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Santa Rosa Commission Rejects Cell Phone Tax Increase

Santa Rosa Commissioners on Tuesday opposed increasing the tax on cell phone users.

Cellphone users in Santa Rosa County won’t see an increase in the tax on their texts and talking.

Commissioners on Tuesday night opposed an increase in the Communications Services Tax that would have increased the tax $1.80 per year.

The move followed a 5 p.m. public hearing in the commission meeting room at the county administrative complex in Milton, off U.S. 90.

District 2 Commissioner Bob Cole said the proposed ordinance change would increase the tax from 1.58 percent to 1.84 percent. The increase would have generated $200,000 for the county.

Residents in the north end of the county, particularly Jay, asked commissioners to oppose the tax increase, saying cell service in that area was weak at best. A few asked the county to pressure cellular service providers to expand the coverage area in the county. No one spoke in favor of the tax increase.

Commissioners voted unanimously to reject the tax increase.

In other action, commissioners:

· Discussed, but took no action on the county’s new noise ordinance and how it applies to Southern Raceway, among other concerns. Track operators would like to race no later than 11:30 p.m. Saturdays and holidays. Commissioner Bob Cole said the race track could notify the county of a few special events each year and be granted a variance. The track has been operating in the county for more than 30 years. District 1 Commissioner Sam Parker said the ordinance is not designed to harm existing businesses. District 5 Commissioner Colten Wright agreed, telling racetrack organizers the ordinance is designed to protect people. “I don’t want to see Southern Raceway ridiculed or being singled out.” District 3 Commissioner James Calkins said he’d prefer the ordinance be repealed. He said at the meeting he was speaking at 80 decibels, which exceeds the allowable noise under the ordinance for a residential setting. He said it was infringing on people’s freedom: “This is not what our citizens want.”

· Approved a contract for $3,442,983.53 with Panhandle Grading and Paving to construct the Central Landfill Entrance Road Improvements and Scale Addition Project. Here is the summary: “The … Project includes much needed improvements to the front entrance area of the landfill. These improvements include the widening of Da Lisa Road in front of the facility to accommodate turn lanes, it reconfigures the entrance road to accommodate additional queue capacity, it includes replacement of the current scalehouse building and additional commercial scale installation and scale relocation. The project also addresses stormwater concerns in the front of the facility and on Da Lisa Road with the construction of a new stormwater pond, and the installation of associated landscaping and fencing.”

· Approved paying Roads Inc. $2,634,076.26 for the Edgewood Drive Roadway and Drainage Improvements Project.

· Approved a request that the state department of transportation and their consultants conduct the initial feasibility study for the Navarre Beach Bridge replacement. Commission Chairman Dave Piech of District 4, said this will help the county prepare to replace the bridge, which will be needed in eight to 10 years.

· Approved paying Panhandle Grading and Paving $972,716.94 for the construction phase of Taxiway “A” at Peter Prince Airport; and agreed paying Mott MacDonald $76,590 to administer the construction at the airport. A grant from the Federal Aviation Administration would cover 90 percent of the cost of construction and administration.

· Approved a 61- lot subdivision, Eagle’s Ridge Phase I, to be built between East Spencer Field Road and Spears Street in the Pace-Pea Ridge area.

· Approved a $250,000 loan to the Jay Volunteer Fire Department for the construction of a fire substation.

· Entered into contracts with the following companies for debris removal: DRC Emergency Services; Looks Great Services; TFR Enterprises; Witt O’Brien’s; and Tetra Tech. Commissioner Sam Parker said there are multiple contracts so the county’s public works department does not have to rely on one company for debris removal following a hurricane or tropical storm.

· Approved to pay $130,400 to replace the roof at the Animal Services Facility. The roof was damaged by Hurricane Sally in September.

· Approved to pay $17,230.66 to former medical examiner Dr. Andi Minyard. The payment is the county’s portion to settle a gender-pay-discrimination federal lawsuit brought by Minyard. Escambia and Walton counties also were defendants in the suit.

Tom Ninestine is the managing editor at WUWF. He began August 1, 2019. Tom is a native of Geneva, New York, and a 1983 graduate of King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he studied journalism and political science. During a 29-year career in newspapers he worked for the Finger Lakes Times in his hometown; The Daily Item in Sunbury, Pennsylvania; and the Pensacola News Journal from 1998-2016.