What the proposal contains
An executive summary of the budget proposed for submission to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Substrate $ 4 million
Application Cost $ 9.2 million
TOTAL $14.4 million
Organization Capacity Building $ 775,000
Case Management, Counseling
And support services $2.25 million
TOTAL $3.02 million
Staffing $1.63 million
Materials & Supplies $237,400
Support $1.37 million
TOTAL $3.8 million
Administration $2.1 million
TOTAL $ 23.4 million over five years
Millions more dollars may soon flow into Franklin County to continue to restore the bay, but county commissioners are dissatisfied with the lack of clarity in the proposal to secure these funds.
At their April 16 meeting, the commissioners asked for more specifics about a $24 million grant application to continue in the ongoing restoration work for the Apalachicola Bay oyster beds.
Gulf Coast Workforce Director Kim Bodine and grant writer Jennifer German sought county support for a $24 million proposal to restore the bay by planting shells to stimulate oyster production. If approved, the program also would provide opportunities for people currently working on the bay to train for alternate employment in other fields.
The Gulf Coast Workforce Board in partnership with Franklin’s Promise Coalition and the University of Florida (UF) hopes to submit a RESTORE Act funding proposal targeting restoration of the Apalachicola Bay Fishery.
Bodine said the grant was prepared based on input from the Seafood Management and Resource Recovery Team (SMARRT) and the University of Florida. SMARRT is composed of marine scientists and representatives of government and all aspects of the seafood industry.
German told the commission that Tuesday’s presentation was incomplete.
“We don’t know what UF is bringing to the table,” she said. She explained that researchers are in the process of studying the oyster shelling process so enable the county to make optimum use of shell planting funds.
“We are soft science, “said German. “(Workforce’s) piece of the plan is building community resilience and labor force diversification. We want to help in moving workers to other occupations that are off the water and we want to continue case management and build infrastructure with some county entities that have-long term management at heart.”
She said the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Councilhas published “The Path Forward to Restoring the Gulf: A Proposal for a Comprehensive Plan” as part of an effort to restore the environment, diversify the local workforce, create more workers with stable income and create jobs.
“The plan outlines specific strategic goals and we’re writing trying to hit those goals,” said German. “If you look at these numbers and it seems big, remember the funding is over five years.”
Commissioner Cheryl Sanders said, “It’s big for five years. I want to know what pot this comes out of. Whatever this board supports needs to be pretty good for the state agency to support and to push the money. I don’t want this to come out of the county’s pot. I don’t want the state to say I like this part of it but the county needs to be responsible for that part.”
German said, “I’m all about bringing money into the community. If we can get them to give us that much money over five years, it’s only going to do good.”
Commissioner William Massey, the board’s representative to the SMARRT group said, “The SMARRT funding comes off the top.”
Commissioner Smokey Parrish asked, “Has SMARRT submitted a proposal too?”
Massey said, “It’s in. We got that. Sometime around the end of May we’re supposed to get between $18 million and 20 million over a five year period. We done got that. It’s in the works. We’re fixing to receive that any time, I think.”
Bodine said Massey was referring to the proposal under discussion. She said it had not yet been submitted because the grant writer was waiting for input from UF.
Director of Administrative Services Alan Pierce said the funding for the grant would come from funds earmarked for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). In a later interview, Pierce said he believed the total federal funds available to DEP were between $350 million and $400 million.
Bodine said 30 proposals had already been submitted to DEP and competition for the funds would be fierce. German said Franklin County’s proposal had a good chance of being funded because many government officials are concerned about Apalachicola Bay.
“We have been contacted by Congressman Southerland to see what he can do to help and we have strong support from our legislative delegation,” she said. “I believe the politics is as important as the methodology.”
Sanders said she was concerned about the amount of grant money earmarked for administration. “Tell me how the different entities in the county are going to benefit,” she said.
Bodine asked Joe Taylor, executive director of Franklin’s Promise Coalition to speak to the topic. Taylor said the money would “support building human capacity components,” but did not elaborate.
“Do you have administrative costs for that?” Commissioner Noah Lockley asked,
Taylor said the more than $3 million earmarked for “community development” would pay expenses involved in operating an office and other related costs.
“Franklin’s Promise has never been on the water and, here you come, you want a part of it,” said Lockley.
He asked if guidelines for participation in a future shelling program would be the same as for the current program.
German said there would continue to be drug testing to reduce liability and the cost of insurance for the program.
“I don’t feel comfortable with the University of Florida and Franklin’s Promise trying to make all of this money when none of them were here before the spill,” Lockley said.
“A lot of counties are coming together to regionalize,” said Sanders. “Let’s get down to the numbers and know how many people we are going to help. We’ve never done this before and I’m quite sure you haven’t.”
Taylor supported the idea of regionalization. “The bay serves 19 counties,” he said.
Bodine and German said they would be happy to return with a more detailed breakdown of costs and services.
In a telephone interview following the meeting, Bodine said,” We are trying to drive towards something that really is not in good focus. We don’t want to slow down and make anybody miss out on anything.
“The source of the money is still unclear to me,” she said. “We’re taking a step back based on comments from the commissioners. A regional project will take a little longer (to design). We’re just trying to be proactive and help people.”