Administrator’s Report – March 5, 2010
- Three County Programs Recognized for Regional Excellence Awards – St. Johns County was the proud recipient of three Excellence Awards last week given by the Northeast Florida Regional Council. Three of the County’s diverse programs were recognized – the Biodiesel Fuel Program from the Public Works Department, the Homeownership Program in Housing and Community Services, and the Cultural Events Division for tourism and economic development. This recognition shows the dedication of County staff members to enhance the quality and efficiency of services, and the diverse nature of the three programs indicate the range of exceptional services St. Johns County provides residents. Keep reading to learn more. Congratulations to the staff who received these awards!
- Excellence in Environmental Stewardship – The Public Works Department was awarded this for its biodiesel fuel program. In 2005, St. Johns County initiated a project to process recycled waste vegetable oil into biodiesel fuel for use in County equipment. Within one year, the first small quantities of biodiesel was produced and the potential for savings in fuel cost, as well as positive environmental impacts, appeared substantial. From 2006 to 2009 staff collected donated recycled waste vegetable oil from residents, businesses and others, and then processed it into biodiesel fuel. The biodiesel would then be blended with regular petroleum diesel and used in all County diesel vehicles and equipment. The basic process proved relatively simple, but staff worked very hard to consistently produce biofuel that met industry quality standards, as no precedent had been documented. In 2009 staff, led by Ray Inman, successfully achieved that goal and are now capable of producing more than 35,000 gallons of biodiesel per year, or approximately 20 percent of the County’s total diesel consumption. Congratulations to Inman and the Public Works staff for this innovative program that reduces fuel costs and also makes a very positive impact on the environment!
- Excellence in Affordable Housing – This award was presented to the Housing and Community Services Division, and specifically to staff member Dana Moore, Administrator of Homeownership Programs. In 2008, Moore recognized that the increasing volume of foreclosures would require a unique approach for the county’s credit counseling resources to assist individuals in preserving their homes. She implemented the Foreclosure Intervention Program in September 2008, which utilized and expanded the County’s relationship with the non-profit St. Johns Housing Partnership. As a result of Moore’s leadership, at least 234 families in St. Johns County have been able to remain in their homes since September 2008. On behalf of all citizens of St. Johns County, we congratulate and thank Dana Moore and staff on a successful program!
- Excellence in Economic Development and Tourism – This recognition was awarded to the St. Johns County Cultural Events Division, which manages the highly successful St. Augustine Amphitheatre and other cultural facilities throughout St. Johns County. Since the renovated Amphitheatre opened in August 2007, 84 major concerts have been held with more than 163,000 tickets sold. The Cultural Events Division has hosted 160 not-for-profit events with an estimated attendance of 200,000 during the two-year period, with approximately 70 percent of concert attendees coming from outside St. Johns County. One of the most successful undertakings has been Winter Wonderland, which recently completed its third year. Winter Wonderland has attracted more than 70,000 people yearly, with an astounding 53 percent coming from outside St. Johns County. Congratulations to Ryan Dettra and the entire staff for their impressive work that greatly improves economic development and tourism in St. Johns County.
- Census Day is April 1st – Be on the lookout for your Census forms to arrive in the mail near the end of March. Full Census participation is crucial to the future of St. Johns County, and it heavily influences federal funding and how we are represented in the Florida and United States governments. Remember it is easy, important, and safe. The form has only ten questions and should take only ten minutes to fill out. All answers are confidential. Plus, as long and you fill it out and mail it back, no Census taker will come knock on your door. Learn more at www.stjohnscounts.com.
- 4-H Youth Development Activities – St. Johns County 4-H members earned top honors at the Florida State Fair in February. Hank Simonet won 1st place in two goat categories, as well as 1st place Champion of Champions for the intermediate age division. Laura Glassey received 2nd place Champion of Champions for the senior age division and 1st place dairy goat showmanship. Two teams also competed in horse judging, placing 2nd and 4th, with four individuals placing in the top eight. In Fashion Revue, Faith Mantia took 2nd place. In other 4-H news, 21 youth took part in Youth Adventure Weekend at the 4-H Camp in Ocala the last weekend in February. Additionally, 4-H Horticulture Club members took part in the St. Johns County Clean up day on February 26, when they helped remove air potatoes from the Agricultural Center grounds.
- Horticulture Program – Three Florida-Friendly landscape classes were conducted around the county in February to educate homeowners about nonpoint source pollution and how they can prevent contributing to the problem. Approximately 80 people attended these presentations and additional ones are set for March. Also, a rain barrel class was held with 26 participants, who created barrels and took them home to help decrease storm runoff and improve conservation.
- Pet Center Has New Operating Hours – The operating hours at the St. Johns County Pet Center were revised this week to allow staff to better care for the animals. The new hours are Monday through Friday 9:00 am to 4:00 pm and Saturday 9:00 am to 12:30 pm. The Pet Center remains closed on Sunday. For additional information or to learn how you can adopt a pet, contact the Pet Center at 904-209-6190 or visit www.sjcfl.us/petcenter.
