Who is the Santa Rosa Island Authority and What Do we Do?
We are the Santa Rosa Island Authority and by State Statute we are the designated custodians of 8 ½ miles of Pensacola Beach. We have a 6 member Board. The Escambia County Commissioners appoint 5 and 1 is elected from the beach. The dollar you pay at the toll facility goes to Escambia County. The sales tax, as well as the bed taxes, also go to Escambia County. Residents on Pensacola Beach pay the SRIA an annual lease fee for their property and the businesses collect an SRIA fee from rooms, food, drinks and souvenirs. This breaks down as follows: residents generate about 3 ½ million and businesses approximately 4 ½ million to our budget.
Next question is what do we do with all this money? Our Public Works department cleans parking lots, sifts the sand at Casino Beach, maintains Quietwater Beach, cleans the medians, the sides of the roads and cleans all of the restrooms, etc. We have 3 shifts, the first one arrives at 4:00 am and the last shift ends after midnight. We have lifeguards to protect our locals and visitors. In 2002, we had 2 million vehicles come on the beach, last year we had 4 million vehicles. Our Development and Environmental Department helps our residents with building permits, piers, setbacks, pools, environmental concerns, floodplain management and many other items. We offer free trolleys from Memorial Day through Labor Day, 7 days a week from 4 pm until midnight. In 2004, we had Hurricane Ivan, 2005, Hurricane Dennis, the economy went south, and then in 2010, the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill. During those 6 years, we had to cut back our budget tremendously, but we made it back.
Every Tuesday night from April through October we have free concert series at Casino Beach called Bands on the Beach. In July, we host the Blue Angels in the Pensacola Beach Airshow. The SRIA provides $105,000 to the Pensacola Beach Chamber for advertising and fireworks for the 4th of July and New Year’s.
We have allocated $350,000 for resurfacing parking lots and secondary roads on the Island. We received an $8,500,000.00 match to our $8,500,000.00 from the State for beach nourishment on the Gulf Side. We hope to start this project by June of 2015. We are also building a new Visitor’s Information Center in the parking lot of Casino Beach.
Over the last four years, we were fortunate to have businesses invest on Pensacola Beach. The Grand Marlin, Margaritaville Beach Hotel, Holiday Inn Resort, Innerlight Surf and Skate, Shaggy’s Bar and Grill and the Pensacola Beach RV Resort. This year, 2014, the owners of World of Beers opened Casino Beach Bar and Grill located on the Gulfside Pier. The County Commissioners funded 3 of our lifeguard towers with bed tax dollars and the SRIA paid for the other 3. We work closely with our County Commissioners to make sure your experience on Pensacola Beach will be a fun one and hope you come back for years to come. We don’t have any long term debt as by statute we can’t borrow money. Basically, we are a pay as you go entity. I hope this article has given you a better understanding of who we are and what we do. Please come out to Pensacola Beach and have a wonderful time. Life’s a beach!
W.A. "Buck" Lee>