The Port St. Joe city commissioners initially voted to set a deadline of October 31 to have the agreement for their purchase of the ESAD sewer system signed. But as November rolled around, they had yet to have executed a final contract for the buy.
They extended that time frame at their November 1 meeting, as City Attorney Clinton McCahill said negotiations between the city and the private seller, Frank Seifert, neared completion.
“As you know, in the last meeting that we had, the board basically voted to send our last agreement to Seifert, the owner of the system, with an October 31 deadline, and either he signs it or we were out,” McCahill said at the November 1 meeting. “Well, we had a meeting with the county and the county officials, Mr. Seifert and his attorney, and attempting to work out a few of the differences, he has submitted another agreement that is really close.”
“I mean, we are not that far away from getting this thing, finally, but there are a couple tweaks that I think that we need to make.”
The changes the city hopes to make to the drafted contract involve the period of time in which Seifert would be responsible for performing any repairs required by the city in completing the sale.
“There was going to be a 45 day repair period whereby we would tell them what we needed, and his contractors and staff, under the supervision of our engineer, would replace some pumps and put some other equipment in place,” McCahill said.
“And speaking with (City Manager) Jim (Anderson) and (Director of Public Works) John (Grantland), they’re not comfortable with that… They would rather our people just do it.”
The city’s previous decision to set deadlines for the purchase agreement came in the wake of several heated exchanges with county officials, who claimed that the city was dragging their feet on the project.
The county is providing financial assistance to the city for the purchase in the sum of $500,000 for the purchase itself and $250,000 to help make the system operable for the city.
At a workshop on the topic held September 21, County Administrator Michael Hammond recommended placing deadlines on the city for finalizing their agreements with ESAD.
“We’ve kicked the can around,” he said at that workshop. “If the city says yes, fine, and if they say no, then we will go on and do our own thing, no hard feelings. But I think it’s time to move forward one way or the other.”
The city commissioners unanimously voted to establish an October 31 deadline for the purchase agreement to be signed at their October 18 meeting.
But while the October 31 deadline was not met, McCahill stated that he felt confident the parties were nearing a finalized agreement.
“I want this to work for Mr. Seifert as well, but it has to work for us,” he said.
Though the commissioners unanimously voted to rescind the October 31 deadline, they did not change the deadline for having the city take operation of the system — on or before July 1, 2023.
If the purchase is completed, it is estimated to bring hundreds of customers to the city, a significant increase in revenue that they hope will allow them to abstain from raising sewer rates for the foreseeable future.