Port St. Joe votes to set aside $1 million for Field of Dreams

Port St. Joe commissioners unanimously voted to earmark $1 million of the $1.786 million they received in American Rescue Plan monies for the Field of Dreams, a sports facility project that has been in the works for more than a decade.

City Financial Analyst Mike Lacour tasked the commissioners at the city’s April 19 meeting with creating a loose list of potential projects  to recieve the funding.

During the discussion at the  meeting, Mayor Rex Buzzett suggested the majority of the money be set aside for the Field of Dreams, a project that aims to expand the city’s sports facilities.

“I would love to earmark $1 million to go towards the Field of Dreams,” he said. “We can ask the county to match that as well as set up a workshop to discuss it.”

The remaining $786,545 will be allocated to various other city projects, though Lacour said exact projects and dollar amounts do not need to be defined at this time.

“We don’t need to limit ourselves on the April 30 reporting (deadline),” he said, “but we do need to kick it in gear and start being serious about lining up the funding going forward since we do have limited time.”

The new city hall complex, road improvements and new facilities for George Core Park were mentioned as possibilities for spending the remaining funds. 

The city has until Dec. 31, 2024 to spend or obligate all of the $1.786 million, which are federal Covid-19 recovery dollars allocated through the American Rescue Plan.

Half of the money has already been received and set aside in a segregated bank account, according to City Manager Jim Anderson. The rest is expected to come later this year.

Cities or governments who had less than $10 million in revenue losses are able to choose a single-payer option, which has less reporting requirements than other options, but may result in a lower payout if the amount awarded is less than actual losses, which Lacour does not believe to be the case in Port St. Joe.

The Field of Dreams project originated in 2009, when the city, determining that they were outgrowing their existing baseball and softball fields, drafted plans for a sprawling recreational facility that they planned to build with assistance from the county and the Tourism Development Council.

They got as far as getting the land set aside. But, ultimately, they were unable to get all of the parties to work together to secure enough funding to make it happen.

Discussions surrounding the Field of Dreams resurfaced in February, after Tim and Stephanie Peterson brought concerns about lacking sports and recreation facilities to the county commissioners at their Feb. 15 meeting. Since, several city commissioners have declared the complex one of their top priorities.

“My priority, and I hope the other commissioners’ priority, is to focus on making our community better for our community and not always focusing on what we can do for just tourism,” said Scott Hoffman after his reelection was announced at the April 5 city meeting.

“So I thought about what we are working on as a city that fits both of those categories… The priority that I want to focus on in the coming couple of years is the Field of Dreams.”

On Tuesday, the commissioners also voted to ask the county to match the $1 million, citing the number of children using Port St. Joe’s current sports complex who do not live within city limits.

Commissioners set aside time on June 2 at 6 p.m. EST to host a workshop with the community and the county on the issue. They plan to host the meeting at the Centennial Building, though more specific details will be provided at a later date.

Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper NonDoc.com during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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