In a meeting during which county commissioner sought to establish a new tone, they also took a familiar step.
Commissioners removed from the consent agenda and tabled action on the second quarter invoice submitted by the Gulf County Economic Development Alliance, Inc.
The request was straightforward, seeking the $20,000 payment pledged to the EDA for the second quarter of the fiscal year.
But commissioners sought clarity on the status of the EDA and how the money would be spent.
“We need to see plan of action,” said Commissioner Carmen McLemore, who motioned to set the request aside for future action. “How are they spending the money? They have not kept up with contract.”
The EDA, including an all-volunteer board, took shape just over a year ago after the BOCC had taken back under its wing the prior manifestation of the agency, the Economic Development Council.
After the EDA was formed, the BOCC entered a contract which will expire this year, fulfilling a five-year funding pledge commissioners had made to the EDC in its most current form, which was operationally under a consolidated model linking the EDC and Chamber of Commerce.
The consolidated model represented the fifth time the BOCC had altered the county’s economic development agency during the past 15 years.
The agency has seen a turnover in the executive director position five times over that span.
The funding pledge from the BOCC was $80,000 a year; $20,000 a quarter.
However, the past year has been rocky for the EDA, with executive director Barry Sellers out during significant portions of the year due to health issues and resigning from the position at the end of 2013 to return to his native Arkansas.
The EDA has linked its efforts to the Bay County EDA through an informal agreement, but currently has little staff and no executive director.
“We need county staff and our attorney to sit down with the EDA to understand responsibilities,” Commissioner Warren Yeager said.
County attorney Jeremy Novak informed commissioners last week that a lease with North Florida Child Development for the historic Wewahitchka courthouse has been finalized.
NFCD has begun making lease payments - $1 per month on a lease that will roll over with BOCC approval each year – and assuming responsibility for utilities.
Air quality tests in eight locations around the facility have been completed and any required remediation undertaken, Novak added.
NFCD staff asked for leeway in formally moving all its operations to the first floor of the courthouse – the Head Start and Early Head Start provider has long used the upper floor for its headquarters – due to required federal audits the agency is going through and a desire to paint and carpet areas of the first floor.
NFCD president/CEO Sharon Gaskin requested the county enter into the lease in order that NFCD not be forced to move its headquarters and to allow NFCD to maintain the building, of which it is the lone tenant.
The county moved all its offices out of the building a cost-savings measure.
The courthouse is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Commissioners gave county administrator Don Butler the go-ahead to work with officials from the city of Port St. Joe and waste haulers in the county to craft a new step as the BOCC looks to move to mandatory garbage pickup, possibly by the end of the year.
County and city commissioners have expressed in a recent months working together to bring waste management costs down.
The county’s contract with Waste Management expires at the end of the May; the city’s in September. Butler indicated Wewahitchka’s contract also expires in the second half of 2014.
Butler said he was looking at several options: the potential for extending the county’s contract to align with Port St. Joe’s; examine the potential for the city to opt-out of its contract in May; or some combination of the two.
“We want to be able to bid together to get a better price,” Butler said.