Non-profit releases DeFUNIAK SPRINGS CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE Q&A—focused on critical water-related issues.

Dear DeFuniak Springs Voters:

 

The City election on April 9 will decide a majority of seats for your City Council. Given this significant event—and the critical water-related issues that currently face the City:

 

  • On March 15, Safe Water for Walton alerted the 6 candidates running for 3 seats that a questionnaire would be emailed in the forthcoming week. 

  • On March 21, the questionnaire was emailed, as a Word document attachment to send back. All of the questions asked are repeated below.

  • The deadline to respond was 7 days later, March 28.

  • The DeFuniak Herald Beach Breeze on March 27 ran a story (page A3) under the headline: “Safe Water for Walton questionnaires sent to DeFuniak Springs candidates.” 

 

One candidate responded.  His answers are below. 

 

We have received feedback from Members and regional leaders about why the lack of response from some candidates.

 

All we know for sure is that it isn’t for lack of serious, ongoing sewer and water issues that need to be addressed in the City.

 

Likewise, all we know for sure is that voters still need information on these issues to make informed choices.

 

Last year, there were 4 candidates for 2 County Commission seats in Walton County amid a contentious race. All four of them found time to respond, and shared their outlook and positions on water-related issues.

 

If we receive any further Q&A’s in time from additional candidates, we’ll be happy to add them.

 

We sincerely wish we were not in a position to have to post “Did Not Respond.”

 

If you have any questions about voting, contact the Supervisor of Elections office: www.votewalton.com 

 

Thank you—and we hope you’ll take a moment to look further at our non-profit’s growing activities and news coverage; join our growing membership to protect your water supply sources; or assist with our ongoing hurricane relief efforts, which are supported by NFL Quarterback Drew Brees and many others.

Todd Bierbaum.jpg

DID NOT RESPOND

Seat 1

TODD BIERBAUM

Janie Griffith.jpg

DID NOT RESPOND

Seat 1

JANIE GRIFFITH

Robert McKnight.jpg

ANSWERS BELOW

Seat 2

ROBERT MCKNIGHT

Kermit Wright - Copy.JPG

DID NOT RESPOND

Seat 2

KERMIT WRIGHT

Kevin Crystal.jpg

DID NOT RESPOND

Seat 3

KEVIN CRYSTAL

Ron Kelley.JPG

DID NOT RESPOND

Seat 3

RON KELLEY

Robert McKnight, Seat 2

 

Are you in full support of the DeFuniak Springs Resolution passed in Summer 2017 regarding a proposed Deep Injection Well for landfill leachate?  [YES OR NO]

 

Yes

 

Are you in full support of the Walton County Resolution passed in Fall 2017 regarding same?  [YES OR NO]

 

Yes

 

What would you like to see happen with this issue and the State permit application—and when?

 

If the application first filed in 2017 has not already been dismissed or withdrawn, I would like to see that happen immediately.  If elected, I will continue to support any and all efforts to protect our fragile underground watershed.  I will be committed to further educating myself on the current State permit application processes and commit to advocating for any reform necessary to ensure the key issue is addressed--the lack of governmental regulatory protections strong enough to adequately protect the safety and health of the regional public water supply, and the recreational businesses that depend on all the regional waterways.

 

How many private water wells do you believe could be impacted in the City of DeFuniak Springs by a failure of a Deep Injection Well, and what would be the City of DeFuniak Springs’ response if that occurred? 

 

It is likely all wells in the city would be impacted.  If such instance were to occur, I would support City staff in working with local, state and federal partners and agencies to ensure residents were properly notified, aware of any necessary precautions and that those responsible for the failure were held responsible for any and all clean up measures needed.   

 

Do you believe you have a working knowledge of the public health issues related to landfill “leachate”?  If so or if not, what sources would you rely on in making decisions for DeFuniak Springs’ future if this permit application is approved?

 

My vast experience working in Public Health has provided the opportunity to familiarize myself with such public health issues.  As an elected Councilman I will continue to educate myself on the threats specific our community and our underground watershed. Any future decisions will only be made after careful review of current science, best-practices, and community and business sector input. 

 

Have you spoken about this permit application in your campaign as a priority issue?  What has been the public’s reaction?

 

No.

 

Apart from the Deep Injection Well for landfill leachate disposal, please select and discuss one other top priority for DeFuniak Springs related to water issues—and what, very specifically, do you plan to do related to that issue?  [Can be an existing issue, or a new issue.]

 

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The City of DeFuniak Springs has reported to the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection (as required by State law) quite a few sewage spills and overflows the past year.  It’s been approximately double that of any city in Walton and Walton County government.  At least 3 of the 7 incident reports reviewed by Safe Water for Walton between Summer 2018 and February 2019 are considered fairly major spills—those more severe reports ran between 20,000 and 40,000 gallons of raw sewage being spilled, and at least one spill went into a nearby public creek.  What is your plan to reduce and stop raw sewage spills in the City?

 

Our infrastructure is failing.  If elected I will immediately push for an assessment of the most vulnerable segments of our system and advocate for an analysis of needed improvements.  I will also support an effort to review water department process and procedures to ensure best practices are being followed and future spills are not a result of human error.

 

Have you ever personally seen a sewage spill in the City limits?  If Yes, please elaborate.

 

No

 

What is your opinion on the number of pollution notice incidents sent to the State by the City? 

 

The council should always be notified when this occurs.

 

What is your opinion on the health of the drinking water and sewer infrastructure in the City? 

 

Our infrastructure is failing.  If elected I will immediately push for an assessment of the most vulnerable segments of our system and advocate for an analysis of needed improvements.

 

Many residents and businesses in the City limits—including members of the nonprofit organization Safe Water for Walton—have been seeing their water/sewer bills go up at a fairly high clip the past year or two.  What is your reaction or plan on this?

 

Until we rectify the immense loss of water in our pipes, we cannot begin to understand the true cost of running our system, and thus cannot set our rates accordingly.  I will continue to advocate rectifying this issue so that we can bill our residents a fair and clear rate.  Not only does the rate system needing revising, but the actual bills are difficult to decipher and need revision as well.  I will also advocate for reduced water/sewer rates for our elderly and residents with a disability, a practice that is common in many other cities across the state.

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Safe Water for Walton, Inc., is a non-profit advocacy and education organization properly registered with the State of Florida and the IRS.