Bridge Addition for US HWY 331

Discussion in 'Local Government and Groups' started by Bob Wells, Nov 1, 2011.

  1. coastaljewel

    coastaljewel Beach Comber

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    Just an FYI.... While the bridge would increase our sales tax by .05%, Walton County has the Lowest real estate millage rate in the state. The bcc is now planning to see if the state will give Walton county the $$$$$ and just use it to widen the rest of 331 north of the bridge. Geez.. We are really short sighted if we do not take this opportunity to get the bridge done. Just my opinion......
     
  2. Bob Wells

    Bob Wells Beach Fanatic

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    Interesting article on non toll and apparently no need for local match. Must be nice to be bringing the bacon home.


    MARCH 02, 2012[h=2]Lawmakers defend JD Alexander over Polk County road deal[/h]Reaction was mixed Friday to the news that $35 million had been slipped into a transportation budget for the planning of a portion of the Heartland Parkway in Polk County. The project had been previously supported by Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, who also has been pushing fo the creation of a 12th state university in Polk County, and who owns land along the possible route of the Heartland Parkway.
    Alexander said he had nothing to do with the money appearing in the state spending plan.
    "I haven't gotten any flak from my colleagues about it," said Rep. Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee, chair of the House’s transportation appropriations committee. "There’s been a lot of media scrutiny of it, which would be the only reason I’d take a look at it.
    "I believe ... (Alexander) is a man of high ethics and I have no reason to believe that this would be an area of concern."​
    The story, however, stirred strong reaction from conservative tea party groups and liberal environmental activists.
    "We hope the Legislature stops this in the budget process before it gets to the floor," said Henry Kelley of the Fort Walton Beach Tea Party. "This highway will be another example of taxpayer funded crony capitalism."Mariella Smith, a Hillsborough County resident and member of the Sierra Club, called the road an example of legislative "chicanery" that Alexander was "shoving down our throats."But his colleagues stood by in support of him.​
    "It shouldn’t be characterized as JD’s road," said Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. "This has nothing to do with the Heartland Parkway. It’s a different road."
    Alexander called Friday’s report "exceedingly inappropriate."
    "I don’t think it’s accurate and correct," he said.
    Alexander noted that he owns land far away from the proposed northern section of the road. Because it was more than 40 miles away, it would hardly benefit from the Central Polk Parkway or the new university that he’s been pushing that’s to the north of it. "It may be in the mind of the St. Pete Times that a future proposal might do something but there is no proposal today at all other than the Central Polk Parkway extension and I don’t own property anywhere near it," Alexander said.​
    Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, has battled Alexander over the years on many issues. She said the northern section was crucial to the rest of the road. "Once that first part gets built, it’ll be easier for the rest of the road to get built," she said.
    Others say it's clear the projects are all intertwined. "Just look at a map," said former state Sen. Rick Dantzler said. "It looks like each piece would compliment one another."
    Michael Van Sickler and Mary Ellen Klas
     
  3. BeachSteelers

    BeachSteelers Beach Fanatic

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    Little known fact but Florida Counties can add a tax to Gas sold within the County. Let drivers and gas users pay for this Bridge for No One. Freaking stealing and waste of money IMO. And simpleton ideas on how to pay for it. Retards run the County. Crooks too. Right Scotti B biggest douche in WalCo. Please may your fat ass, inebriated ways be gone soon! Aren't County EMPLOYEES subject to drug testing. I have $1000 says he pees dirty.
     
  4. Jim Tucker

    Jim Tucker Beach Fanatic

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    Local resident J. B Hillard has questioned the need for a second U.S. 331 bridge at this time and how the offer from the Florida Department of Transportation was made. The Walton County Taxpayers Association asked the Walton Commissioners to delay the ballots for the special vote to ask residents if they want to use a half cent tax hike to pay Walton’s FDOT required $75 million share of a new second bridge. Hillard was invited to attend a meeting with the highway officials Monday morning. He reports there were 13 people in the discussion including Representative Brad Drake.

