Administrator’s Report – March 4, 2011
Revised Impact Fees
- Non-Residential Impact Fees Go Down – The Board of County Commissioners adopted revised impact fees March 1st, resulting in an average decrease of 49 percent for non-residential categories and moderate increases for residential units. The revised impact fees are the result of the legally required process to ensure impact fees are based on the most recent and localized data. Click for more information.
- IMAX Theatre at World Golf Village – As we increase focus on economic development and the high quality of life here in St. Johns County, I will start featuring a community highlight in this newsletter. One under-appreciated treasure we have right here in St. Johns County is the IMAX Theater at the World Golf Hall of Fame. This theater reopened in February with a new digital 3D projection system, making it one of only five institutional theaters in the world that have this level of technology. The Theater also boasts the largest IMAX screen in the southeast United States. Recent upgrades also include a new screen and digital sound system.
The Theater is an excellent entertainment option for both visitors and residents of St. Johns County, with both the latest Hollywood films and popular educational documentaries now in digital format. In March, the World Golf Hall of Fame IMAX Theater will feature Disney's 3D adventure "Mars Needs Moms" as well as "Ultimate Wave Tahiti 3D," the popular surf movie starring 10-time world champion Kelly Slater. Get all the details, including showtimes, at www.WorldGolfIMAX.com.
Call For Clergy
- Volunteers Needed – The Board of County Commissioners is looking for clergy or citizens who will volunteer to give the public invocation at the beginning of County Commission meetings. Representatives are being sought from all religions and denominations. The meetings are the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month beginning at 9:00 am, and the invocation is at the beginning of the agenda. If you would like to volunteer, please contact the County Commission Office at (904) 209-0300.
Sunshine Bus Routes
- Updated Bus Routes – In an effort to improve on-time performance and connectivity, the Sunshine Bus Company has implemented route adjustments. Four of the system’s seven routes now have additional time built into the route with recovery time at the end of each run. The Red, Green, Blue, and Orange Lines now operate on a 65-minute one-way route to ensure that each run begins on time. To maintain the current number of runs, the routes begin earlier, run later, and offer mid-day service. The new schedule runs from 6:45 am until 7:25 pm and operates continuously throughout the day. For more information, visit www.sunshinebus.net or call (904) 209-3716. At $1 per trip, the Sunshine Bus is one of the best deals in the County.
- Celtic Music and Arts Festival – The public is invited to enjoy the St. Augustine Celtic Music and Arts Festival, presented by Romanza, March 11th through 17th. The Festival will include some of the greatest living musicians, artists, writers, and poets from Ireland, the United States, and the Celtic region of Spain. The weeklong celebration will include traditional music, pub sessions, art exhibitions, poetry readings, storytelling and culinary events, culminating in the St. Patrick’s Day parade on March 12th at 10:00 am in downtown St. Augustine. Get full information at www.CelticStAugustine.com.
Cultural Events Division
- Ponte Vedra Concert Hall – February kicked off with a bang and kept getting better for the St. Johns County Cultural Events Division with five sold out shows at the brand new Ponte Vedra Concert Hall. Fans packed the house dressed in their favorite artists’ attire, ranging from beehive hairdos to cowboy hats. After such a successful first month of shows, March keeps the ball rolling with Sister Hazel performing at the Concert Hall on Friday, March 11th. Visit www.pvconcerthall.com for details.
- St. Augustine Amphitheatre – Don’t miss out on upcoming concerts at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre with Miranda Lambert on April 15th and Rise Against on the April 22nd. Tickets are limited, so be sure to buy yours soon and keep an eye on www.stauamphitheatre.com for new updates, or call the box office at (904) 209-0367 for further information regarding ticket prices, availability, and dates for both venues.
- Sunfish on Beaches – Recently, two Sharptail sunfish and an Ocean sunfish washed ashore here in St. Johns County. The cause for the stranding was not clear, and samples were taken by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute for analysis. The Institute does not have a lot of information on sunfish, so these samples will hopefully help them learn more about this unique animal. A similar incident occurred this time last year, but unfortunately no samples were taken at that time, and it was speculated that the death was most likely from natural causes. Both types of sunfish are considered deep-water, offshore fish, but during this time of year they can be seen within 40 miles of shore, swimming with leatherback sea turtles while possibly following schools of jellyfish.
