Council discusses strategies for Triumph funding

The Destin Log
Destin City Council members gathered with the West Florida Regional Planning Council to discuss strategies and steps on possibly accessing BP oil spill disaster recovery funds. [ABRAHAM GALVAN/ THE LOG]

The West Florida Regional Planning Council (WFRPC) got together with Destin City Council members Thursday at the Destin Community Center during a council workshop to discuss updates on the Triumph Gulf Coast funding and strategies on how to obtain it.

Triumph Gulf Coast is the non-profit organization assembled in 2013 to ensure that funds coming to eight Florida counties disproportionately affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill were spent to enhance economic development in Northwest Florida.

The eight counties disproportionately impacted by the spill are Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Franklin, Gulf and Wakulla. They will receive 75 percent of $1.5 billion in settlement funds, which is expected to arrive between 2019 and 2033. Triumph has the first installment of $300 million to be distributed.

WFRPC’s RESTORE Act Coordinator Billy Williams said they are looking for ideas that will change the region for the better like infrastructure, bringing in high paying jobs and education.

“We need to get the cities involved and not just the counties,” Williams said. “We need to come together with universities, politicians, planning committees and make this happen.”

Williams asked council members and the community to come up with strategies they can present to board members of Triumph.

“We do have a committee looking into building a high school in Destin. … Maybe focusing on marine or environmental science (would be appropriate for Destin),” said Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell.

Williams said partnerships with universities, like the University of West Florida, can assist in organizing a project like structuring a high school.

University of West Florida Vice President of Research and Strategic Innovation's Pam Northrup agreed.

“We can create a partnership focusing the school with sciences and building a future for students through a connection with the college.” she said.

Williams said to propose a project like building a school, the whole community will need to get involved.

“We can connect industry leaders, like hospitality and tourism, with the school on a academic level… that will make a better plan.” he said.

Another concern that fell under infrastructure improvements that Councilman Chatham Morgan suggested was tackling the ongoing parking and traffic issues in Destin.

“We have a parking deficiency in Destin. … We have enough space to built parking garages,” he said. “Traffic is bad already as it is. We need somewhere to place all of those cars.”

WFRPC has scheduled another City Council Workshop from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 17, at the Destin Community Center, located at 101 Stahlman Ave. Regional elected officials and community stakeholders will discuss the collaborative regional framework necessary to approach the funding allocation process that lies ahead.

“We want to pull together all capital improvements and see which ones get priority throughout the cities,” said Austin Mount, WFRPC’s executive director.