Commissioners Hire RESTORE Act Coordinator, Reject Hospital Nomi - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Commissioners Hire RESTORE Act Coordinator, Reject Hospital Nominee

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With Bay County set to receive tens of millions of dollars in RESTORE Act funds, the county is getting full time help.

At their Tuesday meeting, county commissioners approved the hiring of Jim Muller for the newly-created position of RESTORE Act Coordinator.  Muller will be responsible for ensuring the county takes full advantage of funds made available by BP's settlement of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Muller, 59, is the principal of a Tallahassee firm specializing in environmental consulting, natural resource planning and government relations and has more than 25 years of experience.

Muller said Bay County is poised to reap major benefits from the federal funds.  "It's a natural marriage between economic development and resource protection," he said.  "I want to provide information to the commission on the types of projects that can be funded... they make decisions on that and then I help to implement whatever their decisions are."

In other business, commissioners failed to approve the nomination of Olivia Cooley to the Bay Health Foundation board.  Trustees are responsible for oversight of the lease of Bay Medical Center, management of the hospital's employee pension fund and awarding grants to agencies that provide community health care services.

Cooley is the second nominee commissioners have rejected – Tink Warren was not approved during a previous meeting – because they want one of their own to fill the vacant seat.  If commissioners turn down a third nominee, they can nominate whomever they want to fill the vacancy.

Commissioners are determined to serve on the foundation board due to concerns that the county could be liable for funding the employee pension plan if it becomes insolvent.  "We desperately need a commissioner on that board [and] should have had one on there all along," said Commissioner George Gainer.  "I think that we're trying to send the message that we're going to have one on there."

Gainer said rejection of the foundation board's recommendation has nothing to do with Cooley's qualifications and everything to do with filling the vacant seat with a county commissioner.