BONIFAY – Holmes County’s municipalities were the most recent stop on Senator George Gainer’s (R-Panama City) “listening” tour. Gainer says the stops allow him to hear the needs in each county and municipality within his district, District 2.
Letters were sent to each municipality inviting them sit down with the Senator. Bonifay, Esto, Noma, Westville, and Ponce de Leon were all invited to attend.
“I asked these officials to sit down with me to discuss their current needs, obstacles, and opportunities and how I can best assist them,” Gainer told the Holmes County Times Advertiser. “It is of paramount importance that the communication between myself and the towns, cities, counties, and municipalities that make up our district, District 2, is consistent, strong and effective. I will work tirelessly to ensure every tool available is being utilized to make certain these towns succeed. This is what the people hired me to do, and I will continue to fight for the things they deserve.”
Holmes County Sheriff John Tate expressed that one of his main concern is overcrowding and other issues at the jail. Tate told Senator Gainer he would like to see appropriations to either build a new facility or expand the existing jail.
“We need help in any way that can provided,” Tate said. “We can rebuild or expand, whatever is going to provide us relief from overcrowding.”
Tate also requested any kind of appropriations to aid in the faith based rehab programs he has implemented in the community.
“Faith based rehab has proven to be more effective for addicts,” said Tate. “People that complete regular rehab stints are more likely to go back to that lifestyle. Faith based allows them to change their lives and the people they associate with, making the road to recovery more successful.”
Bonifay Mayor Eddie Sims requested $800,000 in appropriations to rehab Memorial Field.
“Many repairs are needed on the site," said Mayor Sims. "We have already done quite a bit, but more still needs to be done."
Bonifay also requested help in dealing with FEMA on a follow up concerning drainage issues on J. Harvey Etheridge Street. The original drainage pipes are from 1920 and in desperate need of updating. Some issues include flooding each time it rains and part of the parking lot at Town Hall sinking into the ground and crumbling apart.
The major concern for Ponce de Leon is a request for a traffic light at the intersection of Highway 90 and Highway 81. The intersection has been a hot button issue for the town because of the many accidents there and traffic back ups on both sides of the intersection.
“We have had surveys done by Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), but they come on a Wednesday afternoon when the traffic is at its slowest,” said Town Clerk Tammy Melerine. “During the spring and summer, traffic is unbelievable. FDOT needs to come on a Saturday to completely understand our need."
When the Town of Esto met with the Senator, rather than requesting anything, Councilman John Hagans gave Gainer an update.
“We have been very busy lately with the Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) and the brownfields designation, as well as different ordinances we have adopted,” said Hagans. “We wanted the Senator to know what we have going on first-hand so that when we do need help, he will have the knowledge to help us.”
County Commissioner Bobby Sasnett was on hand to speak up for Westville.
“An exit off of Interstate 10 is what Westville needs to help boost their local economy,” said Sasnett.
Sasnett says Westville was not given an exit when the interstate was built, so when traffic diverted off Highway 90, the town became "almost forgotten."
Senator Gainer assured each municipality he would help in any way he could to have their needs met.
“I am committed to making sure every part of my district is not only represented, but represented better than they have ever been,” he said. “I have and will continue to take a proactive approach to working with the both the people and officials in my district, which includes not just waiting for a call, but rather reaching out numerous times throughout the year so they know I am a full time Senator working full time for them."
“I want each and every constituent to know that I am aggressively pursuing their needs,” he added. “My door is always open and I am always accessible.”
Gainer, who has also already hosted a meeting in Washington County, is expected to soon host similar meetings in the other four counties making up his district: Bay, Jackson, Okaloosa, and Walton.