Protection for $18.8 billion military training tops commission agenda

Posted on September 23, 2015 by Deborah Nelson

Protecting military training in the Gulf of Mexico topped the agenda at Monday’s Santa Rosa County Commission meeting.

The Defense Support Initiative, a three county military advocacy group located in Fort Walton Beach, asked Santa Rosa and Okaloosa to pass resolutions opposing Gulf of Mexico drilling near military training space.   Efforts are underway in Washington to change offshore drilling limits from 125 miles to 50, according to a memo from county military affairs consultant Pete Gandy.

“The Gulf of Mexico Energy and Security Act of 2006 establishes protective zones within the Gulf of Mexico within which oil exploration and related activities are prohibited in order to protect the natural environment and military missions crucial to Santa Rosa County, the region and communities along the Gulf Coast,” the proposed resolution reads.

According to the resolution, the proposed Offshore Production and Energizing National Security Act of 2015 would “reduce protected areas within the Gulf of Mexico established by the 2006 Act, threatening the viability of military activities in the Gulf.”

“This change will negatively impact military test and training and changes the 2006 law passed to protect the Gulf Range,” Gandy noted.  The military contributes $18.8 billion to the local economy, according to the proposed resolution.

The resolution had no opposition Monday, and if approved Thursday moves forward to a public hearing.   It opposes the proposed smaller distance limits and the opening of additional areas of the Gulf east of the military mission line to oil exploration, production and related activities that would threaten Florida’s economy, environment and military mission.

Other items on the board’s agenda expected to come before the commission for a vote at their Sept. 22 regular meeting include:

  •  drafting ordinances to permit alcohol consumption at special events on a case-by-case basis and expanding the South Santa Rosa Tourism District boundary from the East River to the Yellow River — the change would extend new alcohol sales hours to the new boundary.  The issue will come before a public hearing in coming weeks.
  • splitting newly enacted county gas taxes with the City of Milton (6.11%), the City of Gulf Breeze (4.08%) and the Town of Jay (0.39%), starting January 1, 2016.  The State requires the county share with municipalities based on their past 5-years’ transportation expenditures.
  •  applying for a $30,000 grant to build bathrooms at Bagdad Mill site.
  •  a $50,000 Florida DEP grant for Navarre Park improvements.  Commissioner Rob Williamson said the money would be put towards a half million in needed improvements, including renovating the playground and basketball court and installing a picnic area and kayak launch.
  •  approving use of the Navarre Beach Marine Park and Gulf Boulevard for the 30th Annual Krewe of Jesters Mardi Gras parade on Navarre Beach Saturday, January 30, 2016.
  •  approving Roads, Inc. as low-bidder to build Tiger Point Boulevard sidewalks.  The bid was $88,000.  Florida Department of Transportation will cover $58,500, and Santa Rosa will pay the remaining $29,500.
  • three-year contract with Florida’s Department of Corrections for an inmate work squad assigned to the Road and Bridge Department.  The squad of up to 10 inmates will cost $57,497 per year, not including overtime, mostly to pay the supervising officer.
  • spending $910 to disconnect and remove sign at the entrance to Tiger Point Sports Complex, to make room for the new Publix.