Nine months after Hurricane Michael the city of Port St. Joe is still tallying the bill.
As of the first of the week, the city had collected insurance payouts of $1.5 million on storm-related claims with the total likely to reach $1.75 million when all is accounted, said financial officer Mike Lacour.
On the FEMA side, the city has thus far collected somewhere between $3 million and $4 million, Lacour indicated, with additional filings to come.
“We are trying to get to the end of it, but it seems every time we turn around there is something else we have to account for,” said City Manager Jim Anderson.
The major ticket items to date on the insurance side, Lacour said, were Jetty Park, the Maddox House and the pavilion at Frank Pate Park.
Roofs were among the first projects for which the city received reimbursement and roof work is ongoing on the water and wastewater plants.
A plan for rebuilding the pavilion at Frank Pate Park and Jetty Park are still in the development stages, Lacour said.
Commissioners also continue to debate next steps for the police department.
Anderson said the city is currently bidding out the work on the city pier at Frank Pate Park, the pavilion and the bridges along the Port City Trail.
The original bids for the trail bridges arrived with just one bidder and a price of $250,000; city commissioners moved to rebid.
While a big chunk of FEMA dollars was used to repair 12 of the city’s lift stations, which suffered extensive damage during Michael, which left the three most-expensive-to-repair lift stations: First Street, 20th Street and Oak Grove, Anderson said.
The hope, Anderson added, is that state disaster relief money that will begin flowing will include dollars for sewer repairs.
“If we can get sewer money to fix our sewers and get our roads back together that would be fantastic,” Anderson said. “Those are your big-ticket items.”
Shortly before the storm, commissioners were forced to back-burner a project to replace water and sewer lines below and repair the road surface above Long Ave.
That estimated $5 million project remains out of the city’s financial reach.
Utilities are also a, pardon the pun, fluid situation as budget time arrives.
Directly after the storm, the city was down nearly 400 utility customers, a number which has rebounded by roughly 150 customers, Anderson said.
Much of that has been an increase in customers from the Cape and Peninsula not previously hooked to the city’s sewer line but who lost septic systems in the storm.
Additionally, the city’s bottom line has been assisted by the typical summer increase in water usage.
Lacour said at the current time, the city’s financial position is on solid ground, making no promises for future years.
Also unknown as the budget crafting begins next week are two major numbers: health insurance and property insurance.
The city is just coming off a two-year cycle on property insurance and if not this year are sure to see an increase in the coming years, particularly after submitting post-storm claims of over $1.5 million.
Lacour said he had originally built in a 3 percent increase for health insurance, but was going to bump that to 10 percent.
City commissioners will receive the tentative budget the end of this week and begin a series of budget workshops leading to adoption of a final budget by Oct. 1.
Commissioners are likely to leave the millage rate alone when they certify a tentative rate later this month to the Property Appraiser’s Office.
The city received $88,000 in grant funds from Triumph Gulf Coast to offset losses in ad valorem taxes.
But, the city will have to repay that money if commissioners assess more revenue than the current year, so it is likely the city will absorb the roughly 6 percent drop in the tax base and maintain a millage that has been in place for more than a decade.