I am writing this in response to your Sept. 26 editorial in The Destin Log titled “Destin’s Lack of a Plan is Frustrating.” While you are correct that the city has not released a specific plan of how they wish to use their share of the half-cent sales tax that will be on the ballot Nov. 6, your editorial is short-sighted and does not see the big picture.
While Destin will certainly benefit from the passage of this referendum, the half-cent sales tax will benefit the entire county. Okaloosa County has many infrastructure and public safety needs. This sales tax will assist in addressing these. But let’s use your premise of there being no plan for Destin.
The funds generated from this tax will help upgrade the 911 system in the county. That will benefit all citizens of Okaloosa County. But to address your concerns, it will be hugely beneficial to Destin, especially in the summer months when there are 60,000 visitors in town in a given week. Add to that Destin’s growing popularity as a 12-month destination, improved 911 service and emergency response will greatly improve safety in Destin.
The Sheriff’s Office will also benefit from the half-cent sales tax. This, too, is a major benefit to Destin, again considering the number of visitors in a given week. Anytime you can improve public safety, you enhance the quality of life for all residents and visitors. Pubic safety is of utmost importance to quality of life.
The stormwater management improvements the county can make using this tax is of great need as well. The south part of Okaloosa County is largely dependent on tourism. Water quality in Choctawhatchee Bay, the East Pass, and the Gulf of Mexico is vital to the success of tourism. If stormwater can be better managed and help eliminate the type of waters and pollutants flowing into our waterways, most of which feed Choctawhatchee Bay, then water quality will be improved. And guess what? That’s good for every business in Okaloosa County!
The county is also going to assist with traffic flow and infrastructure improvements on some of the busiest traffic-flow areas in Destin. While not in the city limits, the county’s planned improvements at Henderson Beach Drive and Commons Boulevard will have a positive effect on Destin. The stormwater improvements and pedestrian safety improvements, as well as a traffic light at this intersection, will alleviate stress from one of the most heavily travelled roads in Destin.
There are many other projects I could list here, but space is limited. And yes, the city has had discussions about what those projects could be.
Your encouragement to Destin voters to vote no on the half-cent sales tax is short-sighted, doesn’t address the big picture needs of the county, and is bad advice. The Destin Chamber of Commerce fully supports passage of the half-cent sales tax for Okaloosa County. Okaloosa County is the only county in the state to not take advantage of such a tool to generate funds for infrastructure improvements. We encourage all Okaloosa County voters, including those in Destin, to vote yes. We can then take charge of the much-needed infrastructure and public safety needs of this great place we call home! After all, that’s how we continue to build this world-class community together.
Shane Moody is the president and CEO of the Destin Chamber Chamber of Commerce.