ST. ANDREWS, Fla.- It’s a battle between the city and members of the St. Andrews civic club as they debate who’s really in control of their building.
The civic club said it’s theirs but the city said it’s their property, and they want it back. Since 1963, the St. Andrew’s civic club (formerly the Men’s club) has called the building on the corner of Chestnut Street home.
Civic club president, James Pic, has been a member for decades and said the building belongs to them and no one else.
“This is our building. We built this building, and that’s the big contention right now. The city thinks that they built this building and that this is their building but that’s not true. We built this building with the permission of the city back in the ’60s,” said President of Saint Andrews Civic Club, Capt. James Pic.
On May 28th, Pic said city officials issued them a notice saying they’re taking back the structure and that the civic club members need to be out within 30 days.
City leaders said the building is actually their property, and they want to see a new purpose for the building, should they reacquire it.
“Clearly it’s a city asset and one of the things that we can clearly see is that the organization who was managing it was doing it and receiving funds for that, which is fine, and they gave back to the community as well, but we see this as opening up to all citizens, all community members can use it,” said City Manager of Panama City, Mark McQueen.
The commission decided to cut ties with the club recently, but there’s controversy surrounding the decision.
“My issue is the lies and the deception used in taking this club from us,” said Pic.
Pic said they have maintained this building themselves for years and even put a new roof on the building a few months before the storm. Pic believes had the building been destroyed in the storm, he doesn’t believe city officials would even suggest taking it back.
“Had we not put a roof on this building, the city probably would have asked what are you going to do with your building? It was destroyed by Michael, why aren’t you fixing it?,” said Pic.
The city wants to open the center to everyone, but Pic said they allow anyone to use it already. In fact, he said they’re booked through the end of this year and into next year.
City Manager, Mark McQueen, said the club is not being kicked out from the building. He said they can still use it and schedule their monthly meetings there but the building itself would no longer be considered theirs, but rather for everyone as it becomes available to other groups in the community to use freely year round.
The club said they have an attorney looking into the issue, and they have plans to bring up the issue at the next commission meeting.