I’ve been keeping up with the proposals, comments and concerns over where to put the new Santa Rosa County Courthouse and would like to share my perspective as the owner of a business on Willing Street in historic downtown Milton.
I’ve heard people say that without the courthouse, the historic downtown will die. First let me point out that the current courthouse does not bring “life” to downtown. It does not bring customers into my Antique store, which resides only one block away. Occasionally, I’ll get the lone person waiting on a relative to get out of court, just to kill time. People who are called to jury duty are in a hurry to get back to work as soon as possible.
Because of the location, many surrounding buildings house attorneys, probation officers and bail bond businesses, instead of shops and restaurants. Unlike a city the size of Pensacola or larger, Milton does not have enough storefront real estate to house both.
I would love to see the existing courthouse renovated and used for the benefit of all citizens. Make it a community center or a satellite branch of one of our Universities. Make it a children’s museum. Make it something that will bring life to our community.
We must stop looking at the courthouse building as our town’s status symbol. A thriving community should be our goal. Moving the courthouse won’t make Milton disappear, as some people fear. It will give it the opportunity to come alive again.
As for the question of where to relocate the courthouse, it would make sense to use land the county already owns. East Milton, next to the jail seems to be a logical location. If my sources are correct, taxpayers are paying in excess of $170,000 per year to transport inmates to and from the jail. Why not build the courthouse right next to it? If a caged walkway was planned as part of the construction, there wouldn’t be a need for vehicle transport at all. Obviously, I don’t have access to all the facts and figures, but starting with land the county owns makes the most sense to me.
Here’s hoping our county commissioners will strongly consider these points.