By DOTTY NIST
Economic development, preservation and recreation items topped the Walton County Board of County Commissioners’ (BCC) list of project priorities at the Sept. 13 capital projects workshop.
The workshop took place at the Walton County Courthouse in DeFuniak Springs.
Current top priorities for federal funding included infrastructure and funding for the Mossy Head Industrial Park, environmental assessment of the coastal dune lakes and restoration of the lakes’ natural outfalls, beach nourishment, and eradication of cogon grass. Current top priorities for state funding included: restoration of natural dune lake outfalls; recreational improvements at Cowford Park, at county property on Lake Powell and at Natural Bridge, where the county may have the opportunity to manage property to be acquired by the state; along with a bicycle pedestrian bridge across Western Lake and also the cogon grass eradication and beach restoration.
The commissioners agreed on the addition of passing lanes for U.S. 331 North—and on adding to the list the four-laning of U.S. 331 north of I-10 to the state line.
According to engineering consultant Cliff Knauer, the Mossy Head Industrial Park wastewater treatment plant is designed, permitted and ready for construction at any time but will need 40,000 gallons a day of flow to operate. The county is proceeding with a plan to tie the industrial park in with package sewer plants at the Mossy Head School and the Dixie RV business in order to initiate sewer service in the park so that tenants can move in. Once enough tenants are in place to provide the needed flow, the time will be right to construct the wastewater treatment plant.
The original estimate for the plant had been $4 million, but Knauer said that the stabilization of concrete and steel prices, plus the fact that the companies building these plants have not had as much work recently, should enable the plant to be built for much less, probably less than $3 million.
District 3 Commissioner Larry Jones spoke to the need to make sure that all permits for the plant are current.
County Commission Chairman Scott Brannon noted that roads, stormwater and utility construction in the Mossy Head Industrial Park would be good projects for RESTORE Act funding
District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander agreed, adding that the program to eradicate cogon grass would be another good RESTORE Act project. The county is working to get rid of the invasive grass but resources are lacking. Comander suggested putting a full-time person on the task if outside funding can be secured. District 5 Commissioner Cecilia Jones suggested a public relations effort to educate property owners on the importance of allowing spraying to eliminate cogon grass.
Comander spoke to the need to expand bike/pedestrians not only in south Walton County but north of the bay also, and to dredge LaGrange Bayou. In the event of a hurricane, LaGrange Bayou could be the county’s only route for bringing in gasoline, she emphasized. Comander also highlighted opportunities for economic development in connection with the DeFuniak Springs Airport.
Comander spoke of other long-range goals, including setting up high-speed Internet countywide and the establishment of an events/sports complex in south Walton County, along with the construction of additional beach parking and public dune walkovers.
The commissioners discussed another priority for federal funding, a Walton County medical clinic for the Paxton area. $1.3 million is being sought for the clinic.
Cecilia Jones commented that a $600,000 grant exists that the county could seek for funding of a “low-speed path” for golf carts and handicapped vehicles along CR-30A.
South Walton County resident Sandy Luchtefeld suggested looking at “pull-off” areas for public transportation that could also serve low-speed vehicle needs and that could possibly used in the future in connection with roundabouts.
Cecilia Jones commented that the time is good for buying any property that is needed. She spoke of a vacant 2.9-acre beachfront parcel in the Eastern Lake area off Beachside Drive. South Walton County community leader Jacquee Markel noted that the parcel is close to an area identified by the South Walton Tourist Development Council (TDC) where parking for a beach access is being sought. Comander suggested the property as a good place for a county park….
Read the full story in the Sept. 20, 2012 edition of the Herald Breeze.