The November general election ballot will not only include a sales tax to pay for rebuilding the Santa Rosa County courthouse for residents to decide upon, but also its location. Two controversial properties will be available for the vote: the Highway 90 location and the East Milton site. The public has had mixed opinions on the new location, but the main reason for support of the East Milton site is the fact it would not cost taxpayers any more money.



However, during the Commission meeting March 13, Commissioner Salter said, "The price of the land will be about one percent of the total cost of the project, and if you look at potentially a one cent sales tax, the property will be paid off in the first 15 to 16 days of the project." Salter also said he's concerned not a lot of people have gone to the courthouse nor understand the future difficulty of the traffic around the current site. He said he's also concerned about the infrastructure. "If you're going to make a 40 million dollar investment and put it in East Milton where you have some of the poorest infrastructure in the county doesn't make sense to me," he said. Salter said citizens should call their commissioners and educate themselves on the two sites before making a decision.



Commissioner Cole said he's fought to put the courthouse in East Milton for the last five years. Cole said, "It's a good selection on Highway 90," and he preferred the East Milton site. While Cole said he and Commissioner Lynchard disagreed on how the ballot questions should be worded, the result would be one of three options: "If we get 'no, no, no,' then we don't build it. If we get 'yes' for East Milton, we build it there. If we get 'yes' for Highway 90, we build it there," Cole said. He also said, "Now that we've drilled it down to two locations," the public should decide.



Despite having differing opinions on the courthouse's location, both Cole and Salter supported letting the people decide. Salter said Im always for letting the majority rule." and Cole concurred, saying, "The citizens should be involved in the process."



Speaking before the council, Jerry Couey said, "It's the principle, not the dollars, gentlemen. The people I talk to, they're carrying pitchforks, and they have them on fire, and if there is property purchased over this courthouse, your sales tax is going to fail." He said there are "citizens offering olive branches," however, urging the commissioners to reconsider their decisions. Several citizens spoke after Couey, offering logistical arguments and expressing a lack of faith in the commission over this issue. Applause followed Cole's suggestion to put the decision for the courthouse's location on the ballot.