Santa Rosa County's County Administrator
6495 Caroline St, Suite M
Milton, FL 32570
Board of County Commissioners
(850) 983-1877
(850) 983-1856

Office Hours:
8:00 am - 4:30 pm

  • Timeline
  • Judicial Center Q & A
  • Local Option Sales Tax Q & A
The current Santa Rosa County Courthouse is located in downtown Milton. Built in 1927, the building size is no longer sufficient for all the necessary courthouse functions. The design of the building creates security issues for the public and staff, and the parking, heating and cooling system, and telephone and computer network infrastructure are no longer adequate for daily operations. A new facility that can serve our fast growing county today, and up to 75 years in the future, is needed.
Proposed Judicial Center Commission Action Timeline

HOK Reports 2000-2001

Nov. 7 & 10, 2011 Commission Meetings - The commission directed staff to work with HOK, Inc. to update the courthouse facility needs assessment completed in 2001 and 2007.

Dec. 5 & 8, 2011 Commission Meetings - The commission accepted the fee summary submitted by HOK, Inc. for concept design and programming update for a new judicial facility. The plan would include meetings with judges, court administration, the clerk of court, state attorney, public defender, sheriff and bar association to determine their current and future needs in order to update the 2007 plan prepared by HOK. The plan would include a budget estimate for construction and presentation of their findings to the board in the spring of 2012.

Mar. 8, 2012 Commission Meeting - Duncan Broyd of HOK, Inc. presented the concept design and programing update. The plan included the space and building options need for a new judicial center based on the interviews with judges, court administration, clerk of courts, state attorney, public defender, sheriff and bar association. An estimated nine acres was needed for the design. Based on two recent courthouse examples, he estimated that cost to construct a new judicial facility at approximately $32 million at today's prices, and did not include land and site development costs.

July 11, 2013 Judicial Center Special Workshop - At this meeting, the board reviewed the needs identified by HOK in 2012 including the need for a building that was approximately 146,000 square feet and included growth space for future additions. County Administrator Hunter Walker stated that the issues that will need to be determined are:

  • Should the county pursue a judicial facility at this time?
  • Where should the facility be located?
  • How should it be funded?
  • Should the project be delivered as a construction management or design build project?

The commission asked staff to reengage with HOK to update the facilities needs assessment, determine if phasing would be an appropriate option, and engage the court administration and clerk of courts in the process. A travel time study to help determine a central site location was also assigned to staff.

July 22, 2013 Commission Meeting - Duncan Broyd from HOK, Inc. made a presentation on the recommended process for moving forward with a new judicial center. The process would be completed in three phases - Phase I will consist of site identification and selection, Phase II will include the preliminary design and project cost estimates, and Phase III is public meetings and presentations.

Aug. 5 & 8, 2013 Meetings - The commission discussed and approved a contract with HOK, Inc. for site identification and design services for a proposed judicial facility which was discussed at the July 22, 2013 meeting. HOK stated that the courthouse would need nine to 12 acres and that the shape of the land would impact the shape of the building. Also of consideration were traffic access, street frontage, utilities, cost effectiveness and location for a 100-year vision.

Aug. 19, 2013 - The board discussed areas for a proposed judicial facility and reviewed information on travel times of key locations throughout the county. Staff identified the intersections of Avalon and U.S. Hwy. 90 and Avalon and Commerce as being the center of the travel time estimates.

Aug. 22, 2013 - The commission directed staff to assemble a list of potential parcels with a minimum of eleven acres within a two mile radius of the U.S. Hwy. 90 and Avalon Boulevard intersection for potential judicial facility sites.

Sept. 9 & 12, 2013 - The board reviewed the property in the target area and contacted the property owners of four potential sites, two on Hwy. 90, one on Dogwood Boulevard, and one on Avalon Boulevard. To make cast the widest net in the identified area, the board directed staff to develop and RFP, or request for proposal, for sites within a two and 1/2 mile radius and consisting of 12-20 acres.

Sept. 23 & 26, 2013 - The commission reviewed the proposed RFP developed by staff and approved issuing the RFP for property for a proposed judicial site.

