Two weeks after hearing the extent to which taxpayers are underwriting the losses at Five Points Landfill the Board of County Commissioners debated issues of recycling and mandatory garbage pickup for county residents.
Commissioners decided to hold off any vote for two weeks, but sentiment is moving in the direction of alleviating the hundreds of thousands the county loses each year with landfill.
Commissioner Warren Yeager pushed for a pilot recycling program for South Gulf County and asked commissioners to support funding the program – at maximum of $6,000 – for the remainder of the fiscal year with an eye toward expanding the program in the next fiscal cycle.
The pilot project would not be mandatory, but would be the opportunity to put in place a recycling program that many locals and visitors want.
During a Tourist Development Council advisory board meeting, it was noted that a number of visitors arrive from places where recycling is mandatory and a fact of life.
“I think this is the right thing to do for the community,” Yeager said.
The pilot project proposal would be to establish the bins at Salinas Park on Cape San Blas. The area would be open to all residents, but the pilot program targets the Cape and St. Joseph Peninsula due to solid waste issues during tourist seasons.
Paper, cardboard, glass and plastic would be recycled.
“I have a problem spending tax dollars on that recycling,” said Commissioner Carmen McLemore.
Yeager added that for a recycling program to truly work – and the city of Port St. Joe and county have each experienced failure with such programs in the past – the county should move to mandatory garbage pickup.
“At the end of the day the way recycling will work will depend on mandatory garbage pickup,” Yeager said. “And we could include yard debris. I think that’s the direction the county needs to go.”
Port St. Joe Mayor Mel Magidson said during last week’s TDC meeting that the city should join the county is pushing recycling as well as mandatory garbage pickup.
Yeager said that the county needs to examine how to assist the elderly and those on fixed incomes to handle the new garbage bill, but as part of ending the bleeding from the landfill the county will be forced to consider mandatory pickup.
“At some point we need to address mandatory pickup in a way that works for everybody,” Yeager said.
Commissioners did raise the landfill fees to reflect a suggestion made by Public Works director Joe Danford during a workshop two weeks ago.
The fee was raised from $35 per ton to $40 per ton.
Commissioner Ward McDaniel said the much of District 2, he estimated 95 percent, is already on some kind of garbage pickup and that both cities also require mandatory pickup.
But Commissioner Joanna Bryan said the issue was one she would like to more fully review and consider before voting and commissioners agreed to table a decision on the pilot recycling program for two weeks.
Port of Port St. Joe
Commissioners expressed various opinions as to whether to write a letter to the governor in support of a $2 million appropriation that would alleviate a pressing foreclosure issue on a parcel of land owned by the Port of Port St. Joe.
Commission chair Tan Smiley said he had already written one representing himself as chairman in support of the appropriation, but his fellow commissioners had mixed views.
McLemore said he opposed using tax money in “bailing out a bank” and McDaniel wondered if receiving the $3 million against a mortgage that is in excess of $4 million was doing nothing more than buying time for the port before it would find itself in the same situation.
McDaniel said he did support money in the state budget – roughly $1.4 million – for dredging the shipping channel to authorized depth, but was hesitant about supporting the $2 million to help on the mortgage.
Yeager said that the $2 million appropriation was being driven by Capital City Bank, not the Port Authority, and that the governor should decide the worthiness of that appropriation but agreed the dredging money was badly needed.
“I think the port is a regional project,” Yeager said. “It is going to go. I’m in full support of anything we can do to make that port go.”
Smiley said his decision was one of jobs.
“Helping (the port) out is helping Gulf County out,” Smiley said. “Just letting it sit there and do nothing isn’t an option. I come from when Port St. Joe had plenty of jobs. I am seeing getting back to where that was.
“Is (the $2 million) going to help? We need the jobs.”
Yeager said a bill that would strike Cape San Blas and St. Joseph Peninsula from the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) was scheduled for a committee hearing.
“That is much farther along than we’ve ever been,” he said, adding that three or four other states also had land areas believed mistakenly placed in CBRA. “(Having the CBRA designation removed) would be a huge impact for this county.”