Administrator’s Report – February 5, 2010
- Census 2010: St. Johns Counts! – As the April 1, 2010 Census Day approaches, we urge St. Johns County residents to fully participate in the 2010 U.S. Census. The Census collects population data only once every ten years. This statistical data then determines St. Johns County’s representation in the Florida and United States legislatures and is also used to allocate more than $400 billion in federal funding during the next decade. Check out the Census section below for more information, or visit www.census2010.gov or www.stjohnscounts.com. Together, we can ensure St. Johns Counts!
- Population Growth in St. Johns County – During the past decade, St. Johns County has been among the fastest growing counties in the United States. In 2008, the county’s population was estimated to be 181,540 persons – a 47.4 percent increase from the official 2000 Census count of 123,135. That compares with state-wide growth for the same period of only 14.7 percent. This dramatic increase in population means St. Johns County has a lot to gain from a complete count in the Census, both for financial allocations and congressional representation.
- Congressional Representation – The Census is an opportunity for St. Johns County to be fully represented in both the state and national legislatures. Florida currently has 25 of the 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives, and some projections suggest Florida may gain up to four additional seats following the 2010 Census. State representation is also impacted by Census data, making it crucial that all of St. Johns County is fully counted.
- Funding – Data from the Census also heavily influences how more than $400 billion federal dollars will be allocated during the next ten years. Full participation in the Census is the best way to ensure federal tax dollars paid by St. Johns County residents are returned to our local communities. The dollars are returned in many ways, including grants for parks and libraries, transportation projects, education programs, college financial assistance, social services, health care facilities, job training programs, housing and much more. Census participation may result in as much as $2,900 per person per year being returned to St. Johns County.
- Easy. Important. Safe. – The 2010 Census is easy, important and safe. Unlike previous Census forms that were long and tedious, a single form is being used for everyone this year. The form has only 10 questions and should only take 10 minutes to complete. The forms are geo-coded and will be mailed to every address in St. Johns County in March. The forms should be filled out and returned in the mail on April 1, 2010. As long as the form is filled out and returned, no Census takers will knock on your door. If a form is not returned, Census workers will visit households May through July. All personal information collected in the Census is confidential for 72 years. Census employees are strictly forbidden to disclose any information that could identify a respondent, including illegal aliens, with penalties for violations including a jail term, substantial fine or both. Not even the President of the United States has access to the information.
- Learn More About the Census – For more information on the 2010 U.S. Census, including a sample questionnaire form and a list of the ten questions, visit www.census2010.gov or www.stjohnscounts.com. Together, we can ensure St. Johns Counts!
- Emergency Delcaration by USDA – St. Johns County was one of 60 Florida counties to receive a Secretarial Disaster Declaration last week from the United States Department of Agriculture due to the losses caused by cold weather and freezing conditions during January 2010. This designation makes farm operators eligible for assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met.
- Regional Leadership Academy – Commissioner Cyndi Stevenson and Growth Management's Jason Cleghorn have been selected to attend the 2010 Regional Leadership Academy (RLA) through the Northeast Florida Regional Council (NEFRC). The Academy educates Regional Leaders and invests in the future of regional communities through a mission to make Northeast Florida a better place to live and work. Commissioner Stevenson and Jason Cleghorn were selected from a group of very well qualified candidates to attend the Academy this year. Congratulations to both of them! Click here for more information.
- Slow Food First Coast – County Extension Director David Dinkins was an invited speaker at the Farm to Restaurant Partnership Workshop held February 1st at First Coast Technical College. Over 80 local chefs, farmers, and consumers participated in this event hosted by Slow Food First Coast. St. Johns County Assistant Administrator Jerry Cameron and Glenn Hastings, Executive Director of the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council, also attended this event.
- FEMA Disaster Workshop – The Wind Mitigation and Resource Conservation Building was the site for the FEMA-contracted PB Disaster Services two-day workshop for independent contractors who do disaster housing inspections for FEMA housing projects during federally declared disasters.
- Sea Grant Program – St. Augustine will host the 2010 Florida Association of Science Teachers’ annual conference October 21-23 at the St. Johns County Convention Center in the World Golf Village with up to 1,000 science teachers from around the state expected to attend. The 2010 conference planning committee is chaired by Mark Lewis, St. Johns County School District coordinator for elementary science programs, with Dr. Maia McGuire, Sea Grant Extension Agent for St. Johns County, as the sole non-formal educator on the committee. In preparation for the conference, McGuire coordinated an art contest for district youth with nearly 75 pieces of artwork submitted. The program cover and logo for the conference will come from this artwork.
