CHIPLEY — Washington County Board of County Commissioners approved of County Planning Director Mike DeRuntz’ request to expand the Enterprise Zones for Ebro and Vernon during their regular meeting on Thursday.
“This has nothing to do with taxes or land use,” said Executive Director of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce Ted Everett. “It is just an imaginary boundary to help business owners. Enterprise Zones are a state incentive for new businesses create full time jobs in those areas.”
After a public hearing, Board approved of a Small Scale Future Land Use Map Amendment from a Public/Semi-Public to a General Commercial designation for property located at 3319 Court Avenue in Vernon.
“It is just a future land use amendment,” said DeRuntz. “It is not for development.”
Chair Alan Bush assured everyone that if there was a need for a turn lane for that future business that it would be discussed during the development stage.
Board held the first of four public hearings before applying for a $750,000 Community Block Development Grant to pave Orange Hill Highway from where the pavement ends on to Quail Hallow.
“This is the first of four public hearings we have advertised for in case anyone from the community wants to attend and speak about it,” said County Engineer Cliff Knauer. “Under the Board’s direction we are ready to move forward. We’ve had to push from January to February but we have surveying and design done and permitting must be submitted; we’re still on schedule.”
DeRuntz was asked to give and update on the Rhythm Project.
“They are applying for permits and are still interested in developing in that area,” said DeRuntz. “They’re still meeting the requirements for the Department of Environmental Protection. It will be two years in January since they got started and they’ve got five years to meet their criteria.”
DeRuntz said that Bay County is still not supporting the project.
Resident Howard Brock came before the Board to say that he suggested that the Board create a five-member committee to attend Water Management meetings and to state that he was concerned with the number of houseboats located on the Choctawhatchee River and Holmes Creek.
“15 years ago you’d only see one or two and last week I went down there and seen over 11,” said Brock. “I’m concerned that it’s ruining our river. I’m asking the county commission what can we do to preserve our creeks and rivers.”
Bush assured Brock that the matter would be looked into.
Melissa Collins, a volunteer firefighter with the Orange Hill Volunteer Fire Department said that she had concerns with Sheriff Bobby Haddock being placed in charge over the fire departments.
“I question the vote on Nov. 9 that put Sheriff Haddock over various agencies,” said Collins. “We were under the impression that there would be a discussion before the vote but it was hurried along and now instead of answering to the board, all that power was put in the hands of one man. What’s more is that it’s in the hands of a man that isn’t certified to handle the affairs of a fire department.”
Commissioner Todd Abbott said that there was multiple fire departments calling to ask who they answer to.
Pat Thomas with the Florida League of Cities presented the Board with a check for $27,021.
“You have Casualty Insurance with Florida League of Cities,” said Thomas. “Because your trust was profitable you will receive a check from the Florida League of Cities in the amount of $27,021. We appreciate representing the county and we look forward to continue working with you.”
Board approved of giving County Manager David Corbin authority to shut down and relocated the Clerk of Court’s office in the case that mold clean-up in the courthouse takes longer than a couple of days.
County Attorney Jeff Goodman explained that during the process to repair damage to the Washington County Courthouse mold was found in the basement, in the third floor and in air duct feeding to several rooms.
“The courthouse has already elected not to use the court rooms and the judges have already moved to the courthouse annex,” said Goodman. “As your legal representative I will have the tendency to act towards overkill, like using a baseball bat instead of flyswatter, especially when involving liability dealing with the health and well-being of staff members. We’re doing this to see if we can get things resolved over the Christmas holiday, however I recommend that if it takes more than a few days that David have the authority to shut down and relocate the Clerk of Court and give a status report in January.”