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PANAMA CITY — Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday morning that $20.4 million will go toward utility infrastructure repairs and flood prevention in Panama City.
In a press conference held at City Hall in Panama City, DeSantis said the money will be used to repair 2.4 miles of water lines, 2.4 miles of stormwater lines and 3 miles of sewer lines throughout the city. The money is coming from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Community Development Block Grant Program.
The city has struggled with flooding issues the last few years in part due to infrastructure damage caused by Hurricane Michael in 2018.
“We want to make sure that we’re really helping, to help with some really high impact things that are going to make a difference in the future,” DeSantis said. “We’ve already done more than $3.5 billion in recovery funds for both Michael and Irma since I’ve taken office.”
DeSantis was joined by Secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Dane Eagle, Florida Rep. Jay Trumbull and various Bay County officials. He said he saw how Hurricane Michael had devastated the area in 2018 and how the city has been working hard since then to keep residents safe and prepared.
After awarding the check to Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki, DeSantis discussed how this was one of the many steps Florida was taking to improve infrastructure as a whole within the state and that it would lead to more people wanting to come Florida. He added that Florida had done very well compared to other states in the last few years in relation to COVID-19 lockdowns, crime levels and tax increases.
“This is a great community here, but you’re seeing it all over the state,” DeSantis said. “And so, we understand that that infrastructure is going to continue to be very important.”
Brudnicki thanked the governor for his continued support for Panama City, especially right after Hurricane Michael. He said while most of the country forgot about the city, DeSantis never did and he always comes back with help.
“We appreciate all the efforts, with all the things that you’ve got to deal with on a federal level, trying to keep the state open,” Brudnicki said. “We never fell off your radar.”
Trumbull also echoed his thanks for DeSantis’ longtime support for the community and mentioned the millions of dollars he has put into Panama City alone.
“This money represents about $62 million that the governor has single-handedly brought to the city of Panama City,” Trumbull said. “Not including the tens of millions of dollars that have gone to other communities affected by Michael. So, thank you for standing with us and thank you for making sure that our community is never forgotten.”
Eagle said he felt good to be back in Panama City and continue the work to help restore the city, with their last initiative being $19 million toward the revitalization of the downtown streetscape last year.
“We are committed to the Panhandle, we are committed to Panama City,” Eagle said. “We’ll be back time and time again to make sure we’re fully recovered.”
After the press conference, Panama City Commissioner Joshua Street spoke of how thankful he was to the governor for his support and mentioned how DeSantis spent his first few days in office touring the destruction of the city after Michael.
Street said this money will be used on the Drummond Park area, the northern parts of St. Andrews and in between 15th and 23rd streets. While they still need to get through the paperwork process and get the money dispersed, Street said the city was excited and would be working as fast as possible to get the work started.
“This frees up other money to be dedicated to other areas of the city,” Street said. “This is a really big win, not just for St. Andrews, but for the city as a whole.”
Street said this is an even bigger win for the residents of Panama City.
“There are so many people who have been patient with our city and our personnel,” Street said. “And we still have a lot more to do.”
At the press conference, DeSantis also went over initiatives he's pushed before, such as Florida seeking to have record funding for the Job Growth Grant Fund, upwards of $100 million.
“I actually had to veto that funding when COVID first hit because we weren’t sure what the picture looked like,” DeSantis said. “We’ve now been able to get it for this fiscal year. We’ve made high impacts on really high impact infrastructure projects and key job training opportunities, such as getting more truckers, getting diesel mechanics, all these things that pay very well that are in short supply.”
DeSantis also mentioned a potential gas tax relief bill for residents that he's touted before, $105 million toward rural infrastructure funding and $100 million for the Workforce Development Capitalization Incentive Grant.
DeSantis said despite many predicting that the COVID-19 pandemic would weaken Florida’s fiscal budget for the next couple of years, the state has never had stronger surpluses than it does now and brings in hundreds of millions in revenue every month.
DeSantis also touched on topics brought up during his State of the State address on Tuesday, such as inflation and vaccine mandates, saying that this is the worst inflation the country has seen in 40 years. DeSantis said they had to go back into the budget and refund projects that were already fully funded due to rising costs.
DeSantis brought up how inflation is affecting everyone across the board and claimed that President Joe Biden’s actions, including approving stimulus checks, had caused the inflation.
“This is wrong, that is something that is not going to end up working,” DeSantis said. “Just think about what they did when they came in and did the massive quote stimulus in last spring with Biden. Trillions, all this money but where’s the money?”
Here is where the $20.4 million will be used:
Road, storm and sewer: Mound Avenue, Grant Avenue, Shepard Street, Peters Drive, West 22nd Place, Whiting Circle, Drummond Avenue, West 22nd Plaza
Water and road overlay: High Avenue, Peters Drive
Road, storm, water and sewer: Michigan Avenue, Drummond Avenue, West 21st Street, West 21st Plaza, Pritchard Street, Burnham Way
Road overlay: West 22nd Street, Mound Avenue, West 21st Place, Drummond Avenue
Road: West 22nd Court, West 21st Street
This article originally appeared on The News Herald: Gov. Ron DeSantis gives $20 million to Panama City for infrastructure