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PSJ begins to open things up

Tim Croft

Port St. Joe commissioners decided Tuesday it was time to loosen the reins a bit.

Meeting during their regular bi-monthly meeting, commissioners voted to open outdoor facilities while cautiously holding steady in allowing any indoor city-sponsored event.

Commissioners voted to open youth softball and baseball participation, resume the farmers market and re-open the lighthouse to tours.

The June 30 Blues in the Lot event sponsored by the Gulf County Chamber of Commerce can go on and park or building rentals will be permitted provided the city was not sponsoring the event.

“There is always going to be a risk of exposure (to COVID),” said Commissioner David Ashbrook. “That is going to be with us for a while.”

Folks will be able to rent city facilities such as the Washington Gym or Centennial Building, but those in sponsoring and attending the event must sign that social distancing and other CDC guidelines will be enforced.

“It’s time to open up these events,” Ashbrook said. “We should allow rentals following CDC guidelines.”

Remaining indoors, commissioners also nixed the summer program at either the Washington High Gym or the STAC House.

CareerSource Gulf Coast which operates, with some city funding, the summer program at the Washington Gym announced it had cancelled the program. (See related story)

But commissioners said it was time to “open the outdoor spaces,” as Commissioner Scott Hoffman framed it.

“I think we can move in that direction,” Hoffman added.

Census 2020

Commissioners renewed their push for residents to complete a census survey, a short, easy set of questions that can be completed in a few minutes.

“We still have low numbers,” said City Manager Jim Anderson.

The census will impact the county, city, public schools for the next decade, Anderson noted.

“This impacts everything from school funding to road funding,” Anderson said.

The county is already slated to lose population due to Hurricane Michael and its impacts on two Department of Corrections facilities in the county.

At the beginning of the last decade, those two facilities housed more than 3,000 inmates, who are counted as part of the county population.

The city also took a hit from the storm.

Mayor Rex Buzzett urged any resident having problems “being counted” to contact City Hall for guidance or assistance.

Garrison resurfacing

Commissioners awarded the bid and issued the task order for inspection and engineering services for the second phase of resurfacing Garrison Ave.

Roberts & Roberts was the winning bidder and Dewberry received the inspection service task order.

The project is being entirely funded by a grant from the state Small County Outreach Program.

NRDA grant

While Dewberry responds to comments from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Northwest Florida Water Management District, a project aimed at cleaning the water heading into St. Joseph Bay remained on hold.

The city has submitted three potential options to the state for the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) grant the city received.

All involved constructing a filtering buffer of some sort to clean the water flowing into the Bay from the 16th Street stormwater canal.

The city may not move forward until a second public hearing is held, the hearing delayed by the pandemic.