No matter how much they try to distance themselves, county commissioners keep being dragged into the details concerning a proposed renovation of Port St. Joe’s 10th Street Park.
During last week’s meeting of a county-appointed parks committee, committee chair Commissioner Sandy Quinn, Jr., stated the committee meets for one hour only to discuss updates on the overall project.
There was not sufficient time for all views to be heard and debated, he said, which angered several residents who had attended the publicly-noticed meeting.
In addition, county attorney Jeremy Novak emphasized last week that the details of the park plan are not the Board of County Commissioners’ to debate; such decisions were up to the city.
The only question for the BOCC would be whether to approve the spending of bed tax dollars for the project.
Tuesday, during the BOCC’s regular monthly meeting, several residents living adjacent to the park came to speak to commissioners about the details.
In at least one case, that didn’t provide much satisfaction as Robert Branch barely got through his designated three minutes before, in an unusual action, not receiving any motion from commissioners to extend his time.
While not a scientific count, the number of such requests for additional time not being approved in the past year could easily be counted on one hand and fingers would remain.
In any case, Branch and Christy McElroy, who also lives adjacent to the park asked commissioners to be conscious of the concerns of park neighbors.
As Branch said, most of the folks who live along that area of Marvin and McClelland understand the historic and recreational significance of the ball fields at 10th Street.
“We’ve always said from the get-go we all know why the park is there,” Branch said.
They are not opposed to the park, but urge that any renovations remain within the current footprint of the park and be completed in a cost-efficient manner.
“We still want the same thing for the neighborhood,” Branch said. “We want what’s best for (those who use the fields).
“Just keep it cost-efficient and in the same footprint.”
McElroy noted that TDC funding to the city since 2015 totaled just under $40,000 and much of that was spent on fireworks, Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve.
This, she added, while the city boasts a number of parks as well as lodging partners, restaurants and other businesses serving tourists in the city
McElroy said the renovation should not be commercial in nature, such as Frank Brown Park in Panama City Beach, aimed at attracting visitors as a primary mission.
“That changes things,” McElroy said. “The main thing … is be consistent with the footprint of the park, to not have so much of a commercial venture and stay within the (regulations) of the (Tourist Development Council)” which oversees the bed tax spending.
She said the neighbors are concerned about cost factors, footprint and balance of the renovation within the existing neighborhood.
As Quinn noted last week, he was the one that brought to the BOCC the idea of focusing on 10th Street Park rather than a sports complex opposite the Gulf/Franklin Center.
That was last summer, more than two years after the county began collecting a fifth penny in bed tax for parks and recreation, with the vision of a sports complex off Field of Dreams Ave.
The process has bogged down since a conceptual plan, ostensibly crafted to begin the process of a budget and master plan for the project, was released in January.
That plan was approved unanimously by county and city.
However, over the past several months residents living adjacent to the park have criticized the scope of the plan, which is now on its sixth version and city commissioners only voted to approve that plan with the understanding it would change.
They have argued about the degradation of the natural beauty surrounding the park, flooding and safety issues and impacts to their homes and property.
Stone Mill Creek fire station
Commissioners approved a final deal with Cathey Construction to build a new fire station in Stone Mill Creek, the construction not to exceed $400,000.
The land for the station was donated by the Pitts Family and the county secured a legislative appropriation earlier this year for $400,000.
During initial bidding two contractors submitted bids, both exceeding the $400,000.
The low bidder, Cathey Construction, agreed to work with the county to bring the price within budget.
Ground work has already begun.
Veterans Memorial Park
Commissioners approved spending $50,000 in TDC parks funds to purchase the flag poles that will be part of the new Honor Walk to be built at Veterans Memorial Park in Beacon Hill.
Commissioner Jimmy Rogers said the dollars could represent the board’s contribution to the project, for which a fundraising campaign is underway.