SHALIMAR — The company that has managed the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier for the past two years will lease it from Okaloosa County for the next two decades, the County Commission has decided.

Pier Associates Inc. of Miramar Beach had leased the 1,262-foot structure since 1986. Its latest lease was set to expire in 2023 and included a five-year extension option.

But most commissioners agreed Monday to assign the lease to Destin-based Pier Resort & Development LLC and extend the expiration date to Dec. 31, 2039. The company has managed the pier since April 2017, when it made extensive, county-required repairs to the structure.

In the former lease, the county would have received $195,581 in annual rent through 2023. In the new one, Pier Resort & Development will pay $225,000 per year through 2023. The rent amount will gradually increase in 2024, 2029 and 2034.

In the old lease, the county would have received more than $1.95 million in rent through 2028. In the new one, the county will receive more than $4.5 million through 2039.

Attorney Jeff McInnis, representing Pier Resort & Development, said the company has spent almost $400,000 on pier upgrades and maintenance since it began managing the pier, and plans to spend about $275,000 on other improvements, including bathroom repairs and parking lot and pier entry upgrades.

“My clients are anxious to continue moving forward (and) anxious to continue keeping that pier up to a standard that you can be proud of,” McInnis said.

District 2 Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel, whose district includes Okaloosa Island, cast the lone “no” votes on the lease assignment and extension.

“The issue at hand is whether this extension brings maximum value to the county and unfortunately, I believe it does not,” she said before the votes. “I believe it will have greater value in 2023 than today and even greater value when the lease expires in 2028.”

Ketchel added that the commission should let the current lease expire "and allow it to be bid out in a fair and equitable process."

However, the reworked lease benefits the county in several ways, County Attorney Greg Stewart said. For example, he said the lessee now is required to pay sales taxes generated by the pier and pay the cost of the pier’s submerged land lease.

Pier Resort & Development “has operated in good faith, and I for one am going to try to reciprocate,” Commission Chairman Kelly Windes said.

And Commissioner Trey Goodwin said having a company willing to work with the county to improve the pier and rework the lease is a huge benefit.