A community conversation

Published: Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 02:44 PM.

Any adjudication or settlement would also come with a question mark similar to those queries from bill collectors – when will the check arrive?

So there are plenty of unknowns to the RESTORE Act, enough that we have to hope that history won’t repeat itself in Gulf County as it goes to financial responsibility and accountability.

Right now, a small committee is sifting through a mound of paperwork and trying to work with their respective constituencies – there is representation from Port St. Joe, Wewahitchka, the Board of County Commissioners, Chamber of Commerce, Tourist Development Council, and others – to come up with potential projects for funding.

The emphasis is in two areas: economic development and environmental protection and restoration. But the criteria for ranking projects is also unknown.

Last week’s two Port Authority meetings, at which economic development experts versed in the entire RESTORE process spoke, highlighted that few even understand some basic rules. Yet by January the eight most impacted Northwest Florida counties are supposed to have written and documented plans and projects.

That is a short window of time, leading to further potential that accountability for the funds won’t be properly assigned, and potential for more controversy like the Tourist Development Council suffered over the past 18 months.

With the TDC fiasco, there was money in the seven figures rolling into an agency that had no plans in place to spend it. The TDC pretty much made up a plan on the fly because there was a short deadline for spending more money, by a long shot, than the TDC had ever pocketed in any one-year window.

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