We don't doubt the good intentions of Santa Rosa County Commissioners when they chose to lease an Hwy 90-front building downtown in 2012 for $10 a year to the Santa Rosa County Arts and Culture Foundation - for 25 years.
What we do doubt is the rationale behind doing anything that might appear as favoritism. It doesn't matter who or what is being favored. Being fair and giving everyone a chance might be worth a second thought.
What is bothering some citizens is the fact that tremendous savings are being offered to a non-profit without any other non-profit being given an opportunity to enjoy that same benefit. Who made that decision? Who's to say which non-profit is doing more valuable work than other?
If value to the community were a measure of who gets the building, it could easily be argued that a non-profit providing housing or food to...say...the homeless of Santa Rosa County...might be more valuable than just about any other non-profit. After all, groups that like are saving and changing lives.
Maybe Commissioners wanted a non-profit there that might lend to the atmosphere the City of Milton is attempting to create with the cosmetic changes planned for downtown. Maybe leasing that building will prevent the widening of Hwy. 90 downtown for reasons we haven't discovered yet.
Maybe it was a whim, based on nothing but the fact that the power to make a choice like that is in the hands of the people the public voted into office. Let's not forget the County is currently using the building for storage - at no cost to anyone.
Whatever the reasons behind the lease agreement, we are told there are other arrangements in the county just like it.
What we would like to know is how can anyone be certain they would want to support the same group for 25 years in the future? Why such a long-term lease?
The fact that the County is planning to spend money to build a new storage facility after leasing this one out is unfathomable. Has anyone in public office ever really been forced to live on a budget? People all over this county live on a budget - a real budget where doing what our Commissioners are doing would be impossible. That is our money they are using - taxpayer's money.
Commissioners are being accused by a citizen of breaking the law by not going out for bid to lease the building. The county attorney says they did not. Either way, we have a hard time supporting anything to do with this action as it stands.