BLOME: The Mid-Bay Bridge: Who loses this time?

Published: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 06:07 PM.

The Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners (BCC) will soon perform the annual chore of unanimously approving the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority (MBBA) Budget for 2013.  It is a pity that this important county government function has become nothing more than going through the motions.

It is routine for MBBA budgets to get rubberstamped every year without critical questions of any kind. Even though the Mid-Bay Bridge and bypass is by far the largest public works project in the county, none of the past commissioners, and maybe some of the current ones, think there is anything for them to question. To them, the Mid-Bay Bridge and bypass are an absolute good.

Even the scope of the budget review has been limited by how the county attorney has interpreted controlling legislation. The MBBA budget is currently around $15 million, but only about $700,000 of that (the administrative budget) gets presented to the commissioners to approve. The rest remains under the exclusive control of the MBBA.

The matter is put out of sight, out of mind, and out of public scrutiny quickly and efficiently.

Ask yourself who benefits from our county government being run like this?

The companies involved in building the bypass benefit. A large chunk of the $280 million dollars of MBBA debt (on its way to $350 million) is for construction.

Real estate companies along the new bypass benefit. They get access to a publicly paid highway that allows the development of relatively inaccessible land in the Northern part of Niceville. Local homeowners benefit from higher land value.

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