Walton County Hosts Meeting with Tourism Development Board; beach access contract approved


DeFUNIAK SPRINGS – Walton County Commissioners held a joint meeting with the Walton County Tourism Development Board for the beginning of next week, but it is not yet clear what will be on the agenda.

At Tuesday’s meeting of Walton County Board of Commissioners, TDC acting executive director Jason Cutshaw told council members he would work with county government administrative staff to develop an agenda for the meeting.

But beyond agreeing with Cutshaw’s request that the meeting be held at 4 p.m. on July 20 at the South Walton Courthouse Annex at 31 Coastal Center Blvd. in Santa Rosa Beach, commissioners had no comments or questions about the upcoming session.

Bed tax collectors have questions for the Tourism Development Council. Appointment to be fixed

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On Wednesday, Commissioner Tony Anderson, who is also appointed by the commission to the TDC board, said he had not yet seen the agenda for the next joint session. Additionally, Anderson said he wasn’t sure where his responsibilities would lie, either with the county or the TDC, during the joint session.

The meeting comes as a number of county tourist tax collectors have raised questions about the operations of the TDC.

The Bed Tax, a 5% tax imposed on visitors staying in South County accommodations, brings in millions of dollars each year for the TDC. The money funds TDC’s efforts to market southern Walton County as a tourist destination, as well as a lifeguard program and property acquisition initiatives aimed at improving the visitor experience.

Many bed tax collectors have been at odds with the County Commission since its May ouster of former TDC executive director Jay Tusa. There was no notice that the commission planned to terminate Tusa’s contract.

The commissioners voted 3-2 to fire Tusa. Commissioner Mike Barker, who proposed Tusa’s removal, was joined by commissioners William “Boots” McCormick and Danny Glidewell. Anderson and Commission Chairman Trey Nick voted no.

The bed tax collectors then asked the commission to arrange a meeting between them and the TDC board. That request was denied by the commission, with the next joint session of the TDC board and county commission later being approved by the commission last month under pressure from bed tax collectors.

The bed tax collectors pushing for the meeting with the TDC had hoped to discuss a number of issues: asking the TDC to require that the dismissal of any executive director be done only with the consent of the board of directors. administration of TDC; request that the TDC obtain an opinion from the State Attorney General on what portion of the TDC’s revenue may be allocated to marketing; and urging the TDC to seek an opinion from the Florida Bar on whether Clay Adkinson, the TDC attorney who serves as acting county attorney and also serves as attorney for certain municipalities in Walton County, has any conflicts of interest. interests in these roles.

Suzanne Harris, operator of the Edgewater condominium complex in Miramar Beach and one of the leaders of efforts to address these concerns with the TDC, said Wednesday that the informal group will push to put these concerns on the agenda of the next joint meeting.

Commissioners Approve Construction of New Regional Beach Access

In other tourism-related developments at Tuesday’s commission meeting, commissioners unanimously approved a $3.2 million contract with Freeport-based RBM Contracting Services to build a new regional access to the beach on Scenic Gulf Drive in Miramar Beach.

The planned beach access will be on the site of a private beach access built by the Amalfi Coast Condominium Resort for the use of its guests, as well as adjacent land, according to Brian Kellenberger, manager. beach operations of the TDC. The county purchased the Amalfi Access property about two years ago, Kellenberger said.

This public beach access on Scenic Gulf Drive, shown last year when county beaches were closed following the coronavirus pandemic, will be significantly improved by new construction slated to begin in October.  Among the improvements planned under the $3.2 million project are public restrooms and improved traffic flow.

The new regional beach access, slated for completion next summer, will include 410 feet of beach frontage as well as a new pavilion, restrooms, handicap-accessible boardwalk, 19 parking spaces, six golf cart parking spaces and a loading and unloading area, according to Kellenberger.

Also according to Kellenberger, the new beach access will direct traffic so guests don’t back off on Scenic Gulf Drive, and curbs will be installed to clearly separate the beach access from the road.

Construction of the roadside section of the access will begin in September, Kellenberger said, but construction of walkways between the access point and the beach will have to wait until the end of the turtle nesting season on Oct. 31.


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