State reps receive laundry list of needs for county

Annual event to inform Congress ahead of upcoming legislative session

By Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 9/22/21

CLAY COUNTY – Another year, another round of legislative delegation.The Board of County Commissioners, along with constituents and local elected spent two hours last week telling Florida Sen. …

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State reps receive laundry list of needs for county

Annual event to inform Congress ahead of upcoming legislative session


CLAY COUNTY – Another year, another round of legislative delegation.
The Board of County Commissioners, along with constituents and local elected spent two hours last week telling Florida Sen. Jennifer Bradley (District 5, Fleming Island) and Reps. Sam Garrison (District 18, Fleming Island) and Bobby Payne (District 19, Palatka) about their financial aid need before they return to Tallahassee for the upcoming legislative session.
“These delegation meetings are really critical for us as we head to Tallahassee for the upcoming sessions to know what’s important to our elected officials, concerned citizens and to different groups that rely on state resources,” Bradley said. “This is an opportunity to come and listen. We need to get information from the community so that when we go back to Tallahassee and work together as a delegation, we can be successful in moving this community forward and lifting it up.”
All three heard from dozens of constituents, business leaders and elected officials. Before that, though, the three made clear what they’re overall goals are this year going into legislative delegation. Bradley said two things are constitutionally required: a balanced budget and a successful redistricting, which itself is a process that happens just once every 10 years.
Up to bat first was commissioner Wayne Bolla on behalf of the BCC. He stressed the importance of securing additional funding for the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, which is facing a myriad of financial problems such as non-competitive salaries, employee loss and an inadequate jail. Bolla said CCSO offers salaries $10,000 less where they should be, and that the county’s jail needs more than $30 million in expansion and improvements.
“Our 2022 priorities for CCSO are continuing to build relationships, drive down crime and prepare for growth,” Sheriff Michelle Cook said. “We have a jail capacity issue, as well. It was built in 1972 and has been expanded twice and the last time was in 1992. We are either at or above capacity every day. This is the alligator closest to the kayak and it’s about to bite us.”
Cook and Bolla also mentioned that the jail is hoping to expand to use the space currently used by administration for jailing criminals. If so, a new administration building would have to be constructed.
Clay County School District Superintendent David Broskie said on top of the continued funding the district receives, the district could use additional funding for safety and security.
“We ask to maintain the required local effort to ensure our schools are properly funded throughout the state,” Broskie said. “Safety and security is another top priority for us. Providing that service vs the cost to fund it...has [the district] at a $2 million deficit [for safety and security].”
Broskie said the district would like funding to alleviate that deficit and additional funding to go toward mental health services in schools. He also hopes to see the county’s three Community Partnership schools — Keystone Heights Junior Senior High, Wilkinson Junior High and Orange Park High — receive their continual funding due to their importance to the community. 
On the municipalities side of things, Town Manager Sarah Campbell said Orange Park needs help with grants.
“We have a couple of grant programs that we hope for your support on,” Campbell said. “The Division of Historical Resources ... we applied for a grant for the rehabilitation of historical properties ... and we want to rehabilitate the Clarke House Cottage.”
Campbell said the town is also applying for some Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program grants that were not funded last year. She said the town hopes to receive some money to work on some large-scale grants. Campbell also said as part of House Bill 49, the town is looking to classify dispatchers as first responders for workers compensation purposes and fund one-hour training courses from licensed medical health instructors to help dispatchers further cope with the stress of the job better.

“We’d also ask that you continue to protect home rule,” Campbell said. “The concept that the best decisions for our community are those that can be made at the local level and we appreciate your support. The decisions that are right for Orange Park aren’t necessarily the best for Keystone Heights and we appreciate that flexibility.”
Green Cove Springs Mayor Edward Gaw said the city would like to receive some funding to improve the Governor’s Creek boat ramp. He said it’s a piece of property held by the Florida Department of Transportation.
“When you come into Clay County off [Interstate] 295, the first view of the [St. Johns River] is the Doctor’s Lake Bridge,” Gaw said. “Then there’s the Black Creek Bridge and the third view is the Governor’s Creek bridge. On any given weekend, Clay County has boat ramps at capacity and people are running across highways with coolers because [of the lack of parking]. This project is low-hanging fruit and it’s an asset that requires some attention.”
Keystone Heights mayor Karen Lake said the city’s list of needs is short. They’re looking to secure about $135,000 for a feasibility study for water and sewage at the Keystone Heights airport. She said the city is also looking to secure a mast arm for the intersection of State Road 21 and State Road 100 since S.R. 100 is an evacuation route, she said a mast arm is very much needed.
“Thank you to everyone who came out,” Garrison said. “One of the great things about living in Florida is that we have the opportunity to speak our minds and have a healthy, vigorous debate and that’s part of being an American.”


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