Santa Rosa & Escambia Joint Meeting

Here’s the report from Chrissy Littledale on this morning’s joint meeting between our two counties.

Joint Meeting of the
Escambia County Board of County Commissioners
and the Santa Rosa County Board of County Commissioners
April 29, 2008,
Board Chambers, 221 Palafox Place

Call to Order at 8:38 a.m.
All Escambia County Commissioners were present and the following Santa Rosa County Commissioners were present: John Broxson, Don Salter, Tom Stewart, Bob Cole and Gordon Goodin.

Tanker Program – Steve Nodine, Chairman, Mobile County BCC / Ret. General Leroy Barnidge, Northrop Grumman

“When the city and the county and the state come together, we have great things,” Nodine said. “With the tanker project we are getting 1,500 high paying jobs.”
Nodine said it is going to take a regional effort to make this venture successful.

“I spent 32 years working with America’s finest, (the military),” Barnidge said. “This tanker program is a big deal. Florida alone is looking at 1,576 jobs. You are at the epicenter of the most explosive growth opportunity of the aviation.”

There is a lot of competition out there and stuff in the media about a protest, Barnidge said.
“But this is all due process,” he said. “But when it’s over we need to get on with it. I believe there is a national imperative. We all have the ability to make a visible difference. You can talk to your elected officials.”

Right now there are two aerospace manufactures in the world, Seattle and Europe.

“There is a chance for us to be a third,” Barnidge said. “We just need to stand tall.”

“We want to be a vital part of this,” Broxson said.

“Sometimes the panhandle gets left out of economic growth,” Nodine said. “This is your opportunity.”

“About three weeks ago I spoke with Gov. Crist about this project,” Commissioner Mike Whitehead said. “He is committed to this. He is on board. I walked away satisfied that he knows what this project means.”

“You are wise in recognizing that the panhandle has been left behind,” Salter said. “We will be promoting the tanker project in Mobile.”

“If you keep feeling left out we will be happy to annex you to Alabama,” Nodine said laughing.
“We’ve tried that,” Whitehead said smiling.

Joint Resolution to Congressman Miller – Robert McLaughlin – 30 minutes

The County Attorney’s Office made a recommendation that the Board adopt a Joint Resolution of requesting the support of Congressman Jeff Miller to sponsor federal legislation to release the restrictions on conveyance of property on Santa Rosa Island (SRI).

The deed to SRI conveyed from the United States of America to Escambia County in 1947 permits the County to lease but not convey the property. Enlisting Congressman Miller’s support is the first step in developing a plan and process to release the restriction and convey the County’s interest in Navarre Beach to Santa Rosa County and the remaining portions of SRI to other persons and entities having a leasehold interest. The attorney for Santa Rosa County, Tom Dannheisser, has no objections to the form of the resolution.

“This would be the first of a series of meeting,” McLaughlin said. “Staff is working on the language of the bill.”

“What challenges are you facing if this does not occur,” Broxson asked. “What problems would this solve?”

“There are a couple of issues on both beaches with the main being economic development,” Whitehead said. “Not being able to own the property has kept investors from developing the beach front property. This is a cumbersome system. We have a real myriad of problems on our end because we have so many types of leases. Economic development and the question of property ownership is the main driving force behind this.”

“I do not believe the lease holders are ready for this,” Commissioner Grover Robinson said. “It is not impeding economic development. I think we have seen development occur. The challenge is we don’t know where we are. I am not in favor of anything moving in that direction.”

“What we are hearing the most from the citizens is from commercial lease holders,” said County Attorney Rogers. “They have underlying lease fees and property taxes. They are telling us they need some sort of relief. We are looking at a long term solution that would allow for a transfer of fees. This resolution is a first step in getting that done.”

“The third reason for this is local control,” Whitehead said. “I hate that you (Robinson) don’t support that.”

“This is a very general resolution,” Rogers said. “It asks for the sponsoring of a bill. The two boards would agree on the language of the bill.”

A motion was made and seconded to join in the initial resolution.

“Maybe we are being a little presumptive,” said James Cox of Pensacola Beach. “There are 2,300 lease holders who have said they don’t want this. They want to county to honor the leases they have. They don’t want fee simple interest.”

“There are two things I am always in favor of; more options and local control,” Robinson said. “I just think there are too many questions still out there. We are not there yet in Escambia County.”

The motion passed with commissioners White and Robinson voting in the negative.

Regional Transportation Finance Authority
Commissioners discussed an Interlocal Agreement for creation of the Northwest Florida Regional Transportation Finance Authority.

The Northwest Florida Regional Transportation Planning Organization has determined that the estimated cost for needed transportation capacity improvement projects for the current 20-year planning cycle within the area of responsibility of the Northwest Florida RTPO is currently at least $2 billion, and only a minimum of $17 million in legislative appropriations can be forecast by the District III Office of the Florida Department of Transportation to be available annually
through the year 2037 to plan, develop, acquire and build these capacity improvements projects.

“We are looking for nothing more than the blessing of Santa Rosa County to get on beard with us to look at funding opportunities,” Commissioner Valentino said. “Our goal today is to encourage the SR County Commissioners to join in on this. We are committed to jump staring these road projects. It is a shame that the I-10 and I-110 corridor took more than fours years longer than scheduled to complete.”

“Whatever we can do to build roads we need to do it now,” Broxson said. “I feel this is a good faith effort to get something done. I would like to see the FDOT go along with this kind of thinking.”

“All you get today by buying into this is a ‘front row seat to the movie,'” Valentino said. “The RTFA will be a vehicle to getting road projects started.”

“This is a mechanism for communicating with FDOT to get these projects done in a faster way,” said Bond Attorney Richard Lye. “This agreement does not commit the counties to any bond issues.”

The initial establishment will send a message that we are trying to come up with a regional solution, he said.

“We are trying to bring about a multi-county approach,” Lye said.

“All we are trying to do is set a team in place,” Valentino said. “If someone has a better idea, I yield.”

Santa Rosa County Commissioners asked if this item could be added to a future agenda for further discussion.

Another Joint County meeting will be scheduled within the next 90 days.

The meeting adjourned at 11:01.