Community briefs 12/7/17

Clay Today
Posted 12/6/17

Hurricane Irma debris updateGREEN COVE SPRINGS – Officials with Clay County Emergency Management report that every road in the county has been visited by work crews tasked with collecting and …

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Community briefs 12/7/17


Hurricane Irma debris update

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Officials with Clay County Emergency Management report that every road in the county has been visited by work crews tasked with collecting and removing Hurricane Irma debris.

According to John Ward, director of emergency management, a second and final pass through of each county road began on Dec. 5.

Only storm related debris will be picked up during the second pass, which means no green vegetative debris will be picked up. Ward said residents whose debris was not collected during the first pass through or who have a “significant amount of storm related debris” should email with their address and what type of debris it is, such as construction or vegetative debris.

He said contacting the department will ensure all the storm related debris is picked up.

The County Call Center is operating daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to assist with any unmet storm recovery needs. Reach the center at (904)284-7703.

Parra to serve as medical society president

ORANGE PARK – The chief medical officer at Orange Park Medical Center will serve the next year as president of the Clay County Medical Society.

Physician Joseph Parra, the hospital’s chief medical officer, has been appointed to serve as president for a one-year term beginning January 1, 2018.

Parra has been a part of HCA Healthcare, Orange Park Medical Center’s parent company, for more than 15 years. Prior to Orange Park Medical Center, he served as the hospitalist medical director at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas.

Founded in 1960, the Clay County Medical Society is a professional organization that acts as the voice of physicians in Clay County.

Sounds of Christmas coming to Penney Farms

PENNEY FARMS – The rafters of Penney Memorial Church will ring with the joyous refrains of six talented musical groups on Dec. 10 at 7 p.m.

Each group will perform two selections of their choosing and then come together for a joint special rendition of “Winter Wonderland.”

The various musical forms featured throughout the concert will demonstrate the ability of the performers and the joy they find performing together. The highlight of the evening is the finale where all six groups participate in a mass choir closing selection.

The church is located at 4465 Poling Blvd. in Penney Farms. Admission is free and free street parking is available.

Sheriff’s office receives ‘Excelsior Status’

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation recently awarded the Clay County Sheriff’s Office its highest form of recognition for law enforcement accreditation.

To achieve Excelsior Status, a Florida law enforcement agency must have achieved an initial accredited status and then achieve five successful reaccreditation assessments without any exceptions.

Assessments are conducted every three years, therefore making the Excelsior process take approximately 15 years for an agency to acquire.

The agency underwent a thorough onsite review in July when a three-member assessment team, led by Sgt. Patty Stanton of the Temple Terrace Police Department, ensured compliance with 260 Florida law enforcement standards.

Of the 260 standards, CCSO was found in compliance with all mandatory and applicable non-mandatory standards. Assessors commended CCSO members for their knowledge and enthusiasm. They also commended several agency programs, including the implementation of “community engagement,” an initiative that focuses on enhancing open communication with residents from all corners of the county. The Commission made comments that “CCSO has set the bar for accreditation and other agencies should look to them as an example.” The agency received initial accreditation from the CFA in 1998, and has been reaccredited every three years since then. The CCSO was reaccredited with Excelsior Status on Nov. 1 in Weston, Florida.

CCSO Chief Tina Chatmon was named a Certified Accreditation Professional, becoming one of approximately 25 CAPs statewide who have demonstrated advanced knowledge and expertise in every area of accreditation.

War on invasive lionfish gets boost

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission received $25,000 in donations to help improve ongoing efforts to remove the invasive lionfish from Florida waters in 2018.

The funds, which come from six donors, will go to the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida and will be used as cash prizes for a new and novel lionfish removal incentive program, rewarding harvesters who find and remove lionfish previously tagged by FWC staff.

Lionfish are a nonnative invasive species that can reduce native fish populations and negatively affect the overall reef habitat. The lionfish has no natural predator and their bodies are covered with dangerous long spikes that make catching them unsafe for human hands.

This program will run May 19 through Sept. 3, 2018, and will coincide with the annual summer-long Lionfish Challenge, which rewards recreational and commercial lionfish harvesters with prizes for submitting their lionfish removal efforts.

“The control of nonnative lionfish populations has always been a group effort, and what these companies and organizations came forward with to help encourage removals is simply outstanding,” said FWC Commissioner Bo Rivard.

The FWC board acknowledged donors at its recent December meeting. The donors are the American Sportfishing Association, Yamaha Motor Corp. U.S.A., the Boat Owners Association of the United States, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Coastal Conservation Association Florida and Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County Inc.

The goal of the 2018 tagged-lionfish removal program is to increase statewide removal efforts by giving divers a greater incentive to harvest lionfish more often while in search of the valuable tagged fish. Additional non-cash prizes are also available for those who harvest and submit a tagged lionfish. The program also will provide FWC with valuable data on the movement of lionfish.

