No one ever said that removing a historic house would be easy.
During last week’s pre-agenda meeting, Brian Cathey of Cathey Construction addressed the city council regarding an unforeseen issue following the demolition of the Parker House.
While the structure itself had been pulled down last week, Cathey reported that beneath the home a massive concrete footing roughly eight feet deep was discovered.
Cathey sought authorization from the council to remove the concrete; a step required by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection permit, which he estimated would take 10-15 dump truck loads to remove after being broken up, and would come with a price tag of $5,000-$10,000.
“There was no way of knowing that (the concrete was there) when we put together a price for the demolition,” said Cathey.
Councilman Gary Woodham asked Cathey if the concrete could be covered up but Cathey said that it would cause major problems were anyone else to excavate in the location in the future.
The council decided to add it to the tab of additional money they were seeking from the insurance company.
At Tuesday’s regular April meeting councilman Jack Mullen said that attorney Dion Moniz, whom the council consulted with, is still encouraging them to negotiate for additional funds.
“(Moniz) believes that there is more funding due to the city and he’s still of that opinion,” said Mullen. “The insurance company has not provided a settlement satisfactory to build a new city hall.”
Mullen said that a request had been made by the city to the insurance company asking for an extension to avoid hitting the Statue of Limitations which would render the claim moot in July. They are currently awaiting a response.
Mayor Al Cathey reported that the city’s request to People’s South Bank to stay in the current city hall building through October was denied. With an exit date of June 1 on the horizon the council made the call to move into the recently completed Public Works building and move those employees into a modular unit that would be rented and placed on site.
Councilwoman Tanya Castro asked Cathey how it made sense to move Public Works employees out when they’d only just moved in.
Cathey responded that if they chose to operate city hall from a modular unit, additional costs to ensure that the facility was accessible to everyone would be incurred.
Cathey said, “We need to have a facility that’s going to service our people the best.”
A modular unit will be rented for $7,000 for one year while the new city hall is constructed at the old Parker House site.
Last week’s pre-agenda meeting was the final gathering for former city administrator Chris Hubbard who submitted his resignation the week prior. Hubbard requested that a reprimand that was placed in his personnel file for a 2012 incident concerning a Facebook site be removed prior to ending his employment.
Upon delivery of the reprimand the council had voted to revisit it in a year, and Hubbard had waited a year and a half to bring it back up. During a special meeting the council voted to have it removed.
Former city administrator John McInnis was selected to serve the city in the interim until Hubbard’s replacement is hired. McInnis started as a police officer and spent 14 years as city administrator prior to retiring.
McInnis said that while the job is not easy, he found it rewarding and he was doing his part to help the community.
At Tuesday’s regular meeting Councilman Bobby Pollock took the opportunity to respond to comments made by Castro the day after Hubbard’s resignation.
“Chris Hubbard was a very loyal and dedicated employee,” said Pollock. “It was very wrong and deceitful to have his character defamed.”
Once the meeting was opened to public comment, resident Mary Blackburn, who will run against Woodham in this month’s election, said she was offended that Pollock would say such things when another member of the council, referring to Castro, could be regularly slandered.
Blackburn said, “I don’t think it’s right that another person who speaks their mind is crucified.”
Cathey asked all other comments to stick to city business.
Gulf Coast Parkway
Also during this week’s regular meeting, Greg Garrett, director of Atkins Global spoke to the council about the planned Gulf Coast Parkway, in the works since 2009. The road would add another route connecting Panama City to U.S. Highway 98 with a focus on freight transport. Garrett said that the goal of the road was to ease congestion along the Tyndall Parkway.
An open house and presentation to discuss the project, projected to begin in 2015, will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, May 6 at the Centennial Building in Port St. Joe.
The public is encouraged to attend the meeting to learn more about the project and ask any questions.
In February a group of volunteers, Heaven’s Hammers, volunteered to build a carport for the police station that would allow the cruisers to stay out of the sun.
Chief Glen Norris told the council that such a cover would extend the lifespan of the electronics inside the vehicles, keeping them out of the sun.
Project materials would need to be purchased for $2,600 but the labor would come at no cost to the city.
In March some members of the council were apprehensive about the project. Cathey didn’t want to amend the city’s budget for the materials, but would support if Norris could find a way to raise the funds. Mullen didn’t want the city to appear as a “charity case” and felt that the volunteers should help others in Mexico Beach.
By March the volunteers had left the area but Norris received a donation of $3,000 from a snowbird living in Pennsylvania. Norris plans to purchase the materials and told the council he will find someone to provide the labor at a later date.
Norris also took the opportunity to introduce three new police officers to replace those who have moved on to other opportunities. The council welcomed Sarah Powe-Butler, David Walker and George Record to Mexico Beach.