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PSJ boat ramp re-opens to county residents

Tim Croft
tcroft@starfl.com

Getting there required a couple of weeks but Port St. Joe commissioners finally arrived Tuesday.

During their regular bi-monthly meeting, commissioners unanimously approved re-opening the boat ramp at Frank Pate Park to county residents only.

Commissioners also formalized a mechanism for enforcement.

Beginning Wednesday (re-opening took effect at midnight Wednesday) signage will spell out the new rules.

A sign at the pay box states:

*All vehicles and trailers must have Florida license plates and those plates must be registered to a Gulf County address;

*The vehicle registration must be displayed on the dashboard for visible inspection;

*No unattended vehicles at any time;

*Park in correct parking area.

On each side of the boat ramp will be a sign warning “Permanent Gulf County Residents Only.”

Violators will receive a notice to appear in court at a later date; the first violation is a second degree misdemeanor subject to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Since closing the boat ramp, commissioners have explored ways to open the ramp to local residents, discussing a host of issues from legalities to enforcement.

The ordinance which allowed the re-opening had its foundation in statewide emergency declaration, said City Attorney Clint McCahill.

Otherwise, the city would not have standing to close the ramp to some but open it to others.

“The rational basis is the health and wellbeing of citizens,” McCahill added.

Mayor Rex Buzzett cautioned that he did not want the commission’s actions to cause people to “become complacent.”

He urged those using the boat ramp to continue with social distancing and other CDC guidelines.

Commissioners also emphasized this was not an invite to visitors.

“Our board feels that people should abide by stay-at-home orders,” Buzzett said. “The intent of our ordinance is not to come here.”

Long Ave.

The board added more task orders for engineers Dewberry as commissioners move closer to submitting the package to the State Revolving Fund for a grant-loan package.

Long Ave. has long been a priority, but costs have been the hurdle.

Not only is the road in need of repair, but below it water and sewer lines must be replaced or rehabbed.

Commissioners approved going ahead with task orders aimed at a rehab project which would cost the city, out-of-pocket, about $1 million on a $5 million project, Buzzett noted.

The project would also include a new lift station.

A complete replacement of water and sewer pipes and resurfacing the road would be nearly $7 million, said City Manager Jim Anderson.

NRDA

Commissioners were presented with three options, posted on the city’s website for public perusal, on projects for the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) grant the city received.

The grant is aimed at improving the quality of water flowing into St. Joseph Bay.

The city must still hold at least one more public workshop before moving ahead on any option.

Anderson said the city is taking public comment but no action will be taken until the workshop is feasible.

Insurance and FEMA

To date, the city has received $2.3 million in insurance reimbursement for damages from Hurricane Michael.

On the FEMA side, the city has received just $335,047 of more than $1.6 million in approved reimbursements.

The city has more than $3.2 million in remaining damages from Hurricane Michael.