- Florida Friendly Landscaping – A class on Florida Friendly Landscaping is currently underway at the Ocean Gallery Condominium clubhouse in St. Augustine Beach. The three-hour classes are held each Tuesday from 9:00 am until noon. Also, an introduction to Florida Friendly Landscaping was presented to the Johns Creek/Brandy Creek CDD in the northwest with 22 people in attendance. Staff also conducted the “Green Industries – Best Management Practices” training class at the Wind Mitigation and Resource Conservation Building, with 21 people in attendance.
- Horticulture Program – In observance of Florida Arbor Day, the St. Johns County Master Gardeners conducted a tree seedling give-away on January 15, with 1,500 tree seedlings distributed to St. Johns County residents at the six St. Johns County branch library sites. The funds to purchase the seedlings were raised through plant sales the Master Gardeners conducted throughout the year. As these trees grow they will enhance neighborhood tree canopies, reduce energy usage, provide for wildlife, and increase property values.
- Pet Center has Busy January – Animal Control Officers had another busy month in January, responding to 364 calls and bringing 75 dogs and 54 cats to the Pet Center. The Pet Center also found new homes for 40 dogs and 38 cats, while returning 34 dogs and 2 cats to their owners. Mark your calendars – the Pet Center will have extended hours to encourage more adoptions on Saturday, February 27, from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.
Cultural Events Division
- Winter Wonderland Successful – The St. Augustine Amphitheatre closed its doors to the 3rd Annual Winter Wonderland after another exciting and successful season. More than 69,000 tickets were sold for various activities including the ice rink, ice slide, bounce house and children’s train, creating a favorite holiday event for both residents and tourists.
- Upcoming Events – With the warmer weather comes an abundance of new events all over St. Johns County through the Cultural Events Division. The Amphitheatre will begin the season with the sold-out Moody Blues concert on March 6th, followed by Christian recording artist Chris Tomlin on March 12th and Aretha Franklin on March 19th. Additionally, the Harvest of Hope Music Festival will return to the St. Johns County Fairgrounds with 140 bands March 12th through 14th, bringing top names in indie and punk rock music to Elkton. Also on March 14th, the Southern Exposure Music and Heritage Festival will return to Alpine Groves Park in northwest St. Johns County. This yearly festival, benefiting the Stetson Kennedy Foundation, will feature the music of Arlo Guthrie and Family. Make plans now to attend these great events! Visit www.staugamphitheatre.com for details.
- Tornado Safety in Schools – Emergency Management has partnered with the St. Johns County School Board to make schools safer in the event of a tornado. Staff are conducting walk through evaluations for all schools in St. Johns County to evaluate and identify the safest parts of the facility to be used for a tornado shelter. Carefully developed tornado drills are run several times a year to keep students and staff in good practice and ensure the drill works well before it is needed in a real situation. All tornado evaluations are expected to be complete by the end of summer.
- 4th Annual Air Potato Round-up – On January 16th, more than 340 volunteers participated in the 4th Annual First Coast Air Potato Round-up, including at three St. Johns County sites: Ron Parker Park, the St. Augustine Lighthouse, and Fort Mose. Air Potato is an invasive plant species in the United States and is on the Florida Noxious Weed List, meaning it may not be introduced, possessed, moved, or released in the state without a permit. The vine is fast growing and can produce a large amount of bulbils which facilitate its rapid spread. At the round-up, over 6,700 pounds of tubers were collected and removed throughout northeast Florida, helping slow the spread of this plant. More information about air potato is available on the IFAS website here.
- Share The Beach Newsletter – A monthly Share the Beach Newsletter is published by the Environmental Division to provide the latest news about sea turtles, nests, beach flora and fauna, events, and more. A few new additions this month include a “Right Where The Whales Are” column with updates on Right Whale season, as well as a Kids Korner with a word search. The newsletter is available on the Environmental Division website at www.sjcfl.us/HCP/News.aspx.
