MILTON — County commissioners took the morning last Tuesday to hear presentations from the top three rated firms for the county courthouse project and by lunchtime had awarded it to Ajax Building Corporation.

According to county officials, three firms were identified after reviews of request for proposals for the project were completed. The firms selected to make presentations to the Commission were in order of final ranking, Ajax Building Corporation, The Morette Company and Whitesell-Green Cadell. The winner, Ajax, has local offices in Midway. The Ajax team consists of Pensacola's Sam Marshall Architects and HOK — the global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm.

"I am extremely excited that we are now going to see this phase of the project begin," Commission chairman Parker said. "It's been long overdue."

Parker said the Ajax design-build team's experience working together on the Okaloosa County Courthouse made a big difference in the selection process.

"Experience matters," he said.

Jay B. Smith II, vice president at Ajax Building Corporation agreed.

"A lot of the team that built the Okaloosa courthouse is the same team we will use for the Santa Rosa courthouse," Smith said.

According to Smith, the first order of business is to schedule a kick-off meeting with county officials and lay out what the priorities and the timelines are. One of the Ajax team members, HOK uses a 90-day plan that starts projects quickly, Smith said.

Both Smith and Parker agree that ground breaking for the project will happen towards the end of summer. The new county courthouse will sit on a 19-acre site on Avalon Boulevard and will cost $35 - $45 million.

The selection of Ajax Building Corporation for the courthouse project gets 2019 off to a fast start for the county. Upcoming projects include park improvements in Milton and Pace. Large drainage projects have started in the north and south parts of the county, as well.

Another large project is the Pea Ridge connector road, a four-lane boulevard with a landscaped median that will start at Highway 90 and Santa Villa and run north to Hamilton Bridge Road. The road is meant to alleviate the traffic congestion around the Spencer Field and Glover Lane area. Other projects include:

Engineering plans for Whiting Aviation Park
Spencer Field traffic improvements
Solar lighting projects in several areas

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