    Hillard says Secretary Prasad met with the Walton group for 1 1/2 hours. He felt the meeting was not rushed, that everyone who wanted to speak had an opportunity and says he was not interrupted or made to feel what he had to say was not heard and considered. Hillard said he was able to express his opinion that a tax referendum would most likely fail. He also says the Secretary understood this possibility.

    According to Hillard, Secretary Prasad and District Secretary Barfield were candid and made it very clear on what they face during these funding times. He says they not only covered the Walton issue in detail but discussed other similar situations around the state including the Pensacola Bay bridge. Hillard says this helped the group to better understand state and federal funding.

    New proposals were offered by the Secretary. A letter will be drafted and sent to Commissioner Brannon, Chair of the Walton BCC, outlining these proposals which will include new commitments by FDOT.

    Hillard says the BCC will have to regroup and all the players will have to take another look at new options. He says the public will need to get more involved and have a better understanding of the issues involved. Hillard says there is no question the group, including Secretary Prasad and District Secretary Barfield, were committed to finding a way to get the 331 issue resolved.

    Hillard says more information should be released soon. He says he hopes we can bring the 331 issue to a final and just conclusion for Walton County.
     
  5. Jim Tucker

    Jim Tucker Beach Fanatic

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    A group from Walton County spent time in Tallahassee meeting with Representative Brad Drake, FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad and District 3 DOT Secretary Tommy Barfield. The discussion centered on ideas to make sure U.S. 331 gets widened. The meeting ended with what could be a better commitment from the state for the widening project, including the bridge and puts the toll possibility back on the table.

    Walton County Administrator Gregory Kisela said they hoped to be able to meet with more state representatives, but feels the meeting ended with a more comprehensible approach coming. The meeting came together quickly because of the final week of the legislation session. The meeting was due to a suggestion by the Walton County Taxpayer’s Association. The group has not wanted a tax or toll to pay for Walton’s $75 million FDOT requested share. They suggested the state widen the remaining sections of the roadway to I-10 and do the bridge later.

    Kisela says the FDOT says it will commit to widening the remaining sections by 2017 if Walton works with them by providing the $75 million match. The state is not dictating where the match funds come from, but says it will use a toll if the county wants. Kisela says he hopes to have a letter of commitment later this week or early next week.

    Another change is a toll discount given for Walton residents. Kisela points out the Mid Bay Bridge has a discount of .50. He says he wants to see the commitment from the state and wants to make sure it is a firm commitment to the 2017 dates. Kisela says he wants to see the details of any toll differential spelled out. He wants to, “Compare the details to see of it is apples to apples or apples to oranges.” If a toll is used, then it needs to sunset after the debt is retired.

    The FDOT also gave Walton an additional 30 days, until July 1[SUP]st[/SUP] to make the final decision.

    Kisela said that going into the meeting the roads were more important. He says coming out of the meeting they now know they need to do both.

    Kisela also notes the project will bring money to Walton. He says that if only a third of the $75 million a year in construction comes to Walton, it will be an economic advantage. He compares this to the Special Forces coming to Okaloosa and the advantage to Crestview.
     
  6. happydays32

    happydays32 Beach Comber

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    i got' concernsssss.

    as a country bumpkin "god fearing" walton county resident with several hundred acres outside the liberty community. i have concern over what i read over the state road department sweetening the pot to bring back talk of a toll to cover an additional 2-lane span over the big muddy. what concerns me is the taxpayer association folks being wined and dined to sing the toll tune. put a brake on it. young and old "good folks" from here who travel the bridge to clean the condos' of the rich part-timers from "north of the mason-dixon". they can't afford shoveling out 2-to-4 dollars a trip combined with obama's rising fuel costs. taxpayer association stay true to your word: "NO NEW TAXES"!!!
     