- Right Whale Research – Environmental Coordinator Tara Dodson has been participating in routine training and surveying with whale biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. With less than 400 northern Right whales left in the world, the genetic information is very important to provide research scientists the opportunity to track their lineage to provide a better understanding of the health of the whale population. So far, this Right whale season has been successful with a reported eight pairs of mom and calves, as well as approximately 75 mostly juvenile whales sighted in St. Johns County waters. This year’s lower sea surface temperatures may account for the increase in the number of juveniles compared to previous winters. The juveniles tend to mill around in an area of a few square miles, frequently forming small groups that are active at the surface of the water. Whales rolling, slapping flippers, and splashing may be seen from miles away and frequently from shore by visitors. To assist in tracking the whales, please report all whale sightings to 1-888-97-WHALE, and if you see a dead or injured whale call 1-888-404-FWCC.
Housing & Community Services
- First Time Homebuyer’s Program – Applications are currently being accepted from potential homeowners through the Florida’s First Time Homebuyer’s Program (FHOP). The FHOP provides up to $8,000 in purchase assistance to first time homebuyers eligible to receive the federal first time homebuyer tax credit established through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for homes purchased by April 30, 2010. To date 42 applications have been received and 20 new homeowners closed on their new homes using the FHOP funds as down payment assistance. For more information visit our website at www.sjcfl.us/homebuyer, or call (904) 827-6896.
- Regional Excellence Award – Dana Moore, Homeownership Administrator, has recently been selected a recipient for a Regional Excellence Award by the Northeast Florida Regional Council. This award recognizes Dana’s implementation and success of the Foreclosure Intervention Program. Since its inception the program has helped over 234 homeowners remain in their homes. The awards banquet is scheduled for February 24 at the University of North Florida.
Land Management Systems
- GIS Provides Census Address Assistance – The GIS Division reviewed approximately 7,400 address records for the Local Update of Census Addresses Feedback Program and found that 1,268 addresses were valid and did exist in St. Johns County. These address records were requested to be restored to the Census Address List, along with an additional 824 address records for the Census New Construction Program. The New Construction addresses represent Certificates of Occupancy issued since March 2009 that are expected to be closed to the elements by Census Day, or April 1, 2010. These efforts will ensure the 2010 Census Address List is as complete and accurate as possible, as it will be used to mail out the 2010 U.S. Census Questionnaires in March 2010.
- Ongoing Projects – The Real Estate Division has been acquiring right-of-way and easements for many transportation and utility projects. These projects include additional right-of-way on County Road 210 for safety improvements at I-95, Volusia Street and Four Mile Road, Duval Street, South Roscoe Boulevard, Lewis Speedway, State Roads 207 and 312, and Westwood Drive. Similarly, over the next several months the Survey Division will have crews obtaining master stormwater runoff data to be used in the County’s Master Stormwater Modeling Project. Field crews will be concentrating in the Northwest part of the County, as the collection of survey data for Southwest St. Johns County was completed in 2009.
- St. Johns Reads – February is St. Johns Reads month, a full program of activities related to and featuring the novel “March” by Geraldine Brooks. St. Johns Reads is all about bringing together the community through the reading of one book with special programs related to the topic of the home front and battle field during the Civil War. Among the many events planned are Civil War encampments at three libraries, a one-woman show about Harriet Tubman, and a month-long film series featuring Ken Burns’ “The Civil War.” Visit www.sjcpls.org to get a full list of programs and events.
- AARP Tax Service – The library stays busy during January and February each year, and 2010 has been no exception. One service that brings people into the library is AARP Tax Advice. Starting in February and running through April, this free service will be available to all ages at the Main, Southeast, and Hastings Branch Libraries. Call your local library or visit www.sjcpls.org for days and times.
Office of Management & Budget
- 2010 Budget Now on Website – The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has placed the FY 2010 County Financial Plan, the FY 2010-2014 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), and the FY 2010 Budget-in-Brief on the County website under the Management and Budget page. The County has also applied again for the Government Finance Officers Association’s (GFOA) national budget presentation award, seeking the award for the 18th consecutive year. The GFOA requires the budget document to meet specified criteria as a policy document, a financial plan, an operations guide, and a communications device. OMB Director Doug Timms continues to be a national budget reviewer for GFOA and has completed over 75 budget reviews of governments across the nation, which allows for comparisons and management insights. The FY 2009 4th Quarter Performance Measures Report has also been published on the same webpage.
- ARRA Stimulus Projects Update – St. Johns County has partnered with FDOT and the Federal Highway Administration to construct several projects as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), more commonly known as stimulus projects. Three projects have been approved for construction.
