Unless an event occurs in the next day or so that has not occurred in more than a year, the waiting on beach restoration project along St. Joseph Peninsula is likely to continue.

The contractor for the project notified the consulting engineer Wednesday that absent a verification that a grant for $2.8 million in RESTORE Act fund has been approved by Friday, the contractor will mobilize for another job.

That would mean a delay of at least 45 days, likely closer to 60, assistant county administrator Warren Yeager said.

Considering the county has been tussling with the U.S. Treasury over the release of the RESTORE Act funds from the county’s direct allocation for more than a year, an approval in the ensuing 48 hours, county officials indicated Wednesday, seemed a long shot.

And a project that was, finally, scheduled to begin this month is now likely to be undertaken until at least October.

“It looks like the project will be put back into October,” Yeager said.

The direct allocation RESTORE funds were initially prioritized for the beach restoration project some two years ago, and were initially approved within the county’s multi-year spending plan.

A subsequent grant application, required to receive the funds, had to be amended, however, due to changes in the project’s scope.

Those changes, which narrowed the scope of the project, came about after initial bids were well above available funds, forcing the county to rebid.

A re-bid of the project narrowed the project’s scope to the southern end between the Stump Hole rock revetments to the southern boundary of Billy Joe Rish Park.

Once the low bidder was awarded the contract the hope was that the project would begin Aug. 1.

That would be well over two years since the consulting engineer stood before county commissioners and warned unless sand was on the beach within two years structures would be threatened.

That warning proved prescient, structures in several areas are under imminent threat.

However, the Treasury, given input from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, said the county could not spend the RESTORE funds in a Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) zone, holding up the process again.

The county agreed to use sand purchased with the $2.8 million solely on the south end, near the Stump Hole, where there is no development.

Treasury, while indicating that was sufficient, has yet to approve the grant and make the funds available to the county.

 

Budget

 

The Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday approved capping the millage rate for the 2018-19 fiscal year at 7.10 mills.

That is a reduction from the current millage of 1.442 mills.

A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value.

To reach the lower millage, staff reduced the initial budget, largely a wish list from county departments and constitutional officers, by some $650,000, said county administrator Michael Hammond.

The county had until Friday to submit to the property appraiser a tentative millage rate.

At that point, the county can not go higher, but can further lower the millage rate, so in effect the BOCC capped the millage at 7.10.

“I think we need to hold the road for a year,” said Commissioner Sandy Quinn, Jr. “We owe taxpayers a little break.”

Sheriff Mike Harrison asked commissioners to reconsider the cuts to his office’s budget, particularly as it pertained to replacement of aging vehicles.

The board and executive director of Gulf County Senior Citizens also pleaded for an increase in its budget to expand services at a time when there are 61 seniors on the agency’s waiting list for in-home services.

The BOCC will hold two public hearings on the budget next month.