MILTON — Taxpayers finally know what the project priorities will be for the half-penny increase in the sales tax.
A special election on the other half-cent is scheduled for Aug. 27. Voters approved the first half-cent Aug. 30, 2016, and it took effect Jan. 1, 2017.
A full penny — estimated to generate at least $16.5 million a year or $165 million over 10 years — would be split three ways: Transportation and drainage would receive 50% or $82.5 million, public safety would get 30% or $49.5 million and quality-of-life enhancements would be earmarked for 20% or $33 million.
Bob Cole, a commissioner for Milton, said he appreciated the listing of the priorities on the tax, for which 20% to 35% of collections come from visitors to the county.
“I know a lot of citizens have said, ‘What would this be spent for?’” Cole said during Monday’s committee meeting. “This is very critical to our county.”
Santa Rosa County Commission Chairman Sam Parker said he plans on voting “yes” to raise the sales tax to a penny.
“I’m supporting this because I want to make Santa Rosa the best it can be for our family to enjoy,” Parker said.
A few transportation and drainage improvements include:
Woodbine Road widening from U.S. Highway 90 to Five Points — $34.5 million
Tom King Bayou drainage project, 7,000 linear feet in Holley by the Sea — $7 million
Roundabout at Gulf Boulevard and the Navarre Beach causeway — $1.3 million
Resurfacing of paved roads and paving of dirt roads across the county— $11.5 million
Turn lanes throughout the county that improve public safety and reduce car accidents — $4 million
Some public safety projects include:
Sheriff’s Office: 45 new patrol vehicles annually — $2.25 million annually or $22.5 million over 10 years
Fire Department: 12 new fire engines for the unincorporated areas of the county — $7.5 million
Among quality-of-life enhancements are:
Football field expansion on 60 acres off Joppa Road next to the Chumuckla Horse Park, including a game field, practice fields, modified equestrian area and tennis courts — $1.5 million
Soccer field expansion on 15 acres at the south end of the Pensacola State College campus for 1,200 children — $2 million
New YMCA at Benny Russell Park in Pace and Freedom Athletic Center (once The Club) in Gulf Breeze — $12 million
White Sands Boulevard multiple-use path for pedestrians, cyclists and runners to improve public safety — $1.2 million
“We’ll be sharing these (priorities) with the public in a variety of forms and formats,” said Santa Rosa County Administrator Dan Schebler.
Courthouse concept chosen
Additionally, the five-member county commission moved into the design and development phase of the new $35 million Santa Rosa County judicial complex.
Commissioners chose the “Plaza” concept from three options presented to them for the 108,977-square-foot, three-story courthouse on 19 acres off Avalon Boulevard and Mulat Road.
In general, the lobby and jury assembly room are on the first floor. The second floor includes four courtrooms, four judge suites and the State Attorney’s Office. Meanwhile, the third floor has two more courtrooms and Public Defender’s Office.
Salter joked that the project only took 40 years to get started, while Dave Piech, who represents Navarre on the commission said, “(The plaza concept) has the best functionality for a facility we will have for a long, long time.”
Recycling expected to end
The recyclables market has become flooded, which means Santa Rosa County government must subsidize recycling of aluminum, cardboard, paper and other materials. During the height of the market, the county, like others across the country, made money on recycling.
County officials expect the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority board, which handles recycling for Santa Rosa, to cancel the contract at its meeting today.
Commissioners received options ranging from $274,000 a year to $1.2 million a year to continue to recycle, including trucking recyclable materials for $540,000 a year to Montgomery’s landfill. That amount would cover payments of $40 a ton, plus transportation costs, to get the material to Montgomery.
Cole said commissioners have no guarantee material collected by residents would actually be recycled.
“I’ve always been for recycling,” Cole said. “But I’m not in favor of paying an exorbitant amount of money for moving recyclables to other landfills.”