Controling funds from Restore Act
Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 03:33 PM CDT
US MILITARY -- OKALOOSA COUNTY -- Okaloosa County is expecting tens of millions of dollars in Restore Act funds, which will come from fines related to the BP oil spill.
But some people are worried that control of that money could be taken away.
In this Wastewatch Report. a lingering scandal could have an impact nobody expected.
Laura Hussey "It's been almost three years since the BP oil spill. If you were here you probably remember the daily threat, the worry about what would wash up on these beaches. As it turned out, the impact on the beaches was minimal. the impact on the economy was devastating"
Up to 65 million dollars could be coming to Okaloosa County through the Restore Act.
It can be used for ecological and economic restoration.
Dr. Goetsch "It would help us not only retain businesses, it would help us expand businesses and when you do that, you get more jobs"
Chris Sehman owns the Helen Back restaurants.
He sees a lot of need for the money.
Chris "The biggest one right off the top of my head, I look at it in front of my business is stormwater drainage. It's something no politician has bothered to touch in decades and noone will, this is a perfect opportunity"
But Okaloosa County had an opportunity to spend BP money before.
Millions were misused by the former tourism director among other things, he bought a golf course home and several cars.
Dr. Goetsch "What they're concerned about is that the TDC debacle might convince the local legislative delegation, particularly Matt Gaetz and Senator Don Gaetz, that our county cannot property manage funds"
Economic Development Expert Dr. David Goetsch says the county commission must convince the Gaetzes, and the whole legislature, that it won't happen again.
There are new controls at the county, but at the state level, there's still outrage
Senator Joseph Abruzzo/Palm Beach "It was a national tragedy what happened with the BP oil spill. And the lack of oversight, and the evident corruption that took place is unbelievable to me"
Opinions are mixed as to whether the state would or could actually take control of the money.
Henry Kelley from the Tea Party says there's not really an appetite in the legislature to test a federal law.
Henry "These are the affected counties, and the law was written so that the eight affected counties would benefit the most from it."
Dr. Goetsch isn't so sure.
Dr. Goetsch "Laws can be changed and rules can be rewritten and so forth, so I'm one of the community members who's concerned about the Restore Act funds"
Laura Hussey "The county is forming a committee to evaluate any proposed projects for the BP money. Destin mayor Sam Seevers tells me that extra oversight with members from all around the community should also help to reassure any doubters at the state level.
Senator Don Gaetz told Channel Three News the people of Okaloosa County should not be punished for the actions of a few officials.
He believes the county should have oversight of the money, but he says more changes in leadership could be needed.