Santa Rosa County

Dave Dunwoody / WUWF Public Media

More than half of Florida's active registered voters have already cast ballots ahead of Election Day. The others are now casting ballots, including voters in the western Panhandle.

Escambia County Supervisor of Elections David Stafford says as of midday, turnout was “brisk,” with about 33,000 votes cast since the polls opened at 7:00 a.m.  

Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media

Last month, Santa Rosa County voters approved a half-cent local option sales tax for infrastructure, but rejected a half-penny tax for construction of a new courthouse in downtown Milton.

The failure of the referendum means the courthouse issue is on hold as county leaders regroup.

When the last of the August 30 Primary ballots were counted the margin of defeat for the proposed courthouse sales tax was just 819 votes.

Sandra Averhart

On the Primary Election ballot in Santa Rosa County, voters are being asked to support two half cent local option sales taxes. Both would be collected for five years, with one aimed at generating funds for infrastructure and capital projects. The other proposed (half-penny) tax is the latest effort to raise funds for a new county courthouse.

Photo via Flickr// dawgfanjeff / https://flic.kr/p/fDtMgJ

Work is scheduled to get underway in the next few days, on restoring parts of Navarre Beach, by pumping sand from the Gulf of Mexico.

The firm Weeks Marine has been contracted to dredge and place 1.3 million cubic yards of sand onto the beach. Santa Rosa County Engineer Roger Blalock says the work will stretch from the border of Gulf Islands National Seashore to the west -- through Navarre Beach Marine Park to the east.

Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media

The last round of voting in Florida’s Presidential Preference Primary is set for this Tuesday, Mar. 15.  Early Voting in the state ended over the weekend. But, before it wrapped up, WUWF News caught up with a sampling of voters in Santa Rosa County. 

“I voted for Donald Trump,” said Pea Ridge resident Daniel Womack, who voted early at the Santa Supervisor of Elections Office on Saturday. He says ‘beyond all the rhetoric and antics’ he thinks Trump’s message reflects what a lot of Americans are feeling.

Santa Rosa County

Hunter Walker is wrapping up work as Santa Rosa County Administrator. In a final conversation with WUWF before leaving the post, he looked back at his 20 years on the job.

“Twenty years is a long time; that’s a generation,” said Walker. “The county’s changed a lot. I turned 65 in October so it seemed time.”

Walker has seen a lot of changes in Santa Rosa County during the past two decades, noting that the population was approaching 100,000 in the mid 1990’s, when he arrived. Now, approximately 163,000 people live in Santa Rosa.

NOAA

The 2015 Atlantic Hurricane season has come to a close. The six-month period wrapped up on Monday, November 30.

As expected, it was a relatively quiet year.

In line with forecasts projecting a slightly below average season, there were 11 named storms, with four of those becoming hurricanes.  

Florida made it through the season without a storm making landfall in the state, but there were a couple of close calls.

Santa Rosa County

  After going through 56 applications for a new Administrator, Santa Rosa County officials have their man – from just down the hall.

Tony Gomillion will move from his current position as the county’s Public Service Director since 2003, into the chair being vacated by Hunter Walker – who’s retiring next month after 20 years. 

“Taking the next step,” said Gomillion. “Having a desire to have a challenge, meet the challenge, and put together a new team of strong leaders for our county.”

santarosaedo.com

Santa Rosa County officials are looking 30 years into the future, and are asking residents for ideas on how to get there.

First of all, just what is a “comprehensive plan?” For that, we turn to Don Salter, who chairs the Santa Rosa County Commission.

“[It] pretty much identifies a long-range plan on how you’re going to continue to develop your county,” said Salter. “Land use, concurrency on highways, school concurrency, protection of your rural farmlands. And the requirements necessary to support that growth.”

Florida Dept of Environmental Protection

Santa Rosa County officials will go through a list of 15 project applications seeking part of 4.3 million dollars in RESTORE Act money from the BP oil spill.

The original 56 projects were scored and ranked by technical teams, with those offering sustainability and lasting impact making the cut.

Officials from Santa Rosa County are crafting a strategy to encourage and manage retail development.  Shannon Ogletree, the Director of Economic Development for Santa Rosa County says because the county is growing so fast,  officials want to produce guidelines so retail development is planned and not haphazard. Ogletree, along with County Commissioner Jayer Williamson and Milton City Manager Brian Watkins recently attended an international retail convention in Las Vegas to begin the process of forming a retail strategy for Santa Rosa County.

Santa Rosa Farmer's Market Association

Coming up Saturday the Pace area will be home to a new farmer's market. Last fall farmers approached Santa Rosa County Extension's commercial horticulture agent, Blake Baxton, to talk about the possibility of starting a farmer's market in Santa Rosa County.

A series of workshops have been scheduled over the next two weeks to help area homeowners fight what has been called a breed of “super termites.”  Florida Representative Doug Broxson will be hosting the four free workshop around the area to warn homeowners and help them prepare for these pests.

restorethegulf.gov//NOAA

The deadline for residents in Santa Rosa County to apply for money from the RESTORE Act for their projects is this Friday. Because of that, there are calls going out not to get in the paperwork by Thursday.    

“A special note on that deadline,” said Sheila Fitzgerald, the county’s Grants Director. “We do realize that it is the Good Friday holiday. So we are encouraging anyone that is planning to submit a proposal to try and get that in if at all possible by Thursday. That way, if they run into any technical issues, there will be staff on hand.”

Major road projects, and their price tags, are forcing the Santa Rosa County Commission to explore new ways to pay for them. One possible solution is raising the county’s gasoline tax.

Commission Chairman Don Salter says the need stems from the loss of road project money from the Florida Department of Transportation's Small County Outreach Program. Once providing more than $7 million, or 75% of funding for eligible projects, the payouts ended when the county’s population grew beyond eligibility standards.

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