City takes swing at proposal

Posted on July 13, 2016 by Mat Pellegrino

Tiger Point and Gulf Breeze Proper residents came out to the Tuesday night Gulf Breeze City Council meeting to voice their opinion on whether the city should utilize FEMA money to fix Tiger Point Golf Course’s west course bunkers or whether they should pursue FEMA Alternative Project money for maintenance equipment, which they can use to spruce up the west course.
At last week’s Executive Committee meeting, City Manager Edwin “Buz” Eddy said that after the April 2014 flood, FEMA came to the city with a project worksheet outlining damage they obtained during the flood. One of those items on the list was the TPGC west course bunkers.
The city found out they were eligible to receive a little over $533,000 from FEMA to rebuild the west course bunkers earlier this year because of the damage sustained during the flood, but the city started looking at other options when their intentions to rebuild the west course went astray.
“We’re not inclined to repair the west bunkers,” Eddy said. “We have other options.”
City Operations Consultant Vernon Prather sent an email to Eddy several weeks ago suggesting the city go after FEMA Alternative Project money and using it to purchase equipment to maintain the west golf course and other city properties.
The city made it clear at their Tuesday night meeting that they want to use the equipment to better maintain the west course, not rebuild it.
“If we’re going to rebuild the bunkers, it’s going to be on our own nickel,” Eddy said.
By going after the Alternative Project money, the city would only be able to obtain 75 percent of the money FEMA wanted to divvy out to the city originally— a little less than $400,000.
In order to obtain the Alternative Project money, Prather said that the proposal they send to FEMA has to in some way be used to address the area that was damaged during the flood.
“Since FEMA tends to favorably view alternative projects that address the same facility/area that was damaged, we are proposing the purchase of equipment to maintain the west course as well as other city properties,” he said in the email to Eddy.
Citizens came out Tuesday night to voice their concerns on the two proposals, including Jim Nelson, who lives on the west course.
“I cannot believe that FEMA would designate over half a million dollars to rebuild the sand traps on the front 9 of the west golf course, which is a 9-hole goat ranch that you can play all week for ten bucks,” Nelson said. “Most of the damage from that storm was done to the western end of the east course. That’s mystifying that they’d do that and let the east course go.”
When the city purchased the golf course back in 2012, they obtained some lawn maintenance equipment from the course’s bone yard. But the equipment, according to Prather, is old and outdated. That prompted the city employee to suggest going after the Alternative Project money and using it to purchase equipment like tractors and a backhoe loader, which they could then use to spruce up the golf course.
“If we get approved for the alternative project, that equipment is primarily going to be used to maintain the west course area,” Eddy said last week.
Despite wording in the city’s backup documentation that suggests the city would have to hold two public input meetings before submitting a proposal to FEMA for the Alternative Project, Eddy said the city did its due diligence at Tuesday night’s meeting and will vote on which project they want to pursue at an upcoming city council meeting.
“All we have to do now is bring the issue back to city council and they will vote on it,” Eddy said.
If the city decides to go for the Alternative Project, and it’s approved by FEMA, the city will utilize its own money immediately to pay for the equipment and repay itself once a check comes in from FEMA.
The condition of TPGC has been a hot issue over the last several years for residents who live around the golf course. One of those residence, Bob Dunham, came to Tuesday night’s meeting with words of advice for city council as they move forward with their decision.
“You’ve got money that you would not have had if it wasn’t for the golf course. I would hope there would be consideration taken for taking this money and putting it back into the east course to make it a more playable golf course,” Dunham, who has owned a home on the east course for two years, said. “I’m really disappointed in the quality of th golf course. You have some sand traps that have more grass in them than some fairways do. You have some sand traps that don’t have any sand in them at all.”