The South Walton TDC building has been a hot button issue for residents of Walton County. The TDC once expressed plans to move their building to an area of forest on the south side of Highway 98 for greater visibility.
The idea was struck down by the County Commission following dissention from the public. Now, the TDC is looking to bring in an outside facilitator to mediate public discussion.
South Walton TDC Executive Director, Dawn Moliterno, approached the Commission with the idea, and now begins the process to find this person. Moliterno hopes it will open the floor to clearing up public misconception
"It needs to be a two way dialogue. Not just giving opinions from residents and locals, but also understanding some of the constraints that the TDC has to live with," said Moliterno.
She admits that there is a lot of public passion surrounding any plans the TDC may have to move or improve their current building.
"I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about the nature of this building, how it came about, how we started the journey with the original Discovery center concept," she said.
Now, Moliterno said they are dealing with safety issues from the outside in. They've recently moved staff from upstairs cubicles to the downstairs conference room to meet fire codes.
Moliterno said the biggest need is for more visitor center space.
"I wish that people had been here for this last weekend. We had hundreds of people come to this facility looking for reservations," she said.
But, not everyone agrees.
"The building that they have now is most sufficient. The problem is that it's turned around backwards. If they would merely turn the building around, the public would see it," said Walton County resident, Chick Huettel.
Huettel has been firmly against building on forest lands. Though that project is no longer in the works, he's not sure bringing in someone from the outside to discuss future projects is going to do any good.
"The TDC is historically known for bringing people out of town to solve our problems," he said.
According to Huettel, residents want a smaller TDC, not an expansion, and certainly not the added expense of a facilitator.
"They've already seen the response they've gotten in front of the commissioners and they need to open up and not bring in further people, administrators and more expense to tell us what to do with our own TDC in Walton County," said Huettel.
Moliterno said the process to bring someone in to facilitate will take several months and they have just entered the beginning stages of that process.