South Walton TDC pursuing new visitor center site

Discussion in 'Local Government and Groups' started by Kurt Lischka, Oct 3, 2011.

  1. Zebraspots

    Zebraspots Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    May 15, 2008
    Messages:
    840
    Likes Received:
    247
    Location:
    Santa Rosa Beach
    Given the track record of our local officials, the number of lawsuits for sunshine violations and conflict of interests pending, and Florida's #1 ranking for corruption I don't think these questions are out of line.
     
  2. Jdarg

    Jdarg SoWal Expert

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2005
    Messages:
    18,069
    Likes Received:
    1,960
    I was getting ready to say the same thing. Patterns emerge quite frequently around here, and thankfully there are people in the community who sit up and take notice. Just because someone runs for public office does not make them immune from being held accountable for their actions- public service is not a shield.
     
  3. Jdarg

    Jdarg SoWal Expert

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2005
    Messages:
    18,069
    Likes Received:
    1,960
    Don't forget the TDC/BCC meeting tonight- 5 pm, South Walton annex.
     
  4. Jdarg

    Jdarg SoWal Expert

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2005
    Messages:
    18,069
    Likes Received:
    1,960
    Normally I would post a roundup of the meeting, but I have to say, I don't know what to say. What a train wreck- I have never seen a group of officials more out of touch with the real issue at hand and their community. Lots of very informed, intelligent locals at the meeting tonight. Maybe I will have clarity over coffee in the morning, but I am afraid I will wake up and be more ticked that I am right now, if possible. Thanks to everyone who came out and spoke.
     
  5. Dawn

    Dawn Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2008
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    239
    WZEP report -

    Many residents feel the process to determine the TDC building needs, has the cart before the horse. The residents were at a joint meeting between the Walton Commissioners and the Tourist Development Council Board. As the needs assessment report was presented, many in the audience felt the public should have more input into what they want in a TDC Visitor Center.


    Commissioner Larry Jones began by stating his reason for the joint meeting. He said, speaking for himself, there is sufficient opportunity for the public process as they begin. According to Jones, the intent is to have an open forum as the process moves forward. He said the meeting is the beginning on a journey as they make the TDC the best it can be for Walton.


    DAG Architect Patrick Ballasch said they were asked to look at the facility; including basic items such as parking, access, ADA compliance and air quality issues. He said they have no agenda other than to assess the health of the building and if it is being used as it was designed. He said they are already deficient in the amount of parking spaces on site. The facility sits over the retention pond to give more room on the small parcell. He said finding additional property next to the current facility is needed, but the surrounding property is mainly wetland and State forest.


    The facility is also a welcome center. Ballasch said RV traffic is popular and there is only one space for RV’s. As far as access, the recent road improvements make it so you can not turn directly off the highway. U.S. 331 is now six lanes wide at the intersection with 98. This means someone going to the site has to head west on 98, turn around, then head back. When they leave, they have to head back north and turn around to get back to 98. He said there are a lot of people who park at the store across the street and walk to the TDC. Ballasch said this is not safe.


    ADA issues are another problem. Ballasch said there are aspects to the facility that do not meet the current Federal standard. Ballasch did agree they could be corrected with remodeling. Under the Florida Building Code and Life Safety issues, he talked about the second story. It was originally designed for storage but office space has been put there. There is no elevator and if there was a fire, there is only one stairway out that was not designed as a fire stairwell. Air quality is still another problem with a much higher than normal amount of outside air coming in. Ballasch noted the building is over a pond and the building was not built with a vapor barrier underneath. This means moisture and outside air creating a potential for mold and mildew.


    Commissioner Scott Brannon asked if they could build up. Ballasch said yes, but there is still a problem with parking. Commissioner Cecilia Jones said she sees the main problem as access from 331. Ballish agreed, saying any other business could handle it, but many who come to the TDC building are coming for the first time. Brannon asked about expanding into the surrounding property. Ballasch said the soil is very poor and they would have to mitigate for the land.


