Now the heavy lifting begins.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a state budget this week that includes $325,000 to help fund the relocation of the historic Cape San Blas Lighthouse.
The announcement by Mayor Mel Magidson during Tuesday’s regular bi-monthly Port St. Joe City Commission was met by applause from a packed chamber.
The city was awarded the lighthouse, two keepers’ quarters and the oil house by the federal government earlier this year.
Funding the relocation from the cape to the city – the site in George Core Park adjacent to the historic Maddox property and aligned with the Third Street axis from U.S. 98 – had been a significant hurdle.
Though formal costs are an unknown until bidding, the city had been operating with a number of $200,000-$250,000 as the most optimistic estimate for the actual moving of the buildings.
A campaign by the St. Joseph Historical Society had raised just under $40,000 and the Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency had secured grant funding for foundation construction and other components of the move.
With the appropriation from the state, the city, Magidson said, was in position to move ahead swiftly with the relocation. The state money does not become available until the fiscal year begins in July.
“Now we really have for that project over $400,000,” Magidson said. “We are grateful to all those who helped us in the Legislature and all those who had a hand in convincing the governor of the value of this saving this historic treasure.”
Magidson, echoing words used by Rep. Jimmy Patronis (R-Panama City Beach), said the lighthouse relocation could also become an “economic boom” for the area.
Time is pressing.
The city has roughly two months remaining in the six-month window provided by the federal government to move the structures from the site, which is owned by the U.S. Air Force.
Magidson said the next step would be working with the project manager, Preble Rish Engineers, to establish a timeline for site preparation at George Core Park and soliciting bids for the actual move of the structures.
The subject of the moving of the PSJRA arose again when Commissioner Bo Patterson asked where the standoff with the Board of County Commissioners stood.
At this point, Magidson made clear, there is not a solution, “but I hope we can get it resolved soon.”
The PSJRA was asked to move by the BOCC to accommodate the growth in staff and workload by the Gulf County Tourist Development Council, which shares the Welcome Center with the PSJRA.
The city, which leases the building to the county though the TDC paid for the move of the building to city land, has said it was open to the move, but wanted the county to consider a revision to an interlocal agreement concerning WindMark Beach.
The revision would divide a fire tax that now goes to the BOCC general fund among the three fire departments that cover the WindMark Beach area.
The BOCC has balked at the proposal, saying the move of the PSJRA should not be tied to the interlocal agreement and asserting that agreement is more complex than just the fire tax.
During last week’s BOCC meeting, Commissioner Warren Yeager told his fellow commissioners that of the 15 items in the interlocal agreement, 11 had been completed, one was a non-issue and the other items pertained to the fire tax and city services to the county residents.
The city has agreed to ensure that county residents pay the same rate for water and sewer as city residents.
Magidson disputed that there was anything “complex” about the interlocal agreement and said the city had raised the issue of the fire tax to the BOCC at least two years ago and the issue had not been resolved.
“Anybody who says the interlocal agreement and the (PSJRA) move are connected is blowing smoke,” Magidson said.
He said when the request for the PSJRA move came up, the city broached the fire tax issue once again.
“They are not connected; this is not complex,” Magidson said.
He also argued that by dividing the fire tax money, something in the neighborhood of $28,000, among the local fire departments might also help lower the fire insurance rating for residents, something that does not happen when the money goes into the BOCC general fund.
The PSJRA is currently paying double for rent, at the Welcome Center and to hold an office at the Gulf County Chamber of Commerce Local Color building which has been offered to the agency at the same operational costs currently incurred at the Welcome Center.
Frank Pate Park boat parking
The city will move ahead to spend just over $2,000 to remove five trees near the restrooms at Frank Pate Park and add 10-12 new boat parking space for the boat ramp that is a weekend traffic jam.
The city will create the spots and place posts or parking stops
Commissioners also approved spending under $2,000 for improvements to the Commission meeting room, including installation of equipment for PowerPoint presentations and the installation of a movable wall at the back end to keep the public out of staff space.
While adding the wall, staff would install 20 additional chairs in the meeting room.
The city of Port St. Joe will hold a ceremony to dedicate the Holly Hill Cemetery Pavilion in honor of former Commissioner Charles Stephens at 10 a.m. ET Friday, May 31. While commissioner Stephens, who passed away a week ago, was instrumental in the construction of the pavilion. The public is encouraged to attend. The cemetery is located at 1665 Madison Street.