City of Panama City loses arbitration in Marina Civic Center trial

Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 11:14 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Hurricane Michael wrecked the Marina Civic Center, and almost four years later it is still in disrepair.

Panama City was hoping FEMA would pay for a full replacement, but Wednesday we found out that won’t happen.

During a news conference held on Wednesday, city leaders announced the decision that FEMA will pay for repairs, but not a full replacement of the Marina Civic Center.

That drastically changes the amount of money the city will have to work with.

The decision was made by the U.S. Civilian Board of Contract Appeals, which decided damage at the civic center did not meet FEMA’s 50% Rule.

Now the city will have to find additional funding.

At this time, officials say they don’t know how much they will receive for repairs.

Part of the process is working with FEMA to determine current repair costs based on 2022 calculations.

City Manager Mark McQueen shared his disappointment with the final decision.

“This is discouraging news because clearly, the city of Panama City is struggling to get back up on its feet. Clearly, this is another setback for the community but yet we have the resolve that we’re going to rebuild the arts within the city, Panama City, and have a replacement for the Civic Center,” McQueen said.

Despite losing the arbitration trial by a two-to-one vote, one judge voted in favor of the city.

“The one judge that cited with the city was very clear in his finding. He said the record clearly showed that the effects of the wind-driven rain and saltwater from Hurricane Michael indeed caused the damage to the HVAC system and there was no other cause that created the damage to those systems,” McQueen said. “Arbitration exhibits and testimony were compelling that the city provided and demonstrated that the city did show damages well over one and a half million dollars that were necessary to prove the case taking us over the 50% rule.”

City officials say they are still working through the market analysis for new construction.

Right now there’s no timeline for that, we will just have to wait and see as local officials go back to the drawing board.

McQueen says the city is still committed to building a new facility to replace the civic center.

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