    The residents attending a joint Walton Commissioner Tourist Development Council meeting are not happy with the process looking at the TDC facility needs. The residents question how much of a visitor center is needed and if there should be a single site, a split site or a main site with multiple smaller locations.


    Patrick Ballasch with DAG did the needs study. He told the Board and TDC Council they look at what is the standard for the employee chart. This takes a look at the positions at the TDC and what is normally needed for that type of position. This also takes into account the needs for meeting space. Ballasch said there are standards that are pretty much followed throughout the state. Then they factor in the needs for data, mechanical and circulation. This gives a number of square feet. He said there is a need for about 12000 square feet of heated and cooled space with around 2000 square feet of that for the visitor area. The current building is just shy of 9000 square feet. Ballasch also said the number includes built in growth. He said around 34% of the current usage is either unusable or used for circulation. TDC Director Dawn Moliterno asked Ballasch to compare the area for displays. He said they are behind the curve in the amount of display area and electronic services. He said many visitor centers also have a place for kids and a place for animals.


    Resident Donna Ammond asked how much land would be needed for the 12000 square foot building, parking and kids/animals features. Currently there are 32 spaces, but under codes over 40 would be required. Ballasch told the two boards it is not just how many spaces are required, but how many are needed. He said other similar centers have around 100 spaces, plus seven RV spaces. Bob Hudson asked about splitting the facility and using the current one for staff and building another for a visitor center. Both Boards mentioned there are indeed other ways to look at the operation, but also cautioned about splitting up staff. Commissioner Larry Jones said they are just starting and should look at the possibilities.


    TDC Director Dawn Moliterno said the number one complaint is vehicle access to the center. She explained the FDOT was asked for a cut but refused. The traffic count has decreased. Moliterno said the lease requires the building to specifically be used for a visitor center or it has to go back to Forestry. Forestry has indicated they might want the building for offices. She said the needs of Forestry would be different than that of the TDC center.


    The session talk turned to involving the public. Brenda Reese said she feels the public has not been involved as much as they could have been. The audience was told the meetings are open and the agenda is published. It was also said the public is not excluded and is invited the be at the meetings and chat. Anita Page said she thinks the shift from monthly to quarterly TDC meetings with special meetings added is a problem. She said the notices have not always been timely and it has been more difficult to keep up with the meetings. Commissioner Scott Brannon agreed that there is opportunity to improve. Moliterno agreed the wording about what will be discussed at a meeting is not always clear and they are already making changes to provide more information.


    As the commissioners began to decide what the next, or perhaps first step would be, TDC member Hilliard suggested holding some sort of charrette or visioning session. The commissioners accepted a recommendation from the TDC Board to seek proposals for someone to conduct the charrette or visioning session.


    Moliterno noted that everything about the process is on their website, www.visitsouthwalton.org.
     
  6. Jdarg

    Jdarg SoWal Expert

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2005
    Messages:
    18,069
    Likes Received:
    1,960
    Thank you Dawn. I understand that there were some very good public comments about the need to look at the purpose and focus of the TDC, and the need for a single-destination visitor center. There a couple of interesting comments made from the "front table" that I would like to comment on- that show how disconnected the decision makers are to the reality of our visitors and their habits.

    Mr. Ballasch, of DAG Architects, when discussing the needs assessment, said that they looked at markets around South Walton "because Orange Beach and Panama City Beach visitors are similar to South Walton visitors". That drew a LOT of raised eyebrows and snorts.

