Flagler County made its wishes known to its Legislative Delegation — Sen/ Travis Hutson and Speaker-designate Rep. Paul Renner — and all three of its funding priorities are slated to receive millions, pending the budget approval of Governor Ron DeSantis.
“As members of the Flagler County legislative delegation, Senator Travis Hutson and I are very optimistic that the requested local project funding will remain intact via the 2022-23 state budget,” Renner said. “Thank you to local leaders who supported our efforts to ensure our community remains the best place to live, work, visit and raise a family.”
If the governor signs without line-item vetoes, the following items will be funded for a total of $19.3 million: the Septic to Sewer Conversion Project for the barrier island will receive $8 million ($1.6 million more than requested, which will allow the county to expand the original scope of work); the Florida Agricultural Museum Expansion Project will receive $4.5 million; and, Flagler Central Commerce Parkway will receive $6.8 million.
“This is fabulous news for the residents of Flagler County,” said County Commission Chair Joe Mullins. “Senator Hutson and Representative Renner did a great job fighting for us. This is tens of millions of dollars that will be coming into our county instead of going elsewhere.”
The $8 million Septic to Sewer Conversion Project is a big step towards the elimination of septic tank pollution on the barrier island. It will provide a layer of “storm hardening” for residents in the area to help protect them from future weather events.
The project will include the construction of a wastewater force main extension along State Road A1A to MalaCompra Road, Hammock Community Center, and ultimately Marineland. This backbone will allow residential neighborhoods and businesses to connect to the system, making the conversion complete.
“We can’t thank Representative Renner and Senator Hutson enough,” said County Commission Vice Chair Greg Hansen. “The results of their work mean that we’ll be able to extend sewer almost the entire length of State Road A1A on the barrier island.”
The Florida Agricultural Museum Expansion Project may receive $4.5 million for its proposed Welcome Center as part of the museum’s multi-phase expansion plan to develop its potential as an educational and research facility. When actualized, the facility will preserve agricultural history and improve the future of the industry, while providing an entertaining experience as visitors are guided through more than 400 years of history including the influence on Florida agriculture of the Timucua Indians, Spanish, early pioneers, plantations, and agri-business work yards.
An additional $2 million grant may be available this fiscal year to help fund the museum’s proposed Pioneer Village.
“It is wonderful to know that there will be additional grant opportunities for them,” said County Administrator Heidi Petito. “Flagler County fought to have the Agricultural Museum moved here years ago, and we really want to see it develop into all it can be.”
Flagler Central Commerce Parkway — commonly referred to simply as Commerce Parkway (by Wendy’s) — is in line to receive $6.8 million. Total legislative priority requests from the city of Bunnell and Flagler County totaled $11.8 million.
“They (Hutson and Renner) asked if we would be willing to combine the request,” said Flagler County Legislative Liaison Holly Albanese. “Of course, we were. This is a lot of money for this very important project.”
The 1.7-mile expansion of this roadway will connect State Road 100 and U.S. 1 to unlock more than 1,000 acres of property for governmental, industrial, and residential development. Design work has been completed and permits obtained for construction. Funding for construction is the only hold up for the project completion.
“I’m proud to have worked alongside Speaker-designate Renner to bring these dollars home to Flagler,” Hutson said. “Although we are still subject to a veto, we are in a great position to receive funding that will help our county. This money is going to make a huge difference for our community.”
Policy Priorities for Flagler County also did well overall. The one disappointment is that funding was not appropriated for the Public Library Construction Grant Program in which Flagler County had been ranked No. 1 for six years running.
Below is the outcome of the remaining Policy Priorities:
- Protect and increase funding for the State of Florida Transportation Disadvantaged Program – $60.4 million statewide are earmarked for this program.
- Support affordable and reliable high-speed Internet throughout Florida – $400 million identified for unserved.
- Increase support of the SCRAP (Small County Road Assistance Program) and SCOP (Small County Outreach Programs) grant programs to assist small counties in paving Farm-to-Market roads – SCRAP funding increased from $10 million to $47.7 million, and SCOP increased from $27 million to $115 million.
- Increase support for Septic-to-Sewer grant programs to accelerate conversion on the barrier island in Flagler County – $10 million allotted for an Upgrade Incentive Program.
- Increase Florida 9-1-1 fee revenue to allow for transition to Next Generation 9-1-1 services with the implementation of IP (Internet Protocol) call routing and regional mapping – presently unknown.
- Maintain Short Term Vacation Rental Legislation status quo – House and Senate bills that would have disrupted this were withdrawn.
- Continue to support Home Rule – successful.