  7. lazin&drinkin

    lazin&drinkin Beach Lover

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    Crab, before you go bumpin' your gums about the taxpayer association folks being wined and dined, you might want to talk to them. If you did (and I did), you'd find out they got up at 4 in the morning, drove to Tallahassee on their own dime, missed breakfast AND lunch for a long meeting with the state folks who told them how the cow ate the cabbage, drove back home to get their own late lunches, and all came to the conclusion on their own that, while the road and the bridge would not benefit them a damn bit, those things would mean a lot to others and the county for decades to come.

    Nobody wined and dined them. They spent their time, effort and money trying to get 331 widened and forget the bridge for now. The state won't go for that. Those three folks, like you, are entitled to their opinion, just as you are to yours. The county pisses away enough money to build the bridge and widen the road without the state. What are you doing about any of that?
     
  8. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    lazin&drinkin, you are exactly right. Many people in this county do not know what an asset WCTA is. That obviously includes festus. I don't always agree with them by a long shot but they provide a service that is superlative to the citizens of Walton County. They are inexpensive to join and act as a watchdog regarding expenditures of tax funds for that small investment.
     
  9. 1amos1

    1amos1 Beach Comber

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    use bed tax money

    If we are going to build a bridge, I suggest the county consider shutting down the TDC and use the bed tax money to help pay for the bridge.
    A least forget the idea of building a new TDC building and use that money toward a bridge.
     
  10. Dawn

    Dawn Beach Fanatic

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    From WZEP AM 1460:

    Walton Administrator Greg Kisela said they met with the FDOT and local legislators in Tallahassee to discuss the 331 bridge issue. A letter has now been sent from the state clarifying some of the details of what the state will do. At the Tuesday Walton Commissioner meeting, the Board had to decide what would be their next step.

    The state is still saying they need funding to take care of the second bridge, but have confirmed they will commit to completing the widening of U.S. 331 to I-10 by 2017. Kisela said this is a significant change.

    Walton was asked to reconsider the use of a toll. The state also gave more time, until July 1[SUP]st[/SUP], for a final decision. The toll could use a multi-rate so Walton residents might see a discount.

    Kisela told the commissioners the half cent sales tax referendum is still in the plans. Commissioner Sara Comander asked to hear from Walton County Taxpayers Association’s Bonnie McQuiston, who was at the meeting. She also suggested the county hold two public meetings. Commissioner Kenneth Pridgen said Walton could not afford loosing the money to another part of the state and the Board has worked very hard to get the segment widened.

    Speaking about the meeting, McQuiston said the package offered does not get much better. She said the meeting was a lesson in civics and she thanked the state and District 3 Secretaries. She said the letter confirms what was said. She also said the letter states that when the debt is retired, the toll will be removed.

    McQuiston also said she previously had wrong information and apologized to Dawn Moliterno for indicating the deal was brokered. She said the money offered is being targeted for a shovel ready project. It was also noted the money is for a bridge and could not be used for the rest of the roadway.

    Commissioner Scott Brannon said he appreciates the widening could be done as one big project instead of segment by segment. Brannon noted the special vote is scheduled for April 24[SUP]th[/SUP], but the Supervisor of Elections has not spent any money on the ballots.

    Kisela also pointed out a previous motion by the Board would eliminate the toll option. Commissioner Larry Jones said he has no problem with considering a toll under the new circumstances. Brannon said the vote on the half cent sales tax can continue and if it fails, then they could revisit a toll. Jones made a motion to reconsider the issue all together.

    Comander said the sales tax vote, which will cost the county, is a good way to hear from the public but asked if there is enough time to get the information out. Brannon said the vote is for the sales tax and the new information does not change this. Kisela said the change would be, instead of doing just the bridge; they would be doing the road and the bridge. Comander agreed the $75 million was for the bridge, but now the $75 million is for the bridge and the road. She said she would like to put off the referendum to allow for more time to educate the public and possibly not have to spend the $40,000 to hold a vote. Brannon said he agrees with more time to educate, but feels more time is not needed to find out of the public wants the tax increase or not.