    Mr. Russell, of the TDC Board, spoke in marketing terms, and discussed the importance of touchpoints (the point of customer contact). He said that a visitor center is very important because of this concept, because we have to have a big destination center to "touch" all these visitors that would theoretically be coming through the door. OK Mr. Russell, the TDC can touch the small percentage of visitors that will somehow stumble into the center. Here is the reality: most of our visitors have planned their vacation months in advance, they are anxious to get to their rental house/condo, they are crazed to get to the grocery store- because they want to get settled and get to the BEACH, not a visitor center. The majority will haul ass right past even the most extravagant and wonderful building, because they don't want to use the restroom and walk their dog when they are 10 minutes from check in. They will at some point look at the material in their rental packet, and would see a lot more info if it was available in places where the majority of tourists go- like the beach, grocery store, and special events.

    We need to "catch" our visitors way before they get to a visitor center, and for the ones booking down 331, a few digital bulletin boards, with flags, event info, a sign with the web address/Iphone app with the flashing words "area info" or similar would be perfect. "Oh," says the mom in the passenger seat. "Hand me my phone, let's see where to eat dinner tonight" or "Yolo looks fun. Where can I rent boards". You get the picture.

    And all the nice welcoming people staffing the visitor center can wave at them as they blow by on the way to check in.
     
  7. shellak

    shellak Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2008
    Messages:
    315
    Likes Received:
    161
    I'm still wondering, with no answer, what ever happened to the "workshops" that were supposed to take place that involved the public????????? Was i just dreaming??? Jdarg, you are right on the money with your assessment of what tourists want to do when they get here. Who is a better judge of that than those of us who were tourists and are now residents? When we used to visit and drive down 331, i would just look over at the TDC building and smile at the 3 umbrella logo but that was about it. Wanted to get to the condo, grocery store and beach...period! Considering the fact that I am now forced to travel 20 miles an hour down 30a where the speed limit is 45 mph, I'm not cheering on more tourists. Some additional are fine for the slow months but please, no more here now!!
     
  8. shellak

    shellak Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2008
    Messages:
    315
    Likes Received:
    161

    Our local government is an embarrassment at this point. My husband asked me why are scott brannon and dawn moliterno permitted to still make decisions for our county when they are apparently being investigated by the Feds! I said we still don't have a definitive answer about whether they are being investigated or not. we can assume they are since the judge permitted them to slink out of being deposed. an unbelievable mess. I just hope Walton County taxpayers really take the time to learn about their candidates for office and vote prudently.
     
  9. SouthernBelle

    SouthernBelle Beach Comber

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2011
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    SoWal
    Totally agree with shellak. Walton County has become a real hot mess in the last 5 years.
     
  10. lazin&drinkin

    lazin&drinkin Beach Lover

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2010
    Messages:
    175
    Likes Received:
    55
    Be in DFS at the courthouse at 2:30 this afternoon for kickoff of trial proceedings in Harris vs Brannon and Moliterno. Perhaps the tone deafness of the leadership on display last night will get a little jolt this afternoon.

    And all brawlers need to be in direct communication with each BCC member on a continuing basis to emphasize repeatedly that there are community insights which surpass by a wide margin those of the BCC and the TDC and which insights are to be heard in a series of public workshops. The supposed pros have failed us. Time to get this straightened out now before they ignore the wants and needs of the citizenry once again.
     
  11. lazin&drinkin

    lazin&drinkin Beach Lover

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2010
    Messages:
    175
    Likes Received:
    55
    Forgot which forum I was on after resumed typing post phone call. All SoWalers need to make themselves heard on this, too.
     
  12. ricky bobby

    ricky bobby Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2011
    Messages:
    112
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Tallahassee, Fl
    Cut the bed tax in half, advertise that the bed tax is lower in Walton County than in other areas and do away with the TDC. If conservative conventional wisdom holds true, there would be even more revenue coming into the county. The problem as I see it is that the money is needed in areas other than fluff and lining the bank accounts of local Republicans and their benefactors and cronies.
     
  13. Kurt Lischka

    Kurt Lischka Admin Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2004
    Messages:
    12,457,642
    Likes Received:
    1,214,777
    Location:
    SoWal
    Dear SWCC Member,


    On Monday, the TDC Advisory Council, the Board of County Commissioners and a roomful of citizens participated in a 2.5 hour meeting about the TDC. The full meeting was recorded by Neighborvision and can be viewed at http://www.neighborvision.com/tdc-120611.html/ Thank you to Neighborvision for providing this wonderful community service.


