The City of Milton and its leaders are restless. Existing long range plans, some of which are already well under way, will eventually change the character, complexion, and image of the city, according to Mayor Guy Thompson, City Manager Brian Watkins, and Planning Director Randy Jorgenson in an informal review and updating session with the Press Gazette this week. A gigantic infrastructure project exported to an additional section of East Milton will significantly impact not only the city, but East Milton also. Sewer is now available to residents along Ward Basin Road to Interstate 10 where a lift station is near completion. Jorgenson said the lift station was almost ready for use, pending completion of some minor but essential details, such as installing the electrical panels and other necessary features. Mayor Thompson characterized the move as "nudging a sleeping giant,” indicating the potential for an explosion of growth which the modern facility will mobilize. The city already has major lines connecting it to other East Milton areas, including the Santa Rosa Industrial Park, the sheriff’s department complex, and the two state correctional facilities on the east side of Highway 90. A line also extends down Highway 87 south to include the Pullum Motel, situated a quarter of a mile beyond Interstate 10, and the Holiday Inn Express, northwest off Interstate 10. Eventually the facilities will be extended southward to include American Farms and Hickory Hammock Road.
The entire sewer project will be completed in three phases, Watkins said. “Used to, we only had sewer as far south as East Milton Elementary School,” he explained, “but we took out a loan from the state, (revolving loan fund), and installed a force main all the way from East Milton Elementary to just south of the Interstate where we put in a large lift station. We will now be able to serve the entire Ward Basin Road area,” he said. “Two or three years ago we sent out a survey to all the property owners in that area and had about a 65 or 79 percent positive response,” Watkins said, “We expect to be finished with the construction in a couple of months now.” The actual cost for a new customer to connect to the new sewer line was not readily available, but there was some good news in that regard. Watkins said that for anyone who connects to the new line and agrees to abandon their septic tank, the connection cost will be cut in half. Abandoning septic tanks will enhance the environment and significantly increase property values in the area.
The second phase of the project that’s expected to help "wake the sleeping giant” is the construction of a brand new waste water treatment plant in East Milton, the plans of which are further along now than most anyone realizes. “And on that, we’ve got the engineering work almost complete,” Watkins said. “We’re finalizing the last piece of that plan with Santa Rosa County now.” Watkins said the city is using a piece of Santa Rosa County property in the north end of the Industrial Park on which to build the new treatment plant. The third phase of the long range plan is to continue the sewer line on down Highway 87 South from the point at the industrial park south of the Pullum Motel where the line now ends. Neighborhoods in American Farms and Hickory Hammock areas are expected to welcome such a new facility. The new waste water treatment plant to be built in East Milton is expected to take the pressure off the existing plant in downtown Milton. “And it will eventually become our main treatment plant, giving us the option of closing the one downtown and taking it out,” Thompson said. The property, said Thompson, where the current waste water treatment plant is located could be developed in away that would enhance the city. “We’ve got to make something happen.” the Mayor reinforced. “We’ve got to develop a strong economic base which our master plan addresses." The master plan to which he refers is the City of Milton and Village of Bagdad, Florida Riverfront Master Plan released in August of last year, and of which Planning Director Jorgenson is so proud. The vision and goals of the plan are lofty, but proud. “The riverfront in Milton and Bagdad is the attraction that brings life to the community and sets it apart from other places,” the plan reads. “Our vision for the future of the riverfront is to connect our residents and visitors to the Blackwater River to provide experiences that enhance our quality of life and connect us to our environment and our history.”