Dampened by Tropical Storm Cindy, Mexico Beach recently hosted its first State of the City address to a sparse crowd evening at the Mexico Beach Civic Center.
Leading off with an address by Mell Smigielski, the city administrator, each department head of the city was given an opportunity to address what their individual departments were working on and to answer questions from the public.
Smigielski began by comparing Mexico Beach’s small town status to the “Andy Griffith Show,” stating that it is the responsibility of city employees to maintain Mexico Beach as a “Mayberry on the Gulf.”
The administrator also highlighted the difficulty and the importance of what he called “governing from the middle,” or tying to find a compromise between two sides, using a past controversy of how to leave trash cans after they have been dumped by city employees.
Speaking on complaints about Mexico Beach’s millage rate, the highest in Bay County, Smigielski was blunt and to the point.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Mexico Beach will probably always have the highest millage rate in Bay County,” Smigielski said.
The city administrator explained that almost all of the city’s property taxes come from residential units, with little room for commercial growth.
Smigielski highlighted goals passed on to city staff from leadership that included operate in trust, improve the financial situation of the city, find ways to make thing more efficient, support small town environment, and work to broaden the economic base of the city.
Mark Stangl, the city’s lead for emergency services, was on hand to explain the work being done in his department.
Highlighting the growth in the volunteer force, Stangl stated that the city now had 15 dedicated and involved members of which seven were qualified firefighters, five were EMTs and three were qualified paramedics.
Stangl also highlighted the department’s effort into positive public affairs by mentioning community involvement and an active Facebook page.
While Stangl sang the praises of his staff, he also noted the poor conditions that they work in.
According to Stangl, the current ESU building does not comply with any of the National Fire Protection Association standards, and he noted that he expected standing water in the building due to the heavy rains.
Stangl also invited the public and city officials to come tour the building including the sections of the building containing black mold.
“It’s just not a suitable station for us to work out of,” Stangl said.
Stangl also called newer equipment, including a new brush and rescue truck and a second fire engine.
The ESU coordinator ended by speaking on a growth in the number of drug overdose calls he has been receiving.
When asked by City Councilman Bill McGlothlin, who was in the audience, if the city had any Narcan to use in the case of an opioid overdose, Stangl responded by saying he was working to get the overdose reversing drug but that funding is an issue.
A dose of Narcan costs $1,100.
Chief Anthony Kelly gave an update on the Police Departments work by highlighting the department’s past.
The city of Mexico Beach is nearing its 50th anniversary, and while Kelly noted the financial growth of the department and the city, he also noted that at times there is only officer on duty, very similar to the department’s beginnings in 1967.
Only having one officer of duty at times is Kelly’s biggest concern.
Kelly stated that if an officer is alone on duty and has to take an arrested party to the Bay County Jail that the city is left unprotected for nearly two hours.
Kelly has petitioned the city for an additional officer to be added to the force.