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Lynn Haven Gradually Rebuilds City Properties Following Hurricane Michael

Hurricane Michael destroyed nearly every city-owned building in Lynn Haven.

Nearly three years after the storm, construction is just getting started on the town's new City Hall, which will house the police department, administrative offices and the emergency operations center.

Those employees have been working out of temporary mobile units for more than a year, said City Manager Vickie Gainer. “Our police department still has some of their shift meetings outside," she said. "They are in a temporary facility."

The town’s Senior Activity Club Center, the Garden Club building and a local park are the only properties that have been restored. The customer service building — where residents pay utility bills and request permits — received minor damage and reopened quickly after the storm.

“Hopefully by next year we’ll see some new buildings go up," said Gainer said. "We’re excited that now we’re to that point where we can do the groundbreaking."

A groundbreaking ceremony is taking place on Wednesday at 10 a.m. Gainer says construction will likely get started in the next few weeks.

The new municipal building will likely open next Spring — more than three years after Hurricane Michael, Gainer said. “We knew that this rebuild of the city would take more than two years. We were originally told by consultants and insurance company usually cities don’t completely rebuild until about five years," she said. "We’re excited that we’re a little bit ahead of schedule.”

The new municipal building is expected to last 25-50 years and designed to withstand almost 200 mph wind speeds.

“Hopefully this kind of storm will never come through here in the next fifty years or so," Gainer said. "But we are equipped this time to hopefully work out of our own buildings and keep the services and everything for the city running as smoothly as possible.”

The new municipal building will sit behind the old City Hall, constructed in 1928. The city plans to restore the historic building and plant a community garden next to it.

Lynn Haven Resident Ryan Scray attends city commission meetings regularly and moderates a roughly 2,800 member Facebook page for the town’s residents.

“There’s a general consensus of wanting to see Lynn Haven restored and having that image of being a city restored and something about a temporary building just doesn’t really say: ‘Hey, we’re a fully functioning city.' To me, it says: ‘We’re a city that’s still rebuilding.’" Scray said. "People are just ready to say: ‘That’s behind us. We’ve rebuilt. We’re stronger now. And now we can focus on the future.’”

Valerie Crowder is a freelance journalist based in Tallahassee, Fl. She's the former ATC host/government reporter for WFSU News. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.