West Augustine activist Greg White was first to speak during last night’s city commission meeting in a line of others who would follow to express thanks and support for continuing the sewer expansion project to serve county residents who live outside the city limits.
After White concluded his remarks, during the public comment segment of the agenda, City Commissioner Errol Jones interjected criticism aimed at the local newspaper for allowing anonymous comments that he characterized as “bigoted and racist” to appear on the Internet website published by The St Augustine Record.
Jones went on to say it was irresponsible for The Record to publish such comments to the Internet without also publishing the identity of the person making them; describing the newspaper’s policy as “an embarrassment to the City”.
Sensing that some of the ten citizens who had submitted a “comment card” to address the commission intended to speak to persuade the members to support a $300,000 feasibility study and multi-million dollar sewer system expansion, St Augustine Mayor Joe Boles announced that the city had already made that decision and that they were already moving forward to implementation.
City Manager John Regan expanded the mayor’s remarks saying that he and Assistant City Manager Tim Burchfield have already met with County Administrator Michael Wanchick and his assistant, Darrell Locklear, to be sure that all parties were on the same page. Regan concluded that they were and added that, in order to achieve a lower rate of interest, the city has already “drawn down” $300,000 against the line of credit established to finance the project.
Some in the audience, including Betty (B. J.) Kalaidi, a Newcomb Street activist and frequent speaker at city commission meetings, appeared surprised at the mayor and city manager’s remarks. Kalaidi recalled the previous commission meeting, before the Christmas holidays, where skepticism still lingered over enforcing requirements against non-city residents to connect to the city-owned sewer system after it is built. In that meeting, Commission Jones said he did not want the county to make the city “the bad guys” when it came to insisting West Augustine residents abandon their existing septic tanks.
City and county residents, supporting the new West Augustine sewer system announced affiliations with the St. Johns County Community Redevelopment Agency for the West Augustine Area, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, members of the West Augustine business community and other organizations. Speakers in support included Trudye Thompson, Annie Mae Tucker, Dwalla Willis, Willie Cooper, Moses Floyd, Robert Nimmons. Judith Seraphin and Ed Slavin, who spoke on other topics, mentioned their support, as well.
Photo credits: © 2012 Historic City News staff photographer