Impact of state’s $5.7 million not yet known

Posted on March 21, 2016 by Louis Cooper

There’s no word yet on how money included in the new state budget for the Navarre Beach renourishment project might impact assessments expected to be paid by beach residents.

The budget signed last week by Gov. Rick Scott included $5.7 million for the project, which is estimated to cost a total of $17.4 million. About $4.9 million of that is already set to be covered by federal and state money, with the rest to be covered by funds from the county, bed tax collections and beach residents through a Municipal Services Benefit Unit assessment.

Current projections anticipate residents paying about $4.8 million through annual assessments. Each property owner would pay between $203 and $511 annually, depending on where their property is and the calculated benefit those properties will receive from the renourishment.

“I think the board would apply it against the local share, reducing both the portion to be paid by the general fund as well as the MSBU,” Commissioner Lane Lynchard said after the budget was approved.

However, the issue did not come up at Monday’s commission meeting.

That “will be a future BOCC decision, most likely to be discussed in April,” Tony Gomillion, county administrator, said.

At Monday’s meeting, Santa Rosa County Commissioner Rob Williamson said he would like for the Bay Area Resource Council to include a member from Navarre.

The Bay Area Resource Council is an intergovernmental organization established in 1987 as a means for local governments that border the Pensacola and Perdido Bays to unite in the common purpose of protecting and improving area waterways and watersheds.

Commissioners are currently considering a resolution designating BARC as the Estuary Program organization that would manage a comprehensive plan for the restoration and protection of Pensacola Bay and Perdido Bay for the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

“Santa Rosa Sound is an impaired waterway. Santa Rosa Sound is critical to the economy of Santa Rosa County and Northwest Florida,” Williamson said.

“I want to make sure that the Bay Area Resource Council does not just focus on Perdido or Pensacola Bay areas … but that we also have that focus expand to include Santa Rosa Sound.”

As of now, only incorporated cities and counties are represented on the council. Currently, the council includes Santa Rosa Commissioners Bob Cole and Jayer Williamson, Escambia County Commissioners Grover Robinson and Douglas Underhill, Milton Mayor Wesley Meiss, Gulf Breeze City Councilwoman Renee Bookout and Pensacola City Councilwoman Sherri Myers.

In other business, the commission gave preliminary approval to a lease with the Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce for 415 square feet of space inside of the Visitor Information Center on U.S. 98.

The chamber will pay $7,470 annually for the space, or $622.50 per month, according to the proposed lease. The chamber has maintained space in the Visitor Information Center since 2010.

The BARC resolution and the lease are set to be discussed and voted on at Thursday’s regular commission meeting, set for 9 a.m. at the Santa Rosa County Administrative Office Complex, located at 6495 U.S. 90, Milton (behind McDonald’s).