Bridge Addition for US HWY 331

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

  1. idlewind

    idlewind Beach Fanatic

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    The simple fact is that a tax will place our businesses at a disadvantage and a toll will place an undue burden on the people who work everyday to provide services to Sowal. Either option will hurt more than it will help. What about using 1/2 cent of the tax for garbage service and applying that income to cover a bond issue for the amount? Does the math add up to support both? Just asking.
     
  2. Misty

    Misty Banned

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  3. buster

    buster Beach Fanatic

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    331 Bridge Public Meeting 2/14/12

    Residents will have another chance to weigh in on a possible sales tax increase to fund a second two-lane bridge over Choctawhatchee Bay.

    Walton County commissioners agreed Tuesday to host a public hearing Feb. 14 on whether or not to hold a sales tax referendum to pay for the U.S. 331 bridge.
     
  4. buster

    buster Beach Fanatic

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    Residents will have another chance to weigh in on a possible sales tax increase to fund a second two-lane bridge over Choctawhatchee Bay.

    Walton County commissioners agreed Tuesday to host a public hearing Feb. 14 on whether or not to hold a sales tax referendum to pay for the U.S. 331 bridge.

    If approved, voters would be asked in May whether they want an increase in the local sales tax to help fund the span.

    In December, state Department of Transportation officials told commissioners they have $102 million set aside for the bridge if the county would agree to contribute $75 million, either through a toll or another mechanism.

    Without a commitment for the local contribution, the DOT said it would redirect the funds to another part of the state.

    State officials said they needed an answer by the end of May in order to keep the project in their five-year work plan.

    After two heated public hearings, a task force recommended Tuesday that commissioners ask voters to approve a sales tax increase, which it determined would be less burdensome to Walton County residents.

    The task force recommended that the board consider sales tax increase of up to 1 cent.

    “We hope the BCC will give serious weight and consideration to values below the 1 cent,” their recommendation read.

    The panel also asked that commissioners include language in the referendum stating that the tax increase be eliminated as soon as the debt on the bridge is paid.

    Bill Imfeld, the county‘s finance director, estimated that at current bond and tax collection rates, the county could pay off the bridge in nine years with a 1 cent sales tax increase.

    In 2010, residents paid about 43 percent of Walton County’s sales tax revenue, with tourists responsible for the rest, according to a study by the HAAS Center at the University of West Florida.

    If the sales tax was increased by 1 cent, the average Walton County household would pay an additional $217 annually, the study found.

    In contrast, a toll on the bridge, estimated at $3 per southbound car, would cost the daily commuter $750 a year.

    The county’s sales tax rate is 7 cents on the dollar now. Bay and Okaloosa counties collect 6.5 cents and 6 cents, respectively.

    Six cents is the state sales tax. In Walton County, additional sales tax collections are used for garbage fees.

    Seven counties in Florida have sales tax rates higher than Walton. But if the local sales tax rate was raised to 8 cents on the dollar, it would have the highest in the state.

    Dawn Moliterno, executive director of the Walton County Tourist Development Council, has been tapped to oversee the U.S. 331 issue.

    She noted at the commissioners’ meeting Tuesday that widening the highway has been an issue for four decades.

    “Although this came fast as far as this opportunity, we have been diligently working on this for decades,” she said.

    Moliterno said the bridge is needed to help with evacuation rates in the county, which are the second slowest in the state. The bridge would also boost economic development, ease traffic congestion and improve safety.

    Moliterno said state officials have said that funding for widening the rest of U.S. 331 hinges on building the second bridge.

    She told commissioners the task force that held two public hearings on the bridge funding did not come up with any other alternatives.

    BP grant funds and bed tax dollars cannot be used, she said.

    A state law passed in 2010 allows counties to levy a sales tax increase of up to 1 cent to fund transportation projects. It must be approved by voters.

    If voters do not approve the tax increase, county commissioners will have to vote whether to place a toll on the bridge or have the state redirect its money.

    “They (the DOT) will not put a toll facility in a community that doesn’t want it,” Moliterno said.



