The one constant in the saga of the former Gulf Pines Hospital is the steady decay of the facility since the hospital closed a decade ago.
With neighbors again noting the general state of disrepair and potential for wildlife – two- and four-footed – haunting the years-vacant hospital, Port St. Joe commissioners have dusted off the playbook they had been looking at last year.
And not much has changed save the extent of the decay.
The financial pieces remain largely intact, city attorney Tom Gibson said.
The IRS maintains a lien on the building.
The IRS has indicated in the past a willingness to work with the city on reducing the lien, however an obstacle in that path is the presence of at least two tax deeds/certificates and one additional year of outstanding property taxes, a portion of which would actually be owed the city.
The amount of the tax certificates/deeds is $40,000; the outstanding taxes owed the county – and city –amount to $90,000, Gibson said.
Only the Board of County Commissioners has expressed a willingness to work with the city on those costs, that willingness stemming from a desire to return the property to the tax rolls.
“We are back to exploring bringing (the building) down and selling lots to cover costs,” Gibson said.
The Commission last year changed the zoning to residential, single family, in keeping with the neighborhood.
As originally platted, the land on which the hospital sits would yield five like-sized lots.
The gap between selling prices on the open market and costs to demolish the building – estimated at $100,000 including asbestos abatement – and settle claims proved too wide at the time for commissioners, though Gibson noted the costs on demolition were informal and the project never formally bid.
Gulf Pines is back on the radar after resident Ann White told commissioners the past two meetings that the building was in rough shape.
Wild animals, particularly rodents and cats as well as an early report of a coyote, have been seen around the building and teenagers had recently been found skateboarding in the old hospital.
Port St. Joe police further secured the building after that incident.
But with the building in receivership for several years, there has been little to know upkeep of the building and grounds save city staff trimming several trees.
“It’s bad,” White said, “particularly in the area where the ambulance would come in the building and there it’s a disaster.”
Commissioner Rex Buzzett requested the item be added to the Commission agenda until further action can be taken.
“Any clean-up would help,” he said.
Boat launch fees
Commissioner William Thursbay revisited an earlier initiative to implement launch fees at the city’s boat ramp in Frank Pate Park.
Commissioners held a workshop several months ago and found a general consensus in favor of fees to fund upkeep of the boat ramp, but with a lack of consensus on components to a plan.
Thursbay’s reiterated the motive last week but remained without a consensus on direction.
“This would be for maintenance down there and only maintenance,” Thursbay said.
He provided several options, including a fee scale under which citizen residents would pay nothing while county and out-of-state users would pay set daily fees or be eligible to purchase weekly or seasonal passes.
The collecting, Thursbay said, would initially be based on the honor system, using a wooden or metal box with or without a written decal or ticket.
“I am all for user fees, but how are we going to enforce this?” said Mayor Mel Magidson. “(The honor system) is the worst way, but I like the pass deal.”
Magidson said governments need to look at implementing user fees for a host of maintenance issues that can no longer be addressed in the general fund budget.
Resident Mark Howze said while he fundamentally agreed that a launch fee was preferable, he wondered about the balance struck between how much the city might actually realize in revenue compared to the cost of implementing the system.
Thursbay said he would further examine the issue and come back with additional recommendations.
Commissioners approved spending over $21,000 for repairs to leaks on the roof of the Centennial Building.
Commissioners will at least in part dip into BP settlement funds for the repairs, which are aimed at sealing leaks ahead of more substantive repairs to the ceiling and acoustics in the city’s largest gathering place.