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Government officials hold second interviews for Fort Pierce megayacht refit center

St. Lucie County commissioners said they needed more time to decide between two companies bidding to establish a yacht refit center in Fort Pierce, Fla. According to TCPalm.com, the commission conducted one-hour interviews Sept. 20 with Derecktor Holdings and Fort Pierce Yacht and Ship.

The commissioners said they had no time to ask about the companies’ finances. “There were questions that didn’t get answered and questions that didn’t get asked,” commission chairwoman Frannie Hutchinson told the newspaper.

The commission held closed-door sessions last week that will help them determine which company will be successful in its bid to redevelop Fort Pierce’s 290-acre port into a megayacht refit center. The successful bidder will lease the property from the county and install new lifts and equipment for refits.

“It’s been [more than] 80 years since we’ve had the port, and I don’t think putting it off for a few more weeks would hurt anything,” commissioner Cathy Townsend told the paper.

Turning the port into a yacht refit center is a key component of the county’s and Fort Pierce’s economic-development plans to bring jobs to the city. The County Commission acts as the port authority, but Fort Pierce's planning and zoning rules apply because the port is within the city.

“This decision is going to affect St. Lucie County and our community for decades,” commissioner Anthony Bonna said during the initial hearing. “We need to be 100 percent sure we get this right.”

The paper reported that more than 150 people attended the first meeting, with most urging the commission to select Fort Pierce Yacht and Ship. That company includes Buddy Haack, who introduced the concept of megayacht repairs to the county, NFL star Khalil Mack and car-dealership owner Sandy Woods.

“We need to send a strong message that this community can get behind our local people,” state Rep. Larry Lee Jr., D-Port St. Lucie, said in support of Fort Pierce Yacht.

“Buddy had the vision of bringing the megayachts to the Port of Fort Pierce,” added former Fort Pierce Mayor Bob Benton. “He has proven what he can do.”

Several marine industry insiders — including Glenn Allen and Richard Spurlock, general manager of Beyel Brothers, a landowner at the port — lobbied for Derecktor, saying it has the experience and clientele to make the refit center successful.

“I’m not going to bring a $30 million yacht to Fort Pierce and ask them [Fort Pierce Yacht] to bring a yacht out of the water,” Allen told the commissioners. “Derecktor has the stability, workforce and experience.”

The county wants the local port to attract superyacht refit work away from similar facilities in South Florida.

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