    It would be impossible to accurately summarize all of the commentary. Here is some information to give you some idea of the breadth and scope of discussion. I have also included an excerpt from the DAG report which was referenced at the meeting.


    The TDC had commissioned Destin Architectural Group (DAG) to do an assessment of their current facility and a program/space needs analysis for both current needs and future expansion. A representative from DAG presented their analysis for the existing building. He pointed out issues with current facility which were basically inadequate parking spaces, including no place for RV parking, lack of accessability from those going U.S. 331 south as well as some problems with the building such as lack of a moisture shield under the first floor (its over water), lack of ADA accessibility, fire code issues with the attic being used for some office space instead of exclusively for storage for which it was designed, unusable dead space, etc. The building can be slightly expanded for the future, e.g., build closer to the parking lot, but further expansion is limited by wetland impacts which would require permitting, mitigation and may not be allowed. His assessment seemed to be that issues with the building could be fixed but inadequate parking would remain an unfixable problem for the current site. There was some comment about locating the Visitor Information Center (VIC) elsewhere. The administrative offices could then possibly remain in the current building as repaired. At least one member of the TDC Advisory Council felt it was important to keep the VIC and administrative offices together for efficiency and logistical ease of communication.


    The current TDC facility is 8,964 gross SF of which the Visitor Center is 760 SF. The DAG space analysis, completed in September of 2011, concludes "we arrive at a need for 12,000 square feet of heated and cooled gross square footage. In addition, we have determined that 2,552 square feet of covered deck will be necessary. Thus the total project area for building structure under roof is 14,976 square feet. " He explained his conclusions were based on "applying industry standards" and review of Visitors Centers in other areas. He said he also looked at some other TDC facilities and staff. A member of the audience had accumulated a lot of information on the size of TDC facilities and staffing in the Panhandle and around the state and pointed out the existing Walton County TDC facility and staff was currently one of the larger ones according to her research.


    There was also discussion about purchasing property for a new building. The County was asked whether they had funding for buying land for the TDC. Commissioner Larry Jones indicated there may be some available.


    The TDC leases the current site from Forestry. Under the lease, if the property is no longer to be used for a tourist information center and administrative offices, the County is required to restore the site to its pre-lease condition unless the County and forestry come to some other agreement. The costs associated with restoring the land have not been determined. Neither have the expenses associated with repairing the issues with the building. That aspect of this issue has not been determined. Commissioner Larry Jones asked the TDC to look into that aspect of this issue.


    I asked about the budget and what was the limit as the expenses of buying land, building a facility and the costs, whatever they may be, associated with restoring or repairing the current site issues were adding up. Commissioner Larry Jones said it was not a budgeted item and that would have to be looked into.


    There was a lot of public input which centered generally around the following topics.


    Re-visiting the function of the TDC, its goals, objectives and needs in terms of the current state of tourism, particularly the advancement and availability of information technology through smart phones and apps, websites, GPS technology, etc.


    The effectiveness and relevancy of a single Visitors' Center (VIC) as opposed to locating several smaller VICs throughout the community in areas where people tend to be congregated


    Separating the VIC from the administrative offices and letting the Chamber of Commerce run the VIC as is done in some other communities




    The meeting culminated in a motion made by a member of the TDC Advisory Council to engage a facilitator to help determine, via public charettes, what is needed for the VIC and TDC Administration. The concept of "starting over" seemed to have support. It sounded like everything will be on the table including needs, one location or multiple locations, facility size, etc. The County Commissioners then supported the motion.


    As soon as we know when the first public workshop will take place we will let you know.


