• Putnam County Board of County Commissioners •
Bottom Row L to R: Buddy Goddard, District 5; Bill Pickens, District 1; Tommy Stilwell, District 3
Top Row L to R: Chip Laibl, District 2; Larry Harvey, District 4
|"Serving you, meeting today's challenges and focusing on the future"|
|"To make Putnam County local government the most responsive and effective government in Florida, while making|
|Putnam County the best place to live, work and raise a family"|
October 2015 - September 2016
Some counties are experiencing a change in their financial outlooks as tax bases grow and fiscal positions begin to trend upward. Regrettably, while many of our sister counties are enjoying this positive growth, Putnam County is not keeping pace. The County continues to cope with issues created by property tax reform in 2007 and the subsequent passage of Amendment 1 which has resulted in limiting growth and diminished projections in annual revenue forecasts. Diminishing revenue, or at best, revenue that remains constant from one fiscal year to the next, creates a difficult situation for the County in being able to afford to enhance services to citizens or to have the financial resources to improve the quality of life for those being served as well as those who are providing the services. These limited financial resources make it even more imperative that the County broaden its tax base through economic development and the creation of jobs, but efforts to do so have been hampered by the continued economic slowdown affecting the County. Positive economic indicators are occurring in areas surrounding our County, but the trickle-down effect is slow to impact Putnam County even though, recently, there have been encouraging signs in increased economic activity, lower unemployment and more active real estate transactions. The overall growth in the countywide tax valuation is negligible, thus exacerbating the County’s inability to cope with growing budgetary pressures through increased property tax revenue.
The County, in concert with its economic development partners, is attempting to attract business, expand the tax base and create jobs. The Business Park on St. John’s Avenue should be a major attraction to companies and businesses considering relocation. Previously, the County, in partnership with a private developer, constructed a 52,000 square foot industrial shell building in the Park. This building remains available, and it is hoped that this will attract a prospect that has an interest in a facility which can be readily completed to expedite start-up in a new location. Some prospects have demonstrated interest in the building, and a Purchase Agreement executed with a prospect should become final in early 2017. Successful marketing of this structure may serve as the cornerstone for future development within the Park. Also, the County has changed its future land use map to designate several properties throughout the County for large scale industrial use in order to provide some diversity in potential locations for businesses which may have an interest in Putnam County.
In order to make the Business Park a more attractive and viable facility for economic development, the County undertook a project to extend the entry road through the Park from its former terminus to County Road 309C. This first phase extension will afford industrial prospects an enhanced visual of the Park and give our economic development professionals a talking point in their recruitment efforts. Successful recruitment of a prospect with related construction of a facility will enable the County to apply for grant funds to assist with additional infrastructure improvements in the form of utility extensions and road widening. The road project cost approximately $1.5 million, and grant funds from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity were used to undertake stormwater permitting and platting of the Business Park to enhance its marketability.
Improving roads in all areas of the County through resurfacing, widening and turning “dirt to pavement” will continue to be a major priority for the County both now and in the future to improve quality of life and bolster efforts in economic development. The evaluation of alternative asphalt mixes has aided in stretching available dollars to maximize the number of miles that can be improved. While the one cent infrastructure surtax, initially approved in a referendum in September 2002 and re-authorized in 2015, provides a significant source of revenue for these road projects, the County continues to pursue grant funds from both the State and Federal governments. Additionally, the Board of Commissioners adopted ordinances in May 2009 to increase gasoline taxes resulting in more revenue dedicated to improving transportation infrastructure. Proceeds from these increased gasoline taxes began to be received in January 2010. Several roads are identified for improvement in the form of resurfacing and paving each year, and surtax dollars and gasoline tax proceeds continue to be allocated well in excess of $3 million annually for capital outlay road projects. The apportionment is generally $1 million from gasoline tax proceeds for resurfacing, and $2 million from infrastructure tax for “dirt to pavement”. This practice is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
The existing jail facility had to be addressed due to inmate capacity being exceeded on a daily basis. A needs assessment was presented in March 2011 by the architect, RQAW, and it indicated that a 224 bed expansion, renovation of existing cells and improved and expanded ancillary services was both desirable and necessary. The County evaluated possible alternative construction options, i.e., pre-cast concrete, prefabricated steel cells, etc. and determined that the most economical construction method would be prefabricated steel. It has been determined that the project scope will consist of two (2) 228 bed pods, a medical/program facility and an expansion of the kitchen storage/freezer area. Estimated cost was $18.5 million, and in August 2012 the Board of Commissioners approved the filing of an application for funding with USDA-Rural Development. Processing of the application took several months, and the County received notification in June 2013 that the loan was approved. The County proceeded with the process for procuring the services of a Construction Manager at Risk, Ajax Building Corporation, to work with the architect to finalize design of the project and to refine costs. Upon completion of the project, the existing cells will be deactivated and held for future renovation as dormitory space for misdemeanants and low-risk inmates. The final Guaranteed Maximum Price was established in November 2014 and the Notice to Proceed was issued in January 2015 with construction expected to take approximately twelve months. In December 2015 a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new jail facility was held ahead of schedule, and the inmates were transferred from the old detention facility to the new one three days later.
