Community Briefs 12/12/19


Clay County gets federal grant to enhance, enforce public safety

TAMPA – Clay County will get $33,100 of the more than $376 million in grant funding from the Department of Justice to enhance state, local and tribal law enforcement operations and reinforce public safety efforts in jurisdictions across the United States – with $14,444,949 going directly to the Middle District of Florida.

The awards were made by the Department’s Office of Justice Programs.

“Crime and violence hold families, friends and neighborhoods hostage, and they rip communities apart,” said OJP Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan. “These programs help restore the health and safety of crime-ravaged communities by supporting prevention activities, aiding in the apprehension and prosecution of perpetrators, facilitating appropriate sentencing and adjudication, and providing communities and their residents the means for recovery and healing.”

The Fourth Judicial Circuit of the State Attorney’s Office, which includes Clay County, also will get $360,000 for the BJA Innovative Prosecution Solutions for Combatting Violent Crime Program.

The awards announced today support an array of crime-fighting initiatives, including the quarter-billion-dollar Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grants Program, which funds public safety efforts in 929 state, local and tribal jurisdictions.

Funding also supports sex offender registration and notification, law enforcement-based victim services, the testing of sexual assault kits, and programs designed to address youth with sexual behavioral problems. Other awards will focus on wrongful convictions, intellectual property enforcement, innovative prosecution strategies and the safety and effectiveness of corrections systems.

“We are confident that our public safety and community partners will utilize these additional resources in the most effective manner possible,” said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez. “Coupled with various lessons learned, innovative ideas, and a commitment to reduce crime at every turn, we intend to make our communities safer places to live, work and play.”

CalaVida’s Christmas Carols in Spring Park on Dec. 19

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Local singers will converge to Spring Park on Dec. 19 for the Christmas Carols in Spring Park. The program will include 16 holiday songs, directed by Fred Kunkel and featuring accompanist Donna Jones, along with hot cocoa and cider. The performance will start at 6:30 p.m.

The show is hosted by CalaVida.

Operation Green Light: 22,000 drivers have tickets removed from creditors

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Nearly 22,000 Florida drivers had their outstanding traffic fines removed from collection agencies as part of October’s Operation Green Light.

The program allowed drivers to pay outstanding tickets or set up payment plans. In return, interest and collection fees were dropped from most cases.

"I felt like it was a success overall," Clay County Clerk of Court said. "We are monitoring the progress of those individuals that got on a payment plan in hopes that they will stay compliant. We learned a few valuable lessons as it relates to the overall process for an individual to gain their license back and will be looking at ways to work with all our partners to streamline the process for next year’s event so even more achieve that goal."

According to the Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers 10,264 tickets were paid in full, while 22,502 set up payment plans and 87 were allowed to make payment through community service. Some drivers had multiple tickets, so there were more tickets than listed drivers.

By paying in full, 1,782 driver’s licenses were reinstated, while 9,842 drivers had their reinstatements made eligible for reversal.

“Clerks were thrilled at the turnout for Operation Green Light,” said Stacy M. Butterfield, CPA, Polk County Clerk of Court and Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers President. “The event saved citizens money by pulling old debts out of collection. More importantly, its residual effects will continue to help our state by getting people back on the road to drive to and from work and school, making it easier to contribute to their households and society.”

While the primary goal of Operation Green Light was to help customers save money and drive legally, the innovative event also aided clerks’ collections efforts. With 61 clerks reporting, $2.7 million was collected through Operation Green Light. The state will receive $1.1 million, with local governments and county operations receiving the remaining $1.6 million.

Three counties – Hillsborough, Broward and Escambia – will conduct their Operation Green Light programs early next year.

Shepherd’s Center opens registration for winter classes

ORANGE PARK – The Winter classes begin Jan. 13 and Jan. 16 at the Shepherd’s Center of Orange Park.

The program will have a number of new classes and returning favorites: Android phone instruction, geography, i-phone, Grandma Moses, quilting, resin and wrap art, trivia, art appreciation, greeting cards, beginning bridge and favorites from the fall session, lots of variety to meet everyone's tastes.

To register, visit the Shepherd’s Center website.

Love to learn, make new friends, have fun and make a difference? See why hundreds of adults 55 and older come to the Shepherd's Center of Orange Park. Whether you're looking to stimulate your mind, get fit or release your creativity, we have fun, friendly classes for you.

FDOT directs rail safety measures, launches education initiative

TALLAHASSEE – As part of its promise to ensure safety is the top priority across the state’s rail corridors, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin J. Thibault, P.E. issued an immediate directive calling for the implementation of unprecedented rail safety measures and the launch of a statewide education initiative. The directive has the explicit goal of preventing additional fatalities on or near rail crossings on state roads and state-owned land crossings.

“One fatality on our rail crossings is one too many, and I am committed to doing everything I can as Secretary to prevent additional tragedies from occurring across our state,” Thibault said. “Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, FDOT has been empowered to implement bold ideas that will increase the safety of our transportation system, and I am confident today’s directive not only exceeds industry safety standards, but it also designates Florida as a nationwide leader in rail safety.”

Secretary Thibault’s directive includes the following actions:

• Immediately begin implementing an engineering countermeasure called “dynamic envelopes” at every existing FDOT roadway and state-owned land rail crossing across the state.

• Require the inclusion of a dynamic envelope in the standard design of any future railroad crossings on FDOT roadways or state-owned land rail crossings.

• Launch a data-driven statewide rail safety education initiative. “Operation STRIDE” (Statewide Traffic and Railroad Initiative using Dynamic Envelopes) will be conducted in conjunction with rail partners to include earned, social, and digital media.

• Partner with state and local law enforcement agencies, including the Florida Highway Patrol, sheriffs, and police chiefs, to help enforce rail safety laws.

Continue to partner with local and private rail partners by sharing FDOT rail safety design standards and framework and encouraging their participation and implementation of the safety and engineering efforts.

“This announcement truly showcases that FDOT is committed to keeping those who utilize the state’s transportation system safe and could serve as a national model,” said Florida Transportation Commission Chairman, Ronald Howse. “I applaud the Governor’s leadership and Secretary Thibault’s bold and unprecedented actions to address rail safety in Florida.”

In 2014 and 2017, FDOT conducted dynamic envelope pilot programs in south and central Florida, respectively. Following the installation of the dynamic envelope, traffic data indicated that the number of vehicles that stopped on or too close to rail crossings was reduced by at least 15%.

The directive combines additional engineering countermeasures with education and enforcement countermeasures; therefore, FDOT anticipates even more compliance with rail safety laws.

The attached memorandum from the FDOT Chief Engineer was sent to FDOT’s senior leadership today and work to implement the dynamic envelopes on more than 4,000 rail crossings across Florida is anticipated to be completed by March 2022. The estimated cost is nearly $60 million and will be absorbed by FDOT over the next three fiscal years.

Artist grants offered by Community Foundation for NE Florida

JACKSONVILLE – Applications are now open for individual artists in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns County to apply for an Art Ventures grant from The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. Individual Artist Grants are designed to help Northeast Florida artists emerge to the next level of their artistic careers.

Since 1990, Art Ventures has made more than 200 grants to individual artists through this program.

The maximum grant request is $3,500. The deadline is March 12.

For more information and to apply, go to


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