Comments from the council

Braden is asking about the length of grass, and whether or not the city regulates it.

“Apparently our code enforcement is going around doing that now,” he said.

Community Development Director Ken Gallander said that’s not something the city regulates.

For his part, Councilman Foreman said he had someone call him and say the same thing. But he said it was a real estate person who was trying to sell property.

Councilwoman Ramswell was at the League of Cities annual conference and said she came away with a lot of great information.

City Finance Director Bragg Farmer is running through a third quarter revenue report.

Now we turn to Kisela.

Apparently there is an issue with the air conditioning at the Community Center. The cost for replacement is about $103,000, but the city is looking for other bids.

There are no comments from the audience tonight, so this meeting is adjourned.



Taxi Regulations

For his part, Dixon says that businesses that operate out of Destin should have a business license.

“It seems like every taxi company should be coming in and getting a license,” he said.

City Manager Greg Kisela says that something that’s not discussed in this, is that they haven’t spoken about rate regulations.

That seems to be a consensus on the council.

“There is a little bit of personal choice in this,” Councilman Wood said, adding that people choose where to go.

“This man is on the right track,” Capt. George Eller said, adding that he started the first taxi service in Destin.

He said when he sold the company in the ’80s, there were 26 different cars running service.

“I’m very well versed in the taxi cab industry,” Eller said. He said he has written a very detailed ordinance that was presented to the county, but they didn’t want to regulate the industry.

“The taxi cab is the first and the last impression they have,” Eller said of our visitors. “That impression needs to be good.”

Eller says he will turn that ordinance over to the city if they wanted it.

That’s a wrap on this topic.


Taxi Regulations

Next up is a presentation about regulating the taxi-shuttle business within the city limits of Destin.

Stanislav Nikolov from OK taxi is up to the mic.

He is telling the council that it’s very important for the city of Destin to have regulations as it pertains to taxi service.

During the peak season and spring break, he said there are only about 30 licensed and insured tax drivers in the city.

“What we suggest, is basically for the city… to have requirements,” he said.

Nikolov suggests that vehicles shouldn’t be older than 10 years as a safety precaution. He also said companies should have insurance of no less than $500,000.

He says the city can issue permits, which they can charge for and create income. The city could also charge fees for each vehicle on a company’s fleet.

Nikolov said he would like to see that only companies that are licensed and regulated through the city of Destin be able to operate legally.

We turn to Councilwoman Trammell.

She is making a recommendation to have the city staff research the issue and come back with proposed regulations.

City Manager Greg Kisela says he would like consensus on this issue before moving forward.

Councilwoman Ramswell says the city needs to look into this topic and do its due diligence.

For his part, Councilman Wood said he wasn’t sure he wanted to sign onto this when he first read the topic, but now he is on point with it.

“If we are looking for a consensus… I’ll sign on to that,” he said.

“This goes toward protecting the public, and I’m for that,” Councilman Jim Foreman says.


Pedestrian Safety

Marler says the 30 seconds allowed for a person to cross the intersection at Stahlman isn’t enough for larger groups.

“I just don’t think that’s enough time,” he said. “That’s the area that really concerns me.”

Councilwoman Sandy Trammell she has yet to see any shrubbery between the roadway and the sidewalk.

“If we have the space, it’s important we put something there,” she said. “It directs them to the crosswalks.”

“If you can take 10 cars of highway 98, that’s 10 potential accidents you are getting rid of,” Trammell said.

Now to Councilman Rodney Braden.

He said he had hoped to “hear something about Marler Street,” but nothing was brought up.

McLain said moving the crosswalk closer to where you would exit makes sense.

Braden is asking about a fully signalized light at the intersection. It would take the city to request that.

For his part, Councilman Jim Wood is talking about speed, saying there was no speed analysis.

The data is “on the docket” for the next month.  Wood is now talking about the “push button project.” Not sure what this is, exactly.


Pedestrian Safety

McLain is showing an example of an underpass, which is one of the options he has presented to city leaders.

The next step is for the FDOT to identify and proceed with counter measures. A public meeting and presentation will also be held in the future.

We turn this over to the council now.

Councilman Jim Foreman has “three concerns.” One factor is parking, he said. Another is a pending project for the widening of 98 from the Walton County line to Airport Road.

“I’m wondering how that would play out,” he said of the short term and long term changes.

The third thing is the underpass compared to an overpass.

“The underpass is the situation that always comes up as to whether or not it’s safe,” he said.

McLain said an underpass would be feasible in the area of Palmetto Drive, given the elevation.

“It would have to be well-lit, we’d have to make that area safe,” he said.

Over to Councilwoman Ramswell.

“For me, this was especially enlightening,” she said. “With a fresh set of eyes, wow.”

For Councilman Marler, the one thing he notices is that education doesn’t help, as he constantly sees people not obeying signs.

“The problem I see is people reading signs,” he said.

Marler has suggested reducing the speed limit for a portion of the roadway.

He is also suggesting that they consider adding a right turn lane onto Stahlman from 98.

“It’s not an option that can’t be done,” McLain said, but added that there are quite a few issues that would have to be fixed first, such as right of way acquisition.


Pedestrian Safety

The area near Chick Fil-A, Wendy’s and Pizza Hut is an area were there is a high concentration of crashes, he said.

“It is a constant cycle of traffic in that area,” he said.

Looking at access points, McLain said there is one shopping center near target that has five access points, which causes traffic problems. This is another area where there is a high concentration of traffic crashes, he added.

Increasing lighting and installing no right turn on red signs are just two of the recommendations to improve safety.

Short term (0-12 months) recommendations include maintaining landscaping and using consistent signage are two steps.

McLain is also suggesting an educational campaign to help raise awareness.

A mid-term solution is to close the median opening at U.S. Hwy. 98 and Palmetto Drive. McLain said constructing a right turn lane at the parking garage entrance at the Emerald Grande.

“It reduces the amount of conflicts,” McLain said of the Palmetto Drive option. He added that it would also help drive traffic to Stahlman, where there is a traffic signal.

There are quite a few long-term suggestions, such as closing median openings, changing median openings, and using pedestrian channelization.

He said that installing additional landscaping also serves as a deterrent, as does fencing. Widening roadways and sidewalks is a good idea, he said, but it’s costly.

He said on a Thursday night, 3,200 pedestrians moved through the Stahlman intersection during a three-hour period.




Pedestrian Safety

Based on the presentation, 40 percent of the crashes were rear end crashed, while the next highest was 13 percent.

McClain said there were a number of factors they took into account during the field review process.

Visibility and inconsistent signing were some of the issues that were discovered. He is showing a picture of a sign hidden behind some trees near the Emerald Grande.

Looking at the Stahlman Avenue intersection, he is showing heavy foot traffic at night. Looking at a picture of the sidewalk, he said vegetation growing over the walkway can be problematic.

“We actually saw pedestrians walk around it in the road,” he said.

The picture he is showing is directly in front of the Whataburger near Stahlman.

Looking at mid-block crossings, McLain said everything looks really good, but what is unique about this area is that they are located on the “wrong side” of the intersection.

McLain shows that in an area of about 1 mile of roadway, near Big Kahuna’s, there is not a safe place for pedestrians to cross the roadway.

“They really don’t have a good access… they are not going to walk down to the intersection a mile away,” he said.