Oct. 12 & 17, 2013 - RFP legal notice was advertised in the Press Gazette, Navarre Press and Gulf Breeze News. The RFP was open and available for 30 days on the county website.

Nov. 12, 2013 - Deadline for RFPs. Six proposals received.

Dec. 9, 2013 - The commission discussed the six site proposals received from the RFP process. Commissioners Williamson and Lynchard abstained for this item due to personal conflicts with the properties being considered. The item was moved to Dec. 12 meeting.

Dec. 12, 2013 - The commission selected four sites to move forward with and directed staff to work with HOK, Inc. & Hatch Mott MacDonald to create a comparative analysis of the four properties which included the JDL of Santa Rosa, LLC; BTF of Florida, LLC; Coldwell Banker Commercial for Charter Bank, and Neal & Company proposed sites.

Jan. 21, 2014 - Michael Broussard of Hatch Mott McDonald presented to the board a matrix developed analyzing the four sites selected in the Dec. 12, 2013 meeting. The board moved the item to the Jan. 23 agenda with the understanding that they would prioritize the list to the two best locations after considering updated number on traffic concurrency.

Jan. 23, 2014 - The commission selected moving forward with the evaluation process of the Coldwell Banker site on U.S. Hwy. 90 and the JDL of Santa Rosa LLC site on Avalon Boulevard. The evaluation would include a foot print for the building and estimated costs for site work and purchase of the property.

Feb. 10, 2014 - Discussion of two proposed judicial facility sites, U.S. Hwy. 90 represented by Coldwell Banker Realtors and Avalon Boulevard owned by JDL of Santa Rosa, LLC. This item was moved to Thursday's agenda

Feb. 13, 2014 - The board selected moving forward on the Coldwell Banker Realtor site on U.S. Hwy. 90 because it is centrally located, has the needed travel infrastructure, and offers the best opportunity for future growth without conflicting with residential or industrial use. The board asked staff to review layout alternatives on the property as the site offered a four tiered pricing system, with the most expensive adjacent to Hwy. 90 and becoming less expensive as it goes further back on the property.

Feb. 24, 2014 - The board reviewed three options of alternative layouts of the Coldwell Banker Property located on U.S. Hwy. 90. The parcel is large and has four pricing tiers based on the proximity to the highway. The board asked staff to research costs associated with two layouts of the eastern side of the property.

Feb. 27, 2014 - The commission voted to move forward with negotiating a contract with Coldwell Banker for the purchase of 22. 46 acres to include the U.S. Hwy. 90 - front property. By including the acreage on U.S. Hwy. 90, they would be able to direct what was built in front of the judicial center and allow room for future growth.

March 10 & 13, 2014 - HOK presented design and space options on March 10, asking the board for more specific space and location preferences in order to move forward with a design recommendation. In the March 2014 updated assessment, the facility space was more specifically identified at 156,699 square feet. HOK also brought forward a request from the clerk of court to add additional space for the clerk of court administration, archives and probation intake, increasing the estimated needed space to 180,767 square feet. However, the commission confirmed that certain functions of the clerk of court, including administration, archives and probation intake, need not be located in the judicial facility and directed the contractor to proceed with the 156,699 square feet design.

The commission also addressed concerns that the new judicial facility was not to be located on property that the county already owned. The board agreed to add a location preference option to the proposed judicial center ballot. In addition to selecting if they support a local option sales tax to fund a new judicial center, voters will have the option of voicing their preference for the U.S. Hwy. 90 property or property already owned by the county in East Milton. The contractor will now look at county owned property to select the most appropriate 22 acres and develop a second design plan and cost estimates.

March 24 & 27, 2014 - staff presented similar sized county owned property in East Milton to the board. The commission directed staff to bring research on available utilities to those properties, impacts of moving the sheriff's shooting range, impact of the future Hwy. 87 bypass, and offers of donated or reduced cost land in East Milton to the April 7 and 10 meetings.

