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WCTA Position On Hwy 331 Bridge Referendum

Discussion in 'Local Government and Groups' started by Bob Hudson, Apr 23, 2012.

  1. Bob Hudson

    Bob Hudson Beach Fanatic

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    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    Press Release: April 23, 2012


    Walton County Taxpayers Association Conducts Survey:

    North and South Walton County Members Say
    NO to Hwy 331 Sales Tax and Toll


    Walton County Taxpayers Association (WCTA) wanted to know what current public opinion was on the proposed Hwy 331 funding options: raising a ½ cent sales tax or implementing a toll. So, WCTA asked its members. The survey was sent to its membership in March and 795 members in the non-partisan group responded: 31% from North Walton and 69% from South Walton. The unambiguous response was: NO on the sales tax and NO on a bridge toll.

    The survey revealed that North and South Walton County members are united on the issues.

    The sales tax question posed in the survey was:

    “Should WCTA support the proposed ½ cent sales tax increase for Walton County’s share of the cost of the Hwy 331 four- lane Bridge and Roadway from Interstate 10 to Hwy 98? The referendum to approve the tax is May 8th.”
    Of those WCTA members participating in the survey, 75%, voted overwhelmingly against the tax: 87% of North Walton respondents and 71% of South Walton respondents voted against the tax.

    The question concerning a southbound toll was:

    “In the event that the referendum fails, and the Walton County Commissioners consider placing a toll on the southbound lane of a new Hwy 331 bridge, should the WCTA support the imposition of that toll?”

    Once again 67% of the participating members of WCTA voted NO: The North Walton voters were 77% against, while South Walton members voted 67% against.

    This county will have a chance to listen to the public on May 8th. The Walton County Taxpayer Association is listening now. WCTA will not support the increased sales tax or the toll for the Hwy 331 bridge project. WCTA strongly encourages the County Commissioners to listen to the voice of the voters. In the fiscal situation that faces our county, WCTA asks the most basic of all questions--- how much new debt should the county take on? The WCTA says NONE!

    WCTA is a non-partisan organization with members from both North and South Walton County, representing the entire county. WCTA believes that it is vitally important to stay involved in how our county spends our money, especially as our county and tax base grow. WCTA’s focus is on limiting the role of government and how much money is necessary to provide basic public services to all taxpayers in Walton County. And, WCTA believes that a unified group of individuals can make a difference.

    “THE EYES AND EARS FOR WALTON COUNTY TAXPAYERS”

    Walton County Taxpayers Association
    P.O. Box 1085
    Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
    http://www.waltontaxpayers.org
    Email: info@waltontaxpayers.org
     
  2. Truman

    Truman Beach Fanatic

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    Thank you for this. As a group which believes in limited government, what public projects would you, or have you supported? I expect a line about responsibility and fairness. But I am interested in specifics. Do you support parks, walkovers, parking, schools, fire services, roads, bridges, anything?
     
  3. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    I don't know the answer to your question but I would surmise that while the WCTA supports parks, walkovers, parking, schools fire services, roads, bridges, anything, they are not for supporting the taxes necessary for their continuance or improvement. It is obvious to any rational thinking person that given the attitude of the citizens of this county, the May 8 referendum will fail. I will vote for it anyway as my wise, but uneducated father raised me to use my head and apply common sense to issues. Oh, and BTW, I am a current paid up member of the WCTA, though I wasn't polled.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2012
  4. Bob Wells

    Bob Wells Beach Fanatic

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    I will also be voting for the tax.
     
  5. lazin&drinkin

    lazin&drinkin Beach Lover

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    Andy,

    Don't know why you didn't get electronic ballot. All members were to have received it. Please send your current email address to Bob at info@waltontaxpayers.org so he can update the records.

    As to the rhetorical question of what the WCTA supports, I'm but one member, but I think I can say that it has and will support the principles of good, open, honest, accountable, transparent governance. As to any specific project, there are unlikely to be many which will have the unanimous approval of either the members or the board. In the case of the bridge/highway project, there is a clear consensus among the nearly 800 voting. Whether all members or board members like it or not, the vote is as it is.

    The position mandated by this vote aside, each member is free to vote as he or she wishes at the polls. No organization or individual is likely to be right 100% or the time. In the case of the WCTA, I think a fair assessment will state clearly that its efforts have been a substantial and significant positive for the citizens of this county over the years, and whether a given stand is popular or not with the most vocal is not sufficient reason for taking or altering a position.

    I've had the pleasure of seeing Andy at a number of BCC and TDC meetings. He is manifestly an honorable, well-informed and well-intentioned man. I suspect he would be inclined to say something similar about me. Despite our liking and respecting one another, we have differed to a minor extent over this particular issue in means, not ends. I suspect we will agree far more than we will disagree going forward.

