County to receive $500,000 for Washington High School gym improvements

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Gulf County received $500,000 from the federal government earlier this month to go towards improvements at the Washington High School gymnasium, according to Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners Sandy Quinn.

The funds came after the county commissioners asked U.S. Representative Neal Dunn to help advocate for the project.

“Representative Dunn put in the Washington Gym as one of his projects,” said Quinn. “It passed the first stage and was on a bill that was signed in D.C. a few weeks ago.”

“We are definitely excited about it,” he continued.

George Washington High School, the once segregated high school, which now serves as a community meeting place, has become a staple of the North Port St. Joe neighborhood that was built around it. 

In 1970, Washington High was partially demolished – a symbolic gesture of desegregation in Port St. Joe and insurance that schools would remain desegregated. But the school’s gymnasium still stands in North Port St. Joe, where it serves as the location of summer camps, community dinners and celebrations, among other things.

According to County Engineer Clayton Smallwood, the funding from the federal government will go towards improving the gymnasium’s facilities.

“We were a little generic in what we asked for, but some of the highlights include replacing the windows… making improvements to the stage, some lighting and some audio stuff,” he said. “It’s things like that.”

County Administrator Michael Hammond said the county had applied three projects to receive funding through this grant in the past, including the Washington High School Gymnasium improvements. 

“We applied for some economic development funding for Eastern (Shipbuilding), and at one point we applied for some port funding, and then we applied for this,” he said.

“Our consultant told us that we’d have a good chance for this project, and it was Commissioner Quinn’s project, and we resubmitted for the funds we had applied for like a year before, and we were notified that we would be receiving the money at the beginning of this month.”

This report has been updated from an earlier version to correct an error pertaining to the amount awarded.

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