Commissioners across the Gulf Coast reached a significant milestone when they created the Gulf Coast Consortium. The consortium is a public agency that will act in the interest of the counties once the BP fines start flowing, but what's holding them back is the disbursement of funds.
There are only estimates as to how much the panhandle will get and before we even get to that point, commissioners say the law requires the creation of a body that will make decisions. "This is strictly to set a group together to start making rules." Commissioner Mike Thomas says.
Thomas is optimistic about Bay County's future, especially after seeing estimates that show Bay County getting anywhere from $32 to $129-million."This is a lot of money; we have to be very careful and not get in any hurry." Thomas says.
Thomas says commissioners are overwhelmed with phone calls, emails, and letters about the RESTORE Act; and unlike other counties, he suggest we take our time before making a hasty decision.
"I think we first need to wait and see what we're going to get and then make sure whatever projects come our way by the different organizations and by the different cities, can not cost the general fund any money." Thomas says.
Last week, representatives from the 23 affected counties met to work on an allocation formula for the BP fines and to set up the gulf consortium. The established inter local agreement allows elected officials, appointed officials and employees to serve as consortium directors, which are entrusted with making major decisions.
"If all of us are very good and pay attention to what we're doing, this could be the biggest thing to ever happen to this part of the country." Thomas adds.