Community meeting recap: Walton County officials share project updates

Special to Gannett

Trey Nick, District 4 representative and chairman of the Walton County Board of County Commissioners, held a community meeting at the South Walton Courthouse Annex on Sept. 29 where a variety of topics were discussed, such as project funding, ongoing, and conceptual projects related to Miramar Beach and the area west of Sandestin.

During the meeting, which was attended by more than two dozen residents, county staff provided an overview of project funding, ranging from the county’s capital improvement budget and tax incremental financing (TIF) to potential grant opportunities.

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More than two dozen residents attended a community workshop on Sept. 29 with representatives from Walton County to discuss ongoing and future projects in the Miramar Beach area of the county.

Looking at various projects, Chance Powell, Walton County engineer, gave an overview of what’s currently on the horizon and what residents could expect to see in the future.

“Right now, we have about $25 million in projects throughout the county that are being funded with grants,” he said, noting that a lot of these projects are funded through the Florida Department of Transportation.

And while it’s not administered by the county or funded through grant dollars, the most visible project residents probably notice is the six-laning of U.S. Highway 98. Powell said the 3.6-mile, approximately $42 million Florida Department of Transportation project is slated for completion by the end of the year.

He also noted that there’s a variety of pedestrian-related and stormwater projects in the works, notably at Driftwood Road and Ellis Road; signalization improvements at Scenic Gulf Drive and Poinciana Boulevard; pedestrian and drainage improvements on the north of U.S. Highway 98 from the Golf Garden to the Bayside subdivision; as well as pedestrian enhancements at Walton Way.

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Looking ahead, Powell said there are opportunities to think big picture when it comes to “conceptualizing” projects that are not currently funded.

He mentioned the addition of a signalized intersection at Holiday Road and Scenic Gulf Drive, adding that county staff would be looking into design funding in the future. Opportunities to make improvements at Legion Park were also mentioned, as were ways to update the county’s multi-use path.

Annually, Powell said the county budgets approximately $2.5 million for capital improvement projects countywide, which encompasses everything from road resurfacing to stormwater improvements. The county’s TIF budget, which comes from ad valorem taxes generated on the south end of the county, has generated $4 million a year since 2015. These funds can be used on everything from parking and stormwater projects to infrastructure and property purchases.

County officials welcomed the opportunity to allow residents to share their thoughts and provide insight into projects that are currently ongoing and what they’d ideally like to see in the future.

Nick noted that this was only the first meeting like this, and the county plans to offer similar workshops in the future.

“I believe the community meeting was very beneficial and some great information was shared between staff and the public,” he said. “Staff will be checking into the concerns brought to our attention. We appreciate the residents’ comments and will work toward resolving the issues we can.”

For more information about ongoing projects in Walton County, please contact the Public Works Department at 850-892-8108.