Okaloosa’s Complacent County Commission

Pete Blome addressed the Board of County Commissioners for Okaloosa County 17 May 2011 at the meeting where the budget for the Mid Bay Bridge Authority, a Florida Special District, gets reviewed and approved by the Commissioners IAW Law 2000-411. The County Commissioners in the past have routinely approved the bridge budget without public discussion, and they did so here as well by unanimous vote.

It is Pete’s opinion this Authority had the wrong financial plan from its inception. Instead of paying off bridge infrastructure and passing the savings to the bridge users, the Mid Bay Bridge Authority has steadily added an average $10 million a year in debt since its creation in 1994. Toll have steadily gone up, and when a large expansion project, called the bypass, is finished tolls may rise as high as $9 round trip to get from Crestview to Destin. Like the proverbial cash cow, bridge users have been set up to pay high tolls forever.

Pete isn’t the only one who sees the poor planning of the Mid Bay Bridge Authority. Fitch’s Bond service recently gave Bridge Bonds a BBB rating, one step above junk.

The Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners allowed Pete 3 minutes to address them.

Thank you, sirs, for allowing me to speak.

Since I have only a few moments, I would like to ask this board to consider a few questions about the Mid Bay Bridge Authority that were not brought up at this meeting.

How does an increased toll across the bridge, as high as $9 when the bypass road is complete, help anyone in Okaloosa County? It doesn’t.

When will the bridge debt be paid off? Never.

Who believes automobile traffic is going to increase to levels to make this Bridge Authority solvent?

It has gone down for 5 years in row. I certainly don’t.

If this Authority can’t remain solvent, what are you, as the approving authority of the Bridge Budget, going to do about it? Will it be to simply pass off the costs of the bridge to the whole state of Florida as Senator Gaetz has suggested?

This board has routinely rubberstamped budgets submitted by the Bridge Authority. Who has this served? Certainly not the citizens of Okaloosa.

The Mid Bay Bridge Authority is not a minor matter. It will represent $350 million dollars in debt before it is finished. Yearly tolls for a regular user will be greater than most people’s property taxes. One out of ten Okaloosans need this bridge for their livelihood, and they are purposefully being bled dry by government through bad planning and apathy.

The MBBA thought about everything except the people it is meant to serve.

And this course of events has been enabled by this board.

Thank you.