BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Wednesday was demolition day for six houses on the west end of Panama City Beach.
Bay County bought the houses and are tearing them all down to alleviate a long-time flooding problem.
Flooding has proven to be an issue across Bay County, especially in the Riviera Beach neighborhood. So the residents decided to do something about it.
“We had a lot of standing water here for over a month,” resident Deborah Lowry said. “We got together at a meeting through our neighborhood Facebook page, and over 30 of us went to the county. To our surprise, they were prepared already with a plan.”
County officials said they paid around $1.37 million of federal money for the properties.
They used American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, which the county has used for stormwater projects, with the goal to reduce flooding issues around Bay County.
“Thank goodness those funds come and we can alleviate the stormwater because that can be an issue, especially repeated flooding getting into homes,” Bay County Commission Chairman Robert Carroll. “Some of these homes, if you were to walk inside, there’s some black mold in there. It’s pretty bad.”
The Bay County Roads and Bridges division brought out their own equipment Wednesday morning to tear the houses down, ultimately saving money for the county.
They plan to build out stormwater retention ponds in the newly-empty lots.
However, the process isn’t as easy for everyone. Some of the homeowners were devastated.
“I know several of them are having some real bad problems with this,” resident Rene Aldridge said. “It’s really sad to see it being torn down.”
“It’s just not something that is just about the physical stuff here,” Lowry added. “There’s emotions and heart in each one of these houses. But our neighborhood suffered incredibly during the flooding, and these houses might not have been inhabitable anyway.”
Officials are thankful for the residents’ cooperation.
“This just shows that we can all work together,” Carroll said. “It’s a good partnership between the county and the residents to help alleviate the flooding. We’re excited to get these houses torn down and get this flooding fixed.”
The next step is for county officials to design and permit the retention pond, which will take about six months.