Fifth Street in Apalachicola has been an illegal dumping ground for years – and maybe decades.
In the past, city crews did clean-ups, and last October County Solid Waste Director Fonda Davis did one, though he didn’t have to.
But the dumping keeps coming back, at night we think.
Yes, our police officers search through the trash for clues to who dumped it. The dumpers know to remove such traces.
So how can we fix this eyesore once and for all? I say clean up the city-owned lots, and turn them into workforce housing.
If people lived there, the dumpers wouldn’t dump, and the city would get some revenue from parcels that now only cost us money.
Here’s how it could happen.
The city owns about six single family lots on that side of 5th Street, with perhaps the potential for two more. It would be a perfect spot for shotgun-style houses.
At present, that city-owned land is used for a water tower, and a yard for spare and broken-down equipment. The tower isn’t going anywhere, but our public works department has plenty of room for extra equipment at its main location out near the airport.
Here’s how we could make workforce housing a reality:
1) Use our Community Redevelopment Agency money to clean up the area and build the first house. The CRA mission is to clear blight, and encourage economic development and affordable housing. The city could retain ownership and offer manageable rent to teachers, police officers, public health workers, or doctors.
2) Use our CRA money to clean up the area, and then sell the first two lots to private individuals. That would fund future workforce housing projects.
3) Use our CRA money to clean up the area, then partner with a contractor to build workforce housing. (We can also use the regular city budget and staff for clean-up)
Our trashy eyesore could become a beautiful, affordable place to live for a few working families. Who wouldn’t want to live with a beautiful state park in their back yard?
There’s one more possibility.
You wouldn’t know it because of all the trash, but our historic early 1900s brick waterworks building is on 5th Street too. Much of it is damaged, but someone with money could save it.
The options are to give the structure and one lot to a person who commits to put at least $200,000 into a restoration. Or if that doesn’t work, clean the lot and sell the historic bricks.
Is 5th Street an ambitious project? Yes. But if we don’t act, that area will continue to look like a dump.
Consider the Orman House State Park. In 2001 the city gave the park a 50-year lease on almost seven acres of the Chapman Gardens land, at no charge. Former City Administrator Betty Webb has noted that at the time of the lease, the city expected the park to save or replant Johnny Meyer Hill, which was an orchard, and perhaps build a Ranger House.
The park never did that, and the historic Slave Quarters at the back of Orman House has collapsed through lack of care, too.
I understand budget pressures, but we can’t just wait for the others to improve the area. We must do our part.
Apalachicola Mayor Kevin Begos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org