Panama City Lighthouse donors getting refunds

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Panama City Lighthouse, Inc. sent a letter to city commissioners about a month ago to dissolve the organization.

It said in part, "After trying to get this project off the ground for more than a decade, we feel as if our efforts are better spent elsewhere to benefit our region. We wish you the best in trying to get a consensus on how our marina should be developed, and we are unanimous in feeling this is a very sad closing to a missed opportunity."

The idea of a lighthouse first came up more than ten years ago at a Rotary Club meeting.

Members decided a lighthouse would reflect the city's history and honor Panama City's founding families along with the fishing community.

"They said Pat, what Panama City needs is an attraction,"
Chair Pat Sabiston said as she thought back to discussion with one of the Commissioners. "You need a reason for people to come off the beach on the days they're too sunburned or it's raining. They said a lighthouse would be amazing."

According to Sabiston, plans of a small lighthouse grew bigger when developers came into the picture.

"It would have been handicap accessible, approved by the coast guard. It was going to be on their private aid to navigation charts, and it was really going to be an attraction to the community," Sabiston said.

She said they received about $56,000 in donations to get the light shining. It just never happened.

"We were selling lithographs that Paul Brent had done a special lithograph of the project and we were selling cornerstones and we were selling brick. We were doing all sorts of things to enhance the attraction," Sabiston explained.

Now, as the organization dissolves, members are going through their database and returning money to donors.

Sabiston said if you made a donation, contact her and give her your updated address so you can get a refund. She can be reached at (850) 769-4345 or by e-mail at patsabiston@irawriter.com

Sabiston said leftover money will go toward rotary projects or back into the community.