Orange Park remains diligent on stormwater improvements

Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 2/7/18

ORANGE PARK – The Orange Park Town Council is stepping up efforts to complete stormwater cleanup and maintenance, and prepare the town for the upcoming hurricane season.

During its regular …

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Orange Park remains diligent on stormwater improvements

Posted

ORANGE PARK – The Orange Park Town Council is stepping up efforts to complete stormwater cleanup and maintenance, and prepare the town for the upcoming hurricane season.

During its regular meeting on Feb. 6, council passed a motion 5-0 to direct staff to increase the general fund budget by $500,000 using money from its rainy-day fund to pay for these projects. Currently, the town’s fund balance has an estimated $5.7 million in it that was not used in previous budget years.

The fund balance idea was presented by council member Gary Meeks who said the money freed up in from Capital Improvement Plan amendments simply wasn’t going to cut it.

“If we are going to do this, $81,000, I just don’t think that’s going to touch it,” Meeks said. “This is what the $5 million is – it’s for a rainy day and the rainy day is here.”

Mayor Scott Land agreed with Meeks reminding the council that the purpose of the fund balance is for situations like the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma.

“We just had a hurricane, a disaster, come through this town, and that’s what the fund balance is for,” Land said. “People put that money in the fund balance and there’s nothing wrong with using that money for the people.

The $81,000 Meeks referred to is money the town council has available for the purpose of stormwater maintenance after amending the CIP. In December, the council proposed changes to the CIP such as pushing a $75,000 town hall fire sprinkler job back two years and indefinitely postponing a $30,000 town hall acoustics improvement job.

In a motion that passed 5-0, council amended its CIP based on suggestions from a December meeeting, which will give staff on direction when creating this year’s budget.

Town Manager Sarah Campbell recommended to the council that $180,000 listed under town hall improvements – which Public Works Director Chuck Pavlos said might be a smaller number now as some of it has been used – be moved to operating funds.

“Unfortunately, that doesn’t help the stormwater conversation but it does help with Irma cleanup in that we will have it in a place where we can actually use it,” Campbell said.

The council made a motion based on Campbell’s recommendation that passed 4-1, with Raymond dissenting.

After nearly two hours of discussion regarding amendments to the CIP and directing staff regarding stormwater improvements, the council turned to an item of old businees regarding this summer’s Fourth of July celebration. The town’s original contract with Moosehaven has the retirement community holding a Fourth of July event on July 7, the Saturday following the holiday.

John Capes, executive director of Moosehaven, quickly laid this contract to rest.

“Well we can solve this problem pretty easily. We’re not going to hold the event on the seventh, simple as that,” Capes said.

Instead, Capes told the council that the celebration can take place on the Fourth of July, or not at all, citing expenses that reach past $100,000 – expenses Capes said Moosehaven covers the majority of. He said the event has seen a continued decline in community attendance and overall revenue in recent years.

“If you agree that we will reduce the scope of the event, I think that it’s still a good event and it allows us to celebrate on the Fourth of July without incurring the enormous expense that we would otherwise incur,” Capes said. “That is my counteroffer to you.”

According to Campbell, the contract does not include specific events that will take place during the celebration but it does include what the Town of Orange Park is going to provide.

“[Orange Park] will provide $10,000 plus support through our police, fire and public works department,” Campbell said. “The celebration will be on July 4 now and the town will provide the same level of support it has in prior years but Moosehaven is going to scale back.”

Capes said he envisions a smaller Fourth of July event to consist of some local entertainment acts rather than a national headliner act, a collection of food trucks, and a start time of 5 p.m. with a fireworks show at 9:20 p.m.

The council voted 5-0 to approve the contract with the amended date of July 4.

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