    Read more: http://www.nwfdailynews.com/articles/set-46944-hearing-tax.html#ixzz1kenZXSFq
     
  5. Zebraspots

    Zebraspots Beach Fanatic

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    A letter to the editor recently suggested a toll or a tax with an exemption for locals - either by a sticker on their car or by showing ID.
     
  6. Dawn

    Dawn Beach Fanatic

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    http://defuniakherald.com/?p=4741
     
  7. Abby Prentiss

    Abby Prentiss Beach Fanatic

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    The Walton BCC decided on January 24, 2012 to consider an ordinance calling for a referendum on an optional sales tax increase of up to 1%. The increase is to provide $75 million in matching funds for $102 million offered by FDOT.

    The meeting is organized by a private citizen although it was originally considered for sponsorship by a political club and a newspaper announcement was published to that effect. Nonetheless, the meeting is non-partisan and all are invited to participate.

    Purpose: Provide competent, correct information regarding bridge project details, financing options, potential economic impact and how the referendum will be conducted if an ordinance is adopted by the BOCC at their February 14th meeting.

    On the Program:
    • Bill Imfeld, Walton County Finance Director.
    • Dawn Moliterno, Executive Director of Walton County Tourist Development Council.
    • Kitty Whitney, Executive Director of Walton Area Chamber of Commerce.
    Date/Time: Thursday, February 9th at 6:00 PM.

    Location: South Walton Utility Company Building (Grimaldi Room), 369 Miramar Beach Drive, Miramar Beach, FL 32550

    Format: Mike Flynt, resident of Miramar Beach, will facilitate the meeting. The topics below will be named in order and the invited experts will briefly summarize the issues. Q&A will follow after each topic. The intent is to allow about 20 minutes for each topic in order to keep the meeting to an hour and a half.
    • Bridge Project/Referendum Process. Dawn Moliterno.
    • Financing options. Bill Imfeld
    • Potential economic impact. Kitty Whitney.

     
  8. rocketman

    rocketman Beach Comber

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    Misty:
    The signs have the same logo as the post from Bob Hudson on 1/23/2012. Perhaps, he can help you with your endeavor to acquire signs. If Bob can't help, just leave a post and I will help with a phone number.

    Rock on,
    Rocketman
     
  9. Gwen Break

    Gwen Break Beach Fanatic

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    Informational Meeting To Be Held For 331 Bridge Funding, Feb. 9

    A local resident, Mike Flynt, has put together an informational meeting of county and business representatives to provide information to the residents of Walton County about the proposed 331 bridge project and how it should be funded, by a toll or by tax.

    Date/Time: Thursday, February 9th at 6:00 PM.

    Location: South Walton Utility Company Building (Grimaldi Room), 369 Miramar Beach Drive, Miramar Beach, FL 32550

    Format: Mike Flynt, resident of Miramar Beach, will facilitate the meeting. The topics below will be named in order and the invited experts will briefly summarize the issues. Q&A will follow after each topic. The intent is to allow about 20 minutes for each topic in order to keep the meeting to an hour and a half.


    • Bridge Project/Referendum Process. Dawn Moliterno,Executive Director of Walton County Tourist Development Council

    • Financing options. Bill Imfeld, Walton County Finance Director

    • Potential economic impact. Kitty Whitney, Executive Director of Walton Area Chamber of Commerce



    Purpose: Provide competent, correct information regarding bridge project details, financing options, potential economic impact and how the referendum will be conducted if an ordinance is adopted by the BOCC at their February 14th meeting.

     
  10. Abby Prentiss

    Abby Prentiss Beach Fanatic

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    SWCC updtae:

    This issue involves the building of a second bridge across the Bay and how to fund it. Public comment at the various meetings has suggested (1) do not fund the bridge with a sales tax or a toll-seek other funding sources, (2) fund via a toll or (3) fund with a dedicated sales tax up to 1% max. According to Dawn Moliterno, the current federal/state grant money is for a toll bridge. If the county doesn't want the toll it will have to come up with a 75 million dollar match. A toll bridge would be operated by the State and be under its authority.

