Improvements and an upcoming event on the table



During an efficiently productive meeting Tuesday, Port St. Joe commissioners applauded a long-time employee upon her retirement and moved ahead on fencing around the railroad engine outside the Centennial Building.

But the two most discussed topics centered on Reid Ave.

Bill Kennedy, executive director of the Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency, recapped a discussion from the PSJRA board meeting prior to Tuesday’s City Commission meeting.

That focused on improvements to the Reid Ave. business corridor, including the completion this week of the Gateway Arch at Fourth and U.S. 98 and sprucing planter beds on each side of the street.

The more pressing, and complex, issue is re-paving the road, which Kennedy noted is 20 years old and badly in need of a facelift.

However, given the amount of traffic up and down the five blocks of businesses, the work would need to be carefully planned and carried out.

“That is quite an undertaking,” Kennedy said. “It will be expensive and it will be complicated.

“But it would be a great improvement for downtown.”

First steps, Kennedy suggested and commissioners agreed, would be soliciting input from business owners along the avenue.

Commissioners will hold a workshop 4:30 p.m. ET Feb. 20 at their Garrison Ave. meeting room in order to begin that process.

Kennedy, in turn, will personally contact business owners about the workshop and encourage them to be heard.

The other matter focusing on Reid pertained to an upcoming blues festival.

The Gulf County Chamber of Commerce, which is hosting the event which for more than a decade was headquartered in Apalachicola, requested to advertise the event on city water bills.

That request led to a broader discussion about how the festival would play out, particularly requests from the Chamber to close off Reid Ave. for the event as well as permission to sell alcohol.

The latter request was a non-starter for Mayor Bo Patterson, who noted the city had just been through a workshop pertaining to alcohol consumption along Reid Ave. and “the people have spoken.”

Opposition to an “open container” zone was overwhelming and commissioners never formally considered the proposal after a standing-room-only workshop.

Commissioner Rex Buzzett added that if festival-goers wish to have a drink, there was a number of establishments up and down Reid that could accommodate them.

Two citizens reminded commissioners that last year’s Port-Oberfest included alcohol sales along Reid, so there was precedent and encouraged commissioners to work with organizers on a special section where alcohol could be served.

Commissioners ultimately left it to City Manager Jim Anderson and Police Chief Matt Herring to work out specifics and bring the board back the details.

They did approve advertising the event on water bills, though Patterson was a dissenting vote.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting:

*Commissioners agreed to hold a workshop 5 p.m. ET Feb. 27 to discuss accessory buildings, in particular pole barns.

Buzzett brought the issue up at the previous meeting and moved to implement a moratorium on additional permits for accessory buildings until commissioners discussed the topic in greater detail.

Patterson and Commissioner Brett Lowry said they could not agree to such a moratorium, Patterson arguing that one concern of residents about the issue was too much government interference.

But, Patterson added that he counted at least 30 pole barns during an informal tour of the city and commissioners agreed the proliferation of them (look no further than Oak Grove, Buzzett said), could be problematic.

“There are a lot of things that concern me,” Buzzett said. “I do think we need to slow it down and get a handle on it.”

*Commissioners applauded Janice Hamilton upon her retirement from the city after 21 years.