Community of Conflict

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This historic waterfront community is split in the debate over its community redevelopment area and how the funds will continue to be spent.

City commissioner John Pilcher wants the St. Andrews CRA to be removed from the Downtown Improvement Board's authority. The DIB has informed the city they would no longer use CRA funds to pay half of the project manager's salary as of this fall.

CRA's are funded by an increase in property taxes each year; last year the property value in St. Andrews decreased by $1.6 million. Pilcher and the waterfront Committee support the project manager, Nancy Wengel, and they want everything to be under the city's control, essentially keeping Wengel's position as project director.

City Commissioner John Pilcher asked the city to remove the St. Andrew CRA from the DIB's supervision, and he might be a little closer after Wednesday’s meeting.

Panama City Mayor, Gerry Clemons says he feels better educated to make a decision at the next commission meeting. "Contrary to what some people think, I'm not absolutely locked up in the idea of the Downtown Improvement Board continued to be the umbrella organization. I think it's worked so far, I think it's a good idea, but it's not the only way it could work." Commissioner Pilcher is on the Waterfront Committee for St. Andrews and says it's time to leave the nest and branch out on their own. He says the only thing getting in the way is miscommunication and misperception.

"When there are vendettas, when there are people taking stances out of other reasons than being constructive, and is a destructive eye, then the hair on the back of my head will stand up. And I will come to the defense of people who are doing all they can do with limited resources."

This topic is on the city's agenda at their next meeting, but Commissioner Pilcher would not say whether he will ask for another vote just yet.