Delegation fields financial wish lists from officials

Eric Cravey
Posted 10/25/17

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – City and county officials recently joined with representatives from other organizations, nonprofits and human service agencies to request funding from the Clay County …

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Delegation fields financial wish lists from officials

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – City and county officials recently joined with representatives from other organizations, nonprofits and human service agencies to request funding from the Clay County Legislative Delegation.

Delegation Chairman Sen. Rob Bradley(R-Fleming Island), Rep. Travis Cummings(R-Orange Park) and Rep. Bobby Payne(R-Palatka) fielded requests Oct. 18 at the Clay County Administrative Building in preparation for the 2018 Florida Legislature, which opens in January.

Diane Hutchings, vice chairman of the Clay County Board of County Commissioners, asked for state funding for a new Oakleaf fire station, a new bridge on County Road 220 near Henley Road, replacement of the Shands Bridge as part of the First Coast Expressway project and a training center for the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. She also asked for continued funding for the Sweat Program for juvenile offenders and a new County Health Department Building.

The Health Department building in Green Cove Springs is aging and requires some $100,000-plus in repairs each year.

“I know we’re No. 4 on the list, so that’s great,” Hutchings said.

Orange Park Mayor Scott Land asked lawmakers for funding for a unique project to clean out area waterways that feed into the St. Johns River as a means of reducing flooding during heavy rains or hurricanes.

“As we look to fix this problem, we are realizing that this is a monumental task that is beyond this town’s resources,” Land said. “This help could be in the way of financial help, relaxation of environmental laws that hinder the town from cleaning out these waterways that restrict the flows or even legislation to give the municipalities greater leeway to clean these waterways when located on private property.”

Land also requested a change in state law governing Certificates of Need for ambulance services that would allow the town to have its own ambulance service. In recent months, there has been an ongoing debate between the Town of Orange and Clay County regarding the service, which the town currently carries out for the county. Town officials argue they are losing money in providing the service, which under state law, the town is carrying out the service under the umbrella of the county’s certificate of need.

Land also asked for legislation to decouple greyhound racing from poker rooms. Currently, under state law, the licensing of other forms of gaming at Florida racetracks, such as card games, are tightly tied to greyhound racing. Decoupling will separate greyhound racing from these other forms of gaming and allow venues the option to discontinue live racing with no impact on their other current methods of gaming. A decoupling bill made its way through the 2017 Florida Legislature but did not pass.

“As you know, the town is one of the few remaining [dog] tracks left in the state and though we appreciate all that bestbet has done for the town, we feel that dog racing is becoming a thing of the past. It seems the only publicity for dog racing is negative publicity, which ultimately reflects on the town,” Land said.

Keystone Heights City Manager Scott Kornegay thanked legislators for their work in getting the Black Creek Water Resource Project funded and passed in the 2017 Legislature and went on to discuss one other water-related issue to boost lake water levels in the Lake Region of Clay County.

Kornegay said he would like to see a cost-share project created to fund cleaning out Lake Brooklyn, Lake Geneva and Alligator Creek, which flows southward and feeds into the Etonia Chain of lakes.

“Before the water gets in there, it just makes good common sense to go in and clean out the creek, so the water can flow and also clean out the vegetation that has grown up over the years due to the dry lake bed,” Kornegay said.

Kornegay also asked for state funding for the city’s proposed Streetscape 2020 project to beautify and improve parking and lighting downtown.

“We’ll also need help with the landscaping and the softscape – furnishings, lighting and those sorts of things, so we’d like to have a discussion about that as we go forward,” he said.

Irene Toto, executive director of Clay Behavioral Health, asked the delegation for a continued funding resolution for its substance abuse and mental health programs it offers to Clay County residents.

Last year, the center served 4,842 individuals, of which 62 percent were mental health clients, while 25 percent involved substance abuse and another 13 percent were crossover patients who had both mental health and substance abuse concerns.

Toto said Clay Behavioral is getting ready to open an onsite pharmacy at its County Road 220 headquarters, which Toto said, “will greatly improve the odds of our folks getting their medication and taking them.”

Toto also said Clay Behavioral is preparing to open an office in Putnam County to expand one of its mental health programs for youth. The program will be partially funded by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Toto said.

Rev. Bill Randall of St. Simon Baptist Church of Orange Park asked the delegation to enact legislation naming the organization One Church, One Child as the grant recipient for the Martin Luther King Jr. Live the Dream license plate sales. He said passing such a measure would create 12 jobs for Clay County as the organization’s offices would be based here.

Randall said the license plate proceeds would be used to provide mentor programs for at-risk youth, as well as market the license plate to increase sales of the plate.

“Assume nothing when it comes to the state budget, going forward in terms of whether something is designated as recurring or non-recurring, because everything has to be, as it should be because these are taxpayer dollars, defended, justified and making sure that they are consistent with what we are trying to achieve as a state,” Bradley said to the group.

At the meeting’s end, lawmakers elected Payne as chairman and Cummings as vice chairman in preparation for the session, which opens in January.

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