Letters to the Editor 4/2/20


Former mayor supports Orange Park Plaza, Provision Impact Ventures project

My name is Jim Renninger and I speak to you from the perspective of a long-term resident who has lived in Orange Park for over 35 years, a military officer who spent 26 years as a Navy Pilot out at Cecil Field, as your elected representative on OP Town Council for nine years serving as your Mayor on two separate occasions.
Before I moved to my current residence off Dr. Lake Drive, I remember Orange Park as being an out of the way little town. As I drove through, I still remember Kingsley Ave with trees in the median. I can remember times before there was an Orange Park Mall or I-295. I remember a two-lane highway called US-17 which had ranger stations every few miles between here and Palatka. More recently, I remember a four lane Dr. Lake bridge connecting two six-lane highways.
Locally I remember Horton’s Garage, Sugar Bear Nursery, Lil Sambo Restaurant, Pizza Inn, the Clay Leader, and other institutions of times gone by. Orange Park has really changed with the times.
As a Captain in the Navy, we had nearly the same responsibility for our troops as we do for our families. Responsibility which goes down to our children as well as up to our parents as well as our whole extended family. In other words, I took care of my adopted Navy family as well…Shipmates take care of shipmates.
Walking door-to-door talking to our residents, one of the common comments was their pleasure with our public safety department. We have the best Police, Fire and EMS service in the area. Another frequently made comment is the fact we have easy access to a variety of health care services – all within 2 miles of our home. We are blessed to have ENT, podiatry, general practitioners, optometrists, dermatologists, imaging, audiologists, chiropractic, dental, counseling, and world class rehabilitation, palliative, and Trauma/Hospital care in Orange Park. Our school system has been rated an “A” two years in a row with individual school scores nearly all of which were “B” or better.
Military presence in the NE Florida region provides a tremendous boost to our local economy. With more than 95,000 jobs, military training which fills our hotels and restaurants, one of only two Fleet Readiness Centers in the nation and a major ship basin, all providing a total economic impact of over $10B annually. Each one of these services requires technical professionals who in general aren’t highly compensated. Our newly certified teachers earn $37K ranking 33 out of our 50 states. Our OPPD officers start even lower at $36K which is one of the lowest in the area. Aircraft technicians earn an average $42K a year. Harvard researchers found that in 2016, nearly half of renters were cost-burdened (defined as spending 30% or more of their income on rent). Nearly two-thirds of renters nationwide say they can’t afford to buy a home, and saving for that down payment isn’t going to get easier anytime soon: Home prices are rising at twice the rate of wage growth. Housing at a rate that our young professionals can afford is at a premium throughout the United States.
A quick analysis of OP Town Staff reveals 63% fall into the target salary range projected for this project. Also included in such a population are those widows/widowers and retirees who ‘need to’ or ‘desire to’ downsize. Compared to its current utilization, Orange Park Plaza will bring prosperity to our town. It will bring youth to our town. Youth bring offspring to fill our schools. Today’s youth seek a place where they can live, work and play. Youth want convenience. Youth want new/modern. Orange Park Plaza may be part of the solution to many issues facing this community. It may be the model which we replicate throughout the county.
I see Orange Park Plaza will provide a convenient, safe and affordable residence to those who are just starting their careers as well as those who have completed their careers. Those who we rely upon to provide the services we enjoy. Orange Park Plaza is a project which will provide revenue at a location which has not provided revenue to the town in many decades. Revenue from ad valorem taxes, sewer, water, and electricity fees. Taxes & fees which will help OP meet “our” financial obligations in the future. I believe mixed use development’s time has come. State data indicates our population is growing at a rate of 900 people a day.
Orange Park is one of the first stops on this “domestic migration”. I believe now is the time to investigate the advantages which a project such as Orange Park Plaza will provide. With the economic turbulence ongoing since COVID-19 pandemic, I think we should take full advantage of this great opportunity.
Still serving,

Jim Renninger

Clay Today ran the following police brief in the March 12 edition:

CCSO: Man charged with murder after stabbing father 20 times

MIDDLEBURG – A man was charged with second-degree murder after the Clay County Sheriff’s Office said he stabbed his father more than 20 times in the face, neck and back.

Danny Richard Dustin, 37, apparently got into a fight with his father, Richard Dustin, on March 6. Deputies found both men under a coffee table in the living room, along with two kitchen knives, at 1972 Wren Lane.

Richard Dustin was pronounced dead at the scene, CCSO said, while Danny Dustin, who was “foaming at the mouth and covered in blood,” was taken to Orange Park Medical Center to be treated for non-life-threatening injuries. He was released from the hospital on March 8 and immediately was jailed without bond.

The defendant reached out to Clay Today to give his side of the story. Here is his letter:

Dear Clay Today:

My name is Danny Dustin, and I reside at Clay County Jail for 2nd degree murder.

I love how a story can be twisted in one direction without properly reporting all the truths.

I told the investigator what really happened, but he still wrote down on the things that made me look like a monster.

My father, Richard Dustin, was a verbally abusive parent and [he] put his hands on me twice since I’ve been out of prison (end of October).

We have a big lawsuit going with CCSO because we got rear [ended] on Feb. 24th by a cop!

On March 6th when this tragedy [happened], I had walked to the store and grabbed 2 beers. I had 6 hours before I had to be at work. But when I got home, he [smelled] the alcohol on me and called my P.O. (parole officer) to report that I had been drinking.

So in retaliation I told him I was going to call the lawyer and tell him that he brake checked the officer on purpose. Then I threatened to call the cops and have him arrested for insurance fraud.

He was enraged and hit me in the eye with his palm. Then [he] started pushing toward the door.

I hit him one time and he fell between the table and chair. Then he grabbed the knife off the table as I walked over to him. He stabbed me in my inner thigh. I dove on top of him and we wrestled over the knife.

I had 6 lacerations and was in ICU for two days. This was not a one-sided fight or murder.

My father was an ex-marine and outweighed me by 120 pounds. And I had no choice but to feel like he would have caused me serious bodily harm if I allowed him to get up.

Someone said he did [it] on purpose to send me back to jail so he could keep the money all to himself. I honestly can’t say, he verbally attacked me and I verbally attacked back. All this happened so fast, but he only got physical when I threatened to call the cops on him and ruin his lawsuit.

I suppose in his mind, he could send me back to prison for something stupid and live the rest of his life wealthy. Thank you for listening.

Danny Dustin


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