School safety is getting a boost with a new Bay County public works project targeting the Cedar Grove area.
At their Tuesday meeting, county commissioners gave the green light to construction of a sidewalk along a half-mile stretch of Everitt Avenue, from 11th Street to 15th Street. The project also includes drainage improvements and resurfacing the roadway.
The Florida Department of Transportation will pay for the walkway and drainage and the county will pick up the tab for milling and paving the road. GAC Contractors was the lowest of five bidders and won the contract with a price of $875,000.
"It's going to be a tremendous asset," Commissioner Bill Dozier said. "The kids who go to school at Cedar Grove [Elementary] School will have a safer walk to school... I think it's a great project."
If all goes according to schedule, the project will be completed in May 2014.
The board also voted to keep reduced impact fees in place until October 2015 in an effort to stimulate development. It's the fourth time in five years that commissioners have implemented the reduced charges.
Impact fees are charged on new developments to pay for the construction or expansion of infrastructure needed by and benefiting the development. The county levies the fees for roads, fire protection, parks and recreation facilities and the library.
In 2008, the commission did away with road impact fees and cut the others in half. Tuesday's board action means those reduced rates will remain in effect for another two years.
Commission Mike Thomas cast the lone dissenting vote and said leaving money on the table will make it difficult to fund services in the future. "If we don't have those impact fees in to where new growth pays for itself… the people that have been here all their lives will be the ones that suffer," Thomas said.
But Chairman George Gainer believes the fee structure attracts developers. "I feel like it's the message itself that's so important," Gainer said. "This commission is saying that we are in favor of people building houses, buying houses, and getting this economy rolling again."
County Manager Ed Smith said it's difficult to estimate the loss of fee income for roads because there are federal and state funds involved in the formula. According to county documents, the reduction in impact fees for fire services, parks and the library has cost the county $648,582 since it was implemented.
In other business, commissioners:
The commission's next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 8, at 9:00 a.m.