Almost a year to the date after breaking ground on a new fire station in Stone Mill Creek, the Board of County Commissioners is looking for a new contractor to build the station.

Frustrated by the lack of progress from Cathey Construction out of Mexico Beach, Commissioner Ward McDaniel, in whose district the fire station would sit, moved to rescind the bid award for building the station.

Commissioners approved the motion 4-1.

“The land was free, we got $400,000 from the state and the station should’ve been built by now,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel noted that the project to build a new fire station at White City, also awarded to Cathey Construction, underwent continual delays before completion a couple of years back.

And building official Lee Collinsworth noted that the fire station building itself was to be direct-purchased on state contract via the county, a simple phone call that was never placed by Cathey Construction.

“The building should have been delivered and paid for by the county (by now),” Collinsworth said.

In addition, attorney Jeremy Novak noted that the BOCC does not have a signed, formalized agreement on the construction of the fire station from Cathey Construction.

“It should have been up earlier this year,” McDaniel said.

Commissioner Phil McCroan was the lone dissenting vote to rescind the award, noting that like so many other individuals and businesses in the area, Cathey Construction had faced its own challenges.

He said he would like to give Brian Cathey, president of the company, the opportunity to address concerns with the pace of the project.

But McDaniel insisted Hurricane Michael had no impact, particularly given that ground was broken in late January 2018.

Joe Paul, a resident of the Stone Mill Creek, said the new fire station was critical.

Residents currently pay “exorbitant” insurance rates due to the distance from the community to the closest fire station near Gulf Correctional Institute.

A fire station in the community would not only be a safety but a monetary boost for residents.

“It’s imperative we get this fire department where it should be so we can save some money,” Paul said.

The new station would be located on Stone Mill Creek Road near the intersection with State 71.

That puts the station 3.4 miles closer to State 71 than the current station near GCI.

“This will give better protection for residents of the north end of county,” McDaniel said during groundbreaking last year.

The roughly two acres for the station was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Pitts for the sole purpose of constructing a more geographically-closer station.

State Sen. Denise Grimsley (R-District 26) secured a $400,000 state appropriation for emergency facilities in rural counties, the money covering building construction.

“It is a good property, a good location,” McDaniel said at groundbreaking. “Gulf County has the property and the money for the building without paying anything.”

The county will not go out again for bids on the project.


Sand, land deals

The BOCC approved two items during last week’s special meeting pertaining to the Honeyville sand pit.

One was to resume negotiations with the St. Joe Company to purchase the land surrounding the pit.

The other was to begin a contract with Roberts and Roberts to excavate 100,000 yards of sand from the pit on a buy/sell basis, with the county reaping a percentage of any profit.