The county is in the golfing game.
The county closed over the weekend on the purchase of St. Joseph Bay Golf Club, assuming operations Monday.
County Administrator Michael Hammond said Wednesday during a special meeting of the Board of County Commissioners that county staff, more particularly the Tourist Development Council, would likely operate the course and facilities for several weeks.
A new golf pro arrives Aug. 1, he said, and would handle the course, pool and other outdoor activities.
The county sent out requests for bids and proposals to those interested in leasing the bar and restaurant.
One huge assist for the transition came courtesy of CareerSource Gulf Coast and a grant program that has been putting those unemployed due to Hurricane Michael to work for the county and cities since October.
The grant program was extended to cover much of the full-time employees needed at the course.
“That will save us a couple of hundred thousand dollars in payroll,” Hammond said.
The county may have to hire some part-time employees due to restrictions on the grant program, Hammond said.
“I think (the golf course purchase) is a great thing for the county, not only local people but visitors,” said Commissioner Sandy Quinn, Jr. “If that was closed right now that would not be a good thing.”
The county purchased the golf course for $390,000, representing the course’s existing debt, using fifth-penny bed tax funds to cover the costs.
The membership had approached the county about buying the course, which would likely have been forced to close if not for the county stepping in.
Beach restoration grant
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has formally provided a $2 million grant for funding restoration of the beach at Eagle Harbor in T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.
A section of beach roughly 300-400 yards wide was taken away by Hurricane Michael, creating what has been known as “Michael’s Cut.”
Despite divided public opinion, the state is proceeding with closing the cut, which Mother Nature has significantly filled since the storm.
The new grant money will extend a county beach restoration project scheduled to begin next month.
That long-awaited project will focus on restoring just over three miles of beach between the Stump Hole rock revetment and Billy Joe Rish State Park.
The county received a $900,000 state appropriation, through the Department of Economic Opportunity, to address infrastructure needs post-Michael.
The board approved earmarking $500,000 of those funds on a new transfer station at Five Points and $180,000 for a new ambulance.
The new ambulance has been badly-needed for several years and commissioners have struggled to identify funding.
The transfer station is needed after outgoing contractor WastePro demolished the prior station.
Hammond said the county had roughly 80 days to replace the station under state rules.
Commissioners approved classifying the situation as an emergency, allowing a waiver of normal bidding requirements for materials.
Hammond said much of the building work will be done in-house.