Walton County District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander held a visioning meeting last week at Coastal Branch Library to hear from constituents about things that are important to them.
Comander was joined by Assistant County Attorney Sidney Noyes and Board of County Commissioners Public Information Officer Louis Svehla in presenting a slide show of accomplishments since 2012, when she held her last visioning meeting.
In 2013, Comander began the fiber broadband initiative that now runs up and down the U.S. Highway 331 corridor, enabling the county's schools and government offices to have high-speed internet, which she said has brought increased efficiency.
"We are a model for the rest of the state of Florida and other states in doing this," said Comander. "We have even gotten calls from the FCC in Washington D.C. and we received an award last year. It's all about cooperation and sharing information, which not all counties do."
The project cost $2 million.
Economic development that has been brought to Mossy Head was noted, as well as Freeport through the county's purchase of offices in the Freeport Business Center.
The county is partnering with the city of DeFuniak Springs to bring Amtrak back, and hopefully get it to stop in DeFuniak.
Noyes pointed to the work that is being done on bridges in South Walton, such as the Western Lake Bridge, at Red Fish and Little Red Fish, as well as drainage improvements.
Comander proudly touted the Choctaw Beach boat ramp that is up and running, and the splash pad.
The new South Walton sports complex that will be built on the east end of U.S. Highway 98 is close to being ready to bid out, said Svehla.
"It will not be rented out and TDC funds will not be used," he said.
The complex will have a three-field baseball complex and three multi-use fields.
"We have lost festivals because we didn't have any place large enough to hold them," said Svehla.
The complex will have tennis courts, a playground, green space, and future plans call for a miracle field, and a paved walking trail as it backs up to St. Joe land.
Buildings are not in the plans at this time, just a press box and event room is.
A new school is being built on the same grounds as the sports complex.
Even though many residents have expressed interest in having a large aquatic pool there, Svehla said there is no room.
"Pools cost money, and money to run," said Comander.
Svehla pointed out that Freeport has a city pool but it's barely open.
"An aquatic center would have cost more than what we are going to spend on a whole facility," he said. "To do it right, we would need seven or eight acres just for that."
However, improvements are being made at Helen McCall Park, and the county will have three more lit fields thanks to collaboration between the Boys & Girls Club and the county.
Under environmental projects, Noyes pointed to the artificial reef program.
A survey sent out by the county last year asked residents what things they viewed as important turned up basically nothing to go on as everyone checked the most important box on every item, said Svehla.
The parking problem on 30A will be helped by the opening of the Grayton Grand parcel that will provide 100 spaces.
The county is working with the Florida Department of Transportation to get grant funds and they are pursuing park-and-ride initiatives; a workforce development grant is being sought; and the county hopes to operate a tram trolley during next year's high season from the Grayton Grand property to Inlet Beach.
The number of Code Enforcement Officers has been increased for a total of 11 now, and there is a program in the works for multi-use trails throughout the county.
"We would like to have the entire county connected," said Svehla.
Santa Rosa Beach resident Celeste Cobena pointed to the need of a bike path on both sides of 30A.
"The county needs to take back all its right of way that developers and the public have taken," she said.
Cobena urged Comander to promote and utilize the state forest trails, and when trolleys are utilized, start them at Topsail.
Svehla, however, emphasized that the trolley will be for public transportation, not as a beach trolley.
Comander said her feeling is that for a trolley to start running at 11 a.m. is too late and for it to stop running at 11 p.m. is too early. She also said she does not feel that wrapping a trolley in advertising is the best use of the county's money.
"I see that as a private sector venture," she said. "And who is going to run it? It needs to be vetted."
An endeavor she would like to see is more development in Freeport, featuring its waterways and more parks.
"The Choctawhatchee River and Bay is just as beautiful as the beach," she said.