Okaloosa Gas to break ground this summer

Okaloosa Gas, the publicly-run gas authority for Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Walton Counties, will open a new $77 Million facility in Valparaiso – and will help the tax rolls for the town.

 

Groundbreaking is scheduled for July 1, 2023. Carl Scott told the city council he believes the building will be completed by March 2025. 


Carl Scott wears a lot of hats around town. He’s the Valparaiso Administrator and Niceville Building Inspector – and for the purposes of this story, he’s also a board member for Okaloosa Gas.

Man speaks at a podium
Carl Scott serves as the current City Administrator of Valparaiso. The new City Manager/Administrator position would not replace Scott. Instead, it would place a new management head at the top of the city's workforce and clearly delineate Scott as the city's building official.

“Everything that happens in Valparaiso affects Niceville and everything that happens in Niceville affects Valpariaso,”

The new facility will be partially taxable, bringing money back into the city and county coffers for use locally.

Scott announced to the City Council that Okaloosa Gas will build a state-of-the-art facility in Valparaiso – and unlike their other buildings, this one will generate tax revenue for the city of Valparaiso to use. 15,000 square feet of the 45,000-square-foot facility will be taxable, because it will be leased out to private entities who will use it as office and meeting space.  

The facility would be located at the western end of the City of Valparaiso, across Valparaiso Parkway from Emerald Coast Shooting and Sport. 

The parcel of land is roughly 13.2 acres and currently has no improvements on it. Currently, Hollingsworth Holidng Company, LLC holds the land in question. It purchased the land in 2021 from Lewis Turner BLVD FWB, LLC, who in turn bought it from the Valparaiso Realty Company in 2014 for $3 Million. 

The facility would also back up to Government Avenue (SR 85) meaning the property would have multiple ways to enter and exit. 

According to Scott, three defense contractors will rent out a third of the facility. 

Okaloosa Gas doesn’t have to pay property taxes because of its publicly-owned status. 

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Proposed location of the new Okaloosa Gas facility, according to Okaloosa Gas Board Member Carl Scott. The Okaloosa County Property Appraiser’s Office says the land, currently owned by Hollingsworth Holdings, LLC, is valued at about $900,000. 

Knock-on effects in Valparaiso and Niceville

This is a huge facility – easily much larger than any other single facility in the City of Valparaiso – and it means a boon for the city – and its neighbors to the east in Niceville. 

 

“Everything that happens in Valparaiso affects Niceville and everything that happens in Niceville affects Valpariaso,” Carl Scott told the Niceville City Council at the council meeting. 

 

Scott added the City of Valparaiso can apply for a community block development grant from the Federal Government to build a water tower near the part of town where the building will go – meaning the joint Niceville-Valparaiso fire department will have more water pressure with which to fight fires. The grant is only possible, Scott said “because the gas district will qualify us for an economic development section that normally municipalities do not qualify for,” That economic development requirement comes from the extra square footage of the facility being rented out to contractors. “That’s going to meet the requirements for high-paying jobs, and the gas district meets the entry-leval paying jobs [requirement],” Scott said.

Anti-natural gas sentiment in Washington DC

But – Scott says he noticed some threats to Okaloosa Gas – and natural gas as a whole while he was in Washington, DC. He worries the recent initiative to ban gas appliances will sour the natural gas economy and threaten the economic stability of the gas district in the long term. “Part of the [natural gas] industry says that [initiatives to reduce the use of natural gas] are going to have a negligible impact in gas sales, but it already has,” Scott told the Niceville City Council, “people get scared when you hear the rhetoric in the public.”

 

In response, Niceville Mayor Daniel Henkel said, “We need to get our citizens actively involved, calling and writing their congressmen and senators to let them know that [ending the use of natural gas] is a bad idea.”


Scott mentioned that the state of Florida creates about ¾ of its power from natural gas, a statement backed by the US Energy Information Administration. Nuclear power, generated by just two power plants on the Atlantic side of the Florida peninsula, generates the next most energy, followed by coal, solar, biomass, and then petroleum. 

Florida's energy generation by resource

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