The new judicial facility—including courthouse and attorney's offices—is again being discussed by the Santa Rosa County County Commissioners.
"You guys know how important this is," Commissioner Bob Cole said to the board during a meeting.
The topic is coming back up for discussion after Cole made a suggestion a few weeks ago regarding an 11.2 acre parcel of land that he thought would be suitable for use. The suggested property lies off Dogwood Dr, just north of the Gulf Power office. Jim Melvin was not present when the suggestion was made, so the topic was discussed Monday with all of the board members present.
Commissioner Lane Lynchard remarked there were many issues surrounding the construction of a new judicial facility. The board would have to start at the beginning with discussing where to place the facility and how to finance the project.
Lynchard proposed a workshop at a separate, public meeting. He said he didn't think it would be practical to discuss such a complex project during a regular commission meeting. The commissioners agreed to meet and discuss, in depth, the construction of a new facility within the next 45-60 days.
"There are several big issues that we need to tackle before we embark on this decision," Lynchard said.
The board has reviewed several proposals for a new courthouse facility, stemming back to 2002. Commissioners considered demolishing and rebuilding at the same location downtown, but ran into traffic issues with Highway 90. Cole proposed an East Milton facility, located near the jail in 2011, but that never came to fruition.
"All we have talked about in earnest, is a potential sales tax to fund the acquisition and construction of a new facility," Lynchard said. "I think there are other options out there that have been pitched in the past."
Previous attempts at a tax increase that would fund construction of a new courthouse failed in 2002. Voters voted down a similar tax increase in 2006 that would have funded county road construction.
"We do have a significant amount of reserves that would make a huge dent, if we were to phase it in," Lynchard said. "In other words, build courthouse first, then let the ancillary support services to come over time."
While some viewed the current court-support facilities as adequate for future use, Cole disagreed. He noted that security costs would double by having two separate locations.