Administrator’s Report – December 10, 2010
The community is welcome to attend a County Commission Special Meeting this Tuesday, December 14th, at 9:00 am in the County Auditorium. The meeting is a workshop on economic development. The workshop will provide an update on past and future economic development initiatives of St. Johns County, with a focus on activities and projects that have been completed in the past few years.
Additionally, the findings of a University of North Florida study commissioned by St. Johns County regarding economic development will be reviewed. The study examined counties throughout the United States similar in size and demographics to St. Johns County and identifies what they are doing to promote economic development. This information will be useful as the County establishes expectations and benchmarks relative to our own economic development activities.
During the meeting the Commission also will discuss the future of economic development in St. Johns County and possible future initiatives. A primary goal of the Commission is strengthening and upgrading our business retention and recruitment program, and the workshop is an important step toward achieving that goal. Anyone in the community with an interest in economic development is encouraged to attend. The meeting will also be broadcast on GTV.
- Busy Year at the Agricultural Center – The Agricultural Center impacted thousands of residents during 2010. Here are some highlights: Commercial agriculture producer workshops and training events helped producers through learning experiences attended by 304 farmers. The Home & Garden Show celebrated Extension horticulture and 4-H youth work. The Datil Pepper Festival was a success with 1,600 in attendance. The Farm City Celebration showcased locally-grown meat and vegetables on the menu and recognized innovative farmers and community leaders. Agriculture awareness events totaled across all seven Extension education program areas taught 9,477 youth the importance of St. Johns County farmers and agriculture. The Food and Nutrition Program in Title One Elementary Schools taught 5,512 children healthy eating habits. The 4-H Public Speaking project helped 3,850 young people prepare and deliver speeches, and 80 community plant clinics provided local information to home owners. More than 97,000 home horticulture educational contacts were facilitated with 240 Master Gardener volunteers. Green Industries/Best Management education certified 81 commercial lawn-care operators, and 1,465 residents learned how to be better stewards of their coastal environment.
- Gift Certificates available at the Pet Center – The St. Johns County Pet Center has gift certificates available for this holiday season. Purchase a gift certificate for your special someone and then come in to the facility after the holidays and choose your family pet. Choosing a pet together allows less stress on the animal as well as an opportunity to find a pet that fits your family well. For more information, call the Pet Center at 209-6190 or visit their webpage www.sjcfl.us/petcenter.
- Winter Wonderland at the Amphitheatre – Step into a Winter Wonderland at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre this holiday season as the fourth annual festival brings back crowd favorites and adds even more to experience. Enjoy a trip around the ice in the Florida sun on the popular ice skating rink, and experience exhilarating speeds as you zoom down the ice slide. Every night offers horse-drawn carriage rides through an enchanted forest, s’mores at the fire pit, and other holiday favorites from the concession stands. Kids can explore the elf village, ride the Elf Express train, play in the Blizzard Bounce House, and visit Santa at the North Pole. For more details and hours of operation, call (904) 209-0367 or visit www.winterwonderlandflorida.com.
- Ponte Vedra Concert Hall – The Cultural Events Division held an Open House at the new Ponte Vedra Concert Hall on December 2nd with an estimated 400 in attendance. The open house provided an opportunity for the community to view progress of the facility, which has been undergoing renovations for the past several months. The new performing arts facility is located in the heart of Ponte Vedra Beach and will feature national and international performing artists and an array of activities, concerts, and community gatherings. Staff anticipates the formal opening to be in February 2011.
- Record-setting Sea Turtle Nesting Season – Sea turtle nesting season officially ended November 8th with record-setting numbers. There were a total of 902 turtle nests on 41 miles of beaches, which is the most since the County began keeping records in 1988. The end of sea turtle nesting season signals that beach driving restrictions have been lifted for all County beaches. Officials thank the more than 400 washback and sea turtle patrol volunteers who helped make the season successful, as well as the public for their understanding and compliance throughout the nesting season.
- North Atlantic Right Whale Season – November 15th marked the official start date of North Atlantic Right Whale season. During the winter months female and young juvenile North Atlantic Right Whales migrate from their summer feeding and nursery grounds off Canada and New England waters and travel south to their wintering calving areas off South Carolina, Georgia, and northeast Florida. Adult males stay in their northern feeding habitat. Right whales are listed as a critically endangered species and are the rarest of all large whale species, as well as among the rarest of all marine mammal species. It is estimated that only 300-400 Right Whales are swimming in North Atlantic waters. December to March is the best time to witness these magnificent whales as they surface and possibly nurse their young. If you are boating and observe a whale, be sure to maintain a 500-yard distance, as this rule is strictly enforced. Please report all sightings to 1-888-979-4253.
