Improving quality of life through parks, urban design, improved emergency services and government efficiency took center stage.
PANAMA CITY — Improving quality of life through parks, urban design, improved emergency services and government efficiency took center stage at the second day of the annual Panama City goals session meeting.
“Our No. 1 thing I always ask myself every goal, is anything that is going to enhance the quality of life,” said Panama City Commissioner Jenna Haligas, a sentiment that was often echoed at the Wednesday meeting.
Here’s a look at what that the quality of life improvements could like based on the goals the commission and department heads put forward.
1. An improved marina: With the negotiations with Sonnenblick Development behind them, commissioners are looking to put improvements to the marina on the “fast track,” as Commissioner Mike Nichols put it. Using the $7.9 million remaining of the $12.9 million loan the city took out in 2013, the commission is looking to move forward with repairs to the seawall and make some changes to design of the T-dock, such as widening sidewalks, to make the space more inviting to the public.
2. Bolstered EMS services: Since the fire department started running basic life-saving operations, they’ve seen the number of calls they respond to rise from 670 in 2015 to 3,545. Chief Alexander Baird told commissioners his crews have saved several lives before Bay County EMS arrived on scene, including an infant baby. Currently, for each call a full fire engine is sent, but the department is asking for $200,000 to buy two smaller vehicles and $600,000 to hire 12 additional people to staff the trucks. The work would be in partnership with what the county already provides.
3. Park improvements: With the new equipment at Oakland Terrace Park generating positive feedback, Director of Leisure Services Keith Baker is hoping to keep the momentum going in fiscal year 2019. He presented the commission with a plan to add sun shades to the facility to make it more comfortable and add more ADA-compliant equipment. He projected that equipment could cost over $300,000, but said he would be looking for grant opportunities. In addition to the improvement at Oakland Terrace, he also proposed making repairs to the heavily utilized MLK Recreation Center as well as a the Daffin Clubhouse the city rents out.
4. Quicker repairs to roads: It’s a scenario that plays out just frequently enough to have become an issue: A water pipe breaks under a roadway or sidewalk, causing the utilities department to have to come out, tear up the road and fix the issue. But, sometimes, it takes a few days before the department of public works employees can get to the spot to repair the road, sparking complaints. To get ahead of the issue, the two departments are proposing to team up and create a “stand up utility team” dedicated to repairing the roads immediately after the utilities department has repaired the underlying issue. Director of Public Works Neil Fravel said it would cost $352,439 to hire the necessary employees as well as a $287,750 for the equipment. Utilities Director Chris Lightfoot said he can fund the position and startup equipment costs out of his budget, which is not part of the general fund.
5. A more user-friendly website: The city is contractually due for a revamp to its website, and officials plan to make the most of it. At Wednesday's meeting, there was talk about how to move more functions online, such as booking parks and making utility payments, as well as how to make the website more user-friendly.