Boats will get pulled out of Boggy Bayou, Okaloosa County hopes to get more than $3 Million in transportation grants from the federal government, and an ambulance ride with Okaloosa EMS will cost you more. Finally, Okaloosa County mourned the loss of its long-time water and sewer director this week.

a man and a woman using healthcare techniques in an ambulance.

EMS Rates to Rise over the next three years

The cost to ride in the back of an ambulance to the hospital is going to cost you more. Okaloosa County Commissioners voted unanimously to raise the fee to transport people to the hospital by 2.5% each year over the next three years (for a total of a 7.68% increase). 


In 2022, Public Safety Director Patrick Maddox made a request to increase the cost for ambulance transport to the hospital by 10%. Before that increase, there hadn’t been a rate change since 2017. For reference, inflation in that five year period hit about 16%, meaning that after the increase, residents and visitors were technically paying less than they were half a decade before. This difference meant that “the delta [change] in that price had been borne by the general fund for many moons without any real attempt to close that gap,” Maddox said. General fund, in this scenario, is your property taxes. EMS divisions are typically set up to be ‘enterprise funds’ which means they are supposed to charge fees to their users in order to reduce or eliminate their cost on the taxpayers. With inflation, the division was actively losing money. “What I promised at that time is that we would not have to make any more large course corrections again, if it were within our power. And that we would make smaller, more well-planned course corrections on a routine basis to try and eliminate that gap in the future.” Maddox added that they are changing and resubmitting bills to insurance companies to increase the percentage of costs incurred that they have missed out on the past – meaning more money is coming in to the county’s ambulance service. “The company we use now has continued to yield dividends for us,” Maddox noted about the service the county uses to collect on bills. 


Currently, a ride to the hospital with basic life support (BLS) will cost $880 plus mileage costs per out of pocket for a resident. For a non-resident, that cost is $1,430. Milage will run you $16.50 per mile. In three years, at the end of the increase schedule – the same ride in an ambulance with BLS will cost you $948 plus mileage. 


The money that is raised – about $500,000 extra per increase per year – will allow the EMS Division to replace its older model ambulances at a more regular rate. “The cost for fuel and services doesn’t look to be coming down any time soon – so this is our attempt to right-size for that,” Maddox told the commission. 


“This is something that the board of county commissioners has provided for decades and it’s something that we’ve got to provide in order to meet the needs of the visitors and residents,” said County Commission Chair Trey Goodwin. 


The country’s new rate schedule keeps the lower rate for residents and charges tourists, or anyone who doesn’t live in Okaloosa County, a higher rate.



Money to get rid of another derelict vessel in Boggy Bayou

The county commission also voted to take money from the federal government for removal of three derelict boats cast aside in the bayous of southern Okaloosa County – including one in Boggy Bayou off the shores of Valparaiso. 

Okaloosa County will get almost $13,000 to pay a third party to pull a 27-foot sailboat with registration number FL3861PB out of the bayou and take it to the dump. 

RELATED: One man’s plan to end boat dumping in Boggy Bayou. 

As you may recall from an earlier series of articles we wrote – or by driving by the boats on Bayshore Drive in Valparaiso – several boats are in various stages of sinking to the bottom of the bayou. 

You can check out the boat in question in this video we posted just a couple of days ago:

Federal transit grant application approved by the board.

You should be forgiven if you forgot or didn’t know Okaloosa County had a transportation department. It’s nowhere near the size of a metro bus network in Jacksonville or even Pensacola – but we’ve got one by golly. 


And hopefully, it will be $3 Million richer soon. The money would fund the capital and operations of Okaloosa County’s transit program, according to transit manager Tyrone Parker. 


Okaloosa County will have to promise to pony up a little over $1 Million to be able to receive the matching funds from the feds to improve transportation infrastructure, specifically in the Fort Walton Beach – Navarre – Wright UZA (Urban area).  


Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel complimented Parker for pursuing the federal transportation grants on behalf of the taxpayer. “When I first came on this dais, we came out of pocket over $200,000, but when we get these grants, it saves taxpayers money.” Ketchel noted that the transportation division still costs Okaloosa County about $75,000 annually. Like the EMS Division, the transit department is an enterprise fund that could, in theory, pay for itself with user fees.  


“We see the tremendous effort you and the department have made,” said Commissioner Mel Ponder, “[The mayor] from Cinco Bayou just sang your praises. Your efforts are not only seen on this dais, but on daises throughout this county.”


Chairman Trey Goodwin noted that he believes in the ability of hte transit department to expand by making more offerings to tourists and people who want to go to the beach as a way to generate revenue and have the department finally break even. He noted that, in the past, the transit department received money from Tourism Development money, “with a wink and a nod.”


“I hope that we work that into our report and keep that on our radar screen, because I still feel like there is some what that [tourism] could help mitigate at least a portion of it, if we can dovetail this system.”



Death of longtime county leader Jeff Littrell

A bit of sad news came out of the county this week as well – Okaloosa County announced the passing of longtime water and sewer director Jeff Littrell. He was 72. Jeff served as the water and Sewer director for Okaloosa County for more than 25 years and helped to demolish the old wastewater treatment plan and build the new $65 million dollar state-of-the-art Arbennie Pritchett wastewater treatment plant. 


“Jeff was truly a wonderful boss and a patient leader that cared for his employees and customers,” Deputy Director of Water and Sewer Mark Wise said, He loved being the water and sewer director to his core and was extremely proud of his 140 employees. We view him as a legend.”


Funeral servies will be open to the public, according to a statement from Okaloosa County.

a man in his 70s

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Boat on a Bayou