New Administrator’s Message
Welcome to the new edition of the St. Johns County Administrator's message. Written on a monthly basis, the message will contain updates regarding County projects, programs, facilities, and special events. Hopefully you will find the message to be informative and insightful regarding how the County diligently strives to serve the residents, businesses, and visitors of our community on a daily basis.
- November 9, 2012 General Election Results – More than 75% of the registered voters in St. Johns County cast 115,093 ballots in the November 6, 2012. Incumbent Commissioner Cyndi Stevenson was reelected to represent District One and Rachael L. Bennett was elected to represent District Five. Commissioner-elect Bill McClure was unopposed and will represent District Three after winning the primary election in August. The new County Commissioners will participate in their first meeting after a swearing-in ceremony at 9 a.m. on November 20 in the Administration Auditorium, 500 San Sebastian Road. Friends, family members, and the public at large are invited to attend the ceremony and meeting.
- Board of County Commissioners Government Ethics and Transparency Workshop – The St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) invites the community to a special educational workshop at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, November 20 in the County Administration Auditorium, 500 San Sebastian View. The workshop is designed to educate interested persons about some of the most common laws that affect elected officials and volunteers who serve on local government advisory committees and boards, and citizens who wish to take an active role in County government. Virginia Delegal, General Counsel for the Florida Association of Counties, will make a presentation covering County Government Form and Function. Additionally, attorneys from the Office of the St. Johns County Attorney will review the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees, laws related to Quasi-Judicial Proceedings, Government in the Sunshine, and Public Records. To learn more about this educational session or regularly scheduled BOCC public meetings, please visit www.sjcfl.us.
- St. Johns County Accepting Applications for Advisory Boards and Committees – St. Johns County is currently accepting applications for a variety of volunteer Board and Committee vacancies including positions on the Library Advisory Board, the Health and Human Services Advisory Council, and the Cultural Resource Review Board. Please contact Melissa Lundquist at 904.209.0563 or firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain an application or to obtain information regarding application deadlines, qualifications, and meeting schedules.
Hurricane Sandy Impact
- Hurricane Sandy Beach Erosion Assessment – Hurricane Sandy officially passed by Northeast Florida on Saturday, October 27, 2012. Effects from the storm's outlying bands were felt in St. Johns County a day prior and for several days after. Fortunately, most beach visitors were aware of the dangerous conditions and adhered to the warnings that were on the news and in the paper throughout the weekend. Over the course of the weekend, six washed back sea turtles were rescued and delivered to the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center with the help of a dedicated crew of St. Johns County volunteers, the County Environmental Division, and Beach Services staff. Shoreline erosion has occurred throughout St. Johns County as expected due to strong currents and heavy wave action. As part of our assessment, we evaluated numerous beaches including shorelines in southern St. Johns County, and on St. Augustine Beach, Vilano Beach and South Ponte Vedra. A preliminary assessment has determined that a significant amount of sand has been displaced on the beaches throughout the County. Post storm surveys will be conducted over the next month to properly and completely assess the impacts of Hurricane Sandy. Overall, the initial assessment indicates the beaches fared well considering the magnitude of the storm.
- International Trade Workshop and Positive Growth Data – In an effort to enhance training opportunities for local businesses, St. Johns County recently hosted an International Trade Workshop. Conducted by the University of North Florida, the workshop featured helpful importing and exporting tips and instruction from experts at Enterprise Florida, The U.S. Department of Commerce, JAXPORT and the SBDC International Trade Office. County officials added an extra element to this workshop promoting the availability of a Free Trade Zone for businesses who import/export in St. Johns County.
- St. Johns County Reporting Positive Growth Data – We've recently received a substantial amount of media coverage regarding our Economic Development program and the resulting increase in activity. In addition, St. Johns County has been recognized in the news recently for a recession-defying amount of residential construction as we lead the region in the issuance of single family building permits for 2012. With 1,499 authorized through September and three months left to go in this calendar year, we have issued nearly half of all single family building permits in the region for 2012 and have already surpassed the total issued for St. Johns County in 2011.
