The Bay County Commission has unanimously approved a Kings Point homeowner group's plan to dredge canals in the subdivision.
About 1.6 miles of canals are included in the Municipal Benefit Service Unit (MSBU) project. Property owners will contract with a private dredging company, assume all liability and pay the bulk of the $711,885 cost. The county will pay $113,670 of the total to remove sediment it deposited in the canals through its storm water management system.
The project still requires approval by the Panama City Commission – and payment of its $56,835 share for sediment removal – before the property owners proceed with the dredging, which is estimated to take about six months to complete.
Here's an earlier version of this story:
In one Bay County subdivision, the passage of time is making some waterways impassable.
After years of study, a group of Kings Point property owners plans to ask local governments to jointly fund a dredging project to correct years of sedimentation caused by erosion and storm water runoff.
A series of interconnected man-made canals meanders through the subdivision. Some sections of the waterways are often barely navigable, especially during the winter months.
"The challenge even at the higher tides is just purely the depth of the canal system," said Michael Sears, one of the Kings Point property owners leading the dredging effort. "Our whole goal has been just to restore the original integrity of the canal system."
More than a dozen storm water outflows drain into the canals, carrying water collected through a network of ditches and pipes that extend as far away as the Panama City Mall. In the four decades since Kings Point was developed, sediment has gradually taken a toll on the canals.
"Anybody standing back there during a rain storm can see that sediment deposits are happening every time it rains," Sears said. "What we feel we're asking for is just to get us back to what the system was originally designed for."
The citizens are asking government officials to consider a Municipal Benefit Service Unit (MSBU) project to dredge 8,800 linear feet of the canal system. According to county documents, staff received and validated petitions from 64% of the affected property owners who are in support of the project. There are 114 parcels abutting the canals.
County engineers have determined the amount of sediment pumped into the canals by the county and city storm water management systems. The homeowners' group wants each entity to pay the cost of removing the sediment they produced and has agreed to pay the balance of the cost themselves.
The county estimates the property owners' portion of the project will total $562,737. If approved, each affected owner will be assessed $4,936 and can elect to pay either a lump sum or have a portion of the total added to their property tax bill for ten years at an interest rate of 1% above the prime rate.
Commissioner Bill Dozier said it's a fair deal that benefits all parties. "It's good that we're able to allow that water to run through the pipes into the canal so we have a drainage system," Dozier said. "It's just our responsibility to make sure that we clean up the sediment."
Sears said dredging the canals will do more than make the water more accessible. "That's going to increase the property values over time," Sears said. "Tax bases and everything else will increase and it will be a vast improvement for the canal system and the community as a whole... which is a win-win for everybody."
If Bay County commissioners approve the project, staff will not record the assessment resolution until regulatory permits are obtained and the City of Panama City agrees to share the cost of sediment removal in the incorporated area.
Commissioners are expected to consider the project at their Tuesday meeting. It will convene at 9:00 a.m. in the commission chamber at the Bay County Government Center.