Dear Mr. Willis, Ms. Rennick, et al:
In reviewing your letters to the Star last week I noted a number of misstatements and inaccuracies. I would like to set the record straight before those misstatements are accepted as facts.
When the lighthouse and the keeper's quarters were about to be lost to the Gulf of Mexico, the St. Joseph Historical Society wrote and presented grants for over $750,000 to restore the structures. Since the restoration, the St. Joseph Historical Society has maintained the property and operated the gift shop and tours. The county has occasionally cut the grass. County tax dollars have been used to insure the structures for liability to the tune of about $3,500 per year, not $35,000-$40,000 per year that has been suggested. Also, might I remind you that City of Port St. Joe residents pay county taxes and the City is part of Gulf County as well, so some of the county expenditures came from City residents.
Both of you suggested that it could cost over $600,000 to move and re-establish all the structures in the City. I don't know where you got your figures but the City has two quotes for just over $200,000 to move the lighthouse and buildings. An additional $75,000-$80,000 would have to be paid to move power lines. Also, only about $25,000-$35,000 would be needed to re-establish the structures at their new site because several businesses have offered their services for nothing or at a reduced cost. The total cost would be somewhere between $300,000 and $315,000. We have approximately $1.5 million in the bank in our reserve fund. We don't intend to do so, but we could write a check for that tomorrow if we had to. Could the county?
It has been suggested that Salinas Park is the safest location for the lighthouse. Might I remind you that, in 1985 during Hurricane Kate, the Gulf and St. Joe Bay washed completely over Salinas Park and cut off the Cape. There is about a 6-foot elevation there other than on the dunes and I don't believe the structures could be placed on the dunes. St. Joe Bay is much less affected by hurricanes because it is a shallow tidal bay and the city has never flooded.
You used terms like "amusement park", "steal the lighthouse", "satisfy egos." One thing I've learned in my 66 years is that when you don't have the facts on your side, you belittle and demonize the other side. The City did not steal anything from the county. The lighthouse belonged to the United States Air Force. We submitted an application just as the county did. I'm sorry that ours was found more worthy.
Either you were ignorant of the facts or you were just demonizing or belittling the City because the facts weren't on your side. Either way, it would be fair to all concerned if you learned the facts, stopped demonizing the City and focus on what the future could hold for us all if we could develop a park that would bring tourists and their dollars to Port St. Joe and Gulf County.
Mayor Mel Magidson
Port St. Joe