Panama City looks to start over

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Panama City officials say Hurricane Michael created a blank slate for the city and they can now turn their goals into reality.

The biggest question discussed: How can Panama City be rebuilt into the premier city of the Panhandle?

“The storm created a situation for us that now we can rebuild,” said Panama City Mayor, Greg Brudnicki. ““Now because we will have a lot more resources available and the destruction has already taken place because of the storm, we can basically have a blank slate and we can start over with the marina, we can start over with the downtown, we can start over in a lot of areas that really need 100 percent repair and or rebuild.”

Starting from the ground up, city officials discussed the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to the current state of the city.

“I think one of the greatest things that has come out of this goal-setting session is really realizing what our weaknesses are,” said Panama City Commissioner Jenna Haligas. “It’s really difficult to move forward and make change if you pretend they aren’t there.”

They spent four hours working out how they’ll make things happen, like affordable housing, a stronger economy and better quality of life in the city.

“Panama City has untapped potential,” said Panama City City Manager Mark McQueen. “The objective is to release that potential and to get a strategy for how we’re going to achieve that.”

McQueen highlighted four lines of effort in order to do that, including fixing and updating vital infrastructure like the water and sewage systems, and making the city a place people want to move to, live in and stay in.

“First impressions are very important,” said Commissioner Billy Rader. “When you’re driving into town, it’s not very attractive when you reach Panama City. That’s got to change.”

Haligas agreed.

“We just need to do everything we can to promote property values to go up and not to diminish,” she said.

Other goals discussed include improving education within the city, improving communication with residents, identifying areas for residential development, as well as cleaning up parks and recreational facilities.

“This is my third goals session,” said Haligas. “This is definitely the most productive one I feel like I’ve ever had.”

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