At both the committee and regular meeting, the board discussed the potential change in property owner of the U.S. Hwy. 90 property. On March 17, the county received formal documentation that the property owned by Charter Bank was under contract with Milton Crossing, LLC. Charter Bank entered into a contract with Brian DeMaria, who later formed Milton Crossings, LLC to purchase the entire 45 acre parcel of which the county had selected 22.56 acres as a potential judicial center location. The developer has assumed the RFP terms submitted to the county by Charter Bank with the purpose of developing the remainder of the property not sold to the county.

At the March 27 meeting, a motion was passed to approve entering into a contract with Milton Crossings, LLC to purchase the U.S. Hwy. 90 property. The contract allows the county the right to cancel the contract for any reason and with escrow refund, until Nov. 21. This property will be one of two location preferences from which voters may select.

April 7 & 10, 2014 - The board discussed county owned sites and other properties located in East Milton. The commission scheduled a workshop to further discuss an East Milton location for Monday, April 21 at 6 p.m.

April 21, 2014 - Judicial Center Workshop

May 27, 2014 Judicial Center Workshop - Commissioners voted to select the property owned by William H. Byrom located on U.S. Hwy. 90 southwest of the Peter Prince Airport as the East Milton location to be placed on the November ballot. The owner has offered any 15 acres of the 47 acre parcel to the county at no cost. Voters will be able to voice their location preference of either the Byrom property or the previously selected Milton Crossing, LLC property on U.S. Hwy. 90 in Pea Ridge in addition to if they support a local option sales tax to fund a new courthouse.

June 9 & 12, 2014 - The commission added a third location, the property adjacent to the current courthouse, as a location preference and directed HOK to develop design plans and cost estimates for the downtown Milton location.  Voters will now be able to select their location preference of the Byrom/U.S. Hwy. 90 location, the Milton Crossing, LLC/Pea Ridge location or the downtown Milton location, in addition to if they support a local option sales tax to fund a new courthouse on the November general election ballot.

July 21, 2014 Commission Meeting - Guy Thompson the Mayor, City of Milton spoke asking the commission to consider placing the new judicial center next to the current courthouse. Several residents also spoke supporting the Downtown Milton location and the process of purchasing the land needed for that location. The commission authorized advertising the necessary public hearings in August for enacting an ordinance regarding placing a local option sales tax referendum on the November ballot.

Aug. 11 & 14, 2014 - HOK presented site plans and cost estimates for the three possible locations of the judicial facility, which included floor plans and building images. Commissioners agreed that the three sites would appear on the November ballot as a non-binding referendum. Voters will be able to select their location preference of the Byrom/U.S. Hwy. 90 location, the Milton Crossing, LLC/Pea Ridge location or the downtown Milton location. Additionally, the board voted to place a one percent local options sales tax measure on the November general election ballot. If the sales tax is approved by voters, the sales tax which is one cent per each one dollar spent, would be in place for five years beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

Sept. 15, 23, 30 & Oct. 7, 8, 20, 2014 - Judicial Center Town Hall Meetings
Informational meetings were held at various locations throughout the county to discuss location options, cost and ballot language.

Nov. 4, 2014 - Local option sales tax ballot measure failed, with 44% voting for the tax and 46 voting against the tax. Click here to see all 2014 general elections ballot results.

Nov. 10 & 13, 2014 - The commission recommended the cancellation/termination of Real Property Purchase Agreement with Milton Crossings, LLC based on failure of the local option sales tax referendum.

Jan. 28 - Planning Workshop - The commission discussed replacement options for the courthouse. Need for a new facility continues as there are still security risks, infrastructure issues, space limitations and ongoing costs to maintain. The board directed staff to develop a plan for placement of a referendum on a Local Option Sales Tax to fund the judicial facility during the 2016 election cycle with the location focused on the downtown Milton site.

Feb. 9 & 12 - The board further discussed placing a referendum for a Local Option Sales Tax to fund the judicial facility on the ballot during the 2016 election cycle. The board discussed placing the facility at the downtown Milton location, which an additional five or seven parcels will need to be secured through a contingent purchase agreement or option to purchase. Recommended staff to develop scope of services and fee schedule with HOK, Inc. to review options for reduction of the scale of the facility to exclude, for example, the offices of the State Attorney and Public Defender. Also consider renovation/use of existing facility.

