Duke Energy will soon begin the task of removing dead trees that threaten power lines, a spokesman told the Board of County Commissioners during Tuesday’s regular meeting.

The trees, more than 800 in three-county area, the majority in Gulf County, were toppled, in some form, by Hurricane Michael.

The mission, said Danny Collins with Duke Energy, is to take the trees down to the ground; the company will not remove stumps.

“We have 800 trees standing or dead,” Collins said. “They will come down to the ground.

“If we can get this done before they come down it will reduce the number of (power) interruptions.”

The majority of the targeted trees in the county, he added, were in the area of Indian Pass to Cape San Blas.

Collins said property owners would be notified in advance and if a property owner refuses to allow the utility on their property there is nothing the company can do; those trees will be left alone.

The company, he said, would like the county to waive tipping fees at the Five Points Landfill to allow the disposal of tree removed.

County Administrator Michael Hammond said the utility could add it to the county’s growing pile and that was the least the county could do in return for several critical actions by the company.

First, the county allowed the utility to stage at Veterans Memorial Park at Beacon Hill immediately after Hurricane Michael and power was restored vast stretches of the south end of the county before many expected.

“They exceeded all expectations,” Hammond said.

In addition, in something of a goodwill gesture for allowing the staging, Duke Energy improved what it had used at the park, including cleaning of debris and installation of pickleball courts.

Now, the utility has agreed to bury power lines directly in front of the park and that blocked the view of the ocean from the Honor Walk atop the bluff that is currently under construction; the county has yet to receive an agreement with MediaCom on its lines.

“(Duke is doing that) at not inconsiderable cost,” Hammond said.

The BOCC approved the motion to waive tipping fees.

Special meeting

The county has scheduled a special meeting for 9 a.m. ET Feb. 6 at the Commission meeting room.

At least two major items will be on the agenda which has yet to be distributed.

One will be allocation of dollars for the county’s Hurricane Housing Recovery Plan using nearly $6 million supplied by Florida Housing through State Housing Initiative Program (SHIP) guidelines.

The BOCC may need to adjust how best to tweak the allocations to very-low, low and moderate income families in two districts, 3 and 5, due the lack of people who are eligible within specific categories and needs in other districts.

In addition, commissioners will be asked to prioritize a list of items to be spent with $23 million in hazard mitigation money.

Originally under the impression that submittal of the list was sufficient, staff has learned specific applications must be made.

“We know we (don’t have the staff) to do that in-house,” Hammond said.

Once the list is prioritized by commissioners, the county’s consultant on the morass of reimbursement and grant funding for recovery and rebuilding will craft the applications.

“We do not want to lose that money,” Hammond said.

Gun rights and Trump

Commissioner Phil McCroan, noting that Bay County’s Board of Commissioners recently passed a resolution supporting Second Amendment gun rights, said that the BOCC was actually the first to pass such a resolution.

During a meeting in the final week of December, behind a motion from McCroan, the BOCC approved a resolution supporting the right of private citizens to possess and bear arms as outlined in the U.S. Constitution.

During Tuesday’s regular meeting, McCroan also made mention of a letter he included in the agenda packet supporting President Trump and his presidency and assuring that McCroan would work hard at ensuring Trump re-elected in the coming year.