The Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday approved an interlocal agreement with the Port St. Joe Port Authority which puts the two governing bodies on the same page for port development.

The Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday approved an interlocal agreement with the Port St. Joe Port Authority which puts the two governing bodies on the same page for port development.

The interlocal agreement, county attorney Jeremy Novak said, provides the “structure and platform” for the two boards to work together to create an operational port and bring high-paying jobs to the county.

The agreement is for two years and provides the Port Authority with two crucial elements: breathing room on the economic development loan the BOCC provided the Port Authority in 2015 and some administrative support for an agency that is operated entirely by volunteers.

Probably the key provision of the agreement is the stated desire by the boards to work jointly on applications to various pots of potential port funding, from state transportation dollars to fine monies flowing out of Triumph Gulf Coast.

As has been discussed during recent meetings of the BOCC and Port Authority, pursuing funding for critical work on port development is better as a team.

“We look forward to working with the Port Authority,” said deputy county administrator Michael Hammond.

Hammond also requested, and received from the board, approval to begin spending county funds on a key short-term project for the Port of Port St. Joe.

The county, having entered into a licensing agreement with the St. Joe Company, will allocate $75,000 to match dollar-for-dollar St. Joe’s investment for a new temporary road linking the former Arizona Chemical site with the paper mill site bulkhead.

That will allow the one tenant the Port Authority and St. Joe have, a wood pellet shipper, to begin staging equipment in preparation to initiating local operations.

The road is the first project undertaken under the agreement between county and St. Joe, which is aimed at providing a public-private partnership to facilitate a host of projects aimed at port development and growth.

Beach restoration

The county’s consulting engineer for beach restoration, Michael Dombrowski, presented the current timeline for the project, a timeline which will only truly be initiated once the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued a permit.

A permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection was issued in Nov. 2016 but the federal permit has been on delayed while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a biological opinion.

The final version of that document was not in Corps hands until last month.

The Corps, Dombrowski said, was working on the federal permit and “trying to have it by the end of July.”

However, there is no deadline, so the project timeline is contingent on that permit.

Dombrowski said bid contract documents had been submitted to the U.S. Treasury, which must approve them due to more than $2 million in RESTORE Act funds being used as part of the local match.

The application for those RESTORE funds is also with Treasury, said Warren Yeager of the county Economic Development Coalition.

Once the bid documents are approved, Dombrowski said, the project could be put out for bid, though awarding the bid would be contingent on the federal permit.

The hope would be federal permit this month, bids received by the end of August, contract to be let 30 days later with the contractor needing time to stage equipment.

“That will mean a start-up in November or December with 180 days to complete the project,” Dombrowski said. “Hopefully, we would be done by March, at the latest April.”

The project would restore 5.2 miles of peninsula beach, starting on the southern end at the Stump Hole area and working north toward the T.H. Stone St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, excepting Billy Joe Rish Park.

The restoration project completed in 2008-09 spanned nearly eight miles.

While some areas, such as the very southern part of the project, would see more sand due to higher erosion rates, the goal was “equal benefit across the length of project,” or equal protection for developed lands, Dombrowski said.

In all, the current estimate is that 1.5 million cubic yards of new sand will be placed on the beaches.

The source of that sand provided a lengthy discussion later in Tuesday’s meeting when Judge David Taunton appeared to renew an argument he made a decade ago.

That would be to take sand dredged from a lake at the Taunton Family Children’s Home in Wewahitchka instead of dredging from an offshore sand formation.

More than decade ago, a similar proposal was made by the late Alan McNair when he served as TDC executive director, though the idea was turned away by the BOCC.

Taunton, highlighting what he said was the destruction to the Apalachicola River by the Corps and what he argued was dodgy dynamics between the Corps and the dredging industry, said the county had options.

By securing the sand inland, sand Taunton said had been tested and approved for use along a beach, the county would create local jobs and an inject resources into the local economy while not robbing offshore sites of needed, protective sand.

Waste Pro

Fed up with complaints, commissioners unanimously agreed to send a formal notice to Waste Pro concerning a host of what Hammond called “quality control issues.”

They include leaking trucks, routes missed, cans not provided and other problems that several commissioners said were out of hand.

County staff has met with company officials to verbally relay the problems, but commissioners, emphasizing the issue was not with workers but Waste Pro higher-ups, said “more fire” needs to be injected.

The contract with Waste Pro provides the ability for the county to fine the company for such lapses in customer service.

Butler honored

With eight months remaining before his retirement, county administrator Don Butler was recognized by the BOCC as commissioners approved naming their meeting room in his honor.

The Donald H. Butler County Commission Chamber will honor a man who has spent 28 years as the county administrator, the longest tenure of any current ounty administrator in Florida.

A proposed plaque was unveiled which, when finished, will hang in the BOCC meeting room.