LAUREL HILL — Mixed emotions abound for this north county town’s residents after city leaders on Tuesday unanimously voted to consider dissolving the city and becoming an unincorporated community.
City leaders voted 4-0 to set a Dec. 11 town hall meeting on the fate of Laurel Hill. The town’s history stems to 1895, when it first appeared on a map; the Florida legislature incorporated it in 1954.
That longevity counts for something, some residents said.
"It's one of the oldest establishments in Okaloosa County and to take it away so many years later is just sad," said lifelong resident Krystal Kirkland, who plans to attend the 6 p.m. town hall at First Baptist Church of Laurel Hill.
She won't be alone, according to resident Pam Nolan, who opposes the measure.
"I hope it doesn't happen," Nolan said of dissolution, noting she will attend the town hall meeting and encourages others to give input. "I think many people feel the same way. If people care about (the city), they will be there.”
However, Paul Mack, who lives on Skyline Drive, said his road is in dire need of repair and he would support the measure, under which Laurel Hill would run under Okaloosa County’s control.
"We are not getting our money's worth for taxes we pay (as citizens)," he said, adding that if Laurel Hill were to rejoin the Okaloosa County, he believes many roads would receive repairs.
The topic arose after resident Harold Jones addressed the council about many of the city’s roads in disrepair.
"I think it's time we looked at this realistically," Jones said. "The roads are a problem, have been a problem, and will continue to be a problem."
Jones said he has met with Okaloosa County officials several times for assistance in fixing the roads, without success.
He suggested removing the "city" title from Laurel Hill, making it an unincorporated community.
Jones suggested the issue come before residents in the next election cycle. Council Vice President Robby Adams motioned to begin the process of having a referendum on the matter.
Council member Betty Williamson seconded Adams’ motion, which passed.
Larry Hendren and Clifton Hall also voted in favor of the motion. Willie Mae Toles was absent.
Adams’ motion to begin proceedings for possible dissolution was necessary to draft an ordinance for the March ballot.
"Before the council can get the ball rolling, they have to get the citizens’ input in a town hall meeting," city attorney Daniel Campbell said. Should the council proceed with drafting the ordinance, its leaders must work with the Okaloosa County tax collector's office to ensure they follow Florida statutes.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.