Q: Can you provide some insight into the recent news about the FEMA allocation for some St. Johns County beach restoration projects?
A: As background, hurricanes Matthew and Irma devastated our coastline nearly five years ago and we now have the federal government stepping in with an allocation from FEMA. The FEMA berm is to cover Ponte Vedra Beach, South Ponte Vedra Beach and a portion of Crescent Beach. These are the communities that opted in for the allocation. For the project, 75 percent of the funds will come from the federal government, 12.5 percent will come from the state and 12.5 percent, or roughly $3 million, will come from St. Johns County. This was budgeted before I was elected, but I think it was a good policy decision. 

Q: How does this affect NW St. Johns County?
A: This is not a dredging project. Due to the volume of sand required, it will be trucked in and the Board of County Commissioners decided to use Mickler’s Landing due to the anticipated 500 dump trucks per day estimated by engineers. Mickler’s Landing beach access and parking lot will be closed on weekdays beginning in September for the three months that the project is scheduled. Mickler’s will be open on the weekends. People will also still have beach access via Guana and points south.

Q: Can you give an update on the “bed tax?”
A: The Tourist Development Tax (TDT), commonly known as the “bed tax,” had its first reading for a one percent increase, from 4 percent to 5 percent, at our Board of County Commissioners meeting on June 15. It is scheduled for a second reading and vote at the July 20 commission meeting; a super majority, or 4 – 1 vote, is needed to pass. When I ran for county commissioner, I said I would not raise taxes on St. Johns County residents. This tax is only levied on those who rent a hotel room or short-term rental, mostly tourists. We have the lowest bed tax of any coastal county in Florida at this time and this has been an ongoing conversation for some time. I believe with the popularity of St. Augustine with tourists, it should not be a discount destination. 

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Q: What can you tell us about the recently held budget workshops?
A: On May 24, 25, and 26, we attended the county administrator’s budget workshops for fiscal year 2022 and this provided us with the first look at the proposed budget. I think it is important to keep our community safe and response times low, so I will be supporting Sheriff Hardwick’s and Fire Chief Prevatt’s budgets, which both contain increases due to our increased population. 

There are also dollars in the budget to address deficient roadways, including County Road 210W between Cimarrone and Greenbriar Road. Unfortunately, it won’t be completed until 2023.

Lastly, I know we have a tremendous need for more ballfields in the Northwest. We haven’t done a great job addressing this lately, and I’m fighting for more money for this in this year’s budget as I don’t think we have any time to waste. This is a priority for me, right below public safety and roads.

Q: Do you have anything else to share with District 1?
A: I’d like to wish everyone a safe and Happy 4th of July!

Q: What is the best way for our readers to contact you?

A: Readers can email me at  bcc1cwhitehurst@sjcfl.us or call me at (904) 584-5348. 

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