    Anita Page
    SWCC Executive Director
     
  14. ricky bobby

    ricky bobby Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2011
    Messages:
    112
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Tallahassee, Fl
    The truth is the county has lots of money and the inclination of bureaucrats and politicians is to spend it, even if it's for something that's the answer to a question that nobody asked. And I can't help but wonder if they ram this idiotic project through, who stands to profit by it's construction?
     
  15. Kurt Lischka

    Kurt Lischka Admin Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2004
    Messages:
    12,457,642
    Likes Received:
    1,214,777
    Location:
    SoWal
    Please tell us.
     
  16. ricky bobby

    ricky bobby Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2011
    Messages:
    112
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Tallahassee, Fl
    Since the TDC is flush with cash that's burning a hole in their pockets, how about this: Build a new visitor center at the DeFuniak Springs Airport. Tourists coming in from the north run right into it. And include a "large staging area" large enough to accomodate a bizjet. Maybe a Cessna Citation. That way one of the biggest contributors to Walton county politicians would have a place to park his ride.
     
  17. Zebraspots

    Zebraspots Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    May 15, 2008
    Messages:
    840
    Likes Received:
    247
    Location:
    Santa Rosa Beach
    I know you weren't being serious, but that is an interesting idea. Have heard there is great demand for private plane spaces at the ECP airport.
     
  18. liz coats

    liz coats Beach Lover

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2012
    Messages:
    97
    Likes Received:
    38
    I don't live in the area but my parents do and I've been coming down since I was a child. Wasting money like this proposal is the silliest idea I've seen lately. My folks have a place in Seagrove Beach and I don't think I've every given any thought to it being in Walton County. I've seen all those 'SoWal' stickers for years but wasn't sure what it meant.
     
  19. Kurt Lischka

    Kurt Lischka Admin Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2004
    Messages:
    12,457,642
    Likes Received:
    1,214,777
    Location:
    SoWal
    Anita Page, SWCC Executive Director







    AGENDA





    Times are approximate and may not be strictly adhered to.





    9:00 AM


    Invocation and Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag


    Call to Order


    Approval of Agenda – addition or deletion of items


    Approval of Consent Agenda


    1. Approve Expenditure Approval List (EAL)


    2. Approve Minutes of May 24, 2012 Workshop, June 5, 2012 Special Meeting, June 6, 2012 Special Meeting, June 11, 2012 Special Joint Meeting, June 12, 2012 Special Meeting and June 12, 2012 Regular Meeting


    3. Approve the Quarterly Report from the Life Enrichment Senior Center for October, November, December 2011 and January, February and March 2012


    4. Approve the Workforce Development Board of Okaloosa and Walton Counties’ Budget for FY 2012-2013


    5. Approve to accept the Emergency Management Performance Grant in the amount of $59,689.00, a federally funded sub-grant received to fund portions of the Emergency Management Program


    6. Approve and accept the Emergency Management Preparedness and Assistance Grant in the amount of $105,806.00, a state funded sub-grant received to fund portions of the Emergency Management Program


    7. Approve the CivicPlus Recurring Redesign Contract Addendum


    8. Approve the First Option to renew Agreement for Pest Control and Termite Services with Southland Pest Services, Inc.


    9. Reappoint Marsha Anderson and Richard Bryan to the Coastal Dune Lakes Advisory Board for another 3-year term


    10. Approve the First Option to renew Agreement for Inmate Telephone System


    11. Approve to purchase and replace Employee ID Badge Machine


    12. Approve a Resolution to amend FY 2011-2012 Budget for unanticipated revenue in the amount of $40,592 in the Supervisor of Elections Office Account


    13. Approve to apply for the AFG grant through FEMA for the purchase of Communication Equipment


    14. Approve to surplus Fire Rescue vehicle BCC# 3663 and sell the vehicle to the City of Samson, Alabama


    15. Approve to surplus several items from the Walton County Corrections Department


    9:05 AM Gerry Demers, Interim County Administrator


    1. Public Works


    a. Walton Road/John Baldwin Road Intersection Improvement


    2. Support Services


    a. Brian Coley, Fire and Rescue-Request to present Medicare with a letter of


    responsibility for the Medicare Licensure for Walton County Fire Rescue


    3. Administration


    a. Scarlett Phaneuf, Executive Director of the Walton County Economic Development Alliance


