Saturday, May 13, 2017

Wakulla County Reels In $6.4 Million in the 2017-18 Legislative State Budget for County Projects



Crawfordville, Florida – Over the last five years the Wakulla County Board of County Commissioners (Board) and County staff have aggressively pursued legislative funds to make sure some of the state tax dollars paid by citizens and visitors come back to Wakulla County for projects in Wakulla County. 

Chairman Ralph Thomas is very active in the legislative process and can be seen frequently at the Capitol talking to legislators and making presentations to legislative committees on a myriad of proposed legislation, including County priorities. Chairman Thomas also is the President of the Small County Coalition which represents small and rural counties across the State. “We are fortunate to have the legislative leadership and support of Senator Bill Montford and Representative Halsey Beshears fighting for Wakulla County’s projects in the state budget”, said Commissioner Thomas. 

In preparation of the annual legislative session, David Edwards, County Administrator and Sheree Keeler, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs recommend legislative priorities for Board approval.  The Board approved priorities then opens the door for Keeler to submit local funding request to Wakulla’s legislative delegation, Senator Montford and Representative Beshears, as well educates state leaders on the Wakulla County’s legislative priorities.

This session the Board’s legislative funding priorities were very focused on projects supporting Wakulla County’s local law enforcement officers and first responders. The number one priority was a request for $1.8 million to upgrade the current law enforcement and first responder radio system to the State’s Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS).   The current radio system used by the Wakulla County’s Sheriff’s Office and Wakulla County Fire/Rescue is obsolete, unreliable and does not communicate with any law enforcement or first responder agencies outside the County.  The SLERS system is the most current statewide technology and will provide reliable communication within Wakulla County and the ability to communicate with other agencies when responding to a multi-jurisdictional incident.  The funds are needed for new equipment and a five-year SLERS subscription. The legislature approved $507,465 to help the County begin phasing in SLERS and leveraging with other potential funding opportunities. 

The second priority was a request for $2 million for a new Fire/EMS station on Trice Lane.  The County currently operates an EMS Station on Trice Lane and a Fire Station on Cedar Avenue, and both facilities are aging and inadequate for staff and equipment.   The goal is to build a new combined Fire/EMS Station on Trice Lane to provide sufficient space for both the Fire and EMS staff and equipment now located at the current Trice Lane and Cedar Avenue stations.   The legislature approved $500,000 to be used for matching County funds and phasing in the construction of the new Trice Lane Fire/EMS Station. 

Other important legislative funding pursued by Wakulla County included in the 2017-18 state legislative budget is $5.4 Million for the following local road projects:

§  CR 374 Harvey Mill Road from Mill Creek Road to SR 369 (US 319) Pavement Reconstruction (Resurfacing) - $71,563
§  CR 375 Smith Creek Road from North of CR 22 to North of Syfrett Creek (Resurfacing) - $1,048,684
§  Riverside Drive/Old Fort Road from Fire Escape Road to Marina (Resurfacing) - $178,697
§  SR 375 Sopchoppy Hwy. from North of Beasley Road to SR 30 (US 98) (Resurfacing) - $762,000
§  SR 61 (US 319) from SR 30 (US 98) to North Alaska Way - $400,000
§  SR 30 (US 98/US 319) Boykin Road to SR 369 (US 319) (Resurfacing) - $313,958
§  SR 30/61 (US 98) Coastal Hwy. from Franklin County Line to Boykin Road (Resurfacing) - $213,372
§  SR 369 (US 319) from North of SR 267 to Leon County Line (Additional Lanes) - $2,430,000

It should also be noted that legislative funding is also provided to the Wakulla County School Board, State run programs, and other projects over and above the $6.4 million earmarked specifically for the Board. 

“It was a nail biting session”, said Keeler, while watching other local projects being cut at the last minute, Wakulla’s two priorities survived.   However, all projects in the legislative budget are subject to approval of the Governor.  Contact Sheree T. Keeler, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at 850-926-0919 ext. 705 or skeeler@mywakulla.com with questions.



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