Gov. Rick Scott signed the 2014-2015 Florida budget in Panama City on Monday and several local projects survived a potential veto threat.
The most significant was an appropriation to begin the dredging of the ship channel at the Port of Port St. Joe.
The governor can veto individual line items in the budget.
Remaining in the final budget was a $20 million appropriation for dredging the federally-authorized shipping channel as a critical first step in developing the Port of Port St. Joe.
The appropriation represents roughly half the estimated cost of dredging, but it is a down payment on the most crucial piece of the port puzzle.
“Without dredging nothing will ever happen,” Port Authority member Eugene Raffield has said several times over the past eight months.
The final application for a dredge permit is to be submitted to state agencies by fall with permitting and dredging beginning early next year.
The hope is that once underway, additional private/public funds will be secured for the dredging project, which would open the port for shipping by two energy companies which have entered agreements with the St. Joe Company and the Port St. Joe Port Authority.
Final contracts for those deals are being crafted.
The city of Port St. Joe, the Board of County Commissioners and Port Authority will meet in a joint workshop at 10 p.m. ET June 11 to discuss the progress at the port and potential assistance the local governments can provide.
Also surviving a veto pen was $200,000 for “saving” through relocation the Cape San Blas Lighthouse.
The appropriation follows a similar appropriation for $350,000 which was included in the current fiscal-year budget.
The appropriation carries proviso language under which the city of Port St. Joe and the Board of County Commissioners would have to “mutually agree” on a new location for the lighthouse.
The city possesses the deed for the lighthouse, two keepers’ quarters and oil house and contractors have begun the site preparation in George Core Park in advance of moving the lighthouse sometime this year.
The city was awarded the lighthouse and ancillary buildings by the federal government, which disposed of the building to the threat of erosion along the shore at the current site of the lighthouse.
This year’s $200,000 appropriation would eliminate a shortfall between what has already been secured to move the lighthouse and the estimated cost of the relocation, including the temporary downing of power lines to accommodate the move.
Also remaining in the final budget was an appropriation of roughly $1 million for renovations at Billy Joe Rish Park on St. Joseph Peninsula and parks and recreation grant funding for the city of Port St. Joe and the Board of County Commissioners.
In addition, some $9 million in road projects remain in the final budget.