    At the county commission meeting on January, 24, 2011, the 331 Task Force made its recommendation. It recommended a referendum to increase the sales tax up to 1%. It was pointed out the increase would not pertain to certain items such as gas or groceries. It was indicated a .5 increase was the lowest sustainable option. The full cent increase would pay the debt in 10 years.

    The county commissioners voted to hold a public hearing at its meeting on February 14, 2012 at 4 PM to consider an ordinance for a special election/referendum to be held on May 15, 2012.


    There is also another public meeting on this issue this Thursday, February 9th at 6:00 PM at the South Walton Utility Company Building (Grimaldi Room), 369 Miramar Beach Drive, Miramar Beach, FL 32550
    which is being sponsored by a concerned resident. (See SWCC Member Email of 2/4/12 for details)
     
  11. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    Maybe someone can help me out. Where is the South Walton Utility Company building? What is it close to, not the address.
     
  12. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    I'll ask here as well. What is the building in close proximity to?
     
  13. miznotebook

    miznotebook Beach Fanatic

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    Hi, Andy A., the South Walton Utility buildng is next to the Miramar Beach Post Office and across the street from Resurrection Catholic Church. This is SWU's new location, they used to be on Scenic Gulf Drive.
     
  14. Bob Hudson

    Bob Hudson Beach Fanatic

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    If you are unable to attend and have computer access you can view the event live by webcast beggining at 6:00pm tomorrow night.

    This service is being provided by Ray with NeighborVision and the WCTA.

    To view the live webcast paste the following link into your browser.

    http://www.neighborvision.com/live
     
  15. Bob Wells

    Bob Wells Beach Fanatic

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    Ressurection Catholic Church near the sewer treatment plant in Miramar. If you pass the Ace Hardware on 98 you have gone to far. Or go down Scenic Gulf Dr and turn right at Embassy Suites
    .
     
  16. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    Thanks loads, miznotebook. See you at the meeting.
     
  17. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    Thanks for the response, Bob.
     
  18. Dawn

    Dawn Beach Fanatic

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    About 60 people gathered Tuesday night for an informational meeting on the proposal to build a second two-lane bridge on U.S. 331 over Choctawhatchee Bay.


    Several county officials laid out the proposed plans and possible funding mechanisms for the bridge to a heated, but respectful crowd at the South Walton Utility Company building.


    Miramar Beach resident Mike Flint organized the meeting in advance of Tuesday’s county commissoin vote on whether or not to hold a sales tax referndum to pay for the bridge.


    The Department of Transportation has said it will provide $102 million to fund the bridge if voters approve a sales tax increase to fund $75 million or if county commissioners agree to allow the bridge to be tolled to raise additonal funds. They said they need a commitment by May.


    If the county chooses neither option, the bridge will not be built now.


    “The DOT said ‘Walton County, if you don’t bring $75 million to the table we’re going to redirect these dollars to another part of the state,’” he said.


    In December, DOT officials said at a county commission meeting that building a second two-lane bridge would put the county in a better position to compete for funding to widen 331 to I-10.


    Many in the crowd expressed distrust of DOT officials. They say transportation officials have been promising for years to four-lane the road that stretches from U.S. Highway 98 to the Alabama state line and they questioned whether the DOT would really commit to widening the rest of the project if the county comes up with funding for the bridge.


    Kisela noted that DOT has allocated funding for widening 331 from the bridge north to State Road 20 and that some sections from SR-20 north to I-10 have already been funded or are in planning stages.


    “I think 331 is going to be funded in the next three to five years with or without the bridge, that’s my opinion,” he said.


    Kitty Whitney, president of the Walton County Chamber and one of the invited speakers at the meeting, said she has been on the phone with DOT several times trying to get them to make a solid comittment to four-laning 331.


    Some questioned whether the bridge was necessary at all, especially without four-laning the rest of the highway.


    “It could be a bridge to nowhere,” one person said.


    Okaloosa Sheriff’s Capt. Joe Preston said the county has the second-slowest evacuation time in the state and that although he could not provide specific numbers of how much the rate would be improved with a new bridge, “common sense would lead us to believe it would have some kind of benefit.”


    Bob Hudson, executive director of the Walton County Taxpayers Association, said he was unable to find evidence of another county where expanding a bridge helped reduce evacuation times.


