Time and money, Port St. Joe city manager Jim Anderson, were the two items the city did not have in abundance to relocate the Cape San Blas Lighthouse.
City commissioners tried to move the ball forward during a special meeting on Monday, reviewing a scope of services provided by Preble Rish Engineers to act as the city’s manager of the relocation project.
Commissioners did not approve the scope, asking for more detail on when tasks would be done and when the city would have to pay out for the services.
Commissioners are to take up the scope of services again Tuesday during their next regularly-scheduled meeting.
Preble Rish, the city’s engineers of record, has agreed to manage the project at no charge but the scope of services maps out roughly $49,000 worth of subcontracting work – primarily design and site soil testing – that the city must fund.
Funds, at this time, are not plentiful.
A fundraising campaign by the St. Joseph Historical Society has brought in roughly $39,000, with $20,000 coming from the Florida Lighthouse Association.
The rest of the money has come through private donations and purchases of commemorative items such as Christmas ornament and poster urging “Save the Cape San Blas Lighthouse.”
Commissioners have pledged not to spend taxpayer dollars on the effort and while there is a full-court press to apply for grants and other funding – “Just about anything we can go for,” Anderson said. – the city has thus far banked only what the Historical Society has raised.
“We have all committed (to not spending city tax dollars),” said Commissioner Rex Buzzett.
The scope of services provided by Preble Rish also has little to do with the actual relocation.
Some details of the scope are unknown, in fact, until a site is selected and a mode of moving the lighthouse and ancillary buildings has been identified.
Buzzett said Monday he hoped the city could move the structures in phases, focusing on the lighthouse initially.
But City Clerk Charlotte Pierce said that the federal government is requiring the city to move all the buildings – lighthouse, two keepers’ quarters and an oil house – within the six-month window provided when the city received formal conveyance of the lighthouse last month.
“One month of that is already gone,” Pierce noted.
Mayor Mel Magidson said his ongoing discussion with possible movers of the buildings indicated that moving by barge could be a possibility.
Moving the lighthouse by barge would also reduce the costs, given that the city would no longer have to contend with moving power lines during a move over land, which would add, Magidson said, nearly $100,000 to the bill.
“Progress Energy does not seem inclined to do that as a public service,” Magidson said.
The most optimistic numbers the city is working with would have the move itself costing at least $200,000-$225,000.
The actual site of the lighthouse in the area of George Core Park also remains in the air, after Monday’s meetings.
Commissioners expressed a preference for placing the lighthouse on land east of Miss Zola drive and close to First Baptist Church, saying that would likely be high ground that would not erect a significant permitting hurdle.
Gail Alsobrook, executive director of the Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency (PSJRA), noted that the location was where the Bay Park plans, the subject of intense public scrutiny and two well-attended workshops, had a marine ecology center.
Alsobrook said another site for the lighthouse had been determined during the planning for the park – funded by a $20,000 planning grant secured by the PSJRA – and that the planning team estimated permitting would take no more than three to six months, “six months being the very outside,” Alsobrook said.
Commissioners approved the preliminary Bay Park plans more than a month ago.
Those plans were integral to the city’s application to the federal government for the lighthouse – the National Parks Service noted the park plans in letters to the county and city announcing the disposition of the lighthouse.
However, after the two public workshops, commissioners decided to put the plans aside to focus on the lighthouse.
Anderson and commissioners Monday expressed skepticism about constructing additional buildings in the area and Commissioner Bill Kennedy said he was opposed to the concept.
Alsobrook also noted that the PSJRA had secured a $30,000 grant from the Florida Department of Protection’s Coastal Partner Initiative to fund the construction of the lighthouse foundation.
The PSJRA was to match that grant and the board had budgeted $50,000 toward the relocation effort.
The impact on the grant of any changes to the location of the lighthouse, Alsobrook said, she did not know.