By DOTTY NIST
The public will get a say in how Walton County’s tourism council proceeds with some options for its existing building and with plans for signage at public beach accesses. Public workshops will be scheduled for after the first of the year on both matters.
The decisions took place at the Dec. 10 quarterly meeting of the South Walton Tourist Development Council (TDC) at Celebration Hall, Topsail Village. The venue was provided courtesy of the Tim Pauls family.
District 5 Commissioner Cindy Meadows, who is to serve as the county commission member on the TDC, acted as interim chair for the meeting. This was pending appointments to four expiring seats on the tourism council by county commissioners, with those selections to made the following day at a commission meeting, along with designation of a chair and vice chair for the new TDC board.
Carol Pauls, a current TDC member, welcomed the council and attendees to Celebration Hall, a meeting and events facility and the newest addition to Topsail Village.
The meeting room at the TDC building is no longer available due to being in use for staff office space. TDC staff formerly working on the second floor were moved downstairs when health and safety issues were identified in their work areas.
On Nov. 13, at the request of TDC Executive Director Dawn Moliterno, county commissioners approved a $228,160 low bid by Lord & Son, in association with DAG Architects, for a design/build project to address the health and safety deficiencies asociated with the building. Moliterno said that those improvements are being scheduled.
At Moliterno’s request, the TDC was also authorized to negotiate with the contractors on options to address additional issues with the building that had been identified by the companies who had responded to the TDC’s request for proposals. According to Moliterno, one of these was a roof leak in the area of the building tower that had resulting in water impacting electrical components. Another issue identified was in connection with front-door security. Lack of parking has been a challenge at the building at times, and contractors had told the TDC that it would be possible to add 12 parking spaces as part of the project.
At the Dec. 10 TDC meeting, Moliterno observed that there has been a feeling by the community that sometimes “they don’t get brought in on the front end” of what the TDC is doing, which unfortunately creates mistrust. She saw an opportunity with the building options to involve the community through workshops and bring their input back to the TDC members to aid their decisions on the matter.
She recommended that the workshops be scheduled and that council members hold off on a decision on the building options until after that input had been obtained.
TDC member Amy Wise-Coble moved for approval of the recommendation, and her motion carried with all aye votes.
Meadows urged for workshops in both ends of the county and that those be scheduled after Christmas and at a time convenient for people to attend.
Moliterno agreed and said that one workshop could be held in the north end and one in the south end.
Moliterno also brought up an item that the tourism council had put into its strategic plan for this year, a “universal sign concept” for signage at beach accesses. Council members had observed that there were many signs at beach accesses, among those the ones associated with beach safety, sea turtle protection, and the Leave No Trace ordinance. There has been a tendency among visitors not to pay attention to the signs since there are so many. The council members had requested a concept to consolidate the signage and make it more aesthetic. Moliterno said TDC advertising agency Zehnder had “taken a stab” at the matter with some ideas after looking at the strategic plan documents.
Moliterno saw this as another opportunity for the council to “step back,” present the problem to members of the community, and seek their advice. She said that possibly the people who had been vocal with regard to the TDC’s original wayfinding signs a few years ago would want to be involved with this signage effort.
Moliterno noted that if the workhops were done, it would not be possible to have the universal sign concept ready to include in the strategic plan that the TDC would be preparing in 2013. However, she said that, even if means waiting, “We think we need to get it right with the community.”
It was her proposal to schedule workshops on the univeral sign concept after the completion of the workshops on the building options.
The council approved the proposal for these workshops with all aye votes.
Moliterno reported the outcome of the recent series of workshops conducted on the role and mission of the TDC as “very positive.” She said the facilitator’s notes from the workshops would be emailed to council members and county commissioners and would be posted on the TDC partner site, www.visitsouthwalton.org. She added that TDC staff were working on answers to questions posed by the public at the workshops.
The council members heard a proposal by Charlie Reichman for tram service on CR-30A and other parts of south Walton County. He also proposed tram transportation between the north end and the south end to bring employees to and from work.
Reichman said he had been working with a group of 20 people on the proposal.
He envisioned having four trams in service during the peak season and two or three in the off-season. He also suggested the use of trams in connection with area events.
Funding needs for the services were estimated at $685,000 for operation for the first year, plus a $415,000 cost for the initial investment in equipment.
The tram service was proposed at no cost to riders. Reichman envisioned funding for the service coming from the combined support of businesses and the TDC.
Tim Pauls, newly-elected chairman of the local nonprofit group Friends of 30A, spoke in favor of the tram service. He commented that the Friends support the effort as part of the “big picture” to improve traffic flow on CR-30A.
“I think it’s definitely worth discussing,” Meadows said in response to Reichman’s presentation. She agreed to set up meetings between Reichman and his group, herself and Moliterno. Reichman said he would welcome that opportunity.
Moliterno reported October 2012 as 22.56 percent higher than the same month last year in terms of bed taxes. She saw this as good news, saying that the TDC makes a special effort to increase shoulder season visitation and particularly likes to see an increase at this time of the year…..
Read the full story in the Dec. 13, 2012 edition of the Herald Breeze.