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Mayor wants police back downtown

Tim Croft

Mayor Rex Buzzett acknowledged he might be sounding like a broken record.

But Tuesday, during a regular bi-monthly meeting of the Port St. Joe Commission, Buzzett again urged his colleagues to support him in facilitating a move of the city’s police department back downtown to its former offices on Williams Ave.

Since Hurricane Michael clocked the City Hall complex, the police department has been operating out of the County Courthouse in second-floor office space normally used by attorneys.

And since his election as mayor, Buzzett has pushed to have the police department return to its former home.

“The community supports the police department being back downtown,” Buzzett said. “A new city complex is a long way down the road.

“I want to work toward (returning the department downtown).”

Buzzett noted that mold abatement had been completed, new wiring and technology was already installed or ready to be installed.

The space, he added, with some new flooring, walls and furniture, was ready and could be used with a little spit, polish and a few dollars.

“It’s ready to go,” Buzzett said. “It would be a nice place for the police to have a permanent home.”

The issue Buzzett has had is getting at least two other commissioners, a majority, to support him.

Other commissioners have been reluctant to spend the money needed to bring the police department facility up to par, but Buzzett again emphasized he was not referring to a replacement of city hall, but only bringing the police department back home.

Buzzett requested the item be placed on the agenda for the Jan. 21 regular meeting.

New city complex

As for a new city complex, Buzzett continued to work with the St. Joe Company on two parcels identified as potential sites for a new city hall and complex.

The two parcels identified went out for appraisal in November, but St. Joe does not yet have the appraisals in hand.

“Hopefully we will have something soon,” Buzzett said.

The company, Buzzett said, is willing to work with the city.

“I think they are excited about the prospect,” Buzzett said.

One parcel is roughly five acres along Avenue A and is known to long-time residents as the land, just east of Dr. David Langston Drive that was former site of a community softball field.

“That would be ideal for the city,” Buzzett said, adding that with Capital City Bank already building its new facility to the west of the property, having a new city hall there would be an overall boon to the area.

The other parcel is the former St. Joe Timberland site on Garrison Ave. near the transition to First Street, across from Pristine Pools.

The city has a grant of $314,000 earmarked for a new city complex, with about $275,000 of that available for the “dirt,” said City Manager Jim Anderson.

Cell tower

Though there was no formal vote, commissioners leaned against a proposal brought to build a cell tower on 2.5 acres off Discovery Lane in WindMark.

The land was originally part of the WindMark DRI (Development of Regional Impact) and was established for public safety, Anderson said.

The site was originally to be a fire station once WindMark was built-out sufficiently.

But, Anderson noted a large city lift station was on the land as well as many pipes and wires for various utilities.

In addition, the contract would tie up the land for 35 years while the city would receive $1,000 a year under a lease agreement.

“You never know what might happen that you might need that land over the next 35 years,” Anderson said.

Commissioner Scott Hoffman was a firm no if the issue ever came to a vote.

“There are too many moving parts and $1,000 a year is not worth it,” Hoffman said. “We’d all like better cell phone service.

“But they shouldn’t be talking to the city. They should be talking to the people at WindMark.”

Commissioner Brett Lowry agreed that, yes, calls are dropped frequently in that area of the county, better service would be great, but the proper venue for a cell tower proposal would be the owners of WindMark.