St. Johns County Programs and Services
- Citizen Dispute Mediation Program – St. Johns County now offers residents a free alternative to litigation and court involvement when addressing legal conflicts through the Citizen Dispute Mediation Program. Any St. Johns County citizen can contact County Court Mediation Services (CCMS) and request a mediation to help resolve issues through the assistance of a Florida Supreme Court Certified County Mediator. When considering legal action, residents are encouraged to consider voluntary mediation as a solution prior to court involvement to avoid unnecessary expenses and adversarial interactions. Impartial CCMS mediators can assist residents in reaching a fair and lasting solution quickly and confidentially in a safe and controlled environment. The organization has a 70 percent success rate and most cases are resolved with a written agreement between the two parties. Any dispute where the monetary amount involved is $15,000 or less can be mediated. For additional information or to schedule mediation, St. Johns County residents can call 877.331.1411 or visit www.ccms7th.org.
- New Health and Human Services Hastings Resource Center – Residents and staff joined together this fall to celebrate the opening of the new St. Johns County Health and Human Services Hastings Resource Center and the renovated Hastings Family Medical Center. Hastings Resource Center services include emergency financial assistance, job coaching, Medicaid, limited prescription, and specialty care assistance, and educational seminars about healthy lifestyles, diabetes prevention, and computer and budgeting skills. For more information regarding the center, named after Hastings community activist Shell Regan, please call 904.692.4896.
- Council on Aging Alzheimer's Center Support – In a unanimous show of support for the Council on Aging (COA) initiative to bring expanded care options for Alzheimer's patients to St. Johns County, the Board of County Commissioners recently agreed to the establishment of a temporary Alzheimer's Center in a vacant building located next to the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall. The COA seeks to expand the comprehensive care options it currently makes available to county residents who are dealing with the challenges of Alzheimer's disease whether as patients, caregivers or family members. COA services include in-home care provided by certified professionals as well as a wide range of non-medical support. The center in Ponte Vedra will be similar to and compliment the organization's Alzheimer's Center in St. Augustine. Establishing a presence in north St. John's County would allow the Alzheimer's Center an opportunity to become self-sustaining through private donations and a fee for service model. No other use or need for the building has been identified by St. Johns County in the near future. The COA will be allowed to utilize the building for up to five years at a nominal charge, and will be responsible for all operational costs and any expenses associated with renovating the building in order to bring it into compliance with applicable building and safety codes governing its use as an Alzheimer's Center. The COA has initiated fundraising efforts that will allow the project to move forward.
- Updated FEMA Floodplain Map – A long-term County initiative is projected to come to fruition in December when a new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Floodplain Map is projected to become effective and provide substantial cost savings for some St. Johns County residents. Residents of the Coquina Crossing development contacted St. Johns County in August 2011 and indicated that their mortgage companies had recently begun requiring them to purchase flood insurance because their properties were now being classified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as being located in the flood plain. The Board of County Commissioners asked County staff to investigate and assist if possible. A revised FEMA flood hazard map for that area essentially shifted the flood hazard area, listed numerous properties as now being in the flood plain, and required the homeowners to purchase additional insurance. In conjunction with the County's Countywide Stormwater Model project, analysis of this particular drainage basin revealed that the Coquina Crossing development was not in a flood plain. On behalf of the affected residents, the County contacted FEMA, requested a revision, and provided the data necessary to trigger an update process that will culminate next month and provide relief to those residents who experienced an unnecessary increase in their insurance rates.
- New Pet Adoption Hours – The County's Pet Center partnered with the Friends of the Pet Center in October to host the successful Tails-And-Treats adoption event. We would like to extend a big "thank you" to the volunteers who donated their time to ensure those pets found a new home. October was a successful adoption month overall as 103 pets were adopted. In an effort to build upon this success and provide the public with additional opportunities to find a new pet, the operating hours of the Pet Holding and Adoption Center have been extended to 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. In addition, current owners may claim their impounded pets on Mondays, by appointment only, by calling 904.209.6190.
- Super Community Collection Day Recycling Events – The Solid Waste Management Department recently hosted two Super Community Collection Days that encouraged residents to safely dispose of household hazardous waste, obsolete electronics, old tires, and other unwanted residential materials. More than 1,200 residents dropped off in excess of 51,580 lbs. of unwanted items during the two successful events.