Feb. 23 & 26 - The commission discussed the preliminary scope of services and fee schedule for contract with HOK, Inc. for replacement of the courthouse focusing on the downtown Milton location for a total cost of $206,500. It is anticipated that HOK will come back with a range of options in April.

April 20 & 23 - The board scheduled a special workshop for Tuesday, May 5 at 9 a.m. to discuss new updated information from HOK. Click here to view proposed presentation.

May 5 - Judicial Center Workshop -The commission discussed new updated information from HOK focusing on the downtown Milton location. Click here to view proposed presentation.


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Judicial Center Questions and Answers

   Do we need a new courthouse?

Yes, desperately. Built in 1927, the current facility has major infrastructure problems. The major issues include:

  • Multiple entry points to the facility create security problems and public safety concerns. Multiple entry points also increase staffing and security infrastructure requirements.
  • The public and judicial staff cross paths with those in custody creating security and public safety concerns, including having to share restroom facilities.
  • Inadequate heating, air-conditioning and ventilation system.
  • The state attorney and public defender are currently located in separate county buildings.
  • The jury assembly is located in a modular building addition and creates issues with public foot traffic within the facility.
  • The inmate holding capacity is low causing sheriff deputies to make numerous trips from county jail to the courthouse.
  • Ongoing costs to upgrade, maintain and repair the current facility.
  • High level risks when considering prisoner movement within the general public, storm vulnerability, and overall security and safety of those in the building.

    Why not build on county owned property in East Milton?

The county does own property in the Santa Rosa Industrial Park near the Peter Prince Airport and the Northwest Florida Industrial Park @ I-10, just south of I-10 on U.S. Hwy. 87. The commission chose not to proceed with proposing a judicial center on these sites because of land use compatibility, financial impacts due to loss of industrial park property, and traffic concerns.

Land uses are considered to be compatible when they can locate near each other without negatively impacting each other. Industrial uses are often "high impact" uses that can produce objectionable levels of noise, odors, vibrations, fumes, light, smoke, and other impacts on adjacent properties. A judicial facility, on the other hand, would be considered a "low impact" land use. Distancing high impact and low impact uses from each other is typically the best way to avoid negative impacts.

The county industrial parks are a unique asset to the community. They have been located, purchased, improved and regulated specifically to accommodate industrial development. Lost opportunity can occur when prime industrial land is used for non-industrial development, thereby reducing the amount of land available for industrial use. The term "opportunity cost" is an economic concept which can be applied, meaning that while using one of the industrial sites would save the county money in the purchase of land, it would cost the county a valuable limited resource - in this case developable industrial land near an interstate. In fact, the Northwest Florida Industrial Park @ I-10 and Phase II of the Santa Rosa Industrial Park have recently completed the site certification process. Site certification is a prequalification process to ensure they are "shovel ready" for immediate development. It reduces the risks associated with development by providing detailed information about the site including price and availability, utilities, access, environmental concerns and potential development costs. While a very common practice in other states to attract industry, once certified, these properties will be two of only seven certified sites in the entire state of Florida, increasing the value of the sites. If we build a judicial center on industrial land we also lose potential new jobs to our area and property tax revenue.

While traffic in East Milton around the State Road 87 corridor may not seem congested, U.S. 90 traffic through downtown Milton and across Blackwater River is extremely constrained. The Florida Department of Transportation has four traffic counters on U.S. Hwy. 90 from Stewart Street to Airport Road. The 2012 Average Annual Daily Traffic for this segment was 16,400. The maximum level of service is only 17,700.

    What about the cost of transferring prisoners from the jail?

A misconception is that prisoners make up the largest group of users of the courthouse. This is not true - 97 percent of those using the courthouse are average citizens. Name changes, paying traffic tickets, filing for divorce, probate, foreclosures and jury selection all take place at the courthouse.

