Another week passes in Mexico Beach and the Parker House still stands empty and charred.
During a workshop two weeks ago the city council agreed to have a third party evaluate the foundation slab beneath the Parker House.
The city’s insurance company has insisted that the slab is safe to build on but hasn’t provided the statement in writing.
During the council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, city administrator Chris Hubbard said that he contacted several structural engineers in the surrounding area and is currently awaiting proposals to see how much it will cost to bring someone in to evaluate the existing foundation.
Councilman Jack Mullen said that he planned to meet with the insurance company and to discuss the council’s desire to build an elevator in the existing Parker House in the event that repairs are made to the existing building.
The city received an insurance payment of $660,000 but Mullen said he planned to ask why additional monies had not been paid in over a year.
“We have some money but we still have unanswered questions,” said Mullen. “Face-to-face contact is the way to get it done.”
To avoid agitating the insurance company, Councilwoman Tanya Castro suggested that Mullen wait to speak with them until after the third party evaluation was complete in order to present a counterpoint to their claim that the slab is safe to build on.
Councilman Lanny Howell agreed with Mullen that going to see the company reps in person was the best course of action.
“Go down there and talk to them and let’s get going,” said Howell.
Once discussion ended, Mullen planned to travel to Orlando later in the week for the meeting.
The historic Parker House was purchased by the city in mid-2011 with the intention of using it as a new city hall. The building caught fire several months later and suffered massive damage.
In other business, the council approved allowing a community garden to be constructed at Palms Park off of 7th Street.
The project, spearheaded by April Wisdom, will see construction of 27 raised beds that will be rented to snowbirds who enjoy gardening or area residents who may not have room in their own yards.
Wisdom’s goal is to connect gardeners in the area and sought approval from the council for the use of the land and to pay for the irrigation of the beds.
Construction costs were estimated at $90 a bed and $107 annually for water. The council will allow use of the land and will pay up to $200 a year for water costs and Wisdom will pay for construction of the beds through fundraising events.
Community gardens have proven popular in Apalachicola and Destin among other areas and Wisdom believes that a similar area in Mexico Beach will encourage self-reliance and stimulate social interaction.
“Studies have shown that community gardens can raise property value in the area,” said Wisdom.
Those interested in renting a plot will need to file an application and pay a $50 fee that covers their gardening for a year.
Wisdom plans for the garden to be self-sustaining through those fees.
“It’s a great idea,” said Mayor Al Cathy.
No timeframe was given for construction of the beds.