County residents will have a new trash collector and the Eastern Shipbuilding project on the former paper mill bulkhead took a leap forward Tuesday.
During a regular monthly meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, the board formally awarded the bid for the contract for solid waste collection to BCC Waste Solutions with offices in Florida and Alabama.
BCC was deemed by county staff to be the low bidder for a new five-year contract as the county’s current five-year deal with Waste Pro is set to expire in the spring.
Waste Pro was the determined to the second-lowest bidder; Waste Management also bid on the contract but was significantly more costly than the bids from BCC and Waste Pro.
The new five-year contract will bring with it yard debris pick-up; the contract calls for weekly yard debris pick-up but County Administrator Michael Hammond was given leeway to negotiate monthly or bi-monthly pick-up for a lower price.
Under the new contract, customers in the county, now currently paying about $17 per month with no yard debris pick-up, will pay $22.75 with yard debris pick-up.
The contract with BCC would also include a 2 percent annual cost-of-living increase.
Waste Pro’s price under a five-year contract with yard debris pick-up was $22.90.
Waste Pro would additionally charge a 4 percent annual cost of living increase.
Hammond said BCC was also lower across the board with commercial rates.
Commissioners approved notification to Waste Pro that upon completion of the current contract, the county will move to a new vendor and also notice to Waste Pro concerning the purchase of the transfer station at the Five Points landfill.
Waste Pro leases the site from the county.
Commissioners also emphasized the importance of BCC hiring local residents currently working for Waste Pro.
“The employees on the trucks have been great,” said Commissioner Sandy Quinn, Jr. “It’s a different story when dealing with the company.”
Commissioners also approved bid awards for several components of Eastern Shipbuilding’s Gulf County project to create an outfitting yard at the former paper mill site.
Groundbreaking took place earlier this year after the county was awarded a $6 million grant from the Florida Department of Transportation to facilitate the expansion of Eastern operations.
Specifically and immediately, Eastern intends to outfit three Staten Island ferries at the facility.
The bids awarded Tuesday were for site work and construction of a security fence along the bulkhead area Eastern is leasing from the St. Joe Company.
No bid was submitted for construction of a warehouse; Hammond said the county would rebid that contract on an expedited basis.
The costs of all projects will be paid from the FDOT grant, Hammond said.
Another bid awarded Tuesday went to Roberts and Roberts, low bidder on a project to excavate the county’s sand pit in Dalkeith.
The county is seeking an additional revenue stream from selling the sand, which may also turn out to be suitable for a beach restoration project hopefully beginning in the spring.
Economic Development Coalition director Jim McKnight provided a brief overview on the state of the local business sector following Hurricane Michael.
As of last week, 78 percent of the county’s businesses, or 201 of 259, had reopened.
That included 63 percent of the county’s restaurants.
On the south end of the county, 73 percent of businesses had opened, including 75 percent of Port St. Joe businesses, McKnight said.
On the north end, 98 percent of businesses have re-opened.
“Our businesses are doing their best to rebuild,” McKnight said.
As for Gulf Correctional Institution, McKnight said the projected opening for the main facility is May of this year with May 2020 the target date for re-opening the annex.
Hammond and Commissioner Ward McDaniel expressed frustration with the projected timeline and Hammond was asked to lobby the Department of Corrections for a quicker turnaround.
Currently, former GCI employees are working at DOC facilities in Franklin, Calhoun and Washington counties.
And public school enrollment is at 95.4 percent of pre-Michael levels.
“We did not lose our workforce,” McKnight said of the school numbers. “We’ve kind of held ourselves together.”