As trash has piled up around the city post-Michael so too have calls of complaints to Port St. Joe commissioners as well as commissioners’ level of frustration.
Commissioners made it clear during Tuesday’s bi-monthly meeting that the tipping point for patience concerning trash and debris piled up on city roadsides and vacant properties was nigh.
“I have gone around and it is clear to me the garbage problem is city-wide,” said Commissioner Scott Hoffman. “I’m in full support of what we need to do, sooner rather than later.
“We are at a point that we have to focus on getting this garbage off the streets.”
This week’s discussion, and commissioners have been wrestling with the issue for months, was spurred by Commissioner Eric Langston.
To provide a small sample size, Langston had toured several streets and alleys in the neighborhood of North Port St. Joe to assess the problem and came away shocked by the level of white goods and debris tossed into alleys.
Langston said it was time for the city and residents, individual property owners, to address the problem.
“I am tired of the phone calls,” Langston said, adding that a lack of personal responsibility was a large part of the problem.
“Saying, ‘somebody else threw that in my yard’ isn’t going to cut it anymore.”
Commissioners have considered several options, including bringing on, at least part-time, another code enforcement officer.
They have also considered a city-wide amnesty day or sweep of the city to pick up the trash and debris on roadsides.
But, Hoffman said, he was uncomfortable putting more of a burden on already strained workforce.
And, Commissioner Brett Lowry expressed concern that if the city performed a sweep once, residents would do it again and again.
“The city is going to be fair about fines and penalties, but we’ve got to deal with it,” Lowry said. “We have to help ourselves.”
The city did finally select a new Special Master to hear unresolved code enforcement complaints and assess penalties and fines.
Former Mayor Mel Magidson was the lone responder to a request for proposals and will enter into contract negotiations with the city once reinstated to the Florida Bar; Magidson has been retired from the practice of law for 14 months.
The debate concerning the city and whether or not it is receiving its fair share of Tourist Development Council bed tax money took another turn Tuesday.
City attorney Adam Albritton said the question boiled down to whether there was any contractual obligation to the city made by the Board of County Commissioners.
The question has revolved around the roughly $800,000 the county had once pledged to provide for a city plan to improve the 10th Street Ball Park complex.
Albritton said his research found there was no interlocal agreement pertaining to the spending of those funds for that park, no contract was ever signed or money spent at the park.
In conclusion, Albritton said, the city would have a “hard time” making a legal case for any of those funds.
“I guess we will move on from that,” said Mayor Rex Buzzett, who had been pressing the city’s case.
However, two plaintiffs in a lawsuit which effectively stopped the 10th Street project said there was indeed an interlocal agreement.
That allegation was part of a second amended complaint in the lawsuit.
The second amended complaint was never filed as the plaintiffs, city and county reached a stipulated agreement to dismiss the lawsuit.
An allegation in the second complaint was that from the outset of seeking a fifth-penny in bed tax the county pointed to creating a sports complex on Field of Dreams Ave.
There was, in fact, resident Robert Branch said, an interlocal agreement between the county and city to use the fifth-penny collections to fund the Field of Dreams sports complex.
The city should seek its fair share of the TDC funds, said Christy McElroy, who then alluded to one of the arguments used consistently by opponents of building at Field of Dreams.
“I don’t see any children riding their bikes out to the golf course,” McElroy said, noting a purchase the county has made with fifth-penny proceeds.
Commissioners approved a motion by Buzzett to ask the county to redirect BP fine dollars toward completing water line replacements in North Port St. Joe.
The money is currently earmarked as a down payment to purchase the sewer system serving Gulf Aire.
Buzzett said prior discussions had made clear commissioners had little appetite to take on the sewer system and instead the $500,000 should be put to a better use.
The money is part of the so-called Pot 3 RESTORE funding, the spending plan for which was determined by a consortium of 23 counties.
The BOCC would have to approve the request and seek approval from the consortium to redirect the funds.