County Commissioner Tan Smiley said Tuesday that he had run in 2010 on a pledge to pursue consolidation between the city of Port St. Joe and the county of what he believed were redundant departments.
He told Port St. Joe commissioners during their regular bi-monthly meeting that he was resuming that call.
Echoing comments he made last week during a Board of County Commissioners meeting, Smiley said, after spending 15 minutes discussing other issues, that it was time for city and county officials to seriously analyze consolidating functions such as law enforcement and the building department.
He said the police and building departments were two of seven departments that could be consolidated to save taxpayers money.
“If we can stop money going out that is less we have to take in,” Smiley said. “I wish you guys would sit down and look seriously at consolidation. This is something we need to look into.”
Those comments came after a lengthy monologue in which Smiley, alternately speaking as a citizen and a commissioner, expressed frustration with the inability to perform work in his district, primarily comprised of the city limits, compared to work being done in another district.
Smiley specifically came with photos and a presentation about housing being constructed and rehabbed in other districts, from White City to Wewahitchka and Oak Grove.
He said the BOCC had also been able to address stormwater issues he could not in his district as well as playground equipment that had been upgraded in a park.
“We are helping people which is what government is supposed to do,” Smiley said. “You can stop me from doing work in my own district.”
Smiley said he could not come to the Port St. Joe board and make a motion and was constrained in pursuing grants and other funding mechanisms to make needed changes in his district.
City commissioners noted several times that the housing work going on in unincorporated areas was funded by a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), while the city has dedicated the current and next CDBG grant cycle on water line replacement in the neighborhood of North Port St. Joe.
A governing body may only have one CDBG per cycle.
Playground improvements Smiley suggested were being funded by a grant secured by the Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency.
City Commissioner Rex Buzzett said while Smiley can not make a motion in a City Commission meeting, he could come to any commissioner to work to address problems.
Other than one time – pertaining to issues on Avenue A which Buzzett noted had been addressed – Smiley had never come to him.
Mayor Mel Magidson wondered if any city commissioner appearing before the BOCC would be permitted to spend 20 minutes at the podium and also asked if Smiley was willing to support county-wide voting, as 70 percent of county residents have supported at the ballot box.
Smiley’s reply was that as long as he was chairman of the BOCC, the podium was available to the public for whatever time was needed.
He replied that he would not support county-wide voting because it was not the solution to the county’s ills.
Tension that stemmed from the prior meeting’s discussion about the makeup of city volunteer boards arose again as Commissioner Bo Patterson said he would consider a policy to bar anyone from serving on more than one board.
“I love volunteers, but I feel strongly if you are on a board, you should focus all your energy on that board,” Patterson said.
He explained that was the reason he did not support the re-appointment of Patti Blaylock to the Planning and Development Review Board (PDRB) and that the lack of a policy created a discussion that should not have occurred during a meeting, leading to bruised feelings.
Buzzett said commissioners have the ability to minimize any problems through the appointment process and he and city attorney Tom Gibson said a policy could constrain commissioners in the future.
“We have a small pool of volunteers,” Buzzett said. “We’re the ones choosing.”
Resident Tim Nelson said commissioners should aggressively work to bring “new blood” to boards, saying the same familiar names seem to pop up on boards.
“We want turnover,” Nelson said. “We should do what we can to get a larger percentage of people on the boards.”
Harkening back to the previous meeting, Patterson also questioned policy on commissioners participating in meetings by phone.
“If you are not here you can not look people in the face when you vote,” Patterson said.
Buzzett, who participated by phone during the last meeting, said he didn’t believe Patterson raised the issue about him, but felt a need to respond.
He said he was addressing medical issues in Texas and had an opportunity to participate. If a commissioner cares enough, is responsible enough and has a legitimate reason to miss a meeting, there should be no reason he should not.
“You are bringing up something that doesn’t need to be brought up,” Buzzett said. “I don’t see a problem.”
Magidson said commissioners should be encouraged to participate if they can and the law allows for absence due to cause.
“Their voice should be heard,” Magidson said.
Commissioner Phil McCroan turned to Buzzett and explained he had several citizens question him about Buzzett’s absence from the meeting and that is why the item had been placed on the agenda.
Cape San Blas Lighthouse
A lampist is in town to take the lens out of the Cape San Blas Lighthouse, the first step in the overall relocation process.
The work is expected to be done today.
Bids for the relocation of the lighthouse are due today and bids for relocation of the ancillary buildings, the keepers’ quarters and oil house are due next Thursday.