With a deadline of late July looming for Mexico Beach City Council members to make a decision on the Parker House insurance settlement, Councilman Jack Mullen provided an update on the situation during Tuesday’s regular meeting.
The city has a $750,000 settlement offer on the table from the insurance company for the Parker House which was purchased in the city in 2011 and caught fire several days later.
After conferring with Panama City attorney Dion Moniz in April, the council decided to add rent payments on the bank building used as city hall.
The building was purchased in February and workers were forced to relocate to the Public Works building last month.
Mullen reported that the insurance company seemed open to the possibility of the additional $62,000 in rent reimbursement costs and asked for the city to supply additional lease and payment information to help bolster its claim.
With the clock ticking down, the council discussed their options at last week’s pre-agenda meeting.
As it stands, the council can accept the $750,000 settlement offer and continue with plans for a new city hall, which has been a popular choice with Councilwoman Tanya Castro and numerous citizens who have spoken out during regular monthly meetings.
The option would forfeit the possibility of additional rent reimbursement, but would put the situation behind the council, allowing them to move forward with construction of a new city hall.
Arbitration is another route that would have three appraisers placing a value on the claim with the highest two averaged into a final non-negotiable number.
That would be a gamble for the council as they face the potential to walk away with less than the $750,000 currently on the table.
The final option is to hire Moniz to file suit against the insurance company in order to get the rent funds reimbursed, but it would be costly to do.
“It may not be a financially-sound decision,” said Mullen.
Mullen asked councilmembers how much money they were willing to invest in order to reap more money. He said the negotiation process had already become an “investment of time.”
During the council’s regular meeting, Mullen told the public that a special meeting would be held on or around July 1 to make a final decision on the settlement.
“We all agree that the option we’re most comfortable with is the $750,000 plus the $62,000 in rent reimbursement,” said Mullen. “That’s probably what’s going to happen.”
Canal master plan
In 2012 the council put together a master plan to make major updates and improvements to the Mexico Beach Canal. Three years later, the city will receive a state appropriation grant for $1.6 million dollars to be put toward the project.
In spring of 2013 the city also was awarded RESTORE funds from BP for the project, though they’ve yet to be disbursed.
The combined funds will cover the majority, if not all of the expenses for the project and the plan has been approved to begin design work.
“There are bright things ahead, money-wise,” said Mayor Al Cathey.
Cathey, Mullen and Castro officially welcomed new council members Mary Blackburn and Jeff Tendler who were sworn in prior to last week’s pre-agenda meeting.
“I appreciate the opportunity to serve the residents of Mexico Beach,” said Blackburn, who defeated incumbent Gary Woodham in the April election. “I consider it an honor. I’m looking forward to a bright year.”
Tendler beat Bill McGlothlin for former Councilman Bobby Pollock’s chair. After serving two terms, Pollock did not run for reelection.
“I’m proud to be here,” said Tendler. “I’m looking forward to serving the city and doing things the right way.”
Castro kept her seat, defeating challenger Tom Bailey.
Castro said, “Thanks for giving me a second opportunity to represent you.”