The residents of North Port St. Joe should see work on water line replacement begin in November.

The residents of North Port St. Joe should see work on water line replacement begin in November.

During their regular bi-monthly meeting Tuesday Port St. Joe city commissioners approved seeking grant funding to finish improvements at the Chipola Pump Station as well as the purchase of materials to perform a second phase of line replacement in-house.

Clay Smallwood of Preble Rish Engineers said the bid process for the work on line replacement in North Port St. Joe should mean the awarding of the contract mid-October with work beginning within 30 days.

“You should see dramatic improvements in water quality early next year,” said Bruce Ballister with the Apalachee Regional Planning Council during a meeting last month.

The North Port St. Joe section, which includes Avenues B-D, was pulled out of the first phase of line replacement, completed earlier this year, in order for the city to pursue a Community Development Block Grant, administered by the ARPC, for the work.

That saved money from a grant/loan package from the State Revolving Fund.

The section of work was further delayed while the city sought a USDA grant for sidewalk improvements along Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. in the heart of North Port St. Joe.

The sidewalk work and water line replacement will be performed simultaneously.

Commissioners approved spending $64,172 on materials for the second phase of line replacement, which will be concentrated in residential areas of the city.

The price was lower than projected, adding to the margin the city hopes to realize in savings by performing the work in-house with a crew out of Public Works.

The crew successfully performed a pilot project along Marvin Avenue earlier this year and will in the coming months be taking on the second phase, hoping to save the city on the projected $1.2 million price tag for funding the second phase from the State Revolving Fund.

Public Works director John Grantland projected his crew could save the city as much as $800,000.

“I think we will be able to complete the job faster and I think as well if not better than a contractor,” Grantland said after Tuesday’s meeting.

The city will also seek a grant from the Northwest Florida Water Management District to complete the renovation of the Chipola Pump Station, which feds the city freshwater canal from the Chipola River, providing water to the city.

The grant would be for $150,000. The water management district has advertised that it has grant dollars available for water projects in the region.

The funds would aid in replacing one motor and upgrade the station.

“If we get that and the water study in we could be ready to sell water to anybody around,” said Commissioner Rex Buzzett.

Smallwood informed commissioners that Virginia Tech will begin pilot testing water, attempting to identify a solution to chronic issues with discoloration, in about six weeks.

Parks and recreation grant

The city will pursue two state parks and recreation grants as the Florida Recreation Development Program is again funded by the Florida Legislature for the upcoming year.

The city FRDAP committee recommended applying for a $50,000 grant to construct a new ball field at Benny Roberts Sports Complex between Eighth and Tenth Streets.

The grant would also help fund improvements to one set of restrooms, the basketball court and the playground behind the STAC House on Eighth Street.

The city, through the Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency, will also seek grant funding for new playground and recreational equipment for the Washington Recreation Complex.

Applications must be submitted next month.

Debt refinance

Commissioners expressed frustration with the lack of progress on securing a refinance of the city’s long-term debt, which is over $16 million.

Regions Bank, which currently carries the city’s note, had provided numbers – interest rates, amortization terms – that the city approved, but as yet to submit the paperwork to formally ratify the refinancing, leaving the city still floating on its current interest rate.

Commissioner Bo Patterson wondered if commissioners should shop the note around to seek competing terms and said the city had “patiently waited” instead of going out for bids.

“They do need to get off the dime,” said Mayor Mel Magidson.

City manager Jim Anderson speculated that the bank may be waiting for the city to approve its final budget, locking in utility rate increases and a decision not to dip into impact fees to lower rates, before finalizing the refinance.

Cape San Blas Lighthouse

Anderson said the bids received late last month concerning relocation of the Cape San Blas Lighthouse and ancillary structures remain under review by the engineers and architects to examine ways to possibly lower the price.

Just two bidders out of eight who attended a pre-bid meeting submitted formal proposals, each of which is well north of the city’s money-in-hand.