Port St. Joe approves bid for fish grinder at boat launch

Commissioners hope move will resolve odor in area

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In the peak of tourist season, the smell of decaying fish at the boat launch in Frank Pate Park can be pungent as the dumpsters fill with what remains after fishers fillet their catches.

But the city commissioners of Port St. Joe think they might have found a solution.

At their August 2 meeting, the commissioners voted to approve a bid to install a grinder and new fish cleaning table at the Frank Pate boat launch, which they hope will help curb the smell in the area going forward, though they were not positive it would be a final solution to the issue.

“It's brutal down there, dropping those fish heads and carcasses in that dumpster. You have the TDC right next door. You have a brand new restaurant that's about to open, and you can smell it all the way to Reid Avenue,” said Commissioner Scott Hoffman.

“But how did (other marinas in the area) solve the problem of the smell and the carcasses? From the information I've gathered and researched, it seems like they all end up going to the grinder.”

The new grinder will essentially work like a garbage disposal, grinding fish remains into small pieces, then flushing them back into the bay.

According to Hoffman, the plan has already recieved approval from the Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

It comes with an $83,859 price tag, according to the city’s only bid for the project. The funding will be pulled from the existing boat launch funds.

“It’s all coming out of the boat launch funds, and we have what, close to $200,000 in there?” asked Hoffman. “I’m at that point where we’re either going to have to fix the problem or tear out that tank.”

But while all of the commissioners were on the same page about the need to find a solution to the problem, there was about 15 minutes of discussion over whether or not the grinder was the best path forward, especially given that it would cost nearly half of the city’s boat launch budget.

Commissioner David Ashbrook, who was absent from the meeting due to illness, offered his concerns on the matter over the phone.

“Do we have any assurance that a cut up fish smells better than a dead whole fish?” he asked. “Are there enough crabs and things that are going to eat them?”

Other concerns raised included the amount of volume the grinder would be able to handle and the cost of the water bills to ensure the ground fish remains make their way back into the bay.

“Is that using city water?” Ashbrook asked. “Have we calculated a cost on what that would be, if it’s only run when it’s used?” 

The flushing system will work on a timer, ensuring it cannot be left running for long periods of time.

But despite concerns, the commission’s vote to accept the bid for the new grinder was 3-0, with Brett Lowry and Ashbrook absent and unable to vote. 

“I’m voting aye because we have a problem,” said Mayor Rex Buzzett. “And I’m praying that this is going to solve the problem.”

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