    I would hope that bobbob would be willing to consider the merits of the above, and further would hope that he bring his questioning mind to BCC, TDC, and WCTA meetings. If so, I'll see you there. We have important battles to fight about good, responsible governance, and I can assure you the WCTA welcomes involved, informed citizens who are willing to work with it for the betterment of our county. The BCC and the TDC? Well, maybe not so much.

    Bobbob, if you want to effect change in the WCTA, not to mention the BCC and the TDC, you have the WCTA email address above. Use it to join and then come give it your best shot at meetings. While it's non-partisan, there are strong personalities and divergent opinions. Sounds like you'd fit right in. Join the fight!
     
  6. mputnal

    mputnal Beach Fanatic

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    Unless I have misunderstood what is happening behind the scenes of the BCC/TDC a vote against the sales tax is a vote for the toll. Wonder if the ballot will have any wording to reflect the toll option available to BCC/TDC if/when the tax fails.
     
  7. lazin&drinkin

    lazin&drinkin Beach Lover

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    Absentee ballots do not show any such wording re toll.
     
  8. mputnal

    mputnal Beach Fanatic

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    Wow. Wonder how people would vote if they realized that within 5 years they will have to stop for a traffic light at Short Avenue and then stop and drop ($4.00 or $5.00) every time they cross the only bridge in Walton County connecting South Walton with North Walton. The distance between these two stops will be less than one quarter mile. I do not have any reason to believe there will not be a toll booth and even if there isn't it will still be another expense to live in Walton County and that is exactly what FDOT wants. It is amazing to me that we are so easily manipulated by politics. Politics is easily manipulated by big business. I can only hope that the BCC/TDC will not become a part of this problem in voting for a toll. A toll will completely change the economic dynamics of commerce between North Walton and South Walton. A toll with be a death warrant for many small businesses North of the bridge. South Walton will pay more for services. I do not see any winners in a toll bridge. I hope the visibility of a toll bridge will be a reminder of who not to vote for...
     
  9. Bob Hudson

    Bob Hudson Beach Fanatic

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    There are NO Toll Booths !

    The State says a $2.00 toll will be adequate to pay for the bridge. If discounts are given to local residents the number might change or the payoff extended.

    The Mid-Bay bridge did not kill business on either side of the Toll Road.
     
  10. Bob Hudson

    Bob Hudson Beach Fanatic

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    bobbob

    The WCTA is 30 years old and I cannot give you history past 8 years back.

    The WCTA supported the building of the Court House Annex, Butler Elementary and South Walton High School.

    During my association they have advocated and supported:

    The creation of North Walton Fire and Rescue
    The "accelerated" paving program (loans to finance)
    The Dirt to Pavement program (loans to finance)
    The creation of the in-house paving program (reallocation of dollars resulting in savings to taxpayers and job creation)
    The purchase of the land and construction of the new "park" at Helen McCall Park
    The expansion of the Sheriff's Office staff to provide for better coverage
    A raise for all WCSO deputies in 2007
    The purchase of the new SLEERS radio system
    The elimination of long distance calls between South and North Walton (This was a WCTA project alone)
    The remodeling of the Sheriff's substation in Freeport.

    I'm sure their are more but I just wanted you to realize some of the "supported" projects.

    All while keeping the 3 lowest millage rate in the State of Florida.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2012
  11. dadleyblane5

    dadleyblane5 Beach Comber

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    I don't want either, but if I have to choose, I'd say sales tax. My significant other works in South Walton and a toll would just create another bill we (my wife and I) would be forced to PAY EVERY MONTH! So, if it's one or the other, I say sales tax. Nevertheless, we need that other bridge...I just wish I knew of a better way to get it.
     
  12. mputnal

    mputnal Beach Fanatic

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    I am so certain that a toll bridge will create a negative commerce trade between North and South Walton that I will strongly consider selling my property just North of the bridge. I am even more certain the toll will be greater than $2.00. I am fairly certain there will be toll booths because collection rates are not very good for the licence plate system. Please do not believe everything that FDOT says right now. They have one purpose and that is to build a toll bridge in Walton County. The political machine uses words to mislead the masses.


    Please quit comparing the Midbay bridge with the 331 bridge. It is not an apples to apples comparison. Freeport is not the same as Niceville. Walton county is not Okaloosa county. There is only one bridge in Walton and there are two in Okaloosa. I could go on but I believe this comparison only serves one interest (ram the toll with manipulative methods down our throats).
     
