Commissioners Approve State And Federal Legislative Priorities

By DOTTY NIST

With water and sewer topping the list, the county commission recently approved a 10-
item list of projects that will be priorities in seeking state and federal funding in the 2018
calendar year.

The approval took place at the Nov. 7 Walton County Board of County Commissioners
(BCC) regular meeting at the South Walton Annex.

Topping the list was funding for water and wastewater infrastructure to serve properties
along the U.S. 331 corridor and surrounding unincorporated areas, with the aim of encouraging
economic development in this part of the county. Total cost for the project is estimated at over
$31.5 million

The commissioners agreed that this project should be the top-ranked priority but did
not rank the other nine items in any particular order.

Another item related to water and sewer is a project involving installation of water and
wastewater infrastructure along U.S. 90 west, aimed at promotion of commercial and industrial
growth along that highway corridor. Funding cost would be $2.1 million for planning, design, and
construction of these improvements.

Also to be sought will be $9.4+ million in funding to replace septic tanks and make
sewer service available to residents on the Choctawhatchee Bay and the coastal dune lakes in
south Walton County.

“This project will reduce the potential for contamination of our area’s groundwater and
surface water resources, thereby improving both public health as well as the environment,”
according to the approved list.

Also to benefit the bay and coastal dune lakes, a total of $74.4+ million will be sought
for roadway improvements aimed at preventing continuous erosion into the bay and lakes. Cost
for the first phase of this project is estimated at $1.9+ million.

Slightly over $586,170 will be sought, as well, for drainage and stormwater
improvements on county roads and along CR-30A in its entirety.

To construct a new rural health clinic in Mossy Head aimed at increasing access to
health care services for residents in that community, a total of $2.5 million will be sought.
Funding sources for all the previously-mentioned projects are yet to be determined.
Neither is any funding source currently indicated for two other projects, one of those
being a proposed fish hatchery on the bay and the other being the expansion of broadband
coverage countywide, especially in large areas in rural Walton County and the southeastern
portion along CR-30A where access to broadband Internet is not available. No cost estimate is
provided for the hatchery, and the cost of the broadband expansion is estimated at $1.3 million.
According to the approved list, Walton County will be seeking a total of $6 million in
Triumph oils spill funds to construct a Research and Educational Institute for academic research
and technology, including development of autonomous (self-driving) vehicles in connection with
the $1.96 million 30A Mobility Project, agricultural and environmental innovation, and economic
development/career and technology innovation.

Triumph funds and the assistance of State Representative Brad Drake (R-
Eucheeanna) are identified as funding sources for the remaining item, a proposed $2 million

pedestrian underpass under U.S. 98 in Inlet Beach, near the eastern end of CR-30A. Purposes
include congestion relief, reduction of traffic delays, and enhancement of safety for the traveling
public.

The BCC approved the list of priorities in a 4-0 vote, with District 1 Commissioner Bill
Chapman out due to illness and with the list to be furnished to Walton County’s lobbyists.

As part of the discussion, BCC Chair Cecilia Jones commented that she thought Safe
Water for Walton was a good project. This is a newly-formed nonprofit focused on regional
water issues and currently involved in opposition to a deep injection well proposed for landfill
leachate in neighboring Jackson County that could potentially impact the regional water basin.

In September, the BCC had approved a resolution opposing the injection well.
Jones asked for Walton County’s state lobbyist to be informed about this effort and to
be asked to alert the BCC of any legislation related to the deep injection well issue.

2018 State and Federal Priorities