Apalachicola city commissioners are preparing to ink a five-year deal that would have the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission lease the Harbormaster House at the Mill Pond.

The move, if approved, would fill the space that has been vacant for over five years, after the St. Vincent Island National Wildlife Refuge moved out. A local eco-tourism company negotiated with the city a year ago to lease the property, but that deal fell through over lease terms.

City Manager Ron Nalley said FWC had approached him after their Eastpoint location on Carroll Street was damaged during Hurricane Michael.

The lease terms would be for a monthly rent of $1,660, through February 2023, with the rent going up by 3 percent annually.

Based on a standard state agreement, FWC would be responsible for utilities, maintenance of the interior and daily janitorial services, while the city would handle pest control and replacing lightbulbs.

“Because the city feels that the air conditioning unit needs repair or replacement, FWC has agreed to incur the expense to assess, and repair or replace the unit, but those costs will be offset by deducting the monthly rent due from the cost’s incurred until the offset is fully satisfied,” Nalley reported. He did not estimate the cost of this.

“Approval of this lease agreement will assist the city in securing an occupant for a significantly underutilized city-owned building and provide on average an additional $20,000 in annual revenue,” he said.

Commissioners favored the idea, with a start date of Feb. 1, but had concerns about parking.

Commissioner Anita Grove was concerned that the three spaces allotted to FWC might not be sufficient, while Commissioner Jimmy Elliott asked if shrimpers would still be able to repair their nets in the open pavilion adjacent to the building.

“In the future, they want to put in a lab, and they’ll approach the city about putting that underneath,” said Nalley. “That is not a part of this lease.”

Elliott said he didn’t think parking would be a problem, particularly since when the federal government had the property it was not a problem.

The commissioners voted 4-0, with Mitchell Bartley absent, to approve the deal, following a speedy review by City Attorney Pat Floyd.