- The County Road 210 Traffic Control Signal system project is currently in pre-construction phase. When completed in the summer of 2010, several traffic signals will be tied together using state-of-the-art Intelligent Transportation System hardware and software. This will allow more responsive signal timing, coordinated to respond to ever changing traffic conditions.
- The Durbin Creek and Del Monte/Varella sidewalk projects are both under construction. The Durbin Creek sidewalk in Julington Creek Plantation is nearly complete, and the Del Monte/Varella sidewalk near St. Augustine High School is expected to begin construction soon and be completed in spring 2010.
- The contract for the County Road 214 resurfacing project was approved by the Board of County Commissioners on February 2, 2010. This project will mill, resurface, and add paved shoulders to County Road 214 from County Road 13 to Travis Lane, approximately 13.5 miles. This project is expected to begin this spring and will take approximately 180 days to complete.
- Community Collection Day – On January 23, the Solid Waste Division coordinated a Special Community Collection Day at Murray Middle School, collecting household hazardous waste, tires, and obsolete electronics from St. Johns County residents. The total number of residents was 181, with 2,800 pounds of garbage and 23,000 pounds of hazardous waste disposed. Another Community Collection Day is this Saturday, February 6, at the Anastasia Square shopping center from 8:00 am to noon. Click for details and list of items accepted.
- Community Development Block Grant – The Engineering Division in conjunction with the Housing and Community Affairs Department recently submitted an application to the Florida Department of Community Affairs for 2008 Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Initiative Funding, with the amount requested totaling just over $1.3 million. The application includes drainage improvement projects within the Ravenswood community and Flagler Estates, as well as sanitary sewer line repairs within the Town of Hastings. The Florida Department of Community Affairs has tentatively scheduled a site visit to all project locations for the third week in February. It is anticipated that funding for the activities included in the application will be in place by the fall of 2010.
Recreation & Parks
- Beach Passes on Sale Now – Annual Beach Passes are on sale now at the preseason price of $30 for residents and $40 for non-residents through March 1st. The passes may be purchased at the Recreation and Parks Office, St. Johns County Tax Collector Offices, and the St. Johns County Pier. St. Johns County offers many opportunities for beach recreation along 41 miles of beautiful coastline including eight beachfront parks and the St. Augustine Pier that offer year-round free parking and beach access. Additionally, St. Johns County is unique in permitting beach driving on more than 14 miles of beaches. Residents and visitors enjoy nine vehicular access points and beach driving ramps along the St. Johns County coast. Beach driving is free of charge October 1st through February 28th of each year, with paid access permitted March 1st through September 30th. Paid parking and access to the beach are also available at Anastasia State Park and the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Reserve. Multiple pedestrian access points are also located throughout the County. For more information visit www.sjcfl.us/beaches or call the Recreation and Parks Office at (904) 209-0333.
- Grants Fight Childhood Obesity – Childhood obesity remains a priority for the Recreation and Parks Department. Through grants received in partnership with local Elks Lodge #829, the Department has been able to help children in the Hastings after-school program learn the benefits of physical activity, healthy food choices, and healthy lifestyles. The Elks have been successful in being awarded another grant to be used to educate the children registered in the North Florida Community Action Agency’s after school programs located at Collier-Blocker-Puryear Park and the Solomon Calhoun Center. This will be a 10-week program held on Wednesdays beginning February 3rd at the Solomon Calhoun Center.
- Recreation Events – The Big League Development Baseball Camp conducted by Major League baseball player Ryan Freel and several former professional players held at Davis Park came to an end this week, with approximately 80 youth attending the camp. Ryan will donate 10 percent of the camp proceeds to the Field of Dreams Foundation, a County-sponsored project to build a wheelchair accessible baseball field for the mentally and physically challenged children of St. Johns County. Additionally, the annual Triple Crown Classic fast-pitch softball tournament will be held February 6th and 7th at Treaty Park with 16 junior colleges from Florida, Georgia and South Carolina competing. Play begins 10:00 am Saturday morning. Finally, the Recreation and Parks Department is partnering with resident Tony Canton to sponsor the Aquafina Pitch Hit and Run, the official skills competition of Major League Baseball, March 7th at the St. Augustine Little League Complex. This is a free event for youth ages 7 to 14. For information on the event, please contact Tony Canton at PHRevent@gmail.com.