EDITORIAL: Why are Escambia developers funding push for Santa Rosa tax?

Posted on August 13, 2016 by Romi White

As planned, Santa Rosa County Commissioners are making a third attempt to get voters to support a local option sales tax (LOST) to fund a new courthouse they’ve proposed for downtown Milton.

Additionally, on this year’s ballot, the board added a second referendum for a one-half cent LOST to fund unspecified “infrastructure” improvements.

And it’s like 2006 all over again.

In 2006 a Political Action Committee (PAC) called Better Roads Now, funded largely by developers and contractors — many from Escambia County, failed in their effort to push an infrastructure LOST for Santa Rosa County.

Fast forward a decade later, and a PAC named Moving Santa Rosa Forward, led by developer Ed Carson of Pace is trying again.

Interestingly, more than half of the 21 contributions made so far toward the current PAC are from companies based in Escambia County.

Carson, whose real estate development company Carson Lovell is located in downtown Pensacola, has contributed $500 toward the PAC.

Road, Inc., owned by contractor Cody Rawson, on July 26 gave $3,000. Contractors Terhaar & Cronley gave $10,000 in April. And Escambia County Commissioner Wilson Robertson and his business partner gave $500 in June.

Other Escambia-based contributions include: Quality Investments, $2500; Neal & Company, $500; Kenneth Horn (engineer), $500; Merrill Parker Shaw (surveying); and Gene’s Flooring, $500.

When asked why so many Escambia developers were funding the Santa Rosa tax effort, Tony Alexander, a marketing consultant for the PAC, said, “If I had to guess they are land or property owners in (Santa Rosa County) not looking for ad valorem increase.”

Pace resident Edwin Henry of Henry Company Homes has contributed the most so far, giving $10,000 on April 6 and another $3,000 on July 15.

Other Santa Rosa Contributors include: banker Tommy Tait, $250; realtor Becky Holcombe; Sundance Properties, $1,000; ReMax Pace, $1,000; Pace Water System, $500; Guarantee Title, $1,000; Too Many Fingers (restauranteur Michael Thomas – Tastee Freeze), $200.

So far the PAC has expended $16,000 to Jacksonville-based political consultants Barcelo & Company, which was also hired by the 2006 PAC. A business affiliate of Barcelo, Tom Nolan, was also paid $5,000 on July 14.

Following is the infrastructore LOST wording which appears on the ballot:


“Shall a one half cent sales tax be levied to fund law enforcement/fire and public safety facilities and equipment, transportation and drainage improvements, infrastructure projects/public facilities, recreation/natural resources and capital equipment. The tax will be levied for a period of five (5) years.”


CORRECTION: This post has been edited to show that Tony Alexander is not a paid marketing consultant. Instead, he made a $2,000 in-kind contribution, donating his marketing services toward the PAC. We regret the error.