New fitness center nears goal

The discussion surrounding the new Forgotten Coast Fitness and Wellness Center has shifted from “IF it opens” to “WHEN it will open.” In the past week, another 21 paid annual memberships have been collected, bringing the total to 41, just 13 short of the goal of 54. With the conversion of some three-- or six-month memberships to longer periods and the collection of a few more annual memberships, the fitness center will be ready to open.

“Given the current momentum, we hope to reach our goal by next week,” said Ed Aguiar, president of the center’s board of directors. “This short delay will still allow the gym to open in the first half of April. The timing of the opening is tied to obtaining memberships. Once we have reached our goal, we can schedule construction and get started on improvements to the space. These last few members will make the difference in reaching the finish line.”

Members are asked to pay for a one-year membership of $420, a six-month membership of $210, or a three-month membership of $105. Monthly memberships will be available once the fitness center opens. 

The new fitness center, at the Van Johnson municipal complex at 192 14th Street, will be similarly equipped to the former Apalachicola gym. Construction includes installing an exterior entrance door that allows members direct access through a keyless entry system, creating a pass-through to join two former classrooms, installing carpeting, painting, and replacing whiteboards with mirrors.

Initial hours will be Monday to Friday 6 a.m. to-9 p.m., and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

For more info, call or email Jan Thomas with questions 653-1068 or


GUSC to close on Hexaport in late April

The Gulf Unmanned Systems Center (GUSC) is making progress.

Bruce McCormack, CEO, said he held a meeting of his board of directors on site in Carrabelle on March 13 and has prospective clients coming to town to view the facility.

He said he has not hired any full-time employees but has several people temporarily employed cleaning the Hexaport complex to make it more presentable for visitors.

McCormack expects to close his contract to lease the building between April 15 and 30. GUSC will be required under the agreement to hire 10 employees within 30 days of closing.

McCormack said he is involved in negotiations with Gulf Coast State College to provide training for potential employees. He said the college has an existing online course, teaching people to work in an industrial environment, that is “absolutely tailored” to the needs of GUSC. He said GUSC would also bring in their own instructors through CareerSource Florida to teach employees the fundamentals of unmanned systems technology. He said most employees training will be done in Carrabelle.

McCormack said he is currently seeking offices in Carrabelle for the administrative arm of GUSC.


Flagpole to be dedicated on Memorial Day

This Memorial Day everyone is invited to attend the dedication of the new flagpole in Lighthouse Park on St. George Island. Plans are underway for a ceremony to begin at noon on Monday, May 26 with a traditional 21-gun salute fired from a series of miniature cannons. According to military tradition, the flag will be raised to half-mast at 8 a.m., then to full-mast after the salute.

State Senator Bill Montford will present the lighthouse association with flags that have flown over the State Capitol in Tallahassee.

The flagpole will be dedicated to island resident Jim Lambert, who passed away last year. Several contributions in Jim’s memory helped fund the cost of the nautical style flagpole, which now flies the U.S and Florida flags, and the U.S. Lighthouse Service pennant.


Lighthouse Challenge cancelled

The Florida Panhandle Lighthouse Challenge, normally held in April of even-numbered years, will not take place this year, due to major changes underway at two of the participating lighthouses.

Plans are proceeding to move the Cape San Blas Lighthouse away from its eroding location on the Cape to a more stable site in downtown Port St. Joe. To this end, lampist Joe Cocking and US Coast Guard Curator Arlyn Danielson recently removed the bivalve Fresnel lens from the lantern room.

The transfer of the St. Marks Lighthouse from the Coast Guard to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been approved and will be made official at a change of command ceremony on March 28.


Record rainfall Sunday

On Monday, the National Weather Service office in Tallahassee reported that a record amount of rain, 3.17 inches, fell on Apalachicola Regional Airport for Sunday, March 16. This was almost a quarter inch more than the previous record for the date, 2.97 inches, set in 2005.


Roberts and Roberts awarded two contracts

At Tuesday’s county meeting, Roberts and Roberts Construction of Blountstown was awarded contracts to upgrade two sections of road.

They will receive $769,363 for improvements to Oak Street in Lanark Village and $1.25 million for work on North Bayshore in Eastpoint.

Commissioner Cheryl Sanders said she was anxious to see the work completed. “I have been working on this almost since I have held office,” she said.

Commissioner Pinki Jackel recused herself from the vote on the North Bayshore contract. She said County Attorney Michael Shuler advised her to do so after she was approached by one of the prospective contractors in a social setting.


New communication tower approved

On Tuesday, county commissioners voted 4-1 to allow construction of a new 200-foot communications tower between Eastpoint and Carrabelle.

The applicant, Blackwater Group, acting for AT&T, sought a variance to the existing 47-foot height limit for structures in a rural-residential zone. Commissioner Pinki Jackel opposed the variance.

The county board of adjustment recommended the allowance with the conditions that the work must be completed within two years, AT&T must allow co-locations with other providers and donate co-location to the Franklin County Sheriff’s 911 system.

The tower will be located 500 feet north of US 98. Commission Chair Cheryl Sanders said she had received letters protesting the tower and Commissioner Pinki Jackel said she received calls in opposition to the construction for aesthetic reasons.

County Planner Alan Pierce said, in the proposed location, the tower will not be visible from adjacent properties and, if it falls, will fall on vacant land.

Commissioner Smokey Parrish said the tower should provide for better service for cellular phone users in the area.