Florida County Residents Get Last Chance for Input on Recovery Plan

The county's Long-Term Recovery Task Force hosted the public gathering, where its six working group branches provided information displays and copies of the emerging plan's 300-plus concepts and programs.

by Ed Offley, The News Herald, Panama City, Fla. / April 19, 2019

(TNS) — A small but enthusiastic group of Bay County residents gathered at Florida State University-Panama City on Wednesday evening to listen, discuss and add their inputs to the comprehensive recovery plan that will chart the community's recovery from Hurricane Michael.

The county's Long-Term Recovery Task Force hosted the public gathering at the Holley Center, where its six working group branches provided information displays and copies of the emerging plan's 300-plus concepts and programs. The event marked a final opportunity for county residents to contribute to the process, which will culminate with a roster of projects for possible federal, state and private-sector financing.

"We've come a long way, but we have a real long way to go," Recovery Task Force Chairman Robert Carroll said in welcoming remarks to the almost 100 residents who came to the meeting. "I want to thank you for your time and effort."

Bay resident Brian Davidenko, a longtime housing developer, said he has been closely following the task force's four-month effort to identify needed recovery projects. Asked why he chose to attend the public meeting, he said, "I'm interested in getting an overall feel for the direction the recovery is taking."

Davidenko and several other local developers have become involved in a project by developer Mike Ross' firm, New Community Homes of Florida LLC, which is advocating a new technology using advanced 3-D concrete printing to create low-cost single-family houses in the county. Their plan is to build a proof-of-concept house this fall.

Ross said his plan is to demonstrate that storm-proof single-family homes can be constructed for less than $100,000, and will be affordable for families with incomes in the $30,000-to-$50,000 range.

Panama City resident Jo Shaffer and her husband, John, came to the session as part of their own involvement in the county's recovery, where she said providing housing poses one of the biggest challenges. A board member of the nonprofit organization Doorways of Northwest Florida, Shaffer is leading a team that will assume management of the county's Community Resource Center this summer as it assumes many assistance roles played by the Federal Emergency Management Agency immediately after the hurricane struck.

"This is the first transition of its type in the country," Shaffer said. The nonprofit's staff will work with more than 90 other community organizations to provide continuing assistance to people. "I am very interested in the plans for recovery and rebuilding," she said.

Tracy Rudhall, a Panama City Beach business co-owner and a leader of the Grand Lagoon Association, said the task force's work is critical to Bay County's future.

"There is nothing more important than this," she said. "This is our path forward."

The next step in the recovery planning process will occur April 26 when the nine-member panel receives the draft recovery report document and begins a final review before its formal presentation to the Bay County Commission and city governments.

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©2019 The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.)

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