From making progress toward a new courthouse to resurfacing roads and building multi-million-dollar parks, Okaloosa County and its major cities will be busy with scores of capital projects in fiscal 2017.
In Destin, city officials will oversee a handful of major park projects. For example, they plan to begin using about $11 million worth of BP oil spill money this budget year to restore Norriego Point. Initial tasks include construction of erosion-control structures.
In addition, the state plans to use $8 million in RESTORE Act funds for the construction of Captain Leonard Destin Park off of Calhoun Avenue. This park along Choctawhatchee Bay will feature restrooms, a swimming area, kayak launch, splash pad, parking and picnic facilities.
Also, $1.2 million in RESTORE Act money is set aside for the Capt. Royal Melvin Heritage Park and Plaza adjacent to Destin Harbor. This park will feature docks for transient boats, a kayak launch, historical/environmental displays, a wildlife observation area, restrooms and picnic facilities.
And almost $730,000 in RESTORE Act money will be spent on what Destin officials call a long overdue restoration of Clement Taylor Park. The plan calls for new restrooms, new playground surface and equipment, an improved parking area, sidewalks, dock and swimming area and an additional picnic pavilion.
Overall, this fiscal year is “probably one of the busiest times in the city’s park program,” city spokesman Doug Rainer said Wednesday. “We’re also very thankful that these parks are being paid for with grants.”
The fiscal years runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, 2017.
City Councilman Jim Foreman noted that Destin has one of the lowest millage rates in Florida. “We don’t have an excess of revenue each year to put into capital projects, and because of that we have to go after grants,” he said. “We’re like everybody else: We like to see permanent residents come in and buy property and stay. This kind of visibility (provided by the park projects) helps us promote that.”
In the county seat of Crestview, city officials are looking forward to the installation of a traffic signal and intersection improvements at Commerce Drive and State Road 85. The project will cost $272,800.
Crestview Mayor David Cadle said the new signal will direct traffic going to and from a future Publix and other new businesses.
“There is a traffic light a block away for people to turn into Crestview High School, but the new one is very much needed,” he said. “That’s going to be a very important intersection.”
Another major project in Crestview is the $120,000 task to replace all the heating/ventilation/air-conditioning systems and ductwork at City Hall.
Some of the big-ticket capital projects in Fort Walton Beach this budget year include the $300,000 second phase of the $900,000 streetscape project for Carson Drive and Third Street. The overall project involves various pedestrian, stormwater and beautification improvements.
At the city’s Recreation Complex, officials plan to spend $120,000 for a concrete bowl that will connect to the existing skate park. They also plan to make $45,000 worth of improvements to the Tennis Center on West Audrey Drive. Eight of the center’s 12 hard-surface tennis courts will be resurfaced, lights will be repaired and windscreens will be replaced. Four of the courts had been resurfaced earlier.
City Recreation Director Jeff Peters said Fort Walton Beach could learn by the end of the year whether it will receive up to $16,000 in grant money from the United States Tennis Association to help pay for the resurfacing work.
In addition to the recreation projects, city officials have earmarked $300,000 for water/sewer system improvements and $235,000 for the resurfacing/re-striping of the follwing streets: Hill Avenue from Ajax Drive to Lovejoy Road; Holmes Boulevard from Memorial Parkway to Wright Parkway; Marilyn Avenue from Rogers Street to Holmes; and L’Ombre Circle.
For Okaloosa County, “The big project this year is the Crestview courthouse,” county Administrator John Hofstad said. “We’ve finally finished the asbestos abatement on that.”
Now, county officials are working to finalize a contract with Ajax Building Corp., which has an office in DeFuniak Springs, to demolish the building and proceed on site work and construction of the new courthouse. A proposed contract for those tasks could go before the County Commission next month, said Hofstad, who estimated the overall project cost at about $25 million.
He said other major upcoming projects include security improvements at the county administration building in Shalimar and the county jail, and new air conditioning units in some aging buildings.