- Energy Grant – The County was awarded $394,000 from the United States Department of Energy (USDOE) through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which is administered by the Florida Energy and Climate Commission (FECC). The funds will be used by the Facilities Maintenance Division for renovations and upgrades to several County-owned facilities. The improvements will decrease energy costs and reduce Greenhouse gasses for many years while also providing job retention to implement the upgrades. More information about the FECC and other State of Florida programs is available at myfloridaclimate.com.
- Fire Risk – Due to increasingly dry conditions in the area, St. Johns County Fire Rescue has seen an increase in fire danger and brush fire responses. Due to these conditions, officials encourage residents to use caution and remain aware of the daily weather conditions. Although a burn ban is not in effect for St. Johns County, fire rescue officials strongly urge residents to delay any outdoor burning due to the dry conditions. St. Johns County provides curbside weekly yard debris pick-up and residents are encouraged to use this service in lieu of any outdoor burning.
Some helpful tips to keep your home safe:
- Create a defensible space surrounding your home clear of debris or brush
- Clean debris such as leaves or limbs from roof areas or gutters
- Prune low hanging tree limbs to 6 to10 feet
- Have an outside water source that can reach all sides of your home
- Install less flammable landscaping in your yard and around your home
For more information on the above tips or on how to prevent wildfires, visit www.fl-dof.com/wildfire/information.html.
Florida Power and Light
- Saturday Meter Readings – Florida Power and Light has announced they will now be reading meters on certain Saturdays during the upcoming year. This change may surprise customers who are not used to meter readers in their yards on weekends.
- Vilano Beach Main Street Program of the Month– Interim Secretary of State Dawn K. Roberts has named Vilano Beach Main Street as the designated Florida Main Street Program of the Month for December. “The successful longevity and impact of Vilano Beach Main Street reinforces the importance of downtown revitalization,” said Secretary Roberts. “It is a testament to a promising future for local communities.” Florida Main Street is a technical assistance program of the Bureau of Historic Preservation, which conducts statewide programs directed toward identification, evaluation, and preservation of Florida’s historical resources. Main Street, with its emphasis on preservation, is an effective strategy for achieving these goals in Florida’s historic retail districts. Vilano has been a Florida Main Street Community since 2003 and has used its distinctive structure and waterfront location to develop a unique Main Street Program. Visiting land planners and economists have geographically compared Vilano Beach to Cape Cod because of its small town waterfront feel and location. The public private partnership has achieved numerous projects with many volunteer hours donated in support of these efforts. Congratulations on this well-deserved honor.
- Food for Fines at the Library – There is still time to “pay off fines with food” as the Food For Fines program continues through December 22nd at the Library. Food items have been pouring in and at last count, well over $6,000 worth of fines were waived as the result of the program. That means more than six thousand food items have been donated to families in need. The Library System appreciates the community support for this wonderful program. Of course if you would like to contribute a food item to the food bank, the Library will be happy to accept your donation. For more information call Library Administration at (904) 827-6925 or visit www.sjcpls.org.
- Library Planning – In years past, December was often one of the slowest months of the year, but it appears that is changing as our community changes. For example, winter residents seem to be arriving earlier this year. On a recent cold day, the libraries were filled with folks looking for something to do and trying to stay warm. This is also the time of year when staff makes lots of plans for programs and events for the upcoming year. The Library’s Management Team also has recently evaluated the service plan for the coming year, and customer service and programs/services for young people remain high on the list of priorities. Another piece of planning has been the development of a marketing plan for the Library System, which will include the creation and debut of a new library logo. Stay tuned for the new logo, which will be unique and expressive of new directions and the community.
- Christmas Parade – Library Staff participated in the St. Augustine Christmas Parade, as they portrayed characters from the Polar Express book. Other holiday events included the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Plants Holiday Fun with Flowers” program. Sponsored by all of the Friends of the Library groups, this fun and imaginative program shows you how to make amazing decorations and arrangements using flowers, food, and other everyday objects.
