The decision of shortening the list of six possible judicial center sites at the Santa Rosa County Board of County Commissioner's meeting last Thursday was narrowed to four: JDL of Santa Rosa, with three votes, and a tie of three: BTF Florida, Coldwell Banker Commercial Properties, and Neal Inc. all with two votes. The votes were submitted with a paper ballot.
Commissioners Williamson and Lynchard both abstained because of personal interest, being they own property on Avalon Blvd. located relatively close to the properties considered.
Commissioner Jim Melvin was adamant the property on Highway 90, Coldwell Banker, would be a bad decision with highway thoroughfare being "at capacity or over capacity." He says the county would "rue the day" they decided to place the future courthouse on the popular highway. He argues it would be far better to turn traffic on Avalon since it is brand new and constructed to accommodate such a load of traffic.
But Commissioner Salter says he would like to have the Highway 90 property still in the mix and within the process of evaluation, traffic studies would show whether or not it would be beneficial.
Commissioner Bob Cole says he's not made a decision on which property on the short list is the better of the four, but "it depends on how "sweet of a deal" we get when we break ground." Cole says, "If we don't watch our pennies, the citizens won't trust us and we'll never get the sales tax passed." He says he's still not giving up on the East Milton property offered to the county free of charge by William Byrom.
Cole emphasizes with no support from the board and just a few citizens saying they're for it, there's not much else to be done. He continues to say "if we had more citizens come forward, like several hundred people were to show their support, registering their opinion it could change the outcome." However, Cole says support so far is sporadic. "But let's move forward," he says.
Byrom sent a letter to the commissioners on December 4, stating while knowing the properties being considered were on Highway 90 and Avalon Boulevard, he was offering fifteen acres approximately one and a half miles from the Santa Rosa County jail.
The projection of cost to build the judicial center is between $30 to $40 million. An estimation of completion of the courthouse project from the commissioners is between 2 to 5 years, respectively.