Like the regular passing of a solar eclipse, a familiar topic many residents of the unincorporated community of Pace darkens the landscape again: Pace incorporation. Currently, the only governing body for Pace is Santa Rosa County. Commissioner Don Salter said, "Pace could be a very large city with 30 to 40,000 people living there."
Salter said he hasn't heard of a strong interest in quite some time since former commissioner Tom Stewart was involved in the issue. Two years ago, the Press Gazette reported Stewart saying, "No, I never have been in favor of incorporating." Salter said, back when the issue was a hot topic, Santa Rosa County functions did a good job for the people who didn't want to pay additional taxes for city services.
Nicki D. Qualls, CEO of Pace Chamber of Commerce, said there are no new developments regarding Pace incorporating. "There is no way to have any revenue to run a city since all of the utilities are already established," Qualls said.
City of Milton Mayor Guy Thompson in reference to city government said, "The government is closer to the people, more representative and localized. A city can provide and enhance police and fire protection with a greater ratio and response times." He also said a city has the ability to control its parks better and can petition for grants. Thompson said the biggest hurdle with incorporation is weighing the cost. "Police and fire are very expensive," he said. Pace already has a volunteer fire department, he said, but added, "The water system is not owned by the city." A city, he said, has to make a profit. "It's a business. You have to make it a business," he said. The City of Milton sells natural gas, water, and sewage and the profits go back into the city, according to Thompson. He asked, "What difference is it going to make? Is it worth the cost?"
Currently, there is no organization working towards incorporation, despite voices resurrecting the subject in the Press Gazette letters to the editor and opinions voiced on Speak Out. Milton, Gulf Breeze, and Jay may remain the only official cities in Santa Rosa County. However, look for an upcoming story on an organized effort to incorporate Navarre. Will an upcoming straw poll in Navarre influence Pace citizens?