- Community Collection Days – The Solid Waste Management Division hosted several Community Collection Days during the past month, including Murray Middle School and the TPC Parking Lot. Collected items include household hazardous waste, tires, and obsolete electronics. These two events included approximately 1,500 residents and more than 80,000 pounds of disposed items. Over the past year, the total number of residents that have participated and material accepted has increased significantly.
- Road and Bridge Division – The Road and Bridge Division has a number of maintenance projects underway. Crews are repairing driveways and sidewalks on Ponte Vedra Boulevard and in the Julington Creek area, as well as doing drainage and basin work on St. Augustine South Drive, LeMaster Drive, and Watson Road. The Heavy Equipment Crew will be grading shoulders on Shore Drive, Shore Boulevard, and Pellicer Road, and the Ditch Crew will be performing routing ditch maintenance in Jackson Park Subdivision.
- Increased Recycling – On April 1, 2010, St. Johns County and the franchised waste haulers increased the number of recyclable items from 7 to 21. Since April, both Seaboard Waste Systems and Advanced Disposal have seen an increase in resident’s recycling participation, with Advanced Disposal reporting a 26 percent increase. Learn more about recycling on the County’s website.
- Contract Management System – St. Johns County has approximately 300 to 350 different contracts in effect at all times. In October of 2010, in a continuing effort to become more efficient, County Administration implemented a Countywide Contract Management System. This system has a database that is accessible by all County Departments, providing a comprehensive and flexible contract generation tool. Staff now has excellent contract tracking and reporting capability, which expedites and simplifies the process of responding to inquiries and managing contracts.
Recreation and Parks
- Phone Calls from Santa – The Recreation and Parks Department, in cooperation with the North Pole Telephone Company, is now accepting registration forms for the annual Phone Calls from Santa program. Children of St. Johns County residents must be 8 years old or younger to receive a phone call. Registration forms are available online at www.sjcfl.us/recreation or at the Recreation and Parks office located at 2175 Mizell Road. The deadline for submission is 5:00 today, December 10th. For more information, contact Jamie Baccari at (904) 209-0377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Beach Passes on Sale Now – Beach passes for 2011 are available now, and they make wonderful gifts for the holiday season. Beach passes may be purchased at St. Johns County Tax Collectors Offices, the St. Johns County Fishing Pier in St. Augustine Beach, and the St. Johns County Recreation and Parks Department located on Mizell Road. Pre-season sales are available at these sites until March 2nd at special rates. The early season prices are $30 for St. Johns County residents and $40 for non-residents. After March 2nd they increase to $40 for residents and $50 for non-residents. For more information about beach passes, call the Recreation and Parks Department at (904) 209-0333.
- Beach Toll Attendants – The Beach Services Division will be taking applications next week for beach toll attendants at their office at 901 Pope Road. Those who may be interested in the position are encouraged to come by the office December 14 through 16 between 9:00 am and 2:00 pm to fill out an application. These are seasonal jobs that start the last week of February and end the last weekend in September.
- Elks Impact Grant Recipient – St. Augustine Elks Lodge #829 was one of 51 lodges (out of 149 applications nationally) to receive a 2011 Impact Grant from the Elks National Foundation to improve the quality of life in their community. The Recreation and Parks Department, who has been partnering with the Elks Lodge #829 for the past two years to fight childhood obesity, can use this grant money to continue the program with the Hastings after-school program. The program will continue in January where 62 children will be taught fun exercises, activities, and information to encourage healthy lifestyle choices.
- Conference Speaker – Director of Utilities, Bill Young, recently presented a paper at the 2010 annual meeting of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies. The conference theme was “Surviving Recession” and was attended by over 120 water executives and industry leaders from all over the country. Young spoke on “Balancing Financial Sufficiency with Community Sustainability and Conservation.”
- Farmers Market – In an effort to promote nutrition to the employees of St. Johns County and to support the local agriculture and farming industries, the St. Johns County Wellness Committee has organized an on-site farmers market to occur twice monthly at the County complex. The farmers markets are from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, every other Thursday, in the parking lot next to the County Administration Building. The Wellness Committee hopes to provide employees with access to fresh food products that both support the local economy and encourage healthy eating habits. We are also happy to make this available to the public. The next market is Thursday, December 16th. Contact Wellness Coordinator Sherry Mulligan at 209-0647 for more information.
As this is the final Administrator’s Message for 2010, I want to express appreciation to those who continue to read it each month and provide positive feedback. On behalf of the County Commission and the entire staff of St. Johns County, I want to wish a safe and happy holiday season to each of you!