By Jesse Farthing
Chairman Gene Valentino argued passionately for the board to move forward on a permanent easement to provide beach nourishment and dune restoration to Perdido Key at the Escambia County Commission’s Committee of the Whole meeting on Thursday.
Valentino sought a vote that would allow the county to use a “quick take” of eminent domain to grant access to beachfront property in order to begin work on beach nourishment.
Commissioner Grover Robinson argued against using eminent domain on the basis that the property owners who have so far responded favorably to the beach nourishment program are the minority. He said that if a majority of property owners were to allow it then he would have no argument against eminent domain for the others, but as it is now he cannot support it.
“We’re about to lose Perdido Key if we don’t do something to protect that key,” Valentino said. “Whether one person responded or a thousand responded. The beaches are eroding away.”
Valentino argued that people have not responded because they either don’t live in those properties full time, or they don’t care and expect the board to take care of it and make the decisions.
Ultimately, the arguments resulted in a plan to look into hiring an outside firm to do a professional census of property owners, in the hopes of receiving more responses, and moving forward from there.
Interim County Administrator George Touart’s update to the board on the jail transfer asserted that all of the meetings with the sheriff’s department had been “very productive” and that it had been a great week. The largest portion of the personnel issues in administration has been worked out.
Amy Lovoy reported that the IT costs still had not been determined and figuring out IT issues was creating some time compression problems, but said that they are still committed to the October 1 date. Lovoy also said that nothing from the Department of Justice report had been assessed for costs.
Commissioner Lumon May expressed that he had some concerns regarding the DOJ report, the mental health court and whether or not money was going to be available within the budget to cover related expenses.
“We’re still within budget at this point in time,” Touart responded.
Outlying Field 8
The board voted unanimously to take control over the Navy’s Outlying Field 8 in Beulah in a land swap agreement where Escambia County will purchase and develop a property closer to Whiting Field, which they will then trade for Outlying Field 8.
The intention is to take the 425 buildable acres of the field and convert in into a commerce park. The board agreed to put out a request for proposals for an outside consultant to take a look at the land deal.
Robinson called this a “super deal” and Valentino said he had never seen such a “win-win-win situation before.”
The commission will meet next week, where they will discuss the ratification of the agreements.