St Johns County Administrator update

300-Wanchick-SJCSt Johns County Administrator update
Michael Wanchick

This year was a busy one for the Board of County Commissioners and staff as new projects began, economic development increased, and we all worked to provide a superior level of service while continually maintaining a financially conservative approach to funding priorities and the County’s budget.

With the holidays upon us, many of us are busy wrapping up the projects we started in 2012 and looking forward to new initiatives in 2013.

• 2012 Economic Development – 2012 was a landmark year for economic development in St. Johns County. The second largest home builder in the country, D.R. Horton, announced plans to build a new 25,100-square-foot St. Johns County regional headquarters that will employ 270 employees when complete. 2G Cenergy celebrated the grand opening of its first U.S. manufacturing facility and headquarters, which will have an annual impact of $100 million and be the corporate home to approximately 125 employees. Memorial Hospital opened a 12-bed, 11,000-square-foot, free standing emergency room and full-service urgent care center offering dedicated pediatrics services. And to wrap up the year, Advanced Disposal announced the decision to relocate their corporate headquarters to St. Johns County. The company is leasing approximately 56,000 square feet in a move that is expected to bring 120 new jobs and a capital investment of approximately $4 million. Publix opened a successful new Vilano Beach location that has outperformed all projections, and plans are underway to revitalize the shopping center located on the northwest corner of the US-1 and SR-312 intersection. The center will offer new shopping and dining opportunities and visual improvements along the busiest retail corridors in St Augustine.

• The St. Johns County Small Business Development Center continues to produce impressive results and has assisted 618 individuals, helped open 60 new businesses, and created 250 jobs since opening in 2009.

• Our Board of County Commissioners was recognized in numerous publications this year for expediting economic development projects, creating a business-friendly environment, and supporting the local business community.

• Residential Building Permits – Complimenting the corporate business growth, we also experienced a boom in residential development that defied state and national trends. According to the Northeast Florida Builders association, the number of building permits issued by St. Johns County in 2012 rivaled the total number issued in Duval, Clay, and Nassau counties combined. A number of regional publications cited a high quality of life and an excellent school system as two of the primary reasons for the continued interest in new residential developments.

• St. Johns County’s Managed Investment Performance – The County’s Financial Advisor, Public Financial Management, recently presented an update on the County’s investment accounts to the Board of County Commissioners. The advisor indicated that the County’s investment portfolios reported higher quarterly and annual returns than the benchmark performance indices and are considered high credit quality.

• Bond refinancing – In addition, the Board of County Commissioners recently voted to refinance $44.6 million in bonds from 2004. In achieving an interest rate decrease of almost 1.5% for a new rate of 3.55%, we realized a $3.2 million savings, which was double the original savings projection.

• Legislative Action Plan and Delegation Meeting – The St. Johns County Legislative Delegation held a meeting on December 17 at the St. Johns County Administrative Building to solicit public testimony on legislative issues, appropriations, and local bills. The Board of County Commissioners previously adopted the 2013 St. Johns County Legislative Action Plan and presented it to the Legislative Delegation during the meeting. St. Johns County priorities for the upcoming legislative session include Florida statute amendments, transportation projects and funding, water quality, and unfunded mandates. The Legislative Action Plan is available for review online.

• Council on Aging Contracts and Funding – The Board adopted resolutions approving contracts between St. Johns County and the Council on Aging, Inc. (COA) to provide funds for sunshine bus service, paratransit services, enhanced veteran services, and a Veterans Initiative Grant. In addition, the Board voted to renew COA’s operation of The Players Community Center and the Trout Creek Pavilion and the Community Center. Renewal of the contracts reaffirms St. Johns County’s partnership with the COA in providing services and programming to our residents.

• Retirements and Recognitions – The end of the year often brings retirements and service recognitions in St. Johns County. The Board of County Commissioners recently recognized several individuals for their service to St. Johns County including retiring employees Charles “Chuck” Stevens with the Solid Waste Department and Deresa Lane with the Fire Rescue EMS Billing Department for more 32 years of individual service to the County. In addition, the Board recognized Public Works employees Timmy Russell and Greg Kennedy for 35 years of individual service to the County.