After the rain stopped a walk to the beach seemed like a good idea. I’m glad we got the closets cleaned out, but it was time for a break. We were dangerously approaching reorganization jihad; being a recovering slob I am an infidel. Before we could get to the 83 walkover, whoa Nelly, Big Redfish Lake was washing over 30A.
Conventional wisdom blames a clogged culvert and while there is little doubt inadequate maintenance led to this disaster, losing 30A is merely a symptom of a far more insidious illness. Disaster is no hyperbole, to paraphrase Vice President Biden; this is a big deal.
Until we repair the road, retail businesses in my neighborhood will lose customers and sales. The last big hurrah before Thanksgiving and Christmas, Labor Day, will be diminished. Everyone will pay more in time and extra gas negotiating the added commute. The detour increases the traffic load on the already dangerous 83/98 intersection.
At one time in my life I lived down three miles of bad dirt road so I understand when a county commissioner bemoans road conditions in their district. But the 28.5 miles of County Road 30A in South Walton generates millions and it cannot go down. Too little revenue generated by the South Walton ATM stays in South Walton. We should nurture, not short shrift, a stretch of highway producing so much money.
Losing the A at Big Redfish Lake shows what happens when you overburden an underfunded, aging infrastructure. Walton County along with the rest of America continues to ignore growing infrastructure needs. Compounding the situation locally was the real estate crash. The aphorism “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is cute, but foolishly dangerous when it comes to infrastructure.
Budget “scrubs” ignore the reality we have just as many roads as we had in 2005 but we are spending less on them and we have less staff to maintain them.
Since cities, counties, fire and school districts rely heavily on real estate taxes, road maintenance falls on property owners. Maybe we should think outside the box. Sales taxes disproportionally affect lower income families, but the South Walton sales tax base includes our visiting friends. Georgia routinely uses voter-approved, special purpose sales taxes limited to specific infrastructure needs, not general revenue. Sure it’s not perfect but it beats raising property taxes.
Look what happens when you kick the can down the road. Bridges over the dune lakes would be sweet but unless we get some BP bucks, Walton County taxpayers will be on the hook.
Patching 30A will cost taxpayers $200,000 minimum. When you develop a watershed what seems appropriate on paper, in reality, may not work so well. An oft-repeated mantra cites regulations as expensive and job-inhibiting. Sometimes in our haste to minimize or to work around regulations we run up unforeseen expenses. A stopped-up culvert didn’t cause 30A’s washout by itself but rather a series of decisions made over several years.
Oh, yeah don’t shut the government down before any FEMA checks clear.
Buz Livingston, CFP, has the only investment management and financial planning firm in the entire world headquartered in Blue Mountain Beach. He helps clients along Florida’s Emerald Coast and around the country with financial decisions. Contact him at 850-267-1068 or www.livingstonfinancial.net. He’s a tweeting fool; follow him @BuzLivingston.