PANAMA CITY, Fla. - Some residents are angry and upset after an agenda item at last week's Panama City Commission meeting caused a heated discussion and many said they left with unanswered questions.
The agenda item was a resolution to start the process of vacating the 13th Street right-away between Mckenzie Avenue and Wilson Avenue.
That block is in the heart of the Bay High School campus—the main reason why the Bay County School Board wants to shut it down.
"Really all last week was, was an administrative step to begin the formal process of closing the street,” said Panama City City Manager Jeff Brown.
Residents lined up to the podium at last week's city commission meeting to tell the city commissioners their opinions on the issue.
All of them said that shutting that section of 13th street down would be a huge inconvenience to the neighbors who live there and the entire community.
"A street for us to go out hurricane wise, to get on harrison avenue, if we want to go Stuffy's, anywhere we want to go, you want to inconvenience us,” said concerned Panama City resident Helen Page.
No one from the school board was able to go on camera for an interview, but Superintendent Bill Husfelt spoke to News 13 and said, they want to close that portion of the street due to safety concerns—seeing a need to keep students safe. He added that it's not the neighbors they're worried about but the fact that anyone could drive through the middle of campus and be in contact with the students.
However, some residents still have concerns and said they think the school board wants to do this because of the Tommy Oliver expansion.
"So my thing is I’m against closing that street, build what you want to build. We're not against educating the kids, educate them on the property you have. If you don't have a sufficient amount of property, build up, so don't close off our street,” said Page.
"The immediate community that's going to be impacted by this decision, is very disappointed because we would've preferred if the commission would've voted this request down,” said concerned Panama City resident Dr. Rufus L. Wood, Jr.
Due to the fact that the school board wasn't at the meeting—because in the past this has typically been an administrative issue—and all of the public comments, the city wasn't able to come to a conclusion.
"The resolution was not read so I’m really not sure as far as the process part of it, I'm not really sure where exactly we stand with that,” said Brown.
This issue will be on the City Commission meeting agenda again at their January 12th meeting for the public and the school board to voice their concerns.
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