Port St. Joe city commissioners formally became the board of the Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency Tuesday night.
Along familiar lines, Commissioners Phil McCroan, Bo Patterson and William Thursbay voted to dissolve the current PSJRA board and replace it with the City Commission, operating as an independent body.
Commissioner Rex Buzzett and Mayor Mel Magidson dissented.
There was little debate but Patterson took the occasion of the vote to issue one final harangue to critics of the board’s actions, taking to task a resident for statements made during a workshop on the PSJRA last month and this newspaper for publishing the quotes.
Later Patterson and a citizen engaged in a nasty exchange of insults and accusations over a petition gathered to protest the board’s action and statements made during prior meetings.
Mayor Mel Magidson repeatedly tried to tone down the rhetoric to no avail.
“You are taking an attitude a commissioner should not take,” Magidson told Patterson at one point, though Patterson continued the argument until the citizen sat down with Patterson calling him “a snake in the grass.”
Magidson said the issue was water under the bridge at that point as commissioners had taken action and formally, through a change in the original PSJRA ordinance and a subsequent resolution, dissolved the board.
“This has been a very contentious couple of months,” said resident Christy McElroy, adding that most involved are small business owners in the community. “We need to make sure that regardless of politics we need to support each other.
“We need to tamp it down and move forward in a positive manner.”
Gulf Pines Hospital
City attorney Tom Gibson reported a communication from the Internal Revenue Service indicating the IRS might be amenable to clearing away any tax liens associated with the former Gulf Pines Hospital building provided the city would address outstanding property taxes.
The key, Gibson said, would be negotiating with the Board of County Commissioners concerning some $92,000 in arrears local property taxes.
Gibson noted the city would actually recoup some $25,000-$30,000 as its share of those taxes.
Gibson said the hope would be to negotiate with the BOCC to circumvent the pursuit and awarding of a tax deed.
Another $38,000 in tax deeds are in the hands of private companies and would have to paid, Gibson said. If those are paid and negotiations successful with the BOCC, the IRS would be willing to clear the slate on tax liability it is owed.
“It would allow us to get rid of the IRS,” Gibson said.
The goal would be a six-lot residential subdivision that would put the acreage back on the tax rolls. Previous estimates show the city could recoup its investment in razing the hospital building – with asbestos abatement – and cleaning and platting the property through sale of lots.
Commissioner Rex Buzzett said they have one party interested in purchasing all the lots and there has been interest from other potential buyers.