Only three percent of current Santa Rosa Courthouse traffic are inmates accompanied by sheriff staff. With today's technology, prisoners participate in video first appearances and first arraignments. Most of the transports to the courthouse from the jail are for docket day. In the future, docket days may also be conducted via video. This means the only time defendants will be transported from the jail to the courthouse is for jury selection and trials, and many of those defendants would have been bonded out and traveling from their home, not coming to court from the jail.

    Does the commission understand that public does not want an overelaborate facility?

Yes, the commission has expressed on numerous occasions they support a functional judicial center, one that will support current and long term needs of Santa Rosa County, not an ornate facility.

    How can I learn more about progress in the judicial center planning process?

  • Watch commission meetings - The commission meets in regular session to vote on agenda items beginning at 9 a.m. on the second and fourth Thursday of each month. Discussion of agenda items takes place during Committee meetings on the Monday prior to the second and fourth Thursday of each month. Both meetings are held in the commissioners' board room in the administrative center located at 6495 Caroline Street. Meetings can also be viewed on the Web live at, or by watching the meeting in its entirety posted the afternoon of the meeting at the same link.
  • Sign up to receive judicial center related meeting dates and attend public meetings when scheduled.
  • Visit this site often for updated.
  • Monitor your local media outlets.
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    How can I provide input to my commission?

General Local Option Sales Tax Information

    What is a local option sales tax?
A local option sales tax is a state authorized sales tax on retail purchases used by counties to raise money for certain projects. Experts often consider a local option sales tax as the most equitable tax because everyone pitches in, not just the homeowners as with a property tax. Voters can choose whether to approve or to extend a local option sales tax via a referendum on an election ballot.

Funds generated by a local sales tax can only be used for capital projects like paving roads, improving drainage systems, public safety services, and building public facilities like libraries, parks, and court systems that have a life of five years or more. They can be used for new projects or to fix existing problems.

Counties are able to levy local option sales taxes on top of the state sales tax amount of six percent, and most do - 56 of the 67 Florida counties have a local sales tax in 2014. The highest amount of sales tax is 1.5 percent by nine counties. Click here for a complete list of the additional sales tax rates by county.

Some counties have a one percent local option sales tax, which is one cent per each one dollar spent, and is therefore sometimes called a "one cent sales tax."

    How much are sales taxes in Santa Rosa County?
The state charges a six percent tax rate on the sale or rental of goods, with some exceptions such as groceries and medicine. Sales tax in Santa Rosa County is currently 6.5 percent. This includes the six percent state sales tax and Santa Rosa a 1/2 percent local option sales tax that is paid to the Santa Rosa County School District for school facilities. It was first approved by voters in 1997 and again in 2007.

    Can a judicial center local option sales tax pay for any other projects?
No, if voters approve the local option sales tax to fund a new judicial facility, the tax could only pay for the judicial center. Florida law protects the funds raised by requiring a spending plan to be approved at the same time the tax is approved by voters. In addition, all sales tax revenue must be kept separate from other county funds. Elected officials are held accountable for spending the revenues as advertised on the ballot.

   Who pays local option sales taxes?
If a sales tax is enacted to fund a new judicial center, anyone purchasing goods in Santa Rosa County will help fund the project. People from other places who visit, work or purchase goods and services in our county will help to contribute through the tax.

    What purchases are taxed?
Items that are currently taxed when you shop would incur the local option sales tax if approved by voters. Things currently exempt from sales tax like food, medicine, mortgage payments, car payments and large ticket items over $5,000 would not be included. The tax would apply to anyone shopping in the county, including visitors.

    Would a local option sales tax addition increase the amount of sales
        tax I have to pay on large ticket items such as an automobile?
No, this will have no impact on any item that is currently covered by the maximum sales tax cap of $5,000.

    Would a local option sales tax addition change the way any other exempt sales items are taxed?
No, if the item is currently exempt from sales tax, it will continue to be exempt.

    What is the collection and remittance process for a local option sales tax?
If approved by voters, the local option sales tax will be collected by businesses in Santa Rosa County and then submitted to the State of Florida. The State of Florida distributes the local option sales tax to Santa Rosa County. This process occurs monthly, with a two month lag between actual collections and receipt by the county.

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