LAUREL HILL — Many residents who crowded First Baptist Church of Laurel Hill’s fellowship hall Tuesday night said this north county community should dissolve its city status.
The City Council wanted residents’ input on whether it should place a dissolution option on an upcoming ballot. Resident Harold Jones’ comments on poor road conditions during a Nov. 15 council meeting spurred the council’s decision to schedule the meeting.
Residents on Tuesday mainly discussed the main roads’ disrepair and expressed concerns about how their tax dollars were spent. Most favored dissolution.
"My position is that we are in the county and we all need to make (the city of) Laurel Hill go away," Harold Jones said.
"I'm for it," Deborah Adams, a Laurel Hill School teacher, said. "If Laurel Hill is no longer a city, that does not mean that they are going to erase those letters off the map."
A few residents favored Laurel Hill remaining a city.
Despite the city’s shaky financial standing, the likelihood of Okaloosa County repairing the roads, post-dissolution, would be a “pipe dream,” Mike Blizzard said.
"We’re not going to be in any better shape than we are now," he said, adding the sole difference would be the area’s municipality loss.
Florida Rep. Doug Broxson, newly elected Okaloosa County Commissioner Nathan Boyles and Okaloosa County Public Works Director John Hofstad attended, offering moral support. They did not express stances on the issue.
"We just want to be very clear that if your goal is to dissolve the city and become unincorporated in Okaloosa County, it’s not like we show up the next day and start repaving roads," Hofstad said after the meeting. "We have a process we go through."
The county commission must approve funding for road repairs before work could begin.
"We certainly want to help out Laurel Hill where we can ... and we certainly will in the future," Hofstad said.
During the meeting, an audience member asked the council to state their thoughts on the issue.
Council Chair Larry Hendren and Co-chair Robby Adams said they favored dissolution. Councilman Clifton Hall said he wants Laurel Hill to remain a city. Council members Betty Williamson, Willie Mae Toles and Mayor Joan Smith expressed no preference.
While addressing the issue, Toles shared her dissatisfaction with the current mayor.
"Laurel Hill was all right until she got here," she said.
The audience applauded the statement.
Hendren encouraged residents to call city hall with questions on the matter and do research before deciding on the issue.
Resident Scott Moneypenny agreed.
"The citizens of Laurel Hill need all the information that is possibly available before making a decision to dissolve a city," he said. "Because once you lose the infrastructure, there is going to be problems, that people cannot for see."
The next Laurel Hill council meeting is scheduled for Jan. 8.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.