- A Successful 2012 Sea Turtle Nesting Season – October 30 marked the close of a very positive sea turtle nesting season for 2012. A total of 698 nests were documented on St. Johns County beaches including 654 Loggerheads, 33 Greens, and 11 Leatherbacks. Approximately 512 nests have produced more than 39,849 hatchling sea turtles. Biologists predict that only one turtle for every 1,000 that hatch will survive to the age of 20 when they typically return to the beach to nest. Based upon those estimates, approximately 39 turtles will hopefully return in year 2042 to lay nests. Continuing the effort to improve County services, the Habitat Conservation Section and Information Systems Division initiated a successful online nesting data system to receive valuable data from turtle patrol volunteers. In addition, an automated telephone system was implemented to provide beach patrons and visitors convenient access to current beach condition information, potential beach closures, and animal observation reporting. The system can be accessed at 904.209.0331.
- Planning for Sea Level Rise in the Matanzas Basin Workshops – The University of Florida and the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve are hosting four workshops in December to discuss the potential impacts of rising sea levels in the Matanzas Basin. The meetings will include discussions of the science of sea level rise, the possible threat to the environmental and economic viability of the basin, and an interactive discussion to receive community and resident input regarding the issue. Please visit http://planningmatanzas.org/ for additional information regarding specific meeting times, dates, and locations.
Holiday Events and Information
- The Dressing of the Palms at Vilano Beach – Vilano Beach Main Street and the North Shores Improvement Association are inviting residents to participate in "The Dressing of the Palms," an inaugural celebration of the holidays and coastal living. For a $25 entry fee, residents can adopt and decorate palms through November to promote and showcase their schools, businesses, and holiday cheer. Judging will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 10 at the Vilano Beach Town Center. Palms will remain decorated through January 31. To reserve a palm and learn more about design rules, please visit www.vilanobeachfl.com or contact Linda Arnold at 904.910.8386 or email@example.com.
- Libraries Offering "Food for Fines" Program During Holidays – St. Johns County Public Libraries are offering patrons the opportunity to resolve overdue fines and help those in need this holiday season through the "Food for Fines" program. Library staff will accept non-perishable food items in lieu of overdue library fines through January 5, 2013. All donations will be delivered to the St. Johns County Food Closet to help meet increased need for meals during the holiday season. Up to $1 in overdue fines will be resolved for each sealed, non-expired, non-perishable food item donated. For more information, visit www.sjcpls.org or call 904.827.6925.
- Post-Thanksgiving Cooking Oil Recycling Sites – St. Johns County and the City of St. Augustine are joining together again to collect used cooking oil and grease after the Thanksgiving holiday. The event will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Monday, November 26 at two recycling drop points, 25 W. Castillo Drive (Francis Event Field) and 840 West 16th Street on Anastasia Island. The program allows residents to properly dispose of used cooking oil to be recycled into usable products such as biodiesel fuel. For more information or to learn where to donate cooking oil throughout the year please call 904.209.2662.
- St. Johns County Thanksgiving Office Hours – All departments of the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners, St. Johns County Administrative offices, branches of the Public Library, and the Pet Center will be closed Thursday, November 22 and Friday, November 23 in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday. All offices will resume standard business hours on Monday, November 26.
- Thanksgiving Garbage Collection Schedule – Garbage, recycling, and yard debris will not be collected on Thanksgiving Day. Thursday's pick-up will be completed on Friday, November 23 and Friday's collection will be completed on Saturday, November 24. The solid waste scale houses at Tillman Ridge and Stratton Road will be closed on Thanksgiving Day and will re-open to the public on Friday, November 23.
Thank you for reading the November Administrator's message. The County's goal is to maintain a direct line of open and transparent communication between St. Johns County and the residents and businesses we serve. With an engaged community and an open dialogue, we can continue to ensure we are providing residents the most desired services while maintaining the highest quality of life in St. Johns County. If you would like to automatically receive future editions in a monthly email, please visit www.sjcfl.us/Administration. Have a safe and fun-filled Thanksgiving holiday with your family and friends.
Michael D. Wanchick
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