Response transitioned into recovery as the weeks unfolded after Hurricane Michael.

Beginning tonight, long-term recovery takes center stage.

State, county and FEMA officials will hold the initial meeting of the Gulf County Long Term Recovery Group 5:30 p.m. ET tonight in the Great Room at First United Methodist Church of Port St. Joe.

The church is located at 1001 Constitution Blvd.

The meeting is particularly targeted to community leaders from local churches and houses of worship, faith-based organization, volunteer agencies, community, social and human services organizations, a FEMA representative told Port St. Joe city commissioners Tuesday night.

There remain six non-profits working in the county.

The representative added that getting the Long Term Recovery Group up and running has proved challenging after other disasters, and said the initial meeting would largely revolve on organizing county organizations to share data on unmet needs.

Most pressing for many in the county, where some 6,000 structures sustained damage, is emergency housing; the county has been declared eligible for disaster housing.


Building department

During a special meeting last week followed by comments Tuesday night, commissioners are pushing for the city’s building department to add inspectors, which it has, and “treat everybody fair,” Commissioner Brett Lowry said.

Another issue has been conflicting information provided homeowners by county and city building officials.

“I want to make sure that the city and county are giving out the same information,” said Commissioner Scott Hoffman.

Scooter Hodges with the city building department said his team is committed to “trying to do everything we can to allow people to rebuild their home.”


Blue Roof program

A representative of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provided an update of the Blue Roof program, which has engendered some degree of frustration within the city due to the pace of the work.

One resident said he was the first in line when the Blue Roof office began accepting applications in Port St. Joe and is still waiting on his temporary repairs.

The Army Corps also did not open an office on the north end until requested by FEMA.

Hoffman contended that the Army Corps started first in Bay County, where the most applications have been received and that in turn siphoned away roofing contractors for Gulf County.

That has also slowed the pace of repairs, he said.

Hoffman also questioned whether the percentage of roofs completed in Gulf was in line with the need.

Bay County, the Army Corps representative said, had 90 percent of the applications for the Blue Roof program in the region; Gulf County was second in the region with 10 percent of total applications.

He added that the pace of repairs had picked up this week, with more than 50 completed Monday alone.

As of Tuesday, 135 roofs in Gulf County have been repaired with temporary Blue Roofs and “the number is expected to rise.”

Applications will stop being collected as of Nov. 11.


Cape sewer

Public Works director John Grantland asked that now that some of the department’s projects in response to Michael were completed, he wished his construction crew to begin taking on other pressing efforts.

The first one, Grantland said, would be assisting property owners on the Cape and Peninsula in hooking up to the city’s extended sewer line.

Not only is the city seeking customers, Grantland said there has been widespread failure of septic systems on the southern end of the county; the assistance was needed.

Commissioners approved the request.


Water and sewer

City water and sewer systems are operating without issues, though the sewer plant has yet to be able to discharge from the holding ponds.

The amount of debris had prevented discharge, though the pond currently has sufficient capacity.

The hope is to begin discharging within the week.

In addition, staff suggested to commissioners that in considering emergency situations, the best back-up for the sewer system would be a pump house rather than a generator that would require tying into the power grid.


City infrastructure

The city will move ahead on bidding out the project to restore, replace, pick an adjective,

the police department which was destroyed by Hurricane Michael.

The city’s insurance carrier is expected to provide preliminary estimates for recovery

dollars for 43 of 46 city properties damaged in the storm.

Commissioners discussed prioritizing repairs or renovations as the weeks unfold and

insurance estimates are in hand.