The Port St. Joe City Commission set the groundwork to extend the moratorium on medical marijuana within the city limits during Tuesday’s regular bi-monthly meeting.



The Port St. Joe City Commission set the groundwork to extend the moratorium on medical marijuana within the city limits during Tuesday’s regular bi-monthly meeting.

With the current moratorium set to expire on Oct. 12, the commission voted unanimously to draft an extension.

While the commissioners noted that the chances of a dispensary opening in Port St. Joe were slim to none, they stated that they didn't want to take any chances.

Under current law, the city must either outlaw dispensaries outright or allow them in similar zoning areas where traditional pharmacies are now located.

After receiving a brief from State Rep. Halsey Beshears (R-Monticello), multiple commissioners stated that they believe that the state will expand municipalities’ power over the location of dispensaries during the next session of the state legislature.

"I don't feel like this is the time to treat our city as the guinea pig," said Commissioner David Ashbrook. "There are other cities our size that have allowed it, let's wait and see what happens."

While the moratorium would stop a local dispensary from opening, Ashbrook said there are other ways for citizens of Port St. Joe to get their medical marijuana.

"The bottom line is that we're not withholding medicine from people, it is available statewide through delivery.

Commissioner salaries

The hot button issue of pay for city commissioner was also debated at the meeting.

The city introduced Ordinance 541 which would increase commissioner’s monthly salary.

While Ashbrook said that he supported an increase for the position, he added that he believed that the increased salary should begin for each commissioner after their next election.

"We all signed up for a price that we knew that we were going to get," Ashbrook said.

Ashbrook also said that in discussion with city staff, they had settled on capping off the salary at $1,000 a month.

"I fully support that," Ashbrook continued. "I think that it opens it up to a lot more people in this community."

Resident Greg Johnson was on hand to again argue that he believes such a raise is inappropriate.

"I've set in your shoes," Johnson said. "I decided that it wasn't worth it so I resigned. If you decide that you don't think it is worth it, I think you need to resign."

Johnson also said that he supports an increase introduced by fellow resident Guerry Magidson that multiply a 3 percent cost of living adjusted by the number of years since the commission last gave itself a raise.

That increase would raise the salary to $575 a month, an amount that Commissioner Rex Buzzett said that he could support.

"We're not volunteers, we're elected officials," said Mayor Bo Patterson. "As far as I know all elected officials get a pay. How much pay we should get, I'm sure that is debatable."

Patterson added that he believed that the pay increase should take effect sooner rather than later.

A motion by Ashbrook to bump up the salary up to $1,000 a month that would go into effect upon a commission's seat next term died because of a lack of support.

A second motion to increase the salary to $1,000 a month effective Oct. 1 by Commissioner William Thursbay passed after Patterson passed the chair to Commissioner Brett Lowry.

Ashbrook and Buzzett were the two dissenting votes.

The ordinance will go for its second reading at the next regular commission meeting.

Water line replacement

City Manager Jim Anderson announced that a winning bid for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) water line replacement will be awarded to North Florida Construction.

The CDBG grant will cover residential line replacement on several streets in North Port St. Joe.

While the $549,026 bid by North Florida Construction will not cover all the water line replacement need in North Port St. Joe, Anderson believes that the left over will be able to be completed with a Northwest Florida Water Management District(NWFWMD) grant the city has received.

That grant will allow the city to complete the work themselves at a lower cost than contracting the work out.

North Florida Construction is the same firm that is currently working on the Frank Pate Park boat ramp project.