City to exercise the option to terminate. Miner added, if the City terminates the option, the binder would be released.

"I personally don't think the property would meet the standards that we would need for use," Mayor John Sasser said.

Miner replied that the property would only meet minimum standards. He later stated the City will pursue 11 properties outside of Chipley in order to secure the potential waste water land that could handle the city's volume on a long-term basis.

"It's obvious that we need to seek property that is going to be conducive to reclaimed water," Miner said. "And, really, you're not going to find that in Chipley or around Chipley."

Butler made the motion to terminate the option and forfeit the binder; Andrews second it. The motion passed unanimously.

It has taken the City a long time to negotiate the properties and secure spray field land. At the start of the year, the city council jumped on pursuing five properties, giving the attorney the directive to send letters and negotiate with owners, also, directing engineers to review the lands.

"Through the engineers, it became apparent these sites were only going to take care of the immediate needs the city has and would do nothing for long term," Miner said. "We need to abandon these five properties. We need to terminate our option to purchase this real property and we need to look elsewhere for more suitable soils."

He noted the City is looking at 11 other properties, which are located outside of Chipley.

"It's the right thing to do to take Chipley way down the road," Miner said, referring to working toward pursuing more adequate properties. "It's the right thing, the smart thing to do for the citizens of Chipley. Not only for this community, but for the growth of this community."