MILTON — Shannon Ogletree presented an economic development proposal to the five-member Santa Rosa County commission calling for the purchase of former United Way of Santa Rosa County buildings and land.
The main component of the plan by Ogletree, who oversees the Santa Rosa County Economic Development Office, was to use the former Whiting Furniture a small business incubator to help entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground.
Additionally, the county estimated $1.2 million property would create office space in the former United Way building for the EDO. A warehouse near the office would be used for county records storage. Finally, 4.2 acres of the 5.96-acre site would be reserved for the county for future wetlands mitigation.
"We would like to explore the opportunity of an appraisal-inspection and just open the discussion of the properties owned by United Way of Santa Rosa," Ogletree told commissioners at its committee meeting Monday.
While county commissioners originally supported the concept of helping new businesses succeed, they were not ready to agree on pursuing the buying of the two properties.
At Thursday's regular meeting, the commissioners took the proposal off the agenda. When Chairman Sam Parker asked why, County Administrator Dan Schebler said more time is needed to answer the commissioners’ questions about the sites.
"We are not going to pursue that purchase," Schebler said during Thursday’s meeting.
The BOCC had many questions and staff still plans on getting those answers, Schebler said. He added that the county may bring the proposal back for discussion, if the review of those questions looks favorable to the county.
United Way of Santa Rosa County lost its membership in United Way Worldwide on March 6 after an internal investigation into its finances found possible wrongdoing by former executive director Guy Thompson. An FBI investigation of the organization is ongoing.
"I wouldn't feel comfortable even expending funds for an appraisal at this time," said Parker, who sits on the Economic Development Committee.
"I like the concept, but I've got quite a few questions I'd like to get answered," Cole said. He said he wanted to wait while the investigation continues. "We need to let the whole thing settle down over there."