ESTO — The Esto Town Council approved of the first reading of Ordinance 13-01 during their April 2 meeting, which will increase the water rates in Esto beginning in May, following the second and final reading a public hearing.
The rates will increase to $19 inside town limits and $21 outside the town limits for the first 3,000 gallons and $4 per thousand gallons over 3,000 gallons as well as $1 per month per meter for fire protection, $125 for security deposits, $200 for connection fees and $500 for tap-in fees.
“I’m actually disappointed no one showed up for the public hearing,” said Town Clerk Jody Sellers. “You’d think people would want to be more involved in what’s going on with their town.”
Chairman Danny Powell said that landowner Brady Well made an offer to sell his property to the town, which has been used by visitors as extra parking during the Two-Toe Tom Festival.
“He’s wanting $36,000 for two acres because it’s considered in town,” said Powell. “It’s nice of him to let us use his property for the festival but it is well over-priced.”
The council agreed to table the offer until the next meeting.
Sellers informed the council that they have negotiated with the town’s auditor to reduce his invoice from $10,000 to $9,000, which would mean that the town would only had $3,000 left owed and the town approved to pay in increments of $500 a month until it was paid.
During the March 5 meeting she informed the council that she had received an invoice from their auditor for $10,000 for his services.
“He quoted me an estimate of between $6,000 and $7,000,” said Sellers. “Now he’s changed his mind and is requesting $10,000.”
The council agreed to draft a letter stating insufficient services and requesting the return of owed files and to make necessary contacts to hire a new auditor, this time under the prerequisite of having a contract as suggested by Goodman.
“We were able to find the engagement letter that was signed stating that his expenses would not exceed $9,000,” said Sellers. “Our files have been returned, we’ve got a quote from a new company that is closer that says they will not exceed $6,750 and we should be getting another quote soon so we won’t have to deal with this auditor any more.”
The council was informed that a circuit rider for Florida Rural Water Association gave Sellers a list of benefits the town is entitled to because the town is a member of the Florida Rural Water Association.
“It’s amazing the things we have available to us free of charge,” said council member Darlene Madden. “Most people don’t know what service are provided to us because this is a small town.”
Powell also informed them that the Florida Rural Water Association might help paint the water tower.
During the previous meeting Sellers had informed them that the town had received a letter from the Department of Environmental Protection stating that all the requirements to get the water system up to code was almost complete, but the last requirement was also the most expensive.
“We need to paint the water tower and it needs to be done by April 2014,” said Sellers.
Sellers told them a representative would be present at the June meeting to discuss what the Florida Rural Water Association could do to help.
Powell informed the council that the Dollar General had applied to Bonifay for an alcoholic beverage license and a tobacco permit because the corporate branch failed to realize that even though the store had a Bonifay address it was in the town of Esto.
“After we discussed things and I went over the town’s ordinance concerning an alcoholic beverage license and that it just wasn’t possible they were very understanding,” said Powell. “Now, they did get their tobacco permit and they are selling tobacco products now.”
Madden gave an update on the 2nd Annual Two-Toe Tom Festival, which will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, at John W. Clark Park in Esto.
“We’re still seeing about getting Jerome Jackson to perform for us,” said Madden. “He’s asking for $600 and we’re trying to talk him down on the price, especially since he’s only going to give us 45 minutes and last year he came for $450 and that was for an hour and a half.”
She said she got a lot of interest from Swamp People and that it was possible to arrange to have them at next year’s event.
“It’s getting bigger and bigger,” said Madden. “Last year we got between 1,500 and 1,600 and we’re estimating around 1,800 to 2,000. We’ve got to be able to accommodate to the increase.”
Powell said he agreed, however the Town needed to also focus on maintaining what they have and keep in mind that whatever they expand must also be maintained.
“Even if we break even on this event we did what we were meant to do,” said Council member James Daniels. “That’s bringing hundreds of people to come and see Esto.”
Sellers also added that this year there was going to be a vender with a large assortment of alligator items to purchase as well as a vender to sell food made from alligators.
The next Esto Town Council meeting is set for 7 p.m. on May 7 at the Esto Town Hall.