  13. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    lazin&drinkin, thank you for the very kind words and you are certainly right in your assessment of my actions and feeling as well as my deep respect for you. That said, I have never been a single issue person when it comes to support of any organization. I have been informed of certain changes in the leadership of the WCTA that leave me cold in the manner in which they occurred. Therefore, my wife and I will not be renewing our membership. I know my lack of renewal will have no effect whatsoever on the WCTA but it will make me feel better.

    I strongly believe the WCTA has the responsibility and duty to not only be a watchdog for our tax dollars, but to also inform and educate our citizens on issues regarding the expenditure of their tax dollars. In my view, in this particular case, they did neither, one way or the other.

    While I do not believe the BCC will approve a toll if the sales tax fails, I believe from observing past actions by FDOT and the Turnpike Authority, it will not be very long before a toll bridge is built at the state's expense and the toll will be never ending. When I started crossing the MidBay Bridge to Eglin the toll was $2.00. It is now $3.00 and $2.50 if you have a Sun Pass. I need to go to Eglin on occassion but my need to go to DeFuniak Springs or Freeport will be greatly deminished with the advent of a toll bridge should I still be here. I feel I am not alone in this opinion.

    That pretty well sums up my position on the bridge issue and is the last I have to say on it except that I will be voting for it, futile though it may be.
     
  14. graytonbeachguy

    graytonbeachguy Beach Lover

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    The big difference between the Mid-Bay Bridge and the proposed 331 toll bridge is that the Mid-Bay opened up a new route that saved time and fuel if you were going from Destin to Niceville.

    The 331 bridge over the bay is already existing. Having two more lanes does not provide a new route. The only change for current users of the bridge is having to pay a toll.

    I think this is a big distinction. I support the new bridge but not the toll. As much as I dislike an increase in the sales tax, I just don't believe the toll will ever be removed.
     
  15. Bob Hudson

    Bob Hudson Beach Fanatic

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    And you really believe a tax will be removed?

    :cool:
     
  16. mputnal

    mputnal Beach Fanatic

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    Neither the tax or toll would go away in our lifetime. I think we could live with the tax and we should vote for the tax. Unfortunately this forum maybe a minority in that thinking. Because we already have a bridge it was an impossible task to convince people that we need a new bridge and that we have to pay for it with a tax. FDOT has wanted the toll all along and they knew it would be impossible for this county to pass the tax. They continue to manipulate the BCC with carrots of discounts for local citizens and then almost is the same breath they say "but it will delay the length of time required to pay it off". FDOT knows full well that once they have a contract for the toll no one in Walton county will have a say on any of it ever again. FDOT could claim repairs and maintenance to keep the toll forever. The toll will not go away. FDOT is very deceptive and they do not keep their promises. It takes money and time to educate people into a tax increase. We never had a chance...
     
  17. Bob Wells

    Bob Wells Beach Fanatic

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    Bob Hudson wrote
    And you really believe a tax will be removed?


    [​IMG]
    Yes, based on what Mr. Imfeld said.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2012
  18. Bob Wells

    Bob Wells Beach Fanatic

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    This is what the Ballot says,
    Levy of Charter County and Regional Transportation System Surtax
    ( Vote for One )
    Shall Walton County levy a sales surtax within Walton County at a rate of 0.5% to pay debt service and to
    fund costs associated with the construction of improvements to the U.S. Highway 331 bridge over the
    Choctawhatchee Bay, which levy shall be deposited into a restricted-use trust fund, beginning
    January 1, 2013 and expiring December 31 of the year debt issued for the bridge improvements is
    repaid?
     
  19. mputnal

    mputnal Beach Fanatic

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    This language would not prevent the BCC to define "bridge improvements" as maintenance and repair for both the North and South bound bridges or upgrading the old bridge. There will need to be a precise definition for "bridge improvements" and possible "restricted-use trust" before any of us should feel comfortable with the tax expiring. If the language is corrected or amended with limiting definitions as for as use of the funds then it becomes very likely that the tax will expire. What an opportunity we have to get this road and bridge if only we had the time to fully educate our voters! Of course FDOT knew that we would not have the time or the money to pass the tax and the toll will never go away and will continue to increase. FDOT has slam dunked a never ending toll (tax that is hidden in semantics) while each voter that votes No to the tax believes that they are voting against more tax and government expansion. These voters will never know what hit them...
     
  20. lenzoe

    lenzoe Beach Fanatic

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    I'm sorry but this seems to admit your poll basically mislead your own members.

    If the choice isn't really no for both, then people are going to be stuck with the toll. If people really can say no to both, and live with the fact they won't get a bridge as a result, that's fine. But if they vote no to the tax and then have no choice but getting the toll for a bridge that's going to be built anyway, they've just been completely hoodwinked and are stuck with the greater of two evils, not the lesser.

    Why wasn't one of the questions "If you must choose a sales tax or a toll, which would you pick?"
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2012

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