With the city’s infrastructure having been abused by Hurricane Michael, Port St. Joe commissioners are seeking aid in the form of grant dollars from multiple sources.
In addition, the city has a law firm scanning for grant opportunities and the city took the first step to hiring a grant writer.
The insurance claims will come as will, hopefully, dollars from state and federal authorities, but the city has pressing needs for assistance in gratis form.
“We are trying to get as much grant money as we can,” said City Manager Jim Anderson.
A first order of business is seeking State Revolving Fund dollars to help with sewer infrastructure.
The city is seeking $635,762 for engineering, installation, pumps and control panel replacement for 11 lift stations damaged during Michael.
The city is still seeking money, which could amount to double the repair costs for the 11 lift stations, for repairs to lift stations at First Street, 20th Street and Oak Grove, all of which were either already in bad shape before Michael, sustained major damage from the storm or both.
The city will spend the remainder of the SRF request for year two of biological dredging of the wastewater lagoon, required under a consent order with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and replacing headworks pumps at the sewer plant.
The SRF dollars come with a significant caveat; not all dollars free. The funding will come in the form of a loan/grant package.
As for priorities through legislative appropriation during the upcoming session of the Florida Legislature, the city is seeking funding for three projects.
One would be the third and final year of biological dredging of the wastewater lagoon, the second $500,000 for repairs to the Centennial Building and the third $650,000 for repairs to three parks, Dooder Park (Forest Park South), Clifford Sims and Frank Pate Park.
The city has long sought a historical grant to restore the Centennial Building, which served as something of a haven for some during Hurricane Michael.
Three key bridges along the popular Port City Trail and are within Forest Park South/Dooder Park were destroyed in the storm.
“The main thing we are trying to do is identify projects we’d like to do but don’t have the funds for,” Anderson said. “We have one that is about the environment, another is historical and the other is slanted toward tourism.
“If we could just get one of the three we’d be better off than we are.”
Commissioners last week also fine-tuned their application for so-called Pot 3 RESTORE funds.
The Pot 3 funds were earmarked for a consortium of 23 counties impacted by the 2010 BP oil spill.
The Consortium voted to divide the dollars evenly among the counties, with Gulf and all other counties receiving just under $13 million over a period of 15 years.
Among the identified county projects were three pertaining to the Port St. Joe sewer system.
The first two commissioners agreed to continue; the first to begin the process of extending sewer to Beacon Hill and the second to complete sewer upgrades in the neighborhood of North Port St. Joe.
However, commissioners hopes the Consortium will agree to earmarking the final dollars headed to the city not for acquisition of the sewer system that serves Gulf Aire but for a as-yet unidentified project.
Commissioners have discussed the purchase of the Gulf Aire system on and off for years now without either having a price disclosed publicly or even a public indication the system was for sale.
Over and over, however, various commissioners have broached the subject and the Pot 3 funds are aimed at a down payment to purchase the system, according to county officials.
The costs of the assuming the system is also an unknown and at least one commissioner, Scott Hoffman, said he would not support the purchase of the system.
Commissioner Eric Langston has also been a consistent no without additional details.
Disaster Recovery Center
FEMA has re-opened a Disaster Recovery Center in the county.
It is located near the Port St. Joe Fire Station at 404 Williams Ave. and is open 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturday.
Folks can meet one-on-one with disaster recovery specialists and get answers to questions about the FEMA registration process and possible referrals to agencies assisting survivors of Hurricane Michael.
On the local level, even during last week’s meeting of Triumph Gulf Coast, an issue plaguing recovery from Hurricane Michael is the relatively low percentage of people properly completing their FEMA paperwork.