    Commissioner Larry Jones suggested creating a district along the highway and look at the tax dollars it generates today. When the roadway is increased, then business and tax dollars coming in should increase. He said they could offer taking any increase in ad valorem tax dollars and using them to pay off the debt. This is much like cities do. This would be in addition to any tax or toll.

    Kitty Whitney, with the Walton Area Chamber, said they have public sessions planned to present information and would be glad to include the FDOT letter. The commissioners agreed to delay the vote until May 8[SUP]th[/SUP] and authorized the staff to work with the Chamber to hold public information meetings.
     
  11. happydays32

    happydays32 Beach Comber

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    just say no!!!

    as former first lady nancy reagan would say, "just say No" to a warmed up version of a bridge toll...our citizens' we can't afford it...
     
  12. Dawn

    Dawn Beach Fanatic

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    The stakes are indeed high for the 331 bridge. It is not just a matter of all the eggs in the half-cent sales tax. A no vote will beam the message that the bridge is not a local priority. The FDOT Secretary informed commissioners that the $102 million currently allocated for the bridge project will be re-allocated at the state level if no match is forthcoming.


    Communities which demonstrate determination to address their local needs by developing and working a plan to conclusion are viewed favorably while communities which do not stay the course with plans wait in line years, if ever, to get projects funded. To their credit, until now, Walton County officials have demonstrated unwavering commitment scratching around for funds to widen 331 including cajoling property owners to donate land to mitigate right of way costs. The first four-lane phase is complete and all other phases are in process of implementation and/or planning.


    This new tact — pitting priorities between widening the road and the bridge — could derail the 331 corridor project. Four lanes pouring into a two-lane bridge during high volume, tourist season or hurricane evacuation, negates the value of the entire project. If local officials don’t get that both elements are equally necessary, FDOT does, which is why the unexpected allocation came to the 331 bridge project rather than to another county.


    Currently, widening 331 is in the works while the bridge is on a wish list. The $102 million allocation with a match will marry the two on an action list, likely to be completed about the same time in transportation planning years because nothing happens overnight in that world.


    What has happened, apparently without officials understanding, is this: Walton County has scored a Lotto win in the transportation planning world. The avenue to go to the head of the funding line is a rare opportunity that shouldn’t be squandered by officials going off the plan grid or voters rejecting the half-cent sales tax. Here’s some reality: at the current cost of road construction, $13 million per mile, the $102 million would fund less than eight miles! Or, it can fund 57 percent of the bridge.


    Or, Walton County officials can continue to broadcast the bridge is not a priority while citizens and FDOT listen in, each deciding to go their own way.


    Unlike major road projects, which are constructed in phases due to a gut wrenching cost per mile, bridge building is an all or nothing proposition. As fewer dollars are available for big ticket projects due to congressional and legislative decisions, improved vehicular gas mileage and fewer miles driven, the trend nationwide is private/public partnerships with alternate funding sources paired with gas taxes (the primary source of transportation funds). Walton County being offered the opportunity to facilitate timely progress by contributing to the 331 project follows the trend.


    In the transportation planning world, a short range planning instrument is a 5-year plan. Getting a transportation project to the shovel-ready stage is a tedious, lengthy process during which every project undergoes annual priority assessment against other projects before moving into a position that includes actual or projected funding. A project can be in a five-year plan for years awaiting funding.


    Seizing the moment would be both forward thinking and intelligent.


    Keep in mind, visitors will contribute a good portion toward the match as most stays entail short-term rentals, dining out, entertainment, buying beachwear/toys — all taxable items while residential shelter, food and medicine are not. Walton County has so much going on that enhances both resident and visitor experiences; both populations can only grow in coming years. Having supportive, top-notch infrastructure is key to economic development. Success begets success and that bridge to success is in your hands Walton County. Don’t let it get away. A no vote is a no win.





