By DOTTY NIST
In response to recent complaints about roadside solicitation and “panhandling” in Walton County, county commissioners have approved a set of policies for nonprofit organizations wanting to hold fundraising drives or other events along the county right-of-way.
At the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) May 24 regular meeting in DeFuniak Springs Gerry Demers, acting county administrator, presented the comissioners with a document setting forth permitting policies for these activities. Demers said the document put in writing policies that Walton County Administration had been following for several years.
A permit from county administration is required in order for nonprofit organizations to use the county right-of-way for fundraising or events. These may include marches, parades, races, festivals, bucket drives, or any activity that may affect traffic or require assistance by law enforcement. Use of the right-of-way is not allowed for organizations, businesses or individuals other than nonprofits.
State roadways are a separate issue, and the state Department of Transportation must approve any use of the state right-of-way for events or fund raising.
Nonprofits are encouraged to contact county administration as soon as possible when planning roadway activities or fund raisers to discuss their plans, in order to avoid a conflict with activities planned by other organizations. They are required to apply for a roadside activity permit as soon as possible, and not less than 30 days before the activity is to take place.
There is a limit of two permits per year per organization.
Nonprofits must demonstrate that the activity or event “has a charitable benefit for the citizens of Walton County.”
Bucket drive fundraisers will not be permitted during holidays.
Activity organizers are required to coordinate with all local government agencies that may be impacted by the activity, including but not limited to the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, Walton County Code Enforcement, and fire officials.
Volunteers and other individuals participating in the roadside activities are required to wear safety vests and follow safety practices. They must be instructed not to block private driveways or other entrances to private property.
Signs for the activity may go up two days in advance and must be removed within two days afterward. Sign size is limited to 18 inches by 24 inches, and signs must be put up with wire stakes.
The document states, “When conducting bucket drive fundraising, all participants must be on the county right-of-way. Participants may approach a vehicle to collect contributions, but must not hold up traffic.”
An additional requirement is that a copy of the approved permit for the activity must be kept on location at all times.
Applications for nonprofits to use the county right-of-way are available on the Walton County Web site, www.co.walton.fl.us.
The commissioners approved the document by unanimous vote. Later, in response to public comment, they agreed to consider at a later date allowing nonprofits to do fund raisers more often than twice a year, once they have gauged how the adopted policy is working.