MEXICO BEACH, Fla. - Monday, December 10th marks two months since Hurricane Michael devastated the Panhandle. Areas like Mexico Beach saw the worst of the storm but the community is still working hard to recover.
On Sunday, city officials released a statement regarding the process made over the past two months. The entire statement can be read below.
Essential services have returned, businesses are beginning to reopen and long-term planning is underway. With all of this progress though, much more work needs to be done and additional help is needed.
“Although many people predicted it would be years before the community began to come back to life, the heart of Mexico Beach is beating strong,” said Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey. “When you look at where we are today, with our local businesses beginning to open and our community visioning process being planned, we’re making tremendous progress. We are hearing from our property owners and visitors who love Mexico Beach that they want us to get back up and running as quickly as possible and the City is committed to doing just that.”
Among the achievements to date:
POWER, WATER AND SEWER - Essential utilities have all been restored to homes and businesses that are able to safely receive it.
BUILDING AND RECONSTRUCTION - The City has completed its Substantial Damage Assessment of every structure in Mexico Beach so property owners can begin to make plans for the future. Prior to the storm there were approximately 2700 dwelling units in the city. Of those, approximately 500 units are habitable at this time.
The remainder were either substantially damaged and or are uninhabitable at this time. For example, Mexico Beach has 10 condominium buildings which all survived the storm and are not substantially damaged, but need major repairs to roofs, water and sewer pipes, fire sprinkler systems etc. before they are habitable.
The first condos are expected to be available for occupancy in April or May of 2019 and some will take much longer, though management companies and the City are pushing hard to get up and running as soon as possible. For dwelling units that are not substantially damaged, the City is issuing permits so owners can begin the recovery process.
For those structures that were substantially damaged, there is a building moratorium in place through February 7, 2019 while the City updates its comprehensive plan and land development regulations. The City is reviewing building code requirements for wind load speed, and base flood elevation.
BUSINESS REOPENING - Several businesses have reopened as well as the Mexico Beach Welcome Center. From the local coffee shop Caribbean Coffee to Ace Hardware, Wallace Pump and Supply and Mango Marley’s, Mexico Beach is beginning to get back to business. At a recent meeting of business owners, all 35 of the business owners present stated that they intended to reopen.
FISCAL MANAGEMENT - The City of Mexico Beach is actively working with federal, state and corporate partners to navigate our financial future. The City has cut approximately a quarter of its budget, which included all non-essential services.
There are no plans at this time to eliminate jobs and vacancies will be filled from within the city’s workforce. The City has hired Atkins Engineering to lead its FEMA recovery and reimbursement team. The City is carefully managing its budget and is relying on insurance to cover some of the loss to its buildings and facilities.
City Hall and Public Works were the only public buildings left standing after Hurricane Michael and the Police and Fire Department buildings were destroyed. The City’s parks, sidewalks, canal, and fishing pier will need to be rebuilt. The City has already received financial support from various grants and agencies and will need more to repair the infrastructure lost during this catastrophic storm.
The Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association (www.MBARA.com) is serving as the City’s 501c3 partner to help meet federal and state match requirements and those interested in helping Mexico Beach recover are encouraged to donate to that organization’s Mexico Beach recovery fund.
LONG-TERM VISION - In early 2019, the City will begin a visioning process, working with citizens to define and refine the long-term vision of the City. Virtually everyone in Mexico Beach agrees that the City should retain its position of an authentic, small-town, family-oriented beach community that residents and guests have always loved. 2019
CELEBRATION - The Mexico Beach community is planning a New Year’s celebration to ring in 2019 at the former site of Camp Happy Tummies and many are planning to attend.
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