STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS- 2016
Good evening, welcome and thank you for coming tonight.
We have had an exciting year and over the past 12 months the city government has been laying ground work to attract employers and jobs to the Freeport Community. It’s important that we seize upon the opportunities put before us to make Freeport a better place to live and rear our families. Jobs and economic growth remain my top priority. Our efforts are resulting in growth, and we will continue to see growth as we continue to pursue economic opportunities for our City. We need to ensure the right approach and tools are available for us to remain successful. Several new businesses are calling Freeport home and we welcome them to our community as they provide conveniences and jobs to our citizens. Over the past year we’ve witnessed the development of the Shops of Freeport which will feature Publix and nine other businesses along with a new First Florida bank being located on their out parcel. This is only the beginning of what could be in store for our city as we move forward. Flexibility and adaptability are keys to reinventing ourselves with today’s transformation with economic work in technology and new economic realities.
To physically grow and expand our City we must continue to increase our tax base, and to accomplish this we must add population through annexation. The council is working on this project and they’ve now put a volunteer plan in place to try to expand the limits of our City while cleaning up our confusing boundaries which now exist.
Economic Development is very important as well. It will not only help bring jobs to our area, but will also bring self-respect and a stronger sense of community while also providing us with more conveniences. Bringing new industries will help to expand the tax base which, in turn, will provide us with more revenue for various programs, development and upgrades needed and necessary for all of our residents to benefit.
To encourage investment in our City we must strengthen and improve our City. In today’s world, businesses have a multitude of options from which to choose, and we must work hard to make Freeport a desirable and thriving community where companies will want to relocate their businesses and raise their families. To this end, I have appointed various council members to work on projects to improve our City and to learn as much as they can to help further our cause. They are diligently working on obtaining grants and other means of funding to help us to be able to move ahead and prepare for the future explosion of growth expected in the coming years. The City has applied for a Recreation Master Plan Grant with the West Florida Regional Planning Council, and we’ve also applied for funding for two restore projects for the City totaling $200,000. We are also working on the waterways of our area with cleanup and developing bike paths, paddle trails which will be inviting to those seeking recreational avenues in our area.
It is necessary that the City and businesses form a partnership to develop a workforce for our area while ensuring a solid infrastructure. It is critical for the future of Freeport to make sure that we get back our fair share of tax dollars that are spent with businesses within our City. We have been working on keeping Freeport attractive and clean. Over the past year we have renovated the Community Center resulting in an influx of individuals and groups who have rented the facilities and bringing more dollars into our coffers. Too, we have upgraded the old City Hall to create additional meeting space for organizations in need, and we’ve also increased the security at City Hall as well as other locations throughout the City and have been working hard to put the necessary infrastructure in place for future development.
The council has worked quite well with the budget which increased with the handing over of the Fire Department to the County while leaving all related services intact. Upgrades to lift stations was a much needed factor in our sewer system and we were able to do the upgrades with monies on hand. The Parks and Recreation Department had more money to develop new programs and maintain the upkeep and renovations of the ball fields at the Freeport Regional Sports Complex at Hammock Bay along with the Freeport Pool. We have also been working on sourcing the money to increase sidewalks around town for the safety of our citizens, as well as, funds to install new Welcome to Freeport signage.
This past year we voted to increase our water rates to help with future projects which will be included with our continued growth. Following a current rate study it was recommended by Florida Rural Water that we increase our rates citing they were too low, and that the water rates had held consistent over the past 8 years. In order for the City to be able to ask for monetary assistance for projects while ensuring that we maintain the financial solvency to avoid bankruptcy, it was necessary that we comply with this recommendation.
The City of Freeport has endless possibilities as we grow to our full potential, working with the county government and developing the necessary infrastructure needed for the growth along Highway 331. We are in a prime location as tourists pass through our area headed to the beautiful beaches of Walton County. Our City Council has the best interest at heart for the citizens of Freeport as they struggle to make the right decisions for all concerned.
My time in the Office of Mayor has been an incredible learning experience and personally rewarding knowing that I have played a part in helping to develop the future for our citizens, as well as, for future generations and residents yet to come. I thank you again for your interest in the City of Freeport and the time that you have taken to come tonight, and I hope that in my next city address that I can bring more good and outstanding news as we move into the future. God bless our great nation and God Bless the City of Freeport and our Citizens.
Thank you and I hope you have a pleasant evening.