Among other items, Okaloosa County officials are seeking $2.5 million in state money to finish a massive reclaimed water project for the county, Eglin Air Force Base and the city of Niceville.

In the new year, Okaloosa County hopes to obtain state money to complete a reclaimed water project, support three estuary programs, build new fire stations and continue the development of the county’s mental health diversion program.


Those items are among the many projects and programs that represent the county’s state legislative priorities for 2020.


An overview of the priorities recently was provided to the Daily News by County Commissioner Kelly Windes and Jenny Laxner, digital communications coordinator for the Florida Association of Counties.


The commission approved the list of priorities earlier this year. The nonprofit association helps support the needs of counties statewide.


“It doesn’t cost much to ask” for state funding assistance, Windes said recently. “If we get some help, it’ll be greatly appreciated.”


The 2020 legislative session starts Jan. 14.


Among other items, Okaloosa County officials are seeking $2.5 million in state money to finish a massive reclaimed water project for the county, Eglin Air Force Base and the city of Niceville.


Eight million dollars already has been funded toward the overall $10.5 million project, Windes said.


The project consists of constructing infrastructure to transmit up to 4 million gallons per day of reclaimed water from the county wastewater plant in Fort Walton Beach to Eglin and Niceville to use for irrigation, according to county information.


In a joint funding request, the county seeks $1.5 million in state funds over a two-year span for the development and implementation of comprehensive conservation management plans for three new Northwest Florida estuary programs. They are the Choctawhatchee, Pensacola/Perdido and St. Andrew Bay estuary programs.


Okaloosa County officials also hope to obtain $813,000 in state money to build a replacement fire station for the Holt Volunteer Fire District. And they’re seeking $4.2 million in state funds for an Ocean City-Wright Fire Control District fire station/training facility on Northwest Florida State College’s main campus in Niceville.


In addition, county leaders want the state to provide $450,000 to support the continued development of the county’s mental health diversion program.


The program aims to stabilize people who are going through mental health and/or substance abuse-related crises that may otherwise result in low-level criminal charges. In the upstart program, and effective Jan. 1, Bridgeway Center in Fort Walton Beach will provide all sheltering services, outpatient care including behavior health treatment, and meals and shelter services for various patients within the county.


“In the long run, we’re probably going to be seeking a stand-alone facility” for the program, Windes said.


The county’s membership in the Florida Association of Counties for this fiscal year costs $25,792. Like most counties in the state, Okaloosa County belongs to the association because it promotes issues important to local government and opposes issues that might adversely impact local government, County Administrator John Hofstad said.


“They also provide valuable training to staff and elected officials on a wide variety of subjects,” he said in a statement.