Just a note: As a part of Abstract’s mission to increase participation in local government and make Niceville a more quirky place to live - we are providing updates on local government. Let us know what you think - and how we can partner together to make Niceville the most eclectic and wonderful place to live on the Gulf Coast.
It didn’t seem like it would be a busy meeting - but looks can be deceiving. Lots of information about the future of Niceville made its appearance at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
PAWS made a couple of surprising announcements about the state of its finances, Councillors renamed a stretch of road after the Late Mayor Randall Wise, Purple-piped reclaimed water may soon be available in Deer Moss Creek and prison crews are now back on the streets of Niceville.
We currently pay about $420 per animal control call in the city of Niceville. City Councilwoman Cathy Alley pointed that fact to the rest of the council after doing some quick math at the dais while listening to a presentation from Panhandle Animal Welfare Shelter (PAWS) director Tracey Williams.
PAWS, which provides animal control services to Niceville (and all of the other cities in Okaloosa County), says it needs to raise rates for the second year in a row in order to cover the costs of providing the service.
PAWS came to the meeting in the chambers with the news that - in addition to the information, the city owes more than $15,000 on the bill for services from Fiscal year 20-21. This was apparently due to some budgeting miscommunication between PAWS and the City of Niceville. It sounds like it was on PAWS end as they had this issue with every other city in Okaloosa County.
The new executive director of the organization says that the last director left the organization out of date, behind on paperwork and bleeding more than $200,000 every year. The majority of that loss comes from providing animal control services. Williams said that the board has “seriously discussed” returning to just an animal shelter and no longer performing an animal control function.
The organization has cut staff from 42 to 25 in the last year alone. They currently have 6 animal control officers on staff who serve the whole County.
PAWS provides the services for about $5.50 per citizen and plans to raise it about $1.00 per citizen for FY 21-22. Currently, the national average is closer to between $7.50 and $15.00 per citizen.
Discussion about how the pricing for each city went into depth - after the director mentioned that Niceville’s stricter codes and ordinances for animals kept euthenasias for animals caught in the city limits the city limits way lower than most other municipalities and the unincorporated county.
The director mentioned that they looked into charging the county for county-wide animal control services. The county would then charge each city based on their usage of the services. This would substantially reduce the cost to the city. Nothing concrete is in the works as of this moment, but the director mentioned that she would be speaking to public safety director Patrick Maddox in the near future about the idea.
Prison Crews Are Back in Niceville
Prison crews are going to be back in Niceville under the supervision of city public works employees. The city received its first contingent of 5 workers in the last month. Prisoners are allocated upon request of bodies like cities and private companies in order to reduce their costs to the state.
The workers are doled out by the state prison system on a sort of work release program. A halt was put to the program during the height of the COVID-19 crisis in 2020 and recently was reinstated by the government.
Reused water in Deer Moss Creek
Good news for the residents of Deer Moss Creek in Eastern Niceville: City Manager Lannie Corbin said during the city council meeting on Tuesday that he expects non-potable recycled water to be available to the subdivision by March.
The city is working with the County and Eglin Air Force Base (which owns the land) in order to get the permits and permissions necessary to run reclaimed water piping on the land to the subdivision.
As you might’ve guessed, reclaimed water is much cheaper to use than potable water in order to keep lawns and gardens irrigated. This will result in much cheaper water bills in the future for those residents.
Reclaimed water is separated from sewage and other waste at the Arbennie Pritchett Water Reclamation Facility in Fort Walton Beach and then pumped back to the community for non-drinking uses. This water is treated several times, but is not considered safe enough to drink.
Mayor Wise Road Renaming
The City Council ceremonially renamed the stretch of SR-85 between John Sims Parkway and College Boulevard after former Mayor of Niceville Randall Wise. Mayor Wise was the 15th longest-serving mayorin American history at 48 years and 19 days - and led the city from the early seventies until his death in early 2020.
Addresses along the roadway will keep their names for regular mail delivery.
A ceremony christening the road is in the works.
Okaloosa County Tourism Development Director Jennifer Adams and District 5 representative on the County Commission Mel Ponder attended Niceville’s city council meeting in order to pitch the council on the plans they have for the city vis-a-vis tourism bed tax dollars.
About a month ago, the county voted overwhelmingly to expand the bed tax district county wide. This will allow the county to spend revenues generated from stays at hotels in Niceville and other parts north toward improvements in the area. The improvements have to be at least indirectly related to tourism - although the rules are somewhat flexible.
For example - the money can be used on increased law enforcement presence, some increase in roadway capacity and other uses that are not ‘touristy’ things like marketing and beach restoration.
Adams outlined the generic plan to include Niceville into the Okaloosa County tourism industry.
The tourism organ will focus on improving the quality of visitor. Basically, they want to reduce road congestion and other ailments that plague us during the spring and summer by having fewer or the same amount of visitors - so long as they spend more money than they do right now.
“We’ve been a discount beach destination,” Adams said. She then explained that our brand positioning would need to change going forward.
The current tourism development strategy centers around the older millennial mother with kids between 3-10 who wants to connect with her children. They would accomplish this by, yes, selling the beach; but, they will also sell that demographic on excursions to the interior of the county - away from the coastline.
While people will still come to our area for the beach - Niceville’s place in the tourism economy would be staked on ecological, agricultural and sports tourism offerings that will be marketed to visitors once they are already here.