Port St. Joe city commissioners could not come to a consensus on which contractor they would select to build an affordable housing complex in the city their last meeting, despite a consensus that a decision needs to be made sooner rather than later.
The commissioners spent about 15 minutes weighing the two main considerations – whether they should support a local business with a questionable history, or a business from another state with a clean slate.
Commissioner Eric Langston for Group I voiced his concern over hiring Panama City-based builder Royal American.
“My thing is that Royal American, how do I put it? I don’t actually trust them,” he said in the meeting. “As far as the management... I would like to go in another direction.”
The company has not built a low-income designated housing complex in Port St. Joe before, but they constructed and manage the Gateway apartments on the city’s west end. Langston said he has heard numerous complaints about Royal American from residents that make him unsure whether the company can be trusted with such an important city project.
"I gave them a black mark, or a strike for the fact that we’ve seen their company, you know when they built the other apartments,” Group IV Commissioner Scott Hoffman pitched in. “And we still have problems today with what looks like shoddy construction. I’m not waving the flag for either team.”
However, Port St. Joe Mayor Rex Buzzett was clear about his preference for supporting a local business. Oikos Development Corporation, Royal American’s competitor for the contract, is based out of Kansas City, Missouri.
“I see both sides, but I like Royal American because they’re local,” he said. “We’ve learned from the past that maybe we won’t be caught again by some of the stuff that’s going on, but we know nothing about Oikos. We haven’t seen any of their work.”
The Workforce Development project intends to address employers’ struggles to fill lower-paying positions by making the cost of housing in Gulf County more attainable. Once a builder has been selected, the city will hear pitches and begin advertising for bids so they can move forward.
Commissioners were unable to resolve the issue in the meeting. However, the board expressed a sentiment that continuing to push off the decision will further delay an essential resource for the city and the county.
“I need a motion, or we’ll hold it on the agenda for the next meeting," Buzzett closed the discussion. No motion was made.
The city commissioners’ next regular meeting will be Tuesday, Nov. 2 at noon.
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