In the last issue of the County Administrator’s bi-weekly newsletter, Historic City News takes note of Michael Wanchick’s reflections on some major accomplishments of the past year.
“The continued hard work and dedication of the staff has been recognized with numerous awards throughout 2008”, Wanchick said.
The Utility Department was honored as the first place winner of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s 2008 National Clean Water Act Recognition Award, in addition to the Northeast Florida Regional Council’s Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Award.
The Health and Human Services Department also achieved major milestones this year. In November the County learned the Department had received international accreditation by the Council on Accreditation, a four-year recognition that groups the County’s agency among the best in the world. Additionally, the County’s Family Integrity Program became the first in the state of Florida to achieve the statewide initiative to reduce by 50 percent the number of children in foster care by 2012. The achievement shows the success of pretreatment and intervention programs that allow children to remain safely in their own homes.
Additional recognitions include awards from the First Coast Chapter of the Florida Planning and Zoning Association for both the new Administration Building and the I-95/County Road 210 intersection improvement project.
St. Johns County was also named a “Heart Ready County” by the American Heart Association due to our program to promote Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) machines in County facilities and throughout the community.
Additionally, Amy Gilboy Meide in the Land Management Department was named a TogetherGreen Fellow by the Audubon Society, an award that included a $10,000 grant for a conservation project at the St. Johns County golf course.
Also, the Council on Aging’s Sunshine Bus Company was honored nationally as the 2008 Community Transportation System of the Year, as well as regionally by the Northeast Florida Regional Council with the Excellence in Public Transportation Award.
Additionally, the County Finance Department and Office of Management and Budget each received Government Finance Officer’s Association (GFOA) awards for financial and budget reporting. The GFOA award is the highest quality indicator available, and the County has received these awards for 16 consecutive years.
Wanchick also commended the staff of St. Johns County who responded with great generosity to an Employee Food Drive in November and collected more than 20,000 items to be given to community members in need. The donations came from all county departments, with the Fire Rescue staff leading the way with more than 11,000 donations. The Health and Human Services staff used the food to supply Thanksgiving food baskets to more than 200 families, and then had enough left to fully stock the food pantry. The generous donations of our staff are a testament to the dedication and spirit with which they serve the residents of St. Johns County on a daily basis.
The upcoming year may be the most difficult we will face regarding the effects of property tax reform, decreasing property values, and a struggling economy; accordingly we anticipate the need for additional budget cuts. The answers will not be easy as tough decisions will need to be made about services and priorities, essential responsibilities of government and quality of life.
We also will be searching for a way to fund the Fire Rescue Master Plan and return to the schedule that will provide critical public safety to some underserved segments of the County.
And we continue to address the need to increase our commercial tax base and expand economic development, as well as protect the environment and precious natural resources.
“I would also be remiss if I did not recognize the hundreds of volunteers who have contributed thousands of volunteer hours to the community during 2008” said Wanchick in closing. “As budgets continue to be reduced, the services of our volunteers are simply invaluable.”
Many County departments depend heavily on volunteers, including the Library, Recreation and Parks, Health and Human Services, Animal Control, Housing and Community Services, and the Extension Service. As an example of the contributions volunteers make, the Cooperative Extension Service had more than 100 volunteers contribute nearly 5,000 hours to the 4-H program, and more than 150 Master Gardener volunteers gave more than 11,000 hours to the community. The independent Sector Organization values volunteer time at $17.38 per hour, which calculates the 2008 value of the Extension Service volunteers at more than $289,000. Thanks to the efforts of volunteers throughout the County, we are able to save hundreds of thousands of dollars while still providing quality public services.