    He also said estimates state officials have made were based on worst case scenarios.


    Preston cautioned against that line of questioning.


    “When you are dealing with pubic safety situations, you have to be very careful about playing the odds,” Preston said.


    If commissioners approve a referendum Tuesday they will have to choose whether to set it for a 1 cent, 3/4 cent or 1/2 cent sales tax increase.


    Bill Imfeld, finance director for Walton County, said he spoke with several banks and bond agencies and found they were interested in in the project. He said the banks even offered lower interest rates to Walton County then what they offered for the midbay bridge becasue the sales tax funds are a more stable revenue stream than tolls.


    Kisela said sales tax revenue has been about the same for the last five years, including during the economic slump after the oil spill.


    At 1 percent, banks estimated the loan would be paid off in 10 years, 15 for the ¾ cent and 25 for the ½ cent.


    Bond agencies offered 25, 20 and 12 year options.


    If the commissoiners do not decide to hold a sales tax referendum, or if the voters do not approve it, the commissoiners will have to decide whether or not they want to support a toll on the road.


    The toll would be overseen by the DOT through Florida’s Turnpike Association.


    At least one person at the meeting noted that if the county approved the toll local governmet would not have any control over increasing toll rates or how long the road is tolled.


    The MidBay bridge in Destin started at a $2 toll and has since been raised to $3.
     
  19. Dawn

    Dawn Beach Fanatic

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    Walton County - The debate over a proposal to pay for a new $75 million bridge on highway 331, continued Thursday night in Walton County. Dozens of residents showed-up for an information meeting to talk about a new 1 cent sales tax to raise the money.


    The state Department of Transportation is offering Walton County $177 million to widen highway 331 from highway 98 to interstate-10, but there's a catch. The county has to come-up with about $75 million in matching funding.




    County commissioners have been trying to widen 331 for years. It's the only north-south route through the county, and would greatly improve hurricane evacuation times. The commission is pushing a 1% sale tax to raise the money, which would pay for the new bridge over Choctawhatchee Bay.


    They say it's a better option than charging a $2 toll, because they can pay off the debt in less time, and tourist will help pay 57% of the cost. Commissioners want to schedule a referendum vote for April 24th, giving voters the power to approve or reject the tax proposal.


    But some residents have already made up their minds. They say Walton County already has some of the highest tax rates in the state. They say another tax could hurt tourism. Those still undecided heard a lot of information tonight to consider before voting.


    "We have inadequate lanes to evacuate people from South Walton. In the summer time and a lot of visitors and all the people that live here not having a quick evacuation might leave people stranded on the road when the storm hits."


    "If somebody wants to go out here and borrow $75 million to build this bridge then hey go to it buddy, because I’m not responsible for it."


    Commissions are scheduled next week to decide if the issue will go to a vote. The county has until the end of May to decide how to raise the money, or the state will give the $177 million to other road projects.
     
  20. Bob Wells

    Bob Wells Beach Fanatic

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    The amount the State and Federal government is kicking in all the bridge is $177 million, NOT $102 million. The State is telling us they need a $75 million match. I believe there were well over 80 folks at this meeting just based on the number of chairs that were in the room that were filled. The toll option, which in my opinion would go on forever is a lifetime payment, the 1% tax is shorter, max of 10 years if these numbers are correct. The only tol bridge I know for a fact that is no longer tolled is the Navarre Beach bridge which the county took over from the State, there may be others but I know this one. Man who was looking at buying $1500 dollar lawn mower would pay an extra $15 in sales tax, depending on where you live, what you drive and the amount of time shopping you may end up paying more in time and fuel to avoid paying the $15 tax. The lady who complains her summer renters will blow a gasket because the TDC tax and sales tax, think Sandestin, the Village has an additional tax they charge their customers. I am unsure whether that tax goes throughout the whole property but they seem to stay busy. Walton County is different, we are not over built like the Counties to the east and west of us, we have attractions that draw folks here. I understand folks resistance to a tax, but its cheaper in the long run for a tax vs a toll and beats not having a bridge. This is just my opinion.
     

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