If at first.
Even though the Paces Foundation failed to secure tax credits last year to fund 72 affordable housing units in North Port St. Joe, representatives Rick Haymond and Ron Thomason came back before the Port St. Joe Commission during Tuesday’s bi-monthly meeting to inform them about a new Florida housing grant that had the potential to fund 50 units.
Haymond and Thomason asked commissioners to allow them apply for those funds on behalf of the city, the deadline for which is approaching on July 1, while ensuring that the specifics of the project could still be worked out in the meantime.
“It’s a small piece of the overall proposed project,” said Thomason. “We can put in as much affordable housing as the community needs over time.”
Thomason explained that while approving the project for a lower number of units would seem simpler, markets can be dynamic and change and if the city later decided to build more apartments, they’d face additional expenses. As more units were added, the city would incur additional costs for more roads and the extension of sewer and water lines.
County Commissioner Tan Smiley took the podium and expressed the need for affordable housing in the area. He said he had visited many residents who currently struggle to live 2-3 people to a home.
“The mayor is a bulldog to get the lighthouse moved, but I’d like to see some bulldogging on getting these affordable homes,” said Smiley. “Build 150 apartments and I guarantee they’ll be full within a year.”
With Mayor Mel Magidson on vacation, Commissioner Rex Buzzett acted as chairman for the meeting.
“We need affordable housing,” said Buzzett. “We also have to think of the infrastructure and think of the neighborhoods over there, too.
“We’re ready to go forward on the recommendation of our attorney.”
The commission passed a motion to advertise the first reading of an ordinance that would allow the ball to begin rolling again.
The proposed location for the housing is just off Clifford Sims Road and was donated to the city by the St. Joe Company specifically for affordable housing. The location was chosen due to its proximity to Commerce Park and could act as a gateway as new jobs are created with the opening of the Port.
After exploring relocation options for the office of Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency director Gail Alsobrook, only two options were considered. Commissioners could either relocate Alsobrook to an office at a cost of approximately $4,000 a year or repurpose the existing file room located in city hall.
Commissioners Bo Patterson and William Thursbay agreed that moving the city’s files to accommodate Alsobrook was the best choice and would save taxpayers money. City manager Jim Anderson warned commissioners that if the room was repurposed, a secure location would need to be found for the archived paperwork.
“That’s the most important room in city hall,” said Anderson. “If the building caught on fire, the first room you should save is that room.”
In a 3-1 vote, with Buzzett dissenting, Thursbay passed a motion to relocate the PSJRA to city hall.
Several residents of Highland View attended to complain of a strong sewage that had invaded the neighborhood over the past week.
One resident reported that the smell was so bad that her kids didn’t want to go outside and that her daughter had gone to the Health Department with breathing problems.
In her report, Wastewater Plant Manager Lynn Todd told commissioners that due to recent rainstorms a dense layer of algae had built up on the wastewater plant’s reservoir. As the algae began to rot it caused the smell reported by the residents.
Todd said that the smell was not harmful to humans, though it could activate some allergies or respiratory conditions.
Only three aerators are currently being used on the reservoir but Todd said it would take seven to prevent that type of algae growth. She said the city could purchase chemicals to kill the algae, and if successful, they could be kept on hand to prevent the same situation from occurring in the future. Commissioners agreed to obtain the chemicals, which would arrive in 3-5 days.