Gulf Breeze mayor responds: Gulf Breeze has not jeopardized new Bay Bridge

From Gulf Breeze Mayor Matt Dannheisser:

Please know that the Gulf Breeze City Council genuinely appreciates the concerns mentioned by Commissioner Robinson. I dare say that our City Council has carefully and thoroughly considered all aspects of the bridge project – likely having expended far more time doing so than any other elected official; thus, please understand that any decision made by our Council will be with full understanding of the matter and with the deepest concern as to how it may affect our constituents.

Our City Council apparently has not been given the same information that Commissioner Robinson attributes to unnamed sources. That information is contrary to the information we have been provided by FDOT. I hope that Commissioner Robinson will attend our City Council meeting this Tuesday to update our Council members on the new information.

To be clear, the City has offered to immediately deed the property to FDOT with the purchase price to be determined through appropriate processes at a later date. Thus, there would simply be no chance that the project might be delayed.

We are also aware that the Department has not finalized purchase agreements for other necessary privately owned parcels in the city. Yet we also understand that those unresolved acquisitions will not deter the bridge project. One would assume, therefore, that the same would hold true for adjacent property owned by the City of Gulf Breeze.

When he appeared before the Gulf Breeze City Council on June 15, 2016, FDOT District Secretary Barfield explained that regardless of the amount of consideration paid to the City for acquiring its property, there will not be a toll on the new bridge.

Our discussions with FDOT have been completely consistent with in and in furtherance of the initial letter sent to the City by FDOT. For your benefit, please find attached a copy of a November 6, 2015, letter from the Department letting the City know that its property will be acquired in order to facilitate construction of the new bridge. The letter provides that:

•The Department “will make a written offer to … purchase your property” and a copy of the Department’s appraisal will be provided;

•The Department “will negotiate with you, in good faith, to reach a mutually acceptable purchase price”;

• “Over the coming months, you will be contacted by various Department representatives who will … negotiate with you for the purchase of your property”; and

•The City “will receive no less than full compensation for the property acquired.”

At its meeting Wednesday evening, the City Council recognized that, contrary to the Department’s above assurances almost eight months ago, none of those promises have been fulfilled. Thus, the City Council simply asked FDOT to do what it promised to do.

As you are well aware, the City of Gulf Breeze does not want to do anything that would delay the bridge project or jeopardize its funding. When I was asked to withdraw a records request that I had made to the Department, I plainly affirmed in an email to the Department:

I fully support the new bridge and neither I nor the Gulf Breeze City Council want to take any action that might jeopardize either the project or its funding, or cause a delay in the process.

In conclusion, based on the information received from FDOT, the City Council has not taken any action that would put the funding of or construction of the bridge in jeopardy. Rest assured, however, that the City Council will continue to give this matter its utmost consideration and attention.

Read letter: Nov. 6, 2015, Letter from FDOT