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City seeks alternative funding for projects

Tim Croft

Maybe reducing the ask will help Port St. Joe commissioners with their county counterparts.

At a standoff with the Board of County Commissioners over $800,000 in funding that was earmarked for the 10th Street Park, Commissioner Scott Hoffman said Tuesday he would like to request the Gulf County Tourist Development Council provide $300,000 in funding for two projects.

No formal vote was taken, but Hoffman asked the city’s representative to the TDC advisory board, Commissioner David Ashbrook, to carry the request to the next TDC board meeting next month.

Hoffman said he would like to ask for $150,000 for a project to rebuild the softball field at Peters Park, rehabilitate the restrooms and renovation of the Washington High School gymnasium.

Over recent months, more and more citizens from the north side have requested the city, and TDC, invest in the parks and recreational options around Peters Park and the Washington gym.

Additionally, Hoffman said he wanted to ask for $150,000 to help provide lighting and other improvements if the city enters into a lease agreement pertaining to the tennis courts near the Port St. Joe soccer fields.

The city is exploring options for accommodating both pickleball and tennis players and the school district-owned courts near the soccer fields have been identified as ideal for the tennis-playing public.

The city has yet to enter into a lease agreement with the Gulf County School Board.

As the city may or may not ask for or receive any tourist dollars, city officials are pursuing other grant opportunities.

One is to Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc., as the city seeks funding for an overhaul of Long Ave.

The main artery through town and to both schools is in need of resurfacing, but city officials do not want to resurface the road until needed sewer and water pipe replacements take place.

The total price tag for pipe and road replacement exceeds $5 million.

The city has applied, and been away by Triumph on the project before, but has also been encouraged to re-apply for infrastructure needs and Long Ave. is near the top of the city’s list.

Further, the city is applying for grant funding through the Florida Department of Emergency Management, which recently disbursed some $4 million to local governments, including $1 million to the city.

And, finally, the city will be able to take advantage of some grant funding after commissioners approved a plan to purchase lighting for the Port City Trail, which will be funded by a grant.

In addition, the bridge that spanned the stream between Tom “Dooder” Parker Park and the area of land on which Buck Griffin Lake sits, a key connector for the Port City Trail, linking it from the elementary school straight to Fifth Street is expected to be in place within the next two weeks.

Roadside debris

Commissioner reiterated Tuesday their hard stance about roadside debris, particularly since the holidays.

“It seems like since Christmas a lot of people have received new things and the old ones are ending up on the road,” said City Manager Jim Anderson.

Anderson also emphasized that Public Works is working through the list of out-of-compliance locations provided by Code Enforcement, but that means the city is charging that property owner.

The city charges $25 for a visit by Code Enforcement as well as the charge for the tipping fees which will have to be paid at the landfill by the city.

Commissioner Eric Langston said the city was looking at issues on a case-by-case basis, and reducing the costs for some senior citizens, but it was time for resident to step up.

“The free pickup is over,” Langston said. “We need to work together and clean this city up together and we will be fine.”

Building activity

On the other side of that coin, the stats from the Building Department dating back to Hurricane Michael were encouraging.

From October 2019 until Jan. 1, the department issued 37 permits for new single-family structures.

“I was impressed with that,” said Mayor Rex Buzzett. “A lot of that, I know, is WindMark but some of it is in the city (proper).”

In addition, permits were issued for 30 re-roofing projects of residential projects and three for commercial properties.

There were also 13 permits for a residential remodel and two for commercial remodels.

“We are putting things back together,” Buzzett said.