CHIPLEY -- At a workshop Thursday, Chipley City Council addressed its plans to move forward with acquiring spray field land.
The council, with input from City Administrator Dan Miner and City Attorney Michelle Jordan, directed Jordan to send letters to the owners of five properties of interest, presenting its offers based on property appraisals.
"We are tentatively looking at having a special meeting during the month of January to review and approve or counter any offers," Miner said.
The discussion was introduced at the workshop, held at City Hall, 1442 W. Jackson Ave., by a handful of residents who had brought up the non-agenda item.
A spray field is land where reclaimed or treated water is disposed. The city has been trying to acquire spray field land for about two years, city officials said. However, the public learned at the meeting that there had not been much movement on the acquisition.
The process, according to officials, has been at a respite due to the open platform in which the negotiations have taken place. According to officials, the city received funds from Department of Environmental Protections to acquire property and to transform the property into a spray field. With that information widely known, property owners, apparently, are not budging on the city's offers.
The lack of willingness by property owners to reasonably negotiate is frustrating the acquisition process -- and city officials.
"We are negotiating with public dollars," Jordan said. "There is no magic pot of money out there for this property. This is a public entity trying to acquire property for a basic service."
The City identified the five properties of interest based on a survey and soils maps developed by engineers which showed areas fit to serve as a spray field. Ideally, the city would need more than 100 acres, city officials said.
At the Thursday workshop, the council directed Jordan to state in the offer letter that the property owners would have 10 days from receipt to respond to the offer. If the responses are not in the interest of the city -- for example, if all of the owners reject the offers -- city officials say the city will seek an alternative route to acquiring land for the spray field.
There is a summer deadline.
"It's critical because we have engineer work that, based on successful negotiations and non-successful negotiations, that chooses the path that we either continue on or take a new path," Miner said. "If the City fails to negotiate a property, they will have to look at alternatives to dispose our reclaimed water."
Chipley City Council will hold its regular meeting 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 1442 W. Jackson Ave. The agenda for the meeting is available online at cityofchipley.com.
Also at the workshop:
The total rollout of the online utility payment system has been delayed, tentatively, to the end of the month, officials said. City of Chipley had planned for Utility Billing Citizen Link, an online portal for utility service that allows customers to access account information, to be available by the end of last year. However, IT and software consultants are resolving some issues, officials said, which has caused a delay. The new tool will benefit residents who are interested in electronic payments and automatic payment withdrawals.