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Destin Council discusses treacherous intersection, fire substation

Tony Judnich
Northwest Florida Daily News

DESTIN — Before new stop signs can be installed and other safety measures can be implemented, city officials plan to find out whether an Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office deputy could be stationed whenever possible at the intersection where a young bicyclist was recently seriously injured.

More:Destin community gathers for prayer vigil for 11-year-old injured in bicycle, vehicle accident

Eleven-year-old Kohltan Ward was airlifted to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola after being hit by a vehicle and critically injured Saturday afternoon at Kelly and Main streets.

At Monday’s Destin City Council meeting, state Rep. Mel Ponder said Kohltan’s parents were hoping swelling on their son’s brain would decrease, and he asked the community to pray for a miracle to help the child recover.

The community of Destin came together Sunday afternoon at Dalton Threadgill Little League Park for a prayer vigil for Kohltan Ward, 11, who was injured in an accident Saturday.

Ponder, whose oldest son was just feet away when Kohltan was injured, said the decision to add safety upgrades to the heavily traveled intersection at Kelly and Main streets is a local one, not a state one.

More:Child on bicycle struck in Destin, in serious condition

The council unanimously agreed to see if a deputy can be stationed at the intersection as much as possible for the foreseeable future.

The intersection currently has a stop sign where eastbound Kelly Street meets Main Street. The council directed staff to work on getting stop signs installed ASAP where northbound and southbound Main joins Kelly, thus forming a three-way stop.

Council members also said they want staff to work on quickly implementing other safety measures, such as installing rumble strips at the intersection to warn drivers to come to a stop, and possibly installing a traffic light.

In other business Monday, the council unanimously agreed that a proposed revised lease featuring a much smaller part of Clement Taylor Park for a potential city Fire Control District substation will be considered by the Destin Local Planning Agency.

A new sea wall and the fishing pier at Clement Taylor Park in Destin survived a beating from Hurricane Sally.

The overall potential lease of part of the park to the district for its substation at $1 per year for 20 years “deserves and requires more committed discussion,” Councilman Parker Destin said at the meeting.

The 3.4-acre Clement Taylor Park is at 131 Calhoun Ave. and next to Choctawhatchee Bay. In the potential revised lease, the amount of park land leased to the district would be reduced by about half of the property proposed in the initial lease and would provide room for only the proposed 2,400-square-foot substation.

Parking and other issues tied to the possible building would have to be hammered out between the city and district.

More:Possible fire substation site remains hot topic in Destin

The council in June had approved the first reading of an ordinance to lease a larger part of the park for the possible substation. But much public outcry over the potential project ruining the historic park’s ambiance followed, and the council never considered the second and final reading.

Assuming the LPA eventually recommends the revised lease, it would be considered for final approval by a council consisting of four new members.

On Nov. 3, Destin voters will be asked to decide who among five candidates will fill four open council seats. Those seats currently are filled by Parker Destin, Cyron Marler, Steven Menchel and Chatham Morgan, each of whom is not seeking re-election.

More:10 places that prove old Destin is still alive

In the initial proposed lease, it appeared to some residents that the district was taking too much of the park for the proposed substation, Fire Control District Commissioner Mike Buckingham said at Monday's meeting.

Overall, “Our job is to protect the public and provide safety for them,” he said of the district’s need for a substation to serve the western part of its territory.

The district covers the city and also extends east to the Okaloosa-Walton County line, Buckingham said.

Menchel told Buckingham that going forward, the district needs to stress to the public that a west-side substation would improve the Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating for the district and likely reduce insurance costs for property owners.

Mayor Gary Jarvis, who does not have general voting power on the council, did not attend Monday’s meeting.