Port St. Joe commissioners intended to vote during their regular meeting Tuesday on an interlocal agreement with the county to sunset the city’s community redevelopment agency (CRA).
During a Monday night workshop, however, the question of whether that action would impact a decade-old CRA boundary expansion folding in the neighborhood of North Port St. Joe was broached.
And in the brief hours provided for research city attorney Adam Albritton said he was unable to arrive at a conclusive legal opinion.
That left commissioners tabling any decision on the interlocal agreement, for which only commissioners have voiced any public support, until such time as Albritton could provide an opinion.
“If I can’t get a guarantee that it will not be impacted” I will not support the interlocal agreement, said Commissioner David Ashbrook, who has been the city’s lead in the agreement.
Ashbrook’s stated support for the agreement is to provide a funding mechanism for matching funds for grants the city will need in the future.
Mayor Bo Patterson continued to express his full support, seeing the agreement as fostering a positive working relationship with the county, but agreed that until the impacts to North Port St. Joe could be defined.
“But I don’t want this to go away,” Patterson added.
Until the question of whether there were two CRAs or one, whether they were linked in some fashion, was expressed Monday, a majority of the Commission continued to appear poised to approve the agreement.
The agreement, which was tweaked since released publicly last month, would have the city sunset the CRA, thereby eliminating the county’s annual payments, in return for payments over several years totaling about $2 million.
The original county payout was roughly $1.5 million.
Commissioner Scott Hoffman, who is opposed to the interlocal, noted that just by having a workshop, and not voting to approve the agreement the first time it was presented, the offer had improved.
Hoffman, who also supported pursuing a 30-year extension of the CRA, argued that the amount of money the CRA would be losing, originally estimated by commissioners at $4-$5 million, would actually be more than $11 million given even modest growth during the extended term.
And, uniformly, those from the public who spoke Monday night expressed opposition to the agreement, which several noted followed by just a few years the decision by commissioners to disband the independent board of the PSJRA and assumed those seats.
Several noted there were pledges made at this time that the interlocal agreement would undermine.
“No one has supported this decision,” said resident Christy McElroy. “There is no hurry to vote this unless you know something we don’t know, which would be problematic.”
Resident and businesswoman Barbara Radcliff pointed out that city elections were around the corner in May and three sitting commissioners, all of whom have expressed support for the interlocal, are up for re-election.
“Why can’t this wait until after May?” she wondered.
Dusty May, resident and businessman, said he was not surprised the county was in a hurry to have the interlocal agreement approved and noted that it was an agreement the county brought to the city.
“Somehow the county has convinced the city this is the best for the city,” May said. “Take a step back and think.
“From the county’s perspective it is a win-win. The question is whether it is a win-win for the city.”
Despite those comments and Hoffman’s continued noisy opposition, however, the majority of the board appeared poised to move ahead until Hoffman asked the key question Monday.
Did the expansion of the CRA boundaries a decade constitute establishment of a separate CRA or simply expansion of the original?