Who is the Santa Rosa Island Authority and What Do we Do?
We are the Santa Rosa Island Authority and by State Statue we are the designated custodians of 8 1/2 miles of Pensacola Beach. We have a six member Board. The County Commissioners appoint five and one is elected from the beach. The dollar you pay at the toll facility goes to Escambia County. The sales tax goes to the County and the bed tax also goes 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 million and businesses approximately 4 million to our budget.
Next question is what do we do with all this money? Our maintenance workers clean parking lots; we sift the sand at Casino, maintain Quietwater Beach, clean the medians, the sides of the roads and clean all of the restrooms etc. We have three shifts, first one arrives at 4:00AM and the last shift ends at 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. That is a large amount to protect when in fact some don't swim very well. Our Development and Environmental Department helps our residents with building permits, piers, setbacks, pools, environmental concerns, floodplain management and other. We offer free trolleys from Memorial Day through Labor Day, 7 days a week from 4PM until midnight. In 2004, we had Hurricane Ivan, 2005, Hurricane Dennis, then the economy went south and then in 2010, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. During those six years we had to cut back our budget tremendously.
We scrimped and saved and finally this year we are able to fund projects to help our beach. The Beach Ball was painted for $200,000. We will add sand to the north side for $600,000. We have to replace wood on our Boardwalk for $300,000 and we replaced our charcoal grills at both Park West and Quietwater. As most of you already know every Tuesday night from April through October we have a free concert called Bands on the Beach. The SRIA presents the Pensacola Beach Air Show featuring the Blue Angels. We pay for the 4th of July fireworks and Mother's Day concert featuring the Pensacola Symphony. We supply funding for the Pensacola Beach Mardi Gras Parade. We also fund our Visitor's Information Center and help the Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce with advertising dollars.
Over the last two years we were fortunate to have businesses invest on Pensacola Beach. The Grand Marlin, Margaritaville Beach Hotel, Holiday Inn Resort, Innerlight Surf & Skate, Shaggy's Bar & Grill, Pensacola Beach RV Resort and the Observation Wheel, Pensacola Beach 360 all came on board. The County Commission funded three of our lifeguard towers with bed tax dollars and we paid for the other three. 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 statue we cannot borrow money. Basically we are a pay as you go entity. I hope this article will give everyone a better understanding on 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>