- National Invasive Species Awareness Week – National Invasive Species Awareness Week took place February 28th through March 4th with activities, briefings, and events to highlight what is being done across the nation and around the world to stop and slow the spread of invasive species. In St. Johns County, the week included a workshop at the Vilano Community Center to discuss invasive plant species in that area, a collaborative event between the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuary Research Reserve and the Environmental Division. The week culminates with the Air Potato Round-up on Saturday, March 5th, at several sites throughout the County, including Alpine Groves Park. To learn more about National Invasive Species Awareness Week, visit www.nisaw.org.
- Turnbull Mitigation Area – St. Johns County acquired the Turnbull Creek Regional Offsite Mitigation Area in 2003 to provide a cost effective wetland mitigation alternative for County Public Works projects. On March 1, 2011, a Memorandum of Agreement between St. Johns County and the St. Johns River Water Management District formalized the agreement and established the Turnbull tract as a Mitigation Area for County wetland mitigation for future County Public Works projects.
- Energy Efficiency Education Series – The public is invited to a series of five workshops throughout March to learn about energy efficient building practices. The education series is specifically designed to meet the needs of builders, developers, and design professionals, although all residents of St. Johns County are welcome. The free Energy Efficiency Education Series is part of a grant from the Florida Energy & Climate Commission. St. Johns County is one of only 15 counties and municipalities in the entire state that was awarded this competitive grant. Funding is provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 through the Department of Energy. For more information, contact Lowry Shuler at (904) 827-6806 or firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to read about the workshop series.
Housing & Community Services
- Housing Finance Authority – The Housing Finance Authority had two open house events to showcase the eight homes available for sale under the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). These homes were previously foreclosed and were rehabilitated or completed with NSP program funds to provide affordable homeownership for families. By selling these homes to proud new homeowners, neighborhoods are stabilized, property values are increased, and the economy is stimulated.
- Weatherization – The St. Johns Housing Partnership’s weatherization program is providing energy efficient repairs to over 25 homes per month. They are still accepting applications from income-eligible homeowners living in either houses or mobile homes throughout St. Johns County. If your home is in need of attic insulation, air sealing, weather-stripping and caulking, duct repairs or HVAC repairs, contact the Housing Partnership at (904) 824-0902.
- Disaster Recovery Initiative – The Disaster Recovery Initiative (DRI) provides $1.3 million to address storm water drainage issues for the Ravenswood basin, Flagler Estates, and Town of Hastings. Construction is scheduled for June 2011, with completion expected to be 12 months. This project is funded out of the County’s Transportation Trust Fund and is associated with the DRI Community Development Block Grant.
- County Buildings Report – St. Johns County services utilize staffed buildings throughout the county which require operational resources. In a continuing effort to streamline and reduce the cost of government, staff prepared a County Building Inventory and conducted a staff location survey. This comprehensive view of operation centers for the county helps to identify potential cost saving measures and improve efficiency by ensuring that buildings are being used efficiently. Cost savings include potential location consolidation and identifying alternatives to leasing buildings by utilizing existing space.
- Property Inventory and Surplus Report – Similar to the Buildings Report, staff prepared an inventory and analysis of St. Johns County land. Critical features including use, acquisition, and potential were identified and used to create a comprehensive view of the county lands. Reviewing the content and patterns allows the county to identify potential cost savings measures and improve efficiency. A list of potential surplus properties has been identified and evaluated, and surplus properties are either retained to serve an essential need or being sold. Thus far, more than a dozen properties have been sold and put back on County tax rolls.
- Map Mart Additions – The GIS Division has added approximately 35 maps to the GIS Map Mart website, which is a collection of maps that can be viewed and printed in PDF format. These new maps include Fire Stations, Boat Ramps, State Road 313 Proposed Alignment, City of St. Augustine Beach, Waste Collection Zones, US National Grid, and detailed maps of Davis Park, Treaty Park, and Veterans Park to name a few.
- Library Stays Busy – The Library System just wrapped up a very busy month. The combination of winter residents, cold weather, and St. Johns Reads programming brought many patrons through the library doors. March will be another busy month, with many activities and programs, such as ACT/SAT practice classes, feature films, and the regular monthly programs for young people. Find a full schedule of events at www.sjcpls.org.
- Teen Activities – The second week of March is “Teen Tech Week,” where teens can participate in events at the library and enter contests to win prizes. Gaming programs will be taking place throughout the library system. Also for teens – in preparation of National Library Week in April, library staff are encouraging teens to enter the American Library Association’s “Why I need my Library” video contest. Click here for more information.
