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Bonifay mayor resigns, council mulls unsafe conditions on repaved road

Bonifay Mayor James “Eddie” Sims handed in his official resignation letter to the City of Bonifay Thursday.

A copy of the letter was disseminated at a city council special meeting held Thursday evening.

“Over the past several months the City has made changes in personnel, elected officials, services for the citizens as well as provided a financial base for City operations that is positive for our City government,” Sims said in the letter. “The City is in great shape with employees that care about their job, money in the bank to pay the bills and with reserve funds.”

Sims went on to list other accomplishments with city staffing in place and coordination among city and county agencies to bring improvements to the community.

“As a result, the state of Bonifay is great,” Sims continued in the letter. “Several months ago, I told my family that once the city was in great shape I would retire as Mayor. Well, the City is in great shape so, for the third time, I retire as Mayor of the City of Bonifay effective August 25, 2022 at noon.”

Vice-Mayor Travis Cook led the council meeting as the mayor in Sims’ absence. The council voted Pastor Ryan Martin into the vice-mayor role.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Catrina Carroll told the council on behalf of the Kiwanis Club that their application to close the road for the Rodeo Parade was in. Carroll thanked city staff for putting up the rodeo flags in town in support of the upcoming event.

Tammy Wilkerson, Bonifay resident and owner of A Plus Pharmacy, brought a concern to council regarding increases in water bills at home and at her business.

Wilkerson said she noticed an increase of 31 percent in residential bills and 21 percent at the pharmacy. She specifically wanted to know how the increase was calculated. Cook told Wilkerson she could get an explanation from the city superintendent.

In old business, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is currently without a contract on grass cutting services in the city. The grass along U.S. 90 and S.R. 79 had recently been overgrown until county inmates were assigned the task.

Trey Barbee, city superintendent, said the county was doing an excellent job and that FDOT would reimburse the city up to $40,000 for paying the county to continue grass cutting services. The council discussed this being the best option as that amount is about the same cost of a full-time employee with benefits, and it includes the use of equipment the city does not have to maintain. No action was taken on this item.

In new business, the council approved the hire of a new street department employee at $15 per hour and approved $1 per hour pay raises for two Bonifay police officers who obtained additional professional certifications.

The council unanimously passed a memorandum of agreement with Alday-Howell Engineering, Inc. for professional planning services with rates set at $200 per hour for the chief engineer/planner, $135 per hour for professional engineer/planner services, and $75 per hour for technical services. The agreement is valid for one year beginning Sept. 1 and may be extended for four successive one-year terms.

One item of concern on the agenda is the yellow dotted line down the center of the newly paved Hubbard Street. From one end to the other, motorists get the message from a dotted line that it’s safe to pass on a street with hills and very limited visibility in a couple places.

Dewberry Engineers, Inc. subcontracted the painting of the striped line according to plan specifications set by a Mott MacDonald engineer. The council would like a revision to the striped line and discussed reducing the speed limit that goes from 35 to 25 m.p.h. and setting a truck weight limit. The exceptions would be commercial delivery trucks, school buses, and other trucks that are not through traffic.

The city met with engineers at the intersection of Virginia Avenue and Hubbard Street on Friday to assess the conditions on Hubbard. As of Monday, they are still at a stalemate over who will foot the bill to have a solid line painted down a street that sees a lot of speeding as Hubbard is a main artery street running parallel to Waukesha Street.

Mott MacDonald also completed the plans for McGee Road, Oklahoma Street and St. Johns Road. Council members said communication with Mott MacDonald thus far indicated the contractor does not intend to restripe Hubbard Street.

In other items, the council approved amendments to the city employee sick leave accrual time policy and approved moving forward with an interlocal agreement that barters with Holmes County Sheriff’s Office on the cost of dispatch services and water and sewer rates to operate Holmes County Jail.

In the current agreement, the sheriff’s office is requesting a flat fee for water and sewer services of $750 and $500 per month, respectively, as of Sept. 1. Giving the sheriff’s office a $15,000 break on utilities would save the city $64,000 on dispatch services.

No action was taken to swear in a new mayor in the special meeting. This item will be on the agenda for the next regular meeting scheduled for Monday, Sept. 12 at 6 p.m.

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