Two weeks ago the Board of County Commissioners decided to increase the intensity of the lobbying campaign concerning the proposed route for the Gulf Coast Parkway.
Commissioner Warren Yeager picked up the baton this week.
Yeager, accompanied by county administrator Don Butler and county attorney Jeremy Novak, was scheduled to meet with Florida Department of Transportation Anand Persad in Tallahassee on Tuesday to present the county’s arguments on the Gulf Coast Parkway.
“We are going to make our case and we’ll see,” Yeager said during Tuesday’s regular bi-monthly BOCC meeting.
The county’s argument is that the intent of the parkway is not being met by the latest proposed route alternatives being recommended by the DOT.
The parkway, commissioners argued, was meant as economic development and tourism boon for south Gulf County, with a preferred alternative that would take the parkway well to the north on a direct link with U.S. 231.
However, commissioners contended two weeks ago after a public hearing on the parkway, the proposed route will now primarily be a benefit for shoppers heading from Gulf County to Callaway.
Commissioners also questioned road funding that appeared to be moved from Gulf County to benefit Bay County road projects.
And the questioned cost estimates for the various alternative routes, noting that the route preferred by Gulf County officials, was being shown as more expensive even though a proposed bridge over East Bay was shorter and the route was more direct to highway connections.
But the primary argument Yeager and team hope to make is that the original intent of the parkway, to provide a four-lane connection from U.S. 231 to south Gulf County beaches, as well as the Port of Port St. Joe, has been mitigated by the new recommended route.
“The intent has certainly changed over the years,” Butler said two weeks ago. “This is huge. Our opportunity is being hijacked.”
Yeager said he would report back on the feedback he received from Persad.
Rhon Jones from Beasley Allen Law firm gave an update on BP litigation which continues in relative limbo.
Jones said two aspects of the overall case against BP, litigation under the Clean Water Act which will come next year and a settlement of private sector claims were moving ahead.
BP, Jones said, was likely hoping to get those cases “situated” before focusing again on the claims of local governments in the five impacted states.
“It is disappointing (there has been no progress on local government claims), but the positive is Gulf County is not being treated any differently than other local governments,” Jones said. “No local government is having any kind of active discussion with BP.”
The amount the county is seeking is not been made public. The BOCC turned down a settlement offer last year and continued to pursue litigation.
Pledge of Civility
Commissioners approved, as they did in 2003 and 2011, a proclamation rendering May a month of civility in public discourse.
“This is a good proclamation,” Yeager said.
The proclamation is the recommendation of the Florida Bar Association, which suggests annual adoption of a proclamation aimed at providing for the free and civil exchange of ideas during public meetings without “anger”, “ridicule” or rudeness.
As has been noted several times by Commissioner Joanna Bryan over the past year, commissioners have not always honed to the pledge during public discourse, particularly over controversial issues.
Waste Pro transition
Waste Pro takes over the county contract for solid waste removal June 1. Waste Pro was awarded the BOCC’s garbage bid last month, replacing current contractor Waste Management.
A representative of Waste Pro said Tuesday that 99 percent of customers had received new containers – which while shorter are wider and the same overall size as those from Waste Management – and Waste Management would have all its containers removed by week’s end.
Some 90 percent of customers will continue to have their garbage picked up on the same day. Those with changes in service days were notified by a decal on the new cans.
Waste Management is also processing refunds for any customers who have already paid for June and beyond.