'STAND UNITED': Destin mayor may join council to distribute Restore Act funds (UPDATED)
When millions of dollars in Restore Act funds come to Okaloosa County, Mayor Sam Seevers may have a seat at the vetting table.
"It's a huge responsibility," Seevers told The Log Monday. "Because they appointed me, I'm going to make sure that I am fair and as unbiased as I can be."
Seevers was one of two representatives chosen by the Okaloosa County League of Cities to possibly serve on the Okaloosa Restore Act Council, which will be tasked with reviewing projects to determine how more than $60 million will dispersed. Crestview city councilman Charles Baugh will represent northern Okaloosa County.
Based on the Restore Act, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas will receive 80 percent of the total fines that were imposed against BP for its role in the Deepwater
Horizon oil spill in 2010. Approximately 75 percent of the funding will be split between eight Northwest Florida counties.
If BP was assessed $10 billion in fines, for example, Okaloosa, Walton, Santa Rosa, Escambia, Bay, Gulf, Franklin and Wakulla counties would receive about $420 million.
Okaloosa County would receive about $63.9 million.
Looking ahead at projects she would like to see during the vetting process, Seevers said diversifying the economy, making major infrastructure improvements and environmental projects would be very important.
"I'm hopeful this committee can be organized quickly, so it can lend its talents to the county as they set the guidelines and criteria for the projects," she said. "With the people that were chosen, I'm confident we can be successful."
Although it could still be years before the funding comes to Okaloosa County, officials have been putting the plans in place for its arrival for the past few months.
“They’re not going to just write us a multi-million dollar check,” County Administrator Jim Curry was quoted as saying in the Northwest Florida Daily New. “Every single appropriation for a project has to go through the U.S. Treasury, and those dollars would only be doled out in accordance with their rules.”
At the end of the day, Seevers told The Log that she has no problems taking off her "Destin hat" for the greater good of Okaloosa County as a whole. What's good for the county, is ultimately good for Destin, she said.
"In the big scheme of things, we are all connected and we have to stand together," Seevers said. "If we don't stand united, we can easily fold."
The appointments by the League of Cities are only recommendations at this time and still have to be approved by the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners.
"We have not appointed anyone yet," Okaloosa County Commissioner Wayne Harris said during Tuesday's commission meeting.