- Pet Center Closed March 20th for Maintenance – The Pet Center will be closed on Saturday, March 20, to allow for scheduled maintenance. The two-day maintenance operation will include an annual sterilization to help prevent the spread of viruses among animals. The Saturday/Sunday schedule allows the maintenance to occur with the smallest impact to the Pet Center’s operating hours. We apologize for the inconvenience.
- Phase I Construction Nearly Complete at Courthouse – Construction Services is pleased to announce the nearing completion of a portion of the Phase I expansion of the St. Johns County Judicial Complex. This portion includes a new ceremonial courtroom, which will now be St. Johns County’s largest courtroom seating up to 180 people. The first portion of the new jury check-in areas also will be completed in this phase. Then, within the next 3-4 months, will be the completion of the jury pool area, connection to the existing courthouse, and the new clerk finance suite. The completion of these new areas will allow construction to begin in other areas of the building currently occupied by other departments in the Courthouse. Overall the project is on schedule and within budget.
- Bridges to Receive Weather Sensors – St. Johns County Emergency Management in partnership with North Florida Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), Florida Highway Patrol, and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), is working on a project to install weather sensing equipment on selected St. Johns County bridges. Many bridges within St. Johns County are vulnerable to high winds, which can potentially create unsafe driving conditions. The weather sensing equipment, funded by the TPO and FDOT, will provide real time weather conditions to the Emergency Operations Center, assisting authorities in decision making during evacuations. The two bridges that will likely be funded for the project are the Usina Bridge on State Road A1A in Vilano Bridge and the State Road 206 Crescent Beach Bridge. As more funding becomes available, we hope to install weather sensing equipment on additional bridges throughout St. Johns County.
Health and Human Services
- New Director of Health and Human Services – St. Johns County is pleased to announce Vennerria Lucas Thomas has been hired as the new Director of the Health and Human Services Department. Thomas has more than 20 years experience working in the public sector in a variety of positions, including 13 years as the director of the City of Seattle, Washington’s human services agency. Thomas was interviewed and endorsed by a panel of community leaders representing the Court System, Health and Human Services Advisory Board, Flagler Hospital, the Florida Department of Children and Families, the Council on Aging and County Administration. The Board of County Commissioners also formerly endorsed Thomas at their meeting on March 2, 2010. She will spend the next several weeks meeting the community and becoming more acclimated to St. Johns County and its needs. Click here to read the press release.
Housing & Community Services
- Homeownership Program – The St. Johns Housing Homeownership Program had 13 prospective homebuyers graduate from the program on Saturday, February 27. These homebuyers will be participating in programs such as Florida Bond, Habitat for Humanity, Florida Homeownership Opportunity Program, and Community Workforce Housing Innovative Pilot Program. Call 827-6890 for more information.
- Community Workforce Housing Program – The Neighborhoods of New Augustine, a development that is part of the Community Workforce Housing Innovation Pilot Program, is offering substantial purchase assistance for working families. Residents interested in putting down roots in the Neighborhoods of New Augustine may participate in the St. Johns County Homeownership Program, which provides free credit counseling, homeownership education, and assistance in qualifying for a first mortgage. Application packages are available at the Main Branch of the public library and online at www.sjcfl.us/Housing.
- Library Focuses on Teens in March – In the month of March, the library is especially targeting teens with some cool items and fun events, including Wii and Playstation gaming programs. Two services already available to all teens are also being highlighted. Playaways are one of the coolest things to hit the library. Already loaded with a favorite talking book, these MP3 players can be borrowed from the library just like a book or a movie. Second, the library is promoting the new library iPhone app “Access My Library”. Other offerings this month include bingo for books, film programs, crochet workshops, master gardener workshops, book sales, and much more. Visit the library website at www.sjcpls.org for complete details.
Office of Management and Budget
- 2011 Budget Workshop – The Office of Management and Budget held an initial 2011 County Budget workshop with the County Commission during their meeting this past Tuesday. The total county budget for 2011 is projected to decrease about 6 percent to $575 million. Currently, a 7.5 percent decrease in total county taxable property value is projected. However, due to the Commission’s foresight last year in adopting a two-year budget strategy, we are well positioned to address the declining revenues during this difficult economic time. The Board is in position to hold county millage rates steady for 2011 and possibly 2012 if current projections hold. Next, the County budget process will continue towards a 2011 statutorily required Recommended Balanced Budget (total county expenditures cannot exceed total county revenue) anticipated for the July 6 Commission meeting. The final 2011 county budget will not be adopted until late September 2010 following public hearings as specified by Florida Statutes.
