Following the abrupt firing of Santa Rosa County’s former Public Works Director last summer and the subsequent departure of its Assistant Public Works Director, Santa Rosa County failed to apply by March 12 for state funding to improve roadways. County Administrator Dan Schebler yesterday asserted that the county had applied; however, the Florida Department of Transportation confirms that was not a true statement.
Additionally, upon questioning by local government watchdog Jerry Couey, Schebler went on the blame the State of Florida for the lack of SCOP funding.
“The answer is they ran out money before they got to our project. There’s about $20 million annually appropriated for SCOP for all of the small counties, and we did not meet the cutline,” Schebler said.
Couey asked twice during public forum if the county had indeed submitted all the required SCOP paperwork, and both times Schebler stated yes.
“They did not submit an application this year,” said Regina Battles, a Program Management Administrator for the Florida Department of Transportation office in Chipley.
Battles went on to confirm FDOT discussed SCOP funding with Santa Rosa County prior to county staff failing to submit an application before the March 12 deadline.
Historically the Small County Outreach Program funding had provided Santa Rosa County with about $1.4 million per year in annual road paving, resurfacing or improvements, such as repaving Soundside Drive.
When the population requirement for SCOP funding was increased from 150,000 to 170,000, the county successfully lobbied state legislators to increase it to 200,000.
State Representative Jayer Williamson confirms he moved for the increase after requests from Santa Rosa County to do so.
Some of the projects previously listed for SCOP funding include the repaving of 5.3 miles of East Bay Boulevard from U.S. 98 to Tom King Bayou ($1.41 million) and 4.5 miles of Munson Highway from Hwy. 87 N to East Gate Road, which will serve as the entry to Whiting Aviation Park ($2.4 million).
Schebler this afternoon responded to our request for a comment on his statements during yesterday’s meeting.
“I was wrong when I answered Mr. Couey last night during public forum. His ‘rumor’ source was correct, and we did not apply in this latest cycle,” Schebler said.