Dear Commissioner Joanna Bryan, after listening to your comments last week at the BOCC and what you recalled as a private citizen during the time the Port requested a loan from the county for $199,000.00, l believe it's important to refresh your memory in order that we have a clear and transparent record of the facts. I was indeed Chairperson for the Port at that time; I along with the Port Director Tommy Pitts went before the board to request the funds on behalf of the Port Authority. This was with direction from the Port Director and the entire port authority board. The direction included a 99 percent confirmation for Project Tube with the understanding from the port director that Project Tube deal would be signed with the Port Authority in July 2011. The information given, weighed the need to request for the loan of $199,000. The hope was the $199,000 would sustain the Port until revenues could be generated from Project Tube. This wasn't "backroom" deal. We have open meeting in which items are discussed, decisions are made and voted on. We as port authority commissioners saw an opportunity for the community, based on information we were all given from the Port director and in good faith began conversations one on one with each county Commissioner. All in full accordance with the Sunshine Law strongly noted by the attorney Mr. Tom Gibson.
Commissioner Bryan, as you may recall you attended quite a few of the Port meeting during this time when the item for Project Tube and the request for the $199,000 discussed at those Port Meetings, as well, as you stated you were in attendance at the county commission during that time. The County Commissioners are and have been great supporters of the Port. We all want and need to generate career opportunities for our citizens based on potential from our valuable port asset. It isn't moving as fast as we need it to and it is an aggravation to us all. So, I truly understand Commissioner McLemore’s thoughts and feelings, I share those as well especially since my job and mission is to find jobs for the good folks in our wonderful community. The depletion of funds from the taxpayers is one of my greatest concerns and weighs on me because I care and grew up here. That is exactly why I didn't support the $2 million bill for reduction of Port debt for what I considered a “bail out” that our Governor recently vetoed.
As a County Commissioner, you look to the County Administrator, the County Attorney and others for guidance in order to make decisions and honor requests. You rely on the information they give you in order to do what's best for the county and the citizens. It's the same with the Port Authority; we rely on our Port Director who is responsible in the day-to-day operations and business of the Port, from receiving inquiry, following up with phone calls, documentation request, advising the board, etc. As you may be aware, we on the commission for the port authority are not paid, we offer to do this out of care and love of our community, plain and simple. At least that's why I do it.
You asked, what did we do with the funds? Our financial information is public information; you are welcome to review at any given time. I would say that most went toward operational expenses to keep the Port doors opened and salaries paid.
Again, it is important to share with you that through the years the Port Authority focus has and is the creation of jobs and careers. As it was mentioned, in prior years, St. Joe Company hindered us from moving forward with Port Development. You of all people know that since you were employed with them at the time. The Port Authority now has a working partner with the St. Joe Company, it's a perfect relationship. They have the talents and means available to market and sell the Port and the Port has the established entity to seek necessary grants and other support as a Public entity.
Commissioner Bryan, there have been many people who have dedicated their personal time to serve as a Port Authority Member. All of this done with good intentions to create jobs.
It's a new day and time; my hopes are that with the partnership with St. Joe Company, Eastern Ship Building intents and Green Circle Bio Energy, Inc. LOI in place, jobs will shortly be here. We have so much to look forward to in the development of the Port. As with any business, the focus needs to be providing the services, strengths and resources we have available making sure we have the right people in place to meet the expectation set forth in Port Development and job creation for the people of Gulf County.
Port St. Joe