- Employee’s Creative Thinking Saves Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars – In 2009 the county acquired a property for a county drainage project that was formerly used by a ready mix concrete plant. The parcel has tons of scrap concrete remaining on it, which had to be removed before the property could be used. Road and Bridge Manager Ivan Burrell saw an opportunity and set out to turn the liability of cleaning the newly acquired site into an advantage for the county. Burrell recognized the scrap concrete could be crushed into a product called crushcrete, which could be used in numerous County projects. Burrell and his team researched the cost of crushing the scrap concrete and identified a low bidder to perform the work.
The result was a successful bid to crush the concrete on the county site at a cost of $2.90 per ton. This was an incredible savings, considering the County had previously paid up to $17 per ton of limerock and up to $30 per ton of 57 stone, which were the materials for which the crushcrete could be substituted (it is worth noting crushcrete is superior in many ways to limerock for our purposes). Even after the costs associated with transporting the newly created crushcrete to staging areas, the County has realized a net savings of at least $360,000. This is another great example of an employee’s initiative resulting in significant savings for the County and our citizens.
- West King Street Re-opened – St. Johns County, in partnership with the City of St. Augustine and Florida Department of Transportation, announced last week that West King Street is now re-open to two-way traffic. West King Street was limited to one-way traffic since April 2009 during the first phase of a complex roadway and infrastructure improvement project. The new roadway has a rebuilt storm water drainage system, upgraded water and sewer utilities, improved traffic flow, and a new mast arm traffic signal at the Palmer Street/Pellicer Lane intersection. The improvements have been a joint project between St. Johns County, the City of St. Augustine, and a grant from FDOT.
- Weekday Collection of Hazardous Materials to End – March 11th will be the last day that Solid Waste will provide weekday pick-up of residential hazardous waste at fire station sites in Julington Creek, Palm Valley, and Crescent Beach. The economic downturn, the opening of a new permanent facility at Stratton Road, and the success of the Community Collection Day program have made the weekday mobile unit collection service costly and inefficient. The new transfer station that opened at Stratton Road and U.S. Highway 1 North is located just behind the St. Johns County Pet Center. This facility offers daily service closer to the communities in northern St. Johns County and allows County residents to drop off residential hazardous waste and garbage at no cost. For more information, call Solid Waste at 927-9680.
- Community Collection Days – Solid Waste Management will host a Community Collection Day on Saturday, March 6, from 8:00 am until noon at North Beach Park, located at 24th Street and State Road A1A in Vilano Beach. The event is limited to St. Johns County residents only. At the last Community Collection Day held on February 6, 2010, the Solid Waste Division collected 49,660 pounds of hazardous materials from 580 St. Johns County residents.
- County Website Being Placed on Vehicles – The Fleet Management Division is affixing the St. Johns County website (www.sjcfl.us) address decals on all sedans and light trucks. As an effort to improve communication and promote the County website, a decal will go on each front door beneath the county seal, as well as one on the back of the vehicle.
Recreation and Parks
- Super Summer Spectacular Camp – The Super Summer Spectacular Summer Camp Lottery opened online Monday, March 1, and registration will continue until 5:00 pm, Friday, March 12. More information is available at www.sjcfl.us/recreation or by calling Jamie Baccari, Youth Coordinator, at 209-0377.
- Adult Recreation Leagues – Adult slow pitch softball leagues are beginning to form with managers’ meetings for coed and men’s leagues on March 15 and for church league on March 29. Additionally, a cornhole league has recently begun, but is still accepting registrants, with play is on Monday evenings at Ketterlinus Gym. A horseshoe league is also in full swing at the Fairgrounds and has drawn a record number of participants. For information about any of these leagues, contact Joe Shakar at 209-0385.
- Annual Easter Egg Hunt Less Than a Month Away – The St. Johns County Recreation and Parks Department’s annual Easter Egg Hunt will be held on Thursday, April 1. Please join us at these local parks to celebrate Easter and the coming of spring: Treaty Park in St. Augustine, Davis Park in Ponte Vedra, Veterans Park in St. Johns, and Al Wilkie Park in Hastings. All events will begin at 10:00 am with photo opportunities with the Easter Bunny followed by the Easter Egg Hunt at 11:00 am. If you need further information, please contact Jamie Baccari at 209-0377.
- Utility Department Representatives Attend Symposium – Utility Director Bill Young and Engineering Manager Neal Shinkre recently attended the University of Florida’s Water Institute Symposium. The 2-day event attracted over 400 scientists, scholars, environmentalists, and water professionals to examine challenges to water supply sustainability from multiple perspectives. Sustainable watershed management requires creative engineering, policy and legal solutions, and pioneering education programs. Some of the topics included optimal use of integrated waters supplies and managing water and energy in a transitioning environment.
- Hiring Begins at New State Veterans’ Nursing Home – The Clyde E. Lassen State Veterans’ Nursing Home in St. Johns County is accepting applications for four key positions: Personnel Technician II (human resources), Director of Nursing, Business Office Manager, and Licensed Practical Nurse Admission Coordinator. To apply, go to jobs.myflorida.com. All vacancies for the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs are found under the “DVA” category. For more information, call (850) 487-1533 or visit www.FloridaVets.org.