By DOTTY NIST
After receiving two large checks at their second meeting in December, county commissioners opted to move forward with a new business tenant at the Mossy Head Industrial Park and a Children’s Advocacy Center on county property in DeFuniak Springs.
This took place at the Dec. 19 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) regular meeting at the Walton County Courthouse.
A capital credit check from member-owned utility CHELCO was presented in the amount of $6,053, followed by a check for $96,717 due to the county as a member of the Florida League of Cities.
At the request of Julie Hurst, chief executive officer for the nonprofit Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC), the commissioners authorized Mark Davis, county attorney, to start the process for transfer of county property on College Boulevard to the center for construction of a 10,000-square-foot facility.
A 50-year lease to the CAC on the property is envisioned.
Hurst thanked the commissioners for their support. She noted that the center has been operating at its Niceville location for the past 13 years, helping thousands of children who have been victims of abuse and their families. In 2009, before establishing a the center’s current temporary location on Hwy. 20, Hurst told the commissioners, 62 children from Walton County were served in Niceville.
Since establishing a DeFuniak Springs office 1 ½ years ago, she said 242 children from Walton County have been assisted.
The center still hopes to do more, as it is believed that 2/3 of child abuse cases occur without being reported, Hurst explained.
The center does not house victims or their families. Instead, it provides for all agencies and volunteers assisting these children and families to be located in one place with a child-friendly environment. Among these are law enforcement personnel, Children and Families professionals, mental health counselors and therapists, and volunteers. Hurst said that through this arrangement only one interview of a victimized child is usually required, sparing the child the trauma of having to repeat what has occurred.
Hurst explained that the center’s resources enable children to carry on with their life and be “happy and healthy.” Victimizers of children are also prosecuted, Hurst reported, commenting, “We keep the bad guys off the street.”
Hurst said the DeFuniak Springs CAC will be located next to the Senior Center. She expressed enthusiasm about possibilities for mutual assistance between seniors and center personnel.
County Commission Chairman Bill Chapman said he had utilized the Niceville CAC as part of his previous career with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office. “I am glad to see it come to Walton County,” he said.
District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander thanked Hurst for her efforts on behalf of children.
In other action, the BCC also authorized Davis to proceed with plans to sell property in the Mossy Head Industrial Park to Empire Truck Sales, a truck sales, parts and service company. This will be the second tenant to locate at on the county-owned industrial park property, with Love’s Travel Stop having broken ground in October.
District 3 Commissioner Bill Imfeld commented on the truck company’s good reputation.
A letter of intent from Empire indicates that the company would purchase 10 acres in the park at a cost of $20,000 per acre. While the proposed price is less than that paid by Love’s, Comander observed that the industrial park property had been acquired by the county a dozen years ago at a cost that came to approximately $400 an acre. She added that this is “not about” the price paid for the land but instead about the jobs that the business will bring to the area.
Her motion to authorize Davis to move forward with the sales process was approved with all aye votes from the four commissioners present.
By DOTTY NIST