The Parker House may be gone, but the conversation continues.
During Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting of the Mexico Beach City Council, Councilman Jack Mullen gave an update on the new city hall.
Last month city hall workers vacated the former bank building the city was leasing on U.S. 98 after it was purchased by a bank branch out of Georgia. Lacking a functional city hall, workers moved into a temporary location inside the Public Works building on 22nd Street.
Mullen said that the city currently has two options. It can take the $750,000 insurance settlement offer on the historic Parker House, which was purchased by the city in 2011 and caught fire several days later, or it can move to arbitration where each side gets an appraiser to work with a third party to determine the actual settlement amount. The danger of arbitration is that it has the potential to lower the amount of money the city may receive for damages.
Adding to the complications is the $63,000 that the city paid in rent during the two year period they were relocated to the bank building.
“We believe we’re owed another $63,000 for rent during the time we couldn’t occupy the Parker House,” said Mullen. “We’re at that point where we need to make a choice.”
Mullen recommended reengaging with Panama City attorney Dion Moniz, with whom the council consulted last month. Previously, Councilman Gary Woodham had passed a motion allowing for $3,000 to be spent in legal consultation.
After reading the insurance contract Moniz told the council that there were additional monies available to the city.
During this week’s meeting Woodham made a motion to free an additional $5,000 for consultation with Moniz who holds a rate of $200 an hour.
The motion passed unanimously with Mayor Al Cathey abstaining.
While Councilwoman Tanya Castro was absent from the regular meeting she opposed spending additional money for consultation with Moniz during discussion at last week’s pre-agenda gathering. Castro has been vocal about the need to settle and move forward with construction of a new city hall.
“We keep spending money and what are we getting in return?” said Castro. “We agreed to spend $3,000 on the attorney and we did that and we’re no better off.”
Mullen and Woodham have pursued additional consultation with Moniz on the grounds that councilmembers lack the expertise to effectively negotiate with a large insurance company.
“We need the best and brightest minds looking at the case to make sure our money is protected,” said Mullen.
Tuesday’s meeting marked the final gathering of the council in its current state. After last month’s elections, the council will welcome new members Mary Blackburn and Jeff Tendler who will be seated in June.
Woodham, who was appointed only six months ago, thanked everyone who supported him in the election.
“This is a great city, and it’s no better than the people who live in it,” said Woodham.
Councilman Bobby Pollock thanked the citizens for allowing him to serve for on the council for four years.
“I love this town more because of the people than the atmosphere,” said Pollock.
Both men said that they would stay active within the community.