DeSantis budget vetoes include Fort Walton Beach EOC, Crestview community center hardening

Kevin Robinson

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law Wednesday a roughly $100 billion state budget that spends heavily on public works projects, the environment and $1,000 bonuses for many Floridians on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the governor also vetoed dozens of proposed projects around the state, including more than $2.3  million worth of projects in Okaloosa and Walton counties.

Here are the five local projects on the 2021 veto list:

Hardening of Fort Walton Beach Recreation Center for EOC Operations — $650,000

This city of Fort Walton Beach proposal called for upgrading the city's recreation center to serve as an Emergency Operations Center in disaster situations and temporary housing for emergency response personnel.

"The FWB Recreation Center was opened in 2015 to the public," a local funding initiative request said. "The $8.5 million facility was designed to withstand hurricane force winds, but does not meet the standards to be used as an Emergency Operations Center. In light of the devastation to Bay County and surrounding areas from Hurricane Michael and the overactive 2020 hurricane season, the City of Fort Walton Beach would like to utilize the FWB Recreation Center as an employee shelter and Emergency Operations Center in case of a disaster."

The full budget: Florida Gov. DeSantis signs $101.5 billion state budget, helped by federal cash

See the list:What did Gov. Ron DeSantis veto from the state budget?

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This aerial photo was taken on April 13, 2021, over the Fort Walton Beach Recreation Center on Jet Drive.

The request noted that the current city EOC is at the Fort Walton Beach Police Department, which was built in 2001.

"That facility doesn't meet the current standards and also lies within the Category 5 storm surge area. The FWB Recreation Center is built to current codes and lies outside the Category 5 storm surge area," the request said.

The proposal included $500,000 in matching local dollars for a total project cost of $1.15 million. 

Stormwater improvements on Martisa Road Northwest in Fort Walton Beach — $500,000

This project was identified as a priority area in the city of Fort Walton Beach's Stormwater Master Plan in December 2013.

The proposal called for the replacement of 800 linear feet of corrugated metal storm drain along Martisa Road Northwest to alleviate flooding issues in the neighborhood and improve water quality in Santa Rosa Sound, according to a local funding initiative request.

City of Freeport Multipurpose Community Center — $500,000

The city of Freeport requested funding to build an approximately 3,500-square-foot venue and parking area to act as a shelter and a location for community events.

Although the governor's veto listed a $500,000 request from the general budget, the local funding initiative request filed in the Senate put a $1.8 million price tag on the project.

"The scope of services for this project include survey, design, preparation of construction plans and specifications, permitting, construction, and construction engineering and inspection (CEI) for the community center building, parking, and stormwater improvements," the document said.

Walton County and Ohana Institution Esports Program — $498,300

The program requested by the Walton County School District sought almost half a million dollars to fund "Academic Esports Learning Laboratories at Walton County High Schools along with the Ohana Institute that will teach students Career Technical Education skills to promote, market, host, and manage a culminating hands-on project which will be an esports tournament in Walton County during the school year," according to an appropriations project request.

The funding request encompassed $303,300 to purchase 25 esports gaming stations, 25 Reverb headsets to add virtual reality instruction in the lab and a subscription for instructional VR content to use in the lab.

Additionally, the proposal called for $60,000 for a sports webinar, mentoring and a tournament, $40,000 for an efficacy study, $50,000 for establishing learning labs in two schools and $45,000 for project management services.

More from Crestview: Public pool opens at Central Baptist Church's Recreation Outreach Center in Crestview

Crestview Community Center Hardening — $194,000

This proposal from the city of Crestview was to help prepare the community center to weather a natural disaster such as hurricanes or tornadoes.

"This building can be used as a staging area for pre-storm rescue teams and fallout shelter in the event circumstances call for the need," the appropriations project request said. "The building would also be used as post-storm housing for search and rescue teams."

The specific improvements solicited in the funding request included the installation of two hurricane wind load rated roll-up doors and a natural gas-powered generator.