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Santa Rosa lease to non-profit causing controversy

SANTA ROSA COUNTY   --  A multi-year, low dollar lease on a piece of property fronting Highway 90 in Milton.
Some are applauding a recent decision by the Santa Rosa County Commission.
Others are calling it a misuse of county assets.
This building here on the corner of Santa Rosa Street and Highway 90 in Milton is a county warehouse that's been used to store records.

Soon it will be the home for the Santa Rosa Culture Center.
But it's how that building ended up with that non-profit that has some citizens up in arms.

The building has been a storage spot for county documents because of its close proximity to the courthouse.

The county commission voted to give the Santa Rosa Arts and Culture Foundation a 25 year lease on the building at 25 dollars per year.

Troy Vonada/Lives In Santa Rosa Co.
"That sounds like a real good deal to me, and I think it would help the community. Be convenient for everybody."

Jerry Cooey was one of the citizens who went before the commissioners this morning to oppose the lease on the grounds that state statutes require that all leases on county owned properties should be decided in a bidding process.

The county feels bidding is not necessary for a non-profit organization.
Jerry Cooey/Concerned Citizen
"One time we bid something, then the next time we don't bid something. And this is a taxpayer asset. It was my hope that we would get the best deal for the taxpayers."

Bob Cole/District 2 Commissioner, Chairman
"There was no thing we did that wasn't up to statute according to the county attorney and administrator. I don't feel bad about our decision to do so, and I'll stand behind that."

Troy Vonada/Lives In Santa Rosa Co.
"Put it out for bid. Everybody should have a shot at it. I mean we all pay the same taxes. We live in the same community and we support each other."

All the records housed here will need to move costing more tax dollars.
But that's something the county is prepared for.

Bob Cole/District 2 Commissioner, Chairman
"We've seen it for the years, the need to develop an actual facility just for that purpose rather than constantly using a makeshift building for that."

The citizens who are questioning this bid process tell me they plan to take their inquiry to the next level.