The Board of County Commissioners is poised today to begin the first distribution of disaster housing dollars coming to the county.
The board is set to meet in a special meeting 3 p.m. ET today in the board meeting room adjacent to the County Courthouse.
Atop the agenda is the Hurricane House Relief Plan.
Commissioners will be disbursing roughly $4.91 million in their HHRP and do so largely by lottery and by district.
After considerable debate over several meetings as to the fairest way to distribute these initial funds, even formally adopting a points system based on an array of criteria, commissioners decided to divide the money by district, earmarking at least $1 million per district.
Eligible applications from households living within in each district will have their names randomly drawn.
And within each district, commissioners must spend the money based on State Housing Initiative Program (SHIP) guidelines.
Those guidelines are spending 30 percent of the money on very-low income households, 30 percent to low income households and 40 percent to moderate household income.
The county had hoped to use at least $4 million for moderate income, workforce housing, but was denied by Florida Housing.
Applications were accepted during a series of workshops and after commissioners extended the deadline until the end of September.
County SHIP staff has been reviewing the applications against SHIP guidelines to determine eligibility, sorted by district, said SHIP officer Joe Paul.
There are some 176 applicants on file.
Commissioners will draw by district, according to previous board discussions.
Paul said the county has already received more than $3 million, has lined up SHIP-eligible contractors and, “We can start getting things done immediately.”
And this, commissioners have emphasized, is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg in funding for housing, though these are the most timely of those dollars.
“If you don’t receive funding this time, you will have plenty of other chances,” said Commission chair Sandy Quinn, Jr.
The county is seeking $8 million to fund a disaster housing plan under which the county would hope to build 100 homes single-family homes as workforce housing.
However, according to County Administrator Michael Hammond, that money is not likely to reach the county until well into 2020.
Further, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding will be coming at some point with the aim of meeting housing needs but a timeline on that funding is still at least a year away.
The county has already received money above its annual allotment; dollars which helped provide housing to nearly a dozen veterans displaced after Hurricane Michael.
During a regular monthly meeting last week, commissioners took no position regarding the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s announcement the agency would permit oil drilling in northern Gulf County.
Quinn said that was not a county matter, but a state one.
It was a different take than the board took three years ago when seismic testing to explore for oil and gas deposits was under consideration.
At that time, the board passed a resolution banning fracking in the county, though not a specific stance against exploratory drilling.
Fracking is the use of high volumes of water and chemicals being pumped at high velocity to break up underground formations.
Based on information in the permit, the well in Gulf County would be a traditional mud drilling operation.
The DEP’s announcement of intent to issue the permit on Oct. 9 triggered a 30-day appeal period.
Any comment, as Quinn noted, should be directed toward the state agency.
Several speakers came to the meeting to specifically speak about the oil drilling.
“This is a special place, it is paradise,” said resident Janet Grinzinger, reminding commissioners of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
“No matter how safe they say, what if?”