City gets another $1 million grant for marina

PAHOKEE — The City Commission met Tuesday night and acknowledged receipt of a new, additional $990,000 state grant for improvements at the Pahokee Marina & Campground park along Lake Okeechobee.

Regular viewers of the city’s YouTube channel where the meetings are broadcast missed out on the commissioners’ actions, however, due to a lightning strike sometime Monday evening that knocked out power to the building near the tail end of a commission budget workshop.

“We had a budget meeting Monday night and we lost power while we were there, and then of course we left,” said City Manager Chandler Williamson, “and … our I.T. guy is pretty sure that lightning hit the building afterward, which shorted out a lot of the electrical stuff that was in there, including the system that was left up and running.” The city just purchased its state-of-the-art sound and video-recording system to broadcast commission meetings in the fall of 2017. He added that repairs are under way.

The nearly $1 million marina grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) is in addition to a $1.2 million state legislative appropriation Pahokee accepted last year that is funding its current renovation and repairs project for the marina, docks, restaurant building and campground facilities. The new funding will pay for “a linear park with sidewalks, benches, trash receptacles, a concrete restroom building conversion and landscaping,” plus “a 12- by 125-foot fishing pier on concrete pilings, structurally connected to the marina.”

The City of Pahokee’s grant agreement with the DEO sets an end date for the project of June 30, 2019. It is a cost reimbursement agreement but specifies that “DEO may provide grantee an advance of award funds.”

Timing has been an issue for the marina, campground and restaurant work because the original state appropriation was supposed to have been spent by June 30 of this year, which proved impossible. The first contractor the city hired allegedly defaulted on its contract and was terminated by the Pahokee City Commission months ago. Not only is the city suing that contractor, Technomarine of North Palm Beach, for $125,000 that had been advanced for the work, but the commission also was forced to pass an emergency ordinance allowing the competitive bidding requirement to be waived due to the time constraint.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and DEO, which are in effect overseeing the lakefront project, extended the deadline earlier this year to Aug. 30, a date that Mr. Williamson has said the city’s new contractors will be able to meet.

The planned pier had been withdrawn from the original plans several months ago, and the project was split into two phases, which are now set to be completed by next June 30.

Also Tuesday night, the commission voted to approve on first reading an ordinance to repeal that emergency suspension of competitive bidding. Mr. Williamson said the repeal ordinance will be altered for its second reading and probably will end the emergency waiver as of Oct. 31.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.