Port St. Joe commissioners took the first step toward a new home during Tuesday’s regular bi-monthly meeting.
Mayor Rex Buzzett announced that over the weekend the city had been provided an offer to purchase just over five acres along Avenue A for a city new city complex.
The deal, for land on which a baseball field once sat and which is located just east of Dr. David Langston Drive, arrived from The St. Joe Company, which had been in discussions with the city about potential sites for months.
The site was the city’s top choice from among several parcels St. Joe had offered the city to consider.
And St. Joe agreed to sell the city the land for $314,500, roughly half its appraised value and, coincidentally or not, the amount of a Florida Department of Economic Opportunity grant the city received for just such a purpose, a new city complex.
City Hall took a significant beating during Hurricane Michael; the police department remains housed in the County Courthouse.
“It’s a great piece of property, centrally located,” Buzzett said.
“It’s a golden opportunity. We need to purchase this property. We don’t need to let this slip by.”
Having ownership of the land will also allow the city to pursue grant funding while building its new complex, said Commissioner Scott Hoffman.
Commissioners must still receive full sign-off by the FDEO, something Buzzett expressed confidence in receiving.
“It’s a good deal, let’s move ahead,” Hoffman said.
City manager’s contract
Commissioners approved a new three-year contract for City Manager Jim Anderson and did so while acknowledging that the city is not “competitive” in its salary and benefits for employees.
Anderson had proposed a 3 percent increase in pay, to just over $90,000, the same cost of living adjustment all employees received this year.
But, Commissioner Scott Hoffman, noting that Mexico Beach recently hired a new city administrator at a salary of $90,000, proposed increasing the increase.
Hoffman proposed a 7 percent increase, to just over $96,000 per year, and a change in the clause concerning termination, requiring a super-majority vote (four commissioners) rather than a simple majority (three).
“The city of Port St. Joe is fortunate to have a person from Port St. Joe, whose family lives in Port St. Joe … and is doing a good job for Port St. Joe,” Buzzett said.
Commissioners unanimously approved both proposals.
“Thank you for the consideration,” Anderson said. “I love this little town.”
Commissioners held off, however, on a Hoffman proposal to increase Anderson’s annual leave, from 120 hours to 160 hours, with an eye toward examining salary and benefits provided to employees across the board.
“We are not competitive,” said Commissioner David Ashbrook, noting workforce issues at the water plant and police department.
Commissioners expressed an interest in undertaking such a study in the next budget year.
The impact from the five-year contract with Waste Pro rippled through the meeting room as a discussion turned to the city transfer station off Industrial Road.
The site was left by Waste Pro in need of significant cleaning and the structure must also be re-skinned, Anderson said.
“It’s a mess,” said city attorney Clint McCahill.
Further, the owner of current solid waste provider BCC said the company could use the site; that would in turn open a potential revenue stream for the city, noted Commissioner Brett Lowry.
The city withheld $40,000 from its last payment to Waste Pro and commissioners decided to earmark that money to begin the clean-up.
The cost is estimated to go beyond those funds, but the letter-writing which has taken place between city and Waste Pro will come to an end, commissioners decided.