Notification had been provided to the County during FY 2011 that it had been awarded $1.66 million in grant funds to upgrade the Drayton Island and Ft. Gates ferry landings. Ft. Gates is Florida’s oldest active ferry service. These ferries provide access from the mainland to Drayton Island and across the St. Johns River, respectively. The grant dollars, matched with local surtax funds, will be used for improving the landings and an upgrade to the Drayton Island barge. Planning and project development has been underway more intensely during the past year, and work should be initiated in 2017. These projects have been a long time in the development phase, and several extensions have been granted.
In October 2014 the County accepted the donation of a 5,000 square foot building and property in Interlachen. The goal was to develop this facility into a Senior Center/Community Center, and a bid was awarded in October 2015 for the renovation of the building. The Center opened in Spring of 2016.
The County has worked through many issues regarding its landfill since 2013. Future directions have been reviewed and debated by a Task Force, and subsequently, an Advisory Board. Mining of a closed, unlined portion of the landfill was undertaken to allow for the development of a new cell to receive waste, and the County continues to evaluate various options to handle leachate. The County owns 1,562 acres in and around the existing landfill so the ability to provide for citizens’ solid waste disposal needs for generations is protected by having ownership of adequate acreage to do so. Operational expenses at the landfill have escalated, and the solid waste assessment paid by property owners where residences exist has increased in recent years. The most recent citizens group to present a report on landfill matters in April 2015 suggested that the County should actively solicit outside sources of solid waste. To that end, the Board of Commissioners authorized County officials to move forward in July 2015 to make contact with other entities with a desired goal of securing additional waste to generate revenue which would lead to lowering the residential solid waste assessment paid by Putnam County citizens. Efforts and negotiations to secure outside waste are still ongoing.
Grant funding from the Florida Department of Transportation was secured for the resurfacing and widening of West River Road. The County augmented those funds with local surtax funds to complete the project. Following design and bidding, this $2.7 million project was awarded in March 2015. This project was completed in March 2016.
A grant application for CDBG-Housing Rehabilitation funding had been applied for in Spring 2015. The County expected the application to garner sufficient points so that it would be eligible for award. The County accepted the grant offer in October 2015 so that eligible applicants may receive funding assistance for home improvement. The grant was for $750,000.
Currently, the County funds fire protection services through a fire tax. This is an ad valorem tax on property subject to the same exemptions as other property taxes. A more equitable way to fund this service which protects all life, health and property may be through a special assessment known as a Municipal Services Benefit Unit. This would allow the cost to be spread to all protected properties and would reduce the burden on those currently supporting the entire cost through taxation. The current tax would be eliminated. In April 2016 a consultant was engaged to conduct a study to develop a methodology that may result in a more equitable sharing of the funding of a service that protects and benefits all property. If practical, the MSBU could be implemented for the 2017-18 fiscal year.
As the County moved forward with its plan to augment volunteer fire service and fire protection in the County by establishing three strategic locations where fire personnel will be assigned 24/7, an architect was engaged to design a dormitory facility at the first of these locations. The first will be at the Satsuma Volunteer Fire Department, and the dormitory will be adjacent thereto. That property has been deeded to the County, and it is expected that bids will be awarded for construction soon after the beginning of the next fiscal year. The dormitory will house firefighters, as well as paramedics, assigned to that area. The County intends to establish similar facilities at sites in the western and central sections of the County in future fiscal years.
County Road 216 connects US17 and SR100. It is also the access road for Georgia Pacific, the major industrial facility in the county. Heavy truck traffic and employees’ access to the plant via that road has created safety concerns which warrant additional turn lanes, safety enhancements and other roadway improvements. The County has spearheaded an effort to secure funding for the project from Florida Department of Transportation, and the Department has recognized the critical condition of the road and the vital contribution to the economy made by Georgia Pacific. The State, the County and the Company have all agreed to contribute funding totaling approximately $1.8 million to improve this essential roadway. It is a project that would not be possible without the cooperative efforts of all three entities. The design and bidding should be completed during the latter part of the next fiscal year.
