Can you feel it Clay County? Significant changes are coming to our community.
At first glance, it’s easy to see one huge change – the First Coast Expressway and how it will lead to more people coming to live here. This coming spring, the last leg of construction is scheduled to get underway from the Blanding Boulevard intersection that opened this year to Green Cove Springs.
This segment will travel through the southern portion of Clay County and eventually result in a new Shands Bridge as its continues east and connects with Interstate 95 in St. Johns County. And with it will come growth. Lots of growth.
Another change is the Dec. 14 news that County Manager Stephanie Kopelousos will be leaving to work for Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The Board of County Commissioners must work hard to find a new county manager who can keep up the momentum Kopelousos brought to the county government when she came on board in 2011.
She leaves at a time several things – wish list items if you will – are unresolved.
Will the county fund and build a new headquarters for Animal Services, formerly Animal Care and Control? Will the county take action to implement suggested upgrades and renovations at the Clay County Fairgrounds?
And then there was the plan floated in recent years to build a new county government facility in the Oakleaf area that would house a new library, fire station and other county offices. What about that?
And then there are two issues that are coming as a result of the Nov. 6 election.
How will Amendment 10 play out in Clay County? As prescribed in the amendment, the duties of County Comptroller should be placed back under the governance of the Clerk of Court. There’s been zero public discussion about this since the election.
And then there is Amendment 4, which would restore voting rights to Florida felons who have served their time and paid their fines. Except for those convicted of first-degree murder and sex offenders, the amendment is scheduled to become law of the land on Jan. 8.
However, in recent legislative delegation meetings, there has been some verbal wrangling about how state lawmakers now say want a separate piece of enabling legislation passed before implementing Amendment 4, which would give voting rights back to about 1.5 million Florida residents. Meanwhile, the Florida Legislature does not convene until March.
Remember how the similarly popular voter initiative about medical marijuana became dragged down in the Florida Legislature after lawmakers took control of the amendment and shaped it what they wanted?
Could the same thing happen to Amendment 4?
And finally, there is the county charter amendment that Clay County voters passed on Nov. 6 to enact term limits on the county’s constitutional officers. There is no concrete message or guideline or discussion on how that will unfold locally either. Inquiring minds want to know, especially since the County Commission placed the item on the ballot after the Charter Review Commission decided not to take up the issue.
And then, looking ahead here, is the 2020 election cycle. A number of Clay County office holders will be impacted by term limits by the end of 2019. It will be interesting to see who throws in their hat for either of the positions that are slated to become open.
Happy New Year, Clay County!