First there were eight, then two and now maybe none.

First there were eight, then two and now maybe none.

Port St. Joe commissioners, particularly Mayor Mel Magidson, were questioning Tuesday their approach for bidding the relocation of the Cape San Blas Lighthouse.

Magidson said research he has been able to pursue in recent weeks raised doubts in his mind as to whether the relocation project as bid – to move the lighthouse, two keepers’ quarters and an oil house together – was the proper approach.

“I personally have not much confidence on the winning bidder being able to do what they said they could do,” Magidson said. “I am not comfortable turning the project over to them.

“I think we can save money doing it differently.”

At a pre-bid conference outlining the project eight contractors picked up packets, showing at least some interest. However, just two turned in bids.

While Magidson did not make a formal motion to toss out or rebid the project – on most construction projects of this type a bid is applicable for 60 days, said Clay Smallwood of Preble Rish Engineers, acting as project manager at no cost to the city – a new approach was on the board’s mind.

Magidson said he had talked to a man whose company was involved in the restoration of the St. George Island Lighthouse and others with a lighthouse preservation group out of Key West.

He found that most lighthouses are brick or masonry over brick. The Cape San Blas Lighthouse is a cast iron skeleton.

And though that structure was moved before 1900, no one nor any record survives to provide insight into how it was accomplished, Magidson said.

“Obviously this is a unique project,” Magidson said.

A uniqueness underscored by contractors who picked up bid packets but did not bid on the project, he added.

“Some thought they would be shooting in the dark, that there were too many unknowns,” Magidson said.

The approach suggested by Magidson and to which board members agreed was to consider piecing the project for bid.

Contract one company to take apart and move the lighthouse and re-erect it in George Core Park.

“Someone with knowledge of the structure to understand how to take it apart without damaging it,” Magidson said.

He added commissioners could bid out the other pieces of the project, the keepers’ quarters and oil house.

“We need someone just to move the lighthouse,” said Commissioner William Thursbay.

Magidson said he would work with Smallwood to consider bid packages and how the project could be segmented out.

“We are pushing the peanut a little further down the road each day,” Magidson said.

A complication is the time window commissioners are working under. The U.S. Air Force has granted one six-month time-extension until January 2014 for moving the lighthouse.

Dialogue with the Air Force is complicated at this time by the shutdown of the federal government.

On a positive note, Duke Energy has donated $25,000 to the relocation effort. Money raised from all sources, local and state now totals $400,000-$500,000, still short of the original bids for relocation.

Commissioner Rex Buzzett said while he appreciated the donation he wished the utility would provide a break on the cost of bringing down power lines for ground moving of the lighthouse and ancillary buildings.

Magidson said he was still considering options for transporting at least the lighthouse into the city by barge.

Affordable housing

Commissioners approved an amended Memorandum of Understanding with Paces Foundation for the development of over 70 affordable housing units on the north end of the city.

Commissioners made two concessions.

One, to waive up to $2,500 in utility fees and second to eliminate a deed clause that would have reverted 46-plus acres earmarked for the development back to the city if the development did not bear fruit.

City attorney Tom Gibson said he was comfortable with the revision since the city would not deed the land until there was a closing with financing lined up by Paces.

Gibson said the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, from which the Paces will be applying for tax credits it will leverage for investment in the development, objected to the reversionary clause.

Bids, shutdown slow NPSJ water project

Bids for the combined project to replace sidewalks along Martin Luther King, Blvd. and water lines in a significant section of the neighborhood of North Port St. Joe were reported to commissioners.

Two issues arose on the projects which have been delayed by various factors for months.

The winning bid still represents costs that are above grant levels on both projects, Smallwood said.

He said he believed the bid on the water line replacement could be massaged through value engineering or other aspects to bring it within the Community Development Block Grant the commission secured for that project.

The bid on the sidewalk project was another story, coming in well above grant levels.

Complicating any discussions with contractors and obtaining approval from USDA – which is providing the grant for the sidewalk project – is the government shutdown, rendering the agency’s district employees on furlough.

“The goal is to complete the work identified,” Smallwood said.

Smallwood suggested, and commissioners agreed giving conditional approval on the bids to allow Smallwood and Preble Rish to begin discussions with contractors on their bids.

Boat launch fees

Commissioners held a 60-minute workshop prior their regular meeting to hear from the public about a proposal to implement launch fees at the city boat ramp in Frank Pate Park.

The consensus among commissioners was for a tiered fee-schedule, with city resident allowed free use of the ramp; Gulf County residents being charged a nominal fee; and out-of-county users of the ramp being charged a slightly higher fee.

Commissioners are examining ways to raise funds for long-overdue improvements to the boat ramp and launch area.

The primary issues are trailer parking and traffic during the season at the ramp.

Commissioners said the workshop was to receive public input, they would be looking at possibly implementing a pilot project and the ideal time to implement that project might be during the upcoming winter months to iron out issues prior to the season.

“We want to see if this is a viable way to raise funds for improvements to the launch area,” Magidson said.

Cemetery plot fees

Commissioners, after second reading, adopted an ordinance which alters the fee structure for plots in the city’s cemeteries.

The cost of plots will go up – overall the purchaser of a single plot would see the price go from $375 to $435 – but the ordinance eliminates a fee to receive an internment certificate from city staff after a death.