DeFUNIAK SPRINGS – Walton County Commissioners have received a surprise announcement from the Florida Forever Grant Program in Tallahassee that the County will be reimbursed $1.4M for the purchase of 16.7 acres of land in Santa Rosa Beach. County officials purchased the land to construct a public park named after Timothy Padgett, a Special Forces medical sergeant from Walton County who died in the line of duty in Afghanistan in 2007.
County officials had been denied the grant in 2007 and 2008, but other projects around the state did not materialize freeing up the state funds for other top projects in the state considered by the Florida Forever Grant Program. Padgett Park was one of them.
“We were concerned that we might lose an opportunity to buy this prime piece of real estate on J.D. Miller Road if we didn’t go forward with the purchase,” says Assistant County Administrator Shirl Williams. “We had the funds in the budget, so we went ahead and purchased the land hoping the Florida Forever Grant Program would reimburse the County for that purchase. Unfortunately, the County’s two grant requests were denied.”
District 5 Commissioner Cecilia Jones says she’s grateful to her predecessor, former County Commissioner Cindy Meadows, and county staff for securing the grant.
“Everyone worked so hard by traveling to Tallahassee to make the grant presentations on several occasions,” she says, “and I know that this included many citizens who accompanied our county team to show support for the project. I’m also grateful to the staff of the Florida Forever Program and am especially excited to have funds available in these tough economic times to provide parks and recreation for our children and grandchildren.”
The grant funding will reimburse the county’s recreational plat fee accounts, and county commissioners will consider how the funds should be used during future county commission meetings.