Port St. Joe city commissioners agreed unanimously Tuesday on a waiver policy on utility bills but the good feelings led to indigestion over a donation to a local food pantry.
Commissioner William Thursbay motioned to follow the lead of the Board of County Commissioners – which donated $1,000 – and donate $500 to the food pantry operating out of the North Port St. Joe Resource Center.
The money would come from scrap metal sold by Public Works staff with the intent of funding an appreciation dinner for employees.
Commissioners Phil McCroan and Bo Patterson both expressed support, but that was the only support on the podium.
Mayor Mel Magidson said regardless of the source of the money, government’s role did not include actions citizens should be taking.
“The county gave and that is fine, but I don’t think it is good use of taxpayer money,” Magidson said. “I don’t think the purpose of government is to give taxpayer money for this.”
Magidson noted that he had been part of a local food drive by the county Republican Party which had resulted in cash donations of $315 and three truckloads of bags of groceries going to the food pantry.
On the same day, the local Boy Scouts also donated two truckloads of groceries.
“This is an individual’s choice” to donate to the pantry, Magidson said.
Public Works director John Grantland also noted that the intent of selling the scrap metal was to provide an event for employees and now commissioners were taking money from that pot.
Port St. Joe resident John Parker addressed commissioners by warning of the slippery slope they were about to traverse.
“You are giving to one organization, which is worthy,” Parker said. “How many other organizations, just as worthy, will come up and ask for money.”
The discussion revisited the recent donation of $10,000 to the Port of Port St. Joe with Patterson and McCroan each saying they had heard plenty of negative from constituents about their vote and the donation.
“We shouldn’t have given that money to the port,” Patterson said.
Magidson noted the port is a public entity and that the donation to the port was about economic development and jobs.
“I have an issue with this coming from any public funds,” Magidson said.
But he and Commissioner Rex Buzzett were out-voted 3-2 and the Commission approved the donation.
Utility waiver policy
Commissioners, on their second try, approved a written policy for staff to follow in considering a waiver of a utility bill.
In pertinent part, city staff will not consider any waiver unless the bill for a month is twice the average of the prior six months. The policy also gives staff additional flexibility in considering issues over at least two billing periods.
The most important aspect considering recent debates over the issue is that any bill that can be confirmed to be more than eight times the six-month average will be adjusted to reflect that six-month average.
Thursbay, who had pushed for the changes, said it was in line with what commissioners sought.
“I think staff has been working with people for years … but I think it is better if we have this policy,” Buzzett said.
Golf cart crossing
A Florida Department of Transportation permit to create a golf cart crossing at Reid Avenue and State 71 is pending approval from the local district and should be in the hands of city staff by next week, said Clay Smallwood of Preble Rish Engineers.
Smallwood said the city would have to meet several conditions – pertaining to signage, any crash statistics after one year and a traffic count over one year – but the agency had okayed the crossing.