While conducting the first hearing on the upcoming budget, Port St. Joe commissioners also sought alternative funding on several fronts.
The first reading of the budget set in stone what commissioners had proposed last month, holding the millage rate at 3.5914.
Due to a slight decrease in property values this year maintaining the same millage rate that has been in place for at least a dozen years represents a revenue shortfall of about $77,000.
However, the city had already received grant funding from Triumph Gulf Coast in the form of $88,000, funding aimed at mitigating property tax shortfalls and that was tied to the city not increasing the millage rate.
The decision for commissioners was easy, though the Triumph funding is non-recurring so harder decisions loom next year.
Utilities will be going up in the last of a five-year plan mapped out after a rate study conducted for the city earlier in the decade.
For the coming fiscal year which begins Oct. 1, the increases will average about 3 percent on the water side and 3 percent on the sewer side, said City Manager Jim Anderson.
Commissioners are currently undertaking a rate study to establish a wholesale water rate, pertinent to the potential purchase or assumption of operations of the sewer system serving Gulf Aire.
They have not made a commitment on another rate study pertaining to residential and commercial water rates.
In addition, commissioners received an update on a Community Development Block Grant that will send $650,000 to the city as it completes water line installation in the neighborhood of North Port St. Joe.
The county is holding in the bank RESTORE Act funds earmarked, in part, to complete the water and sewer line replacement in North Port St. Joe.
Additionally, commissioners voted to send a legislative request to the county’s delegation seeking $1 million to replace the Long Ave. lift station located at First Street.
The lift station has long needed repairs, more so since Hurricane Michael, and commissioners have been trying for more than a year to align funding to replace the lift station and utility lines and repave the road.
If the lift station, the major cost item, could be addressed, performing the entire project becomes more realistic for the city, Anderson said.
“Things are coming back together,” Anderson said. “We have a long way to go, but things are moving forward.”
Clifford Sims/Jetty Park
The city will use much of its final portion of road bond money on repaving Clifford Sims Park as part of a renovation of the area.
New bathrooms should be completed within a week or so, Anderson said, and additional lighting will also be put in place.
The city also has a second boat, Sea Tow, leasing space along the bulkhead at the park.
The city will spend roughly $8,000 to have divers inspect the entire seawall for damages and to gain an idea of what kind of repairs, and money, would be required.
Buck Griffin Lake bridges
In a stroke of luck, the city stumbled upon an alternative for rebuilding the bridges along the Port City Trail around Buck Griffin Lake.
The city initially sought proposals to replace the wooden bridges damaged by Hurricane Michael with similar structures, but just one bidder, with a price of $250,000, bid on the project.
So, staff undertook some research and found a company that can replace the bridges with aluminum structures for one-tenth that bid cost and commissioners decided last week to move ahead.
The bridges should be in place by the end of the year, Anderson said, once again opening up the entire Port City Trail.
Commissioners approved a small-scale map amendment to facilitate the rebuild of the Port St. Joe Marina, but tabled consideration of the planned unit development (PUD) to gain clarity about the balance of parking spots and boat slips.
Commissioners were concerned with the ratios offered by the St. Joe Company and will revisit the issue later this month.