The repaving of Reid Ave. will begin Sunday night, with a likely project length of roughly three weeks, according to the city’s engineering consultant.

The work will be performed beginning at 10 p.m. ET each night and conclude in the early morning hours before downtown merchants and employees arrive.

The work was delayed about a week due to rain.

Engineer Clay Smallwood said Tuesday the work would begin at State 71, or Cecil G. Costin, Sr. Blvd.

The Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency (PSJRA) is contracting out the work, funding it through a $200,000 loan from the city, which is using the loan to commit road bond dollars before a summer deadline.

Redoing Reid Ave. has long been a desire for city officials as the roadbed, particularly in the middle of the five-block span, is severely rutted.

The road bed will be redone prior to repaving.

Bill Kennedy, executive director the PSJRA, said inconveniences to a couple of businesses would be minor and said he was working to mitigate any impacts.

The city had hoped to use road bond funds for water line repairs, bores and patches along Reid Ave. but the Clerk of Courts deemed the project ineligible for road bond money.

City manager Jim Anderson said the city had already bid out the bores and materials and said commissioners and staff should come back in a couple of weeks with an alternative game plan.

 

Budget

City commissioners on Tuesday held their first workshop for the 2018-19 budget.

The first workshop primarily reviewed a wish list from departments, with commissioners also committing to, if possible, keeping the current millage rate.

That millage, 3.5914, has been steady for at least 12 years.

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

While the millage may remain the same, commissioners are looking at another increase in utility rates.

The city is heading into the fourth of a five-year plan, mapped after a rate study was performed, of similar annual increases, between 2 percent and 3 percent.

In 2020, the city would be due to undertake another rate study and while prices are unlikely to come down, the hope is to reach a point of smaller, or no, annual increases in utilities.

The rate study and rates are tied to the city’s significant debt; the city pays $1.2 million a year in interest alone on a debt that at one point neared $20 million though is has come down significantly.

 

Jones Homestead sewer

City commissioners were confronted with what staff said was a first Tuesday night: a community that did not want city sewer.

Some residents of Palm Breeze Way protested the running of sewer to their street as part of a sewer expansion into Jones Homestead.

Operating on a grant from the Northwest Florida Water Management District, the city has 52 homeowners who have already paid to connect a reduced rate for overall fees, with 13 more heading in that direction.

Six, out of 37 residents, of those commitments are from homeowners on Palm Breeze Way.

But several homeowners said the vast majority of homeowners on the street do not want sewer, arguing they are not in the city, do not vote for city commissioners and have new, or relatively new, and fully operational septic systems.

And those systems were put in place at considerable expense. Now, those homeowners were facing additional thousands in expenses to eliminate their septic systems for sewer.

“You are shoving sewage down our throats,” said Mike Holcombe. “We can’t vote for you, we can’t recall you. Why not use (sewer money) where you need it in the city.

“You never told us about it. You just throw is at us even though we’re not residents of the city. This is bull.”

The city has run sewer beyond the city limits to White City, St. Joe Beach and Cape San Blas, Anderson noted.

There are have been no complaints; financial officer Mike Lacour said a day hardly goes by that he does not field a phone call concerning when sewer will be coming to Beacon Hill.

Lacour also noted the grant is part of a statewide effort to remove septic tanks.

A key point of contention is a provision of state law that requires homeowners to tie onto municipal sewer within 365 days of notification it was available.

But Anderson said the city had not exercised that provision, but relied on the second section of the statute that mandates that once a septic system has failed, a homeowner must tie onto sewer if available.

“It has never been the interest of the city to send out that letter to tell people to tie in within 365 days,” Anderson said.

But the residents in the audience Tuesday night were little swayed.

“I think this is an overreach of the city’s power to not even ask us,” said Deborah Mayes. “This is not a small thing to us.”