The announcement went out from Tallahassee but it will ripple into Gulf County.
In a press release over the weekend, it was announced that state lawmakers in the House and Senate had agreed to use all affordable trust funds monies on, yes, affordable housing in the coming fiscal year.
While that may sound like almost nonsensically sensible, the reality is that trust funds have been “swept” in recent years for other budget priorities, said Joe Paul, the county’s administrator of the State Housing Initiative Program (SHIP), which is the state’s affordable housing program.
That will mean SHIP will be earmarked to receive $225 million during the coming fiscal year and, maybe more importantly for the county, $30 million in remaining Hurricane Housing Recovery Program (HHRP) will also be flowing.
“This is the first time in a long time we have been fully funded,” Paul said of SHIP. “We will get our SHIP money and the rest of our HHRP money.”
For the county, the former is typically about $350,000 per year and as for the latter, the county was waiting on nearly $2 million of the nearly $6 million it was due under the program.
Paul also said reopening applications for low income housing through HHRP in Districts 3 and 5 resulted in four applicants, two from each district.
Prior to the next monthly meeting, the Board of County Commissioners will undertake the lottery system it has used in assigning HHRP funds.
Commissioners gave staff permission to send a letter to State Sen. George Gainer (R-Panama City) requesting that legislation pertaining to Triumph Gulf Coast be amended to allow the money to flow directly to the counties.
Gainer was one of the main movers of the legislation that created and governs Triumph Gulf Coast, which is charged with disbursing more than $1 billion in fine dollars over 15 years into the Northwest Florida counties most impacted by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
However, Gulf County has had issues securing some funding, particularly for a floating dry dock project, due to claw back provisions from the Triumph board.
The BOCC’s position is that the legislation creating Triumph contains language pledging a certain percentage of Triumph funding each year to each of the impacted counties.
And those counties are in the best position to understand where and how those dollars would be best spent in their communities, according to the BOCC.
Commissioners made another plea to residents to assist with cleaning up the county.
At this point, Commissioner Ward McDaniel said, most of the debris and trash cluttering the county isn’t even related to Hurricane Michael.
“We have a policy that is not working,” McDaniel said. “We can’t afford to just go out and clean property and put a lien on it.
“Nothing is happening. We’ve got to do something about it.”
Administrator Michael Hammond said the county currently had hundreds of open code enforcement claims, but raze the property and place a lien and the county will not be reimbursed until the property is sold, he added.
And in too many cases, the property is not worth the costs of removal.
McDaniel noted that some individual property owners won’t clean properties because they know eventually the county will.
County attorney Jeremy Novak said he would re-examine the county’s policies for any potential changes to address the issues.
Commissioner David Rich reiterated that so much comes down to personal accountability and urged residents to help the county clean up.