    1. Request to adopt a Resolution authorizing a Referendum to determine whether to grant Economic Development Tax Exemptions as specified in Florida Statute 196.1955; Providing an effective date


    2. Update


    b. Request Approval of service agreement to enhance web site





    9:15 AM Toni Craig, County Attorney


    1. Continued Public Hearing to consider an Ordinance amending Chapter 2 of the Walton County Code to add a new division entitled “Real property Transactions:” requiring Board approval of need for all real property transactions, price and costs of such transactions; delegating certain responsibilities of transactions to the County Administrator and County Attorney; providing for severability, conflicts; and an effective date





    9:25 AM Dawn Moliterno, TDC Executive Director


    1. Approve a contract with DPA, A Division of Digital Research, Inc. to perform research services with the South Walton TDC for an annual rate of $157,000


    2. Approve the Beach Neighborhood Criteria Standard Operating Procedures


    3. Approve the request to process an RFP for an engineering/construction company to address the current deficiencies related to the health and safety issues identified at the TDC building


    4. Approve to advertise an RFQ for a moderator/facilitator to conduct a public workshop for general public input and education. These workshops will precede any future workshops related to the TDC building and location.


    5. Approve to rescind the Group Business Sponsorship Incentive Sponsorship Program Guidelines & Operating Procedures


    6. Approve the new Group Meeting Incentive Sponsorship Program Guidelines & Standard Operating Procedures


    7. Update-TDC/County Invoice Policy and Procedure Meeting Recap


    9:35 AM Commissioner Cecilia Jones, District Five


    9:40 AM Commissioner Sara Comander, District Four


    1. “Visioning”


    9:45 AM Vice-Chairman Kenneth Pridgen, District Two


    9:50 AM Commissioner Larry D. Jones, District Three


    9:55 AM Chairman Scott A. Brannon, District One


    10:00 AM Public Comments – please limit comments to five minutes or less





    Adjourn
     
  20. Jim Tucker

    Jim Tucker Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2005
    Messages:
    902
    Likes Received:
    228
    Ok so I am confused. Has the county decided to keep the existing building? Or is guvment so convoluted that they are going to spend money proving that the existing building is no good?



    [h=2]Conceptual Design /Renovations TDC Building[/h]The Walton County Tourist Development, TDC a division of Walton County is seeking proposals from qualified design/build firms to address the challenges and issues that have been identified in the existing TDC building. Overall purpose of this RFP is to design the TDC building renovations to address those health and safety issues that are identified in this RFP. Design work may include; functional design criteria, architectural design criteria, structural design criteria, operational considerations, security considerations, code issues and miscellaneous design requirement, cost estimates and simplification of construction, quality assurance standards, formulate a set of construction documents and technical specifications for those specific renovations to the existing TDC building and include estimated cost of construction for those specific renovations, co-manage the project with the County during construction.

    Firms who are interested should submit their proposals no later than 3:00PM on September 6, 2012. To be determined at pre-conference. Proposals received after that date and time will not be accepted. Submit proposals to:

    Office of Central Purchasing
    176 Montgomery Circle
    DeFuniak Springs, Fl 32433


    Pre-Conference was originally scheduled for August 28, 2012 NOW CHANGED
    There will be a mandatory pre-conference meeting to be held at the County Administrator’s Office located at 76N. 6th Street, DeFuniak Springs, Florida on September 4, 2012, at 900AM

    Firms must be present at the designated start time of the pre-conference meeting and must remain until the conference is adjourned. The County will not accept proposals from vendors arriving after the designated start time or departing prior to adjournment of the preconference.






    Read on
     

Share This Page