By DOTTY NIST
Observing its 34th year as an organization, the Walton County Taxpayers Association held its annual members’ meeting on Jan. 19, with reports provided and board members and officers elected.
The meeting took place at the South Walton Utility Grimaldi Room in Miramar Beach.
Serving as an independent, nonpartisan advocate for county taxpayers, the WCTA operates on the vision statement adopted several years ago for Walton County “as a vibrant, safe place for citizens to live, work, raise families, start businesses, and retire.”
“The WCTA believes that lower taxes, an efficient county government, elected officials and government agencies that operate with transparency, and an excellent education system are all fundamental to the growth and success of Walton County,” the vision statement continues.
In a report to members, WCTA Executive Director Bob Hudson observed that when the WCTA was first organized, the Walton County millage rate was twice the current rate of 3.6363 mills.
He also commented that tourism is growing and puts “tremendous demands on the infrastructure in Walton County.”
Hudson reported that the relationship between the organization and county administration and finance was currently a cooperative and successful one, with budget information readily available.
Hudson also commented on A Better South Walton (ABSW). ABSW is a community group working to provide residents south of the bay with an option for incorporation and city government.
State Representative Brad Drake (R-Eucheanna) and State Senator George Gainer (R-Panama City) are scheduled to hold a legislative delegation meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 27 at the South Walton Annex to hear public comments on proposals for the 2017 session and will consider local bills. Comment on the possibility of incorporation of the area south of the bay will be taken at the meeting. Hudson was unsure whether there would be time for the local bill necessary to provide for a referendum on incorporation to be introduced and approved in this year’s legislative session. However he said he expected that there would be an effort to do so. The WCTA has not taken a position on incorporation.
Among other topics discussed by Hudson was a recent proposal by Walton County District 3 Commissioner Melanie Nipper to examine the feasibility of transfer of Walton County Fire Rescue (WCFR) from county oversight to that of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO). He reported that the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) had recently opted to utilize a local committee to evaluate the feasibility of the transfer rather than spending money on a feasibility study done by a consultant. The transfer proposal had come in the wake of problems identified with living conditions for firefighters in the WCFR’s north-of-the-bay service area. Hudson revealed that he had been asked to serve on the committee as a representative of the WCTA.
This was one of the items that Hudson said would be on the WCTA’s “radar” this year, along with the customary use of the beach issue, economic development, and the upcoming update effort with the Walton County Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code. Hudson said the goal would be to be proactive rather than reactive in bringing items important to taxpayers before the BCC.
A slate of WCTA directors nominated for a two-year term ending in Jan. 2019 was approved. These included current board members Zuma Banks, Bobby Bowick, Danny Glidewell, Emmett Hildreth, David Krika, and Alan Osborne, along with new board members Robert Hirsch and Jim Jaquess.
Board members with unexpired terms ending in Jan. 2018 were recognized. These included Dennis Cook, Shelia Grimes, Suzanne Harris, Betty Letcher, Tracie Martin, Don Riley, and Bob Sullivan.
Also approved at the meeting was a slate of advisory board members consisting of Dan Scupin, Eileen McDermott, and J.B. Hillard.
Miramar Beach resident and Walton County pioneer Barbara Grimaldi was honored for her 30 years’ membership with applause from attendees and a certificate of honorary lifelong membership.
New Officers for the organization were chosen in a brief meeting of board members. They include: Danny Glidewell, president; Bob Brooke, vice-president; Dennis Cook, treasurer; and Shelia Grimes, secretary.
Information on the WCTA is available on the organization’s website, www.waltontaxpayers.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
By DOTTY NIST