- Databases – What do an auto mechanic, high school senior, and genealogist have in common? Databases! As in the free subscription databases that the library offers to all patrons. From Ancestry.com to Learning Express Library, there are many resources available online to provide you with great up-to-date information. Just pull out your library card and visit www.sjcpls.org to begin your journey.
- Library on Facebook – Check out the St. Johns County Public Library on Facebook to keep up with library happenings and take a sneak peak at the new library logo. The new logo is a combination of the library’s name and a stylized nautilus shell, representing coastal life and the continuity of the importance of information in everyday life.
- Engineering Right-of-Way Permitting – The number and size of permits issued by the Right-Of–Way Permitting Section of the Engineering Division has continued to increase over the past several years. The Right-of-Way Section closely monitors maintenance of traffic for road and lane closures and assures compliance with the Land Development Code, including storm water runoff related to these construction operations. In addition, the Right-of-Way Permitting Section ensures that the road and drainage systems are reconditioned at least to the pre-construction condition following utility construction, thus saving tax dollars for both the County and adjoining property owners. In 2010, this division issued permits for utility work on over 433,000 feet of rights-of-way throughout St. Johns County, with several large 2010 projects remaining in construction. Thus far in 2011, the number of permits and the impact of the utility work on the County’s right-of-way are exceeding the 2010 levels. Recent activities have included the inspection and permitting of pathway modifications in Nocatee to allow golf carts within the community, permitting of the Beaches Energy project to move all utilities underground in the Ponte Vedra Municipal Service District, and a major sewer project within the City of St. Augustine Beach to eliminate failing septic tank systems.
- Community Collection Day – The Solid Waste Management Division coordinated a Special Community Collection Day on February 26th at Pedro Menendez High School. The event collected household hazardous waste, waste tires, and obsolete electronics from St. Johns County residents, allowing residents an opportunity to drop off these items at no charge. The total number of residents was 308, and the net weight of hazardous waste, tires, electronics, and garbage totaled 34,840 pounds.
Recreation and Parks
- Reminder of Beach Rules – Beach Driving season officially began on March 1st. Get weekly updates on beach conditions by calling the St. Johns County Beaches information line at (904) 209-0331. Also, to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience, please remember to follow the beach rules. A complete list is posted on the St. Johns County website at www.sjcfl.us/beaches. Here are some highlights:
- Please properly dispose of litter and marine debris in the appropriate garbage and recycling containers.
- Prohibited items include alcoholic beverages, glass containers, unleashed animals, loud music, open fires, and overnight camping.
- No items may be left on the beach overnight, such as tents, chairs, and towels.
- The speed limit on all driving beaches is strictly enforced at 10 miles per hour.
- All pedestrian activities are prohibited within the Conservation Zone, which is 15 feet seaward of the dune line and designated by signs.
- Vehicles are to remain within the driving lane designated by cones.
- Parking is permitted on the west side of the driving lane only.
- Volunteer in Parks Program – The Recreation and Parks Departments is launching a new Volunteer in Parks, or V.I.P., program. In an effort to maintain the quality of parks and programs, the Department is looking for volunteers to help with park clean-up, guided tours of passive parks, tutoring children in after-school programs, general office duties, and special event support. Currently, St. Johns County has over 88 parks, seven community centers, and ten department offices throughout the County. Volunteers must be 18 years or older and will be required to have a background check. For further information or to sign up, contact Betsy Clarkson, Superintendent of Recreation, at (904) 209-0335.
The County Commission had an early discussion of the 2012 budget this week, with the Office of Management and Budget reporting an anticipated $12 million decline in revenue due to decreasing property values, which would be in addition to the $151 million cut from the budget since 2007. That additional decline in revenue means this year’s budget process will involve more significant cuts to programs and services than have occurred in the past. These reductions will impact multiple segments of the community in an undesirable manner.
For this reason, I strongly urge you to be involved in the budget process. Statistics show that usually only 7 percent of the population are active participants in local government, which is unfortunate given the magnitude of the financial decisions that need to be made this year and the impacts they will have on residents. There are numerous ways to get involved between now and final adoption in September. Here is the presentation from Tuesday’s Budget Workshop, and the calendar for the full budget process is here. Specific upcoming opportunities for involvement include the Budget Hearings May 10-13 and the Town Hall meetings in June (schedule to be announced).