City, county, private owner reach finalized agreements for ESAD purchase

After months of discussion, both the City of Port St. Joe and Gulf County have signed onto agreements that provide for the city’s purchase of the ESAD sewer system from its private owners with assistance in excess of $700,000 from the county.

The project has ultimately been the majority of a decade in the making and the subject of several heated exchanges between the city and county.

“We have finally come to the finish line, I think,” said County Administrator Michael Hammond at a special meeting of the Board of County Commissioners callen November 16. “Probably about a month ago, (County Engineer) Clay (Smallwood) and I met with the mayor and the city manager, and we hashed out all of our issues. And they’ve been in negotiations with the third party to actually do the purchase, and they finally, yesterday, at their meeting, came to an agreement.”

The county commissioners unanimously voted to approve a memorandum of understanding with the city that would obligate the county to uphold its agreement to financial assistance for the purchase. Commissioner Patrick Farrell abstained.

Farrell is a minority owner of the ESAD system, along with majority owner Frank Seifert, who executed the company’s purchase agreement with the city.

The county’s agreement with Port St. Joe is contingent upon the city’s ultimate purchase of the system and also provides for the conveying of the county’s easement for a lift station to be constructed in Beacon Hill to the city.

This easement had been a major hurdle for the city in executing the agreement.

At a joint city-county workshop held on the ESAD purchase in September, city officials stated that their engineers had said the construction of the Beacon Hill lift station was required in order that the system would receive the required amount of flow to be operational.

“Assuming this goes through, we’re conveying the easement, perpetual easements, for the lift station at Beacon Hill Park and then the existing lift station that is currently what we call the INTEGRIS system, but that Mexico Beach has been running for the last 16,17 years,” Hammond told the commissioners. 

“… When you get along, you can get things done.”

The city will have until September 30, 2023 to close on the purchase under their agreement with the county. A November 30, 2022 deadline was established for the city to finalize their agreement with ESAD, but this had already been met by the time Hammond presented the details to the board.

Port St. Joe city commissioners executed a finalized version of their purchase agreement with ESAD at their regular session meeting on November 15, with only one amendment made at the request of the system’s owner.

The amendment pertained to the reimbursement of Seifert for the costs he incurred running the system during the 20 day period in which the city would have to hook up. Commissioners voted that the city will pay ESAD’s owners $500 per day it takes them to hook up to the system for a maximum of 20 days. This is approximately equivalent to the cost of running the system per day.

The agreement was passed unanimously by the city commissioners.

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 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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