Commissioners meet on new Santa Rosa County courthouse location
Updated: Thursday, February 13 2014, 06:45 PM CST
SANTA ROSA COUNTY -- Santa Rosa County commissioners have been talking about building a new courthouse for more than a decade.
That plan is closer to becoming a reality, but there are still some major mountain to climb.
The Santa Rosa County courthouse has been the center of downtown Milton for years, with law offices, court reporters and other businesses tied to it springing up all around it.
But a potential move is in the works, and that means that economic development and business expansion plans for downtown Milton are up in the air.
Santa Rosa County needs a new courthouse. The current one is too small, outdated, too close to the river and boxed in.
But if it moves, what happens to downtown Milton?
"There are a number of law firms who are located right there within one block of the courthouse. Relocation is definitely going to have an impact on them, says Milton attorney Matthew Hargraves.
Building a new courthouse on the current site would be too expensive.
The county was looking at two pieces of property for the $35 million project, one on Avalon Boulevard and the other on Highway 90.
That price does not include the land, so the county would have to buy at either site.
Some citizens would like to see another option. Building on land the county already owns in east Milton.
"Why spend thousands and thousands of dollars for a piece of property and you've already got it," says Bill Bledsoe, concerned citizen.
County Commissioners voted 3-1 to move forward with the Highway 90 location.
Now they have to convince voters that it's the right move.
"It's very important that we come out and are able to select a site that is going to work for the county for the next 50-75 years, rather than get caught up in a dispute over one site that's two miles away from another," says Santa Rosa County Commissioner Lany Lynchard.
"I believe this, that if they put the tax issue on the ballot they're going to have problems getting that passed," says Bledsoe
County staff will be pursuing the piece of property on Highway 90 as the potential location for the new county courthouse.
You can look for the sales tax referendum to pay for it on the next general election ballot.