    Charlene Greenwald is a Fort Walton Beach resident. She has more than ten years experience as a Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) Citizen's Advisory Committee (CAC) member but says she wrote this piece “as a concerned citizen not as a CAC representative.”
     
  13. Dawn

    Dawn Beach Fanatic

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    The more I think about it the more upset I become. Why is this coming up now? Seems backwards to me. Come up with a plan to 4-lane 331 from beach to I-10 and then figure out how to pay for it. Don't get nearly all the way through and then hold a gun to our heads to finish it. Finish it yourself DOT or forget it. We can't afford it so either finish the job or forget it. We are doing just fine.
     
  14. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    Many do not see this as a win-win situation but it certainly is. You have at your fingertips money you may never be able to access again. Somewhere down the road, your property taxes, which are among the lowest in Florida, will increase to construct infrastructure at a cost much greater than it is now. I don't like to spend money either, but I, and most thinking people, recognize a good deal when they see one. It is the main reason I now live where I do. It was a good deal at that point in time and still is.
     
  15. Bob Wells

    Bob Wells Beach Fanatic

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    Agree
     
  16. Dawn

    Dawn Beach Fanatic

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    I will defer to you guys who follow it closely but aren't our tax dollars already supposed to cover infrastructure? Has the government reprogrammed you to think this is a good deal? Isn't money going into politicians and contractors pockets instead of in to asphalt?
     
  17. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    Tax dollars are never spread as "evenly" as we, as individuals think they should be. We all have our pet projects where we would like to see our tax dollars put to use. IMO, this is not one of them. This is a common sense usage of tax dollars, pure and simple. As far as the government programing me, I don't "program" easily. Money will be going into contractor's pockets. That is how infrastructure gets built. One would hope money does not go into the pocket's of politicians. It does happen but I prefer to give our local politicians I know, the benefit of the doubt. Full benefit, BTW. To answer your question succinctly, the money will be going into asphalt.
     
  18. Dawn

    Dawn Beach Fanatic

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    So when you were a young lad, didn't tax dollars go to roads and bridges? Now we have to have special taxes and tolls for bridges? What has changed?
     
  19. lazin&drinkin

    lazin&drinkin Beach Lover

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    The world has changed. In particular, social welfare and other transfer programs have come to be, accompanied by their huge cohorts of government employees, encouraged by the exponential growth in the number and power of advocates for those transfer programs.

    The portrayal by the media of this largely malignant growth has also changed as the ethos of the media has devolved from an independent and relatively even-handed and respected honest purveyor of news to the present low estate of a collection of vying advocacy groups, largely supportive of the malign aspects of governmental power.

    In 1963, the entire federal budget for the first time reached 100 billion dollars, a figure that now amounts to a rounding error. You might recall from ancient history that JFK was assassinated in 1963 and LBJ came to power. The following year brought Medicare. 1967 or so brought The Great Society and Guns and Butter. Stagflation soon followed, and Vietnam exacerbated the problems fomented by the federal intruders.

    The breakdown of families and of our traditional value systems has resulted, and as those go, so has our nation.

    As to special taxes and tolls for local infrastructure, it's always been difficult for me to accept any rationalization for our paying taxes which are transferred to local projects in other states. If the people of Muncie, IN want a municipal parking garage, why should we in Walton County pay for it? If that be so, why should folks in Muncie pay taxes to pay for a bridge over our bay or a local road connecting to it? The fact is that we have become accustomed to the modern version of the tooth fairy, and the tooth fairy is broke from improvident stewardship of our tax dollars.
     
  20. Bob Wells

    Bob Wells Beach Fanatic

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    Just so you know that as a cohort "government employee" all these things impact me the same as it impacts you. I pay taxes, sales, property and the like. If you take a look at it Gov Scott is the one who recently proposed that a private corporations build roads and charge a toll to make their money back. Of course the Legislators say that government woud limit what tolls could charge. Supposedly it is who you know to get what you want, Pensacola Bridge is more than likely going to be replaced with no toll.
     

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