SHALIMAR — Okaloosa County officials should allow various people to compete for the future long-term lease of the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier, says District 2 County Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel.
Ketchel, whose district includes Okaloosa Island, said local developer Jay Odom is one of several people who have told her they are interested in leasing the pier.
Pier Associates Inc., led by Chris Cadenhead of Miramar Beach, has leased the 1,262-foot structure since 1986. The current lease expires March 31, 2023, and includes an option to extend it for five more years.
But Pier Resort & Development LLC of Destin has been managing the pier since early 2017, when it made extensive, county-required repairs to the structure. The company, led by local developers Joe Winkeler and Paul Barcus, wants to have the lease reassigned to it and have the term extended through 2039.
The commission plans to consider those requests Monday. Ketchel hopes her fellow commissioners will agree with her view that other people should also have the chance to lease the pier.
“Our county has a reputation for giving these kind of deals,” she said with a wink for emphasis Tuesday. “I want this commission to be different. The best thing is to put it out to bid and let the process work. I think we should start with a clean slate.”
The lease cannot be put out to bid, however, until it expires, which likely will be in 2028, county Public Works Director Jason Autrey said Wednesday.
According to county information, the Dec. 31, 2039, lease expiration date and various rent hikes suggested by Pier Resort & Development would be consistent with the commission-approved lease terms for The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island.
Money earned from the operation of the pier is used to pay the county’s annual lease fee. The rates for fishermen on the pier are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $5 for children ages 6-12. Observers are charged $2 each.
In the existing pier lease, the county would receive $195,581 in annual rent through 2023. In Pier Resort & Development’s proposed amended lease, the company would pay $225,000 per year, or $29,419 more than the current annual amount, through 2023.
Also, the rent would increase by 2 percent per year starting in 2024, 3 percent per year starting in 2029 and 3.5 percent per year beginning in 2034.
In the current lease, the county would receive more than $1.95 million in rent through 2028. In Pier Resort & Development’s suggested lease, the county would receive more than $4.5 million through 2039.
While the matter will be decided by the commission, there are several benefits to reassigning the lease to Pier Resort & Development, Autrey said.
“They’ve been working as a management entity for a couple of years now. The pier is in much better shape than it was and they’ve been making the payments,” he said. “It’s nice to have assurances, to know we’ll be getting the payments and know who we’re working with.”