The countywide communication system used primarily by all law enforcement and emergency first responders throughout the entire County is aging and coverage is less widespread than desired nor is communication between users as clear and concise as preferred. A proposal to correct these deficiencies was solicited by Emergency Services, and the recommended solution will cost $9.5 million. This can be accomplished in phases, and the County will pursue Phase I in the coming fiscal year which will be the acquisition and installation of microwaves at each of the six tower locations at an estimated cost of $1.13 million.
The County has several properties in ownership which are under the purview of the Parks and Recreation Department which have not been developed or are in need of additional improvements to make them more viable as park facilities. The limited resources of the County have been an impediment to park development in recent years, and improvements have only occurred when the County has been successful in securing grant funds. Projects that will be worked on in the next fiscal year with grant funds recently secured will be at Tanglewylde and Johnson. Applications for FRDAP funds for improvements to the Georgetown and East Palatka properties are pending.
Each passing year puts increasing pressure on the County to provide services, maintain quality of life, and protect life and property with limited and diminishing financial resources. These are demands that soon may be unable to be met without further increasing the burden on the taxpaying public or considering service level reductions that may not be acceptable or wise.
In the most recent fiscal years, the County has used an unprecedented amount of cash reserves to balance its budget to maintain service levels. The continued erosion of cash reserves has weakened the County’s financial stability. This is a trend that cannot continue unabated, but stagnant revenues, especially those resulting from an anemic growth in the tax base, make it virtually impossible to consider any alternative that is not counterproductive to government service levels. However, when the County enters budget deliberations for the 17-18 fiscal year, it may have finally reached the time when admonitions of foreboding have arrived. No longer will cash reserves be available to balance the budget without crossing the threshold of fiscal integrity. The time may well have come to cut budgets, i.e., services, or raise taxes, or a combination of both. This situation may well be exacerbated by budget demands exceeding those of the past from one agency, or more.
The coming fiscal year will also provide ongoing challenges for the County as it deals with amortization of the jail debt, the East Putnam water and wastewater system and the need to expand the customer base and continued pursuit of outside solid waste. The inevitable annual struggle to balance the budget and maintain service levels without increasing the burden on taxpayers will present a set of challenges that may not be able to be met. Roads, drainage, the communication system, senior centers, libraries, the animal shelter, public safety and recreation facilities are some of the County’s responsibilities that demand additional attention. As the next fiscal year winds down and the preparations for the anticipated difficulty of FY 17-18 begin, the County can have some appreciation for a small light at the end of the tunnel. Earlier, mention was made of some encouraging signs of economic activity, and while it will not impact the tax rolls until January 2018, FPL has been granted permission to construct two solar panel fields in West Putnam County which is expected to occur in 2017. Discussion is taking place about a possible future expansion of Seminole. Other business activity may become a reality. These things can have significant positive impact in Putnam County. It will not happen overnight…. it will take time, and difficult decision-making will have to be undertaken until these progressive ideas become realities.
- Communicate, inform and educate openly and effectively
- Deliver services in a professional, respectful and courteous manner
- Demonstrate honesty and integrity in all action
- Value all contributions of our culturally diverse communities and customers
- Achieve results through teamwork
- Foster a positive, "can do" attitude
- Encourage and support innovation
- Practice long-range planning
- Provide solutions to challenges
- Customer-Focused Government
- Growth Management
- Natural Resource and Open Space Preservation
- Economic Development
- Transportation and Infrastructure Enhancements
- Families, Neighborhoods and Communities
The Board of County Commissioners serves as the legislative and policy making body for Putnam County.
The governing body has the power to perform the following duties: approve the budget, set millage rates and adopt
ordinances and resolutions necessary to carry out the operations of all County departments and programs.
The Board also has the power to adopt its own rules of procedure, select its officers and set the time and place of
its official meetings.
The Board also prepares and enforces comprehensive plans for the development of the County.
Minutes / Agenda Searches (Minutes Searches include all Department, Committee and Board Minutes)
Most of our Documents are only available in Acrobat Reader Format (PDF).
You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher to view these documents.
Online versions of Putnam County, FL Documents and Forms are posted for your convenience only. Our
goal is to make this information available as soon as possible, but please be aware that online Documents
and Forms are subject to change.
The County does not warrant or make any representations as to the quality, content, accuracy or
completeness of the information, text, graphics, links and other items contained on its web pages. Also,
the County will, in no event, be liable or responsible for damages of any kind arising out of the use of
online Documents and Forms.