It started as a proposal to grant Eastern Shipbuilding Group a tax exemption. But before Bay County commissioners could take action at their Tuesday meeting, a group of Allanton residents made some noise about their noisy neighbor.
A handful of citizens told commissioners they are paying the price for the company's growth. "We need to have a little bit of quality of life too," said Curt Wolstenholm. "It's nothing like getting woke up at three o'clock in the morning with sand blasting going on."
"The noise and vibrations at my house for the last three years have just been untolerable," said Dennis Anders.
Both men were among about three dozen Allanton residents who signed a petition complaining about noise coming from the shipyard and dangers caused by heavy vehicle traffic on County Road 2297.
But those concerns weren't on the commission's agenda. The business at hand was Eastern's request for an ad valorem property tax exemption for the purchase of $7.6 million worth of equipment. County voters approved the use of tax incentives for new and expanding companies in referendums held in 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010.
According to Brian D'Isernia, the company's president, Eastern Shipbuilding employs about 1,500 workers at its two Bay County yards (Allanton and Millville) and the new equipment will create a need for 100 additional employees.
"The question before us today was did D'Isernia's shipbuilding operation have the right to get a tax break that the citizens of Bay County voted to give because of his expansion of his business," said Commissioner Mike Thomas. "He did, so we voted to do that."
The shipbuilder's top executive told commissioner he wants to make peace with his neighbors. "Our property is zoned at Allanton and Nelson Street heavy industrial [and] we meet the codes," said D'Isernia. "However, we will do what is reasonable to help alleviate that situation."
Company representatives and residents of the Allanton community will have a sit down later this week. "I'm encouraged by the fact that Eastern Shipbuilding and the citizens have all agreed to meet," said Commissioner Guy Tunnell. "I hope that's a peaceful meeting and they can resolve their issues."
The board urged the Allanton group to take their traffic concerns to law enforcement.