The Cape San Blas Lighthouse and grounds will soon be closed to the public as the U.S. Air Force begins the process of moving structures on the grounds to prevent their loss to erosion.
Port St. Joe city clerk Charlotte Pierce said she had been notified by an Air Force representative that the removal of trees to facilitate the moving of the two keepers’ quarters and oil house back roughly 135 feet from the shoreline would begin the week of Oct. 15.
Beverly Mount-Douds, who works at the gift shop, said all merchandise has to be removed from the lighthouse and keepers’ quarters by Oct. 14.
However, the lighthouse gift shop will re-open midweek this week at the Maddox House along the bayfront in Port St. Joe.
The gift shop will have its full array of merchandise; complete operating hours are to be determined and folks are encouraged to shop for Christmas by picking up a lighthouse replica ornament at the gift shop, Portside Trading or Joseph’s Cottage.
Mayor Mel Magidson noted that once that work begins on the lighthouse grounds, the lighthouse and grounds will be off limits to the public.
Magidson added that while the buildings being moved remained on temporary moorings, public access would remain prohibited.
“The bad news is that the lighthouse has to be closed to the public,” Magidson said. “It is unfortunate but unavoidable.”
He added that as long as the Air Force owns the lighthouse and grounds – there is a lease arrangement involving the county and the St. Joseph Historical Society – the Air Force was bound by law to protect the keepers’ quarters, oil house and lighthouse.
After Hurricane Isaac brought heavy wave action and erosion to the Cape and St. Joseph Peninsula, the lighthouse grounds have come under increasing threat from the shoreline, which is now less than 50 feet from the keepers’ quarters and oil house.
The lighthouse, sitting well back on the property, is believed “fairly safe” for now, Magidson said.
The county, administrator Don Butler said earlier in the week, has already begun the process through the General Services Administration of taking formal possession of the buildings on the lighthouse grounds.
The Air Force has declared the property surplus and the GSA is moving through the red tape of offering the property to qualified applicants – the city and county being the preferred entity for disposition of the land and lighthouse.
The estimated cost to move the lighthouse is over $300,000 and the fundraising by the Historical Society – including pledges from the Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency and Florida Lighthouse Association - has thus far brought in nearly $80,000.
County and city officials pledged last week to work together to save the lighthouse, which the city is proposing as a centerpiece for bayfront recreational area in George Core Park.
Radiology machine transfer
During last Tuesday’s bi-monthly regular meeting, city commissioners also approved a request to transfer a piece of radiology equipment from the Gulf County Health Department to Sacred Heart Hospital on the Gulf.
The city donated dollars bequeathed to it to help the GCHD purchase the equipment. The intent of the purchase was to facilitate orthopedic services provided by Tallahassee Orthopedic Clinic at the GCHD.
However, TOC has closed its Port St. Joe offices and the equipment is no longer in use at the Health Department.
Sacred Heart, city attorney Tom Gibson said, could use the equipment, which he said is four or five years old.
“This is a good thing for the hospital and for anyone visiting the hospital,” Gibson said.
Ghosts on the Coast
The annual Halloween event along Reid Avenue will take place as it has for more than a decade. Donations of candy are being sought and can be dropped off with any downtown merchant participating in the trick-or-treat fest for children.
There will also be a costume contest, a car show and other activities.
The city faces a predicament over a USDA loan that assisted in the construction of a small business incubator off Peters Street in North Port St. Joe, in the old Washington School complex.
However, while the city at one time awarded two applicants space in the incubator, those businesses never came to fruition.
The building has been in use by the Gulf Coast Workforce Board for several years. The Workforce Board has a computer lab and other classrooms in the building.
Since the intent of the grant was to establish a small-business incubator and the building is now being used for other purposes, the city could be on the hook for $120,000 in grant funds if it does not come up with a plan by the end of the month to have a small business housed in the incubator, city manager Jim Anderson told commissioners.
Commissioners took no formal action.
Water treatment plant
Work on the repairs to leaking membranes within the city’s $21 million water plant should be completed by this week, said plant supervisor Larry McClamma.
One membrane developed a crack and leak shortly after the plant went online and during a walkthrough of the plant earlier this year, problems with two other among the four membranes were noted.
The city is inviting residents to offer up ideas for celebrating the 100th birthday of modern Port St. Joe next summer. The celebration is scheduled for June 28-July 1, segueing into the Fourth of July holiday.
Former residents are being contacted and invited back to celebrate the birthday and Magidson urged anyone from the public to submit ideas for celebrating the city’s birthday.