HOLMES COUNTY — The Board of County Commissioners approved a highly anticipated measure allowing the county to move forward on the issue of animal control in the Feb. 23 regular meeting.

Commissioners passed a motion to approve a contract with Todd Anderson, veterinarian at Panhandle Veterinarian Services in Chipley, at a monthly rate of $2,887 for the handling of 66 animals per month so Holmes County can enforce its animal control ordinance.

County coordinator Wendel Whitehurst said it’s the same deal Washington County utilizes. Panhandle Veterinarian Services could take in any type of animal called in under the ordinance and do so within budget.

Commissioners received a presentation prepared by Florida Department of Transportation consultants outlining future widening of State Road 79 from Interstate 10 in Bonifay up to the Alabama state line above Esto. 

Tanya Kristoff, consultant project manager with H.W. Lochner, Inc., gave the status of a project development and environmental study currently in progress on the 15 mile stretch of highway designated as part of the emerging Strategic Intermodal System (SIS) Connector. The project was originally a joint venture with Alabama Department of Transportation to extend the corridor north of the state line, but Alabama later declined participating in the project.

Kristoff said potential options for routing the four-lane highway within the city of Bonifay include widening the existing highway, routing a by-pass around the town or utilizing one-way pairs, which would send north and southbound traffic on Waukesha Street in one direction and motorists in the other direction on a parallel one-way road.

The outcome will be determined by environmental and social impacts, a traffic forecast and engineering elements discovered by the study slated for completion by the summer of 2018. Public information meetings about the project will be ongoing with the next one scheduled for Thursday, March 24 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Northside Assembly of God in Bonifay. 

One commissioner said he thought a by-pass wouldn’t help the town much and another asked what the impact would be on railroad crossings in the middle of town. Kristoff said the study will draw conclusions on questions of impact, and the desires or concerns expressed in public information meetings will be considered as the project matures.

In other business, commissioners approved a job description for a non-emergency transport employee for Holmes County EMS. The driver would start at about $9 per hour to help EMS provide an extra vital service that generates considerable revenue for the emergency department. To date, the department has collected $10,000 above the projected budget due to non-emergency transport. The hire will help that service continue and the revenue stream to grow.

Commissioners voted down a solid waste franchise agreement with a new provider due to an application to provide services in the middle of the fiscal year and agreed to refund the applicant’s $500 franchise fee. Commissioners approved a time extension of roadwork on County Road 177 with anticipated completion by the end of March.

 The next regular meeting will be Tuesday, March 8 at 9 a.m.