Letter: No more free rent
Merrill Paul Roland, Esq.
St Johns County, FL
Dear Historic City News editor:
On Wednesday, January 23, 2019, I requested a copy of the rental agreement or lease for office space between St. Johns County and the “Friends of A1A Scenic and Historic Coastal Byway” located at 2175 Mizell Road St. Augustine Florida.
Betty Dixon, a legal services specialist in the Office of County Attorney, acknowledged my public records request on Thursday, January 24th.
On Friday, February 8th, I received confirmation that apparently no such agreement exists. Dixon replied, “After a reasonable review, the County has found no records responsive to your request at this time.”
I informed each of the county commissioners, the county administrator, and county attorney that I was aware that the private group, Friends of A1A Scenic and Historic Coastal Byway, has been receiving free rent and utilities for office space in the county Parks & Recreation headquarters for at least 10-years. The offices on Mizell Road are in a prime commercial location.
I question if this freebie is being given because former County Commissioner Bill McClure is chairman of this private group? Or, perhaps, because Robert Samuels, executive vice chairman of the St. Augustine Beach Civic Association, is treasurer of Friends of A1A Scenic and Historic Coastal Byway?
As a St Johns County taxpaying resident for more than 30-years, I object to this special and selective free rent to one entity. Since there is no lease, there is no proof of liability insurance that would hold harmless all county taxpayers in the event of a loss claim. That is a standard requirement of all leases made by the county with private individuals or groups.
Please cease and desist the free rental of our county property to these squatters.