Approximately six to eight lionfish will be tagged at each of 50 randomly-selected public artificial reef sites throughout the Atlantic and Gulf between the depths of 80 and 120 feet. Participants will have access to the reef locations at

Black Creek water project on track

PALATKA – An easement on three acres of county-owned property on Black Creek was approved Nov. 28 by the Clay County Board of County Commissioners to implement the Black Creek Water Resource Development Project.

The project is considered a key component to meeting Northeast Florida’s water supply needs. The easement also allows for the construction of a kayak and canoe launch site and connected parking for future public access to Black Creek.

“Many thanks to the Clay County BCC for unanimously recognizing the regional importance of this project to replenish the Floridan aquifer in Northeast Florida,” said Ann Shortelle, executive director of the St. Johns River Water Management District. “The commissioners’ approval is a major step toward acquiring the land rights for construction of the transmission system.”

“This project will help with flooding and recharging the aquifer so future generations will have clean drinking water,” said Gavin Rollins, BCC chairman. “It will also be a kayak launch for residents of the Middleburg area to enjoy the beauty of Black Creek.”

The BCC unanimously approved granting a perpetual easement to the district over the county’s property near the intersection of State Roads 16 and 21, encompassing a portion of Black Creek. The Black Creek WRD Project is one of several projects identified in the North Florida Regional Water Supply Plan to help meet future water supply demands while protecting natural resources. The plan was approved in January 2016 after three years of collaborative development in a public process.

This project, which will be built over four years in southwest Clay County between Penney Farms and Camp Blanding, focuses on providing recharge to the Upper Floridan Aquifer in the Keystone Heights region and Lower Santa Fe basin.

The project will capture up to 10 million gallons per day of flow from the Black Creek South Fork when water levels allow. The water will then be pumped through a transmission system toward Camp Blanding in the Keystone Heights area and discharged to an Upper Floridan Aquifer recharge system adjacent to Alligator Creek.

The project is currently in the design and engineering phase.

Funding for the estimated $41 million project includes $5 million a year from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, funded through Amendment One, the Florida Land and Conservation Initiative. The funds are part of a 2017 legislative appropriation championed by Sen. Rob Bradley(R-Fleming Island), Rep. Bobby Payne(R-Palatka) and Rep. Travis Cummings(R-Orange Park) and administered by the district.

SBA offers disaster loans to Florida small businesses

ATLANTA – Small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations located in the declared counties of Florida that have suffered financial losses as the result of Hurricane Irma, should consider applying for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Clay County is a declared county.

The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans are designed to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster and are available regardless of whether the business suffered any physical property damage. These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that could have been paid had the disaster not occurred. The loans are not intended to replace lost sales or profits. Examples of eligible industries include but are not limited to the following: bait and tackle shops, charter boats, commercial fisherman, crabbers, fishing guides, hotels, and marinas, owners of rental property, restaurants, retailers, souvenir shops, travel agencies, and wholesalers.

The loan amount can be up to $2 million with interest rates of 3.305 percent for small businesses percent and 2.5 percent for private nonprofit organizations and, with terms up to 30 years. The SBA determines eligibility based on the size of the applicant, type of activity and its financial resources. Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.

Applicants may securely apply online at Disaster loan information and application forms may also be obtained by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by sending an email to Loan applications can be downloaded from Completed applications should be mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

The deadline to return economic injury applications is June 11, 2018.

St. Johns River State College conducting human services survey

ORANGE PARK – St. Johns River State College’s workforce programs are aligned with state and national priorities and practices as well as the college’s mission, the educational and career goals of its constituents, and the area's workforce needs.

To ensure that the programs consistently meet these criteria, the college conducts periodic, strategic reviews of its offerings, including analyses of the need for new programs. In 2016-2017, the college conducted a new programs analysis across 12 career clusters. This analysis included a community survey to gather feedback and assess ongoing need and demand as well as an examination of labor market demand data.

Using the data, informed recommendations were developed which included the potential design of new program in social and human services. This presentation will outline current workforce development offerings, the proposed new program in social and human services and solicit feedback from stakeholders who would like to be a part of the program development process.

Gaining feedback is a critical part of SJRSC’s proposal process for the new Human Services program because it is important that the program is structured in a manner that will best meet the needs of the community.

To complete the survey, go online at

Advent Lutheran celebrating ‘Art and Heart’

ORANGE PARK – Does the holiday season have you feeling rushed, stressed, or overwhelmed? Is your to-do list growing longer as the time grows shorter? Do the expectations of the Advent and Christmas season leave you wondering what happened to the wonder?

Then leave your to-do list at home, turn off your screens, and join Advent Lutheran Church for some down time at Creating Christmas, a hands-on craft program for all ages in its fellowship hall on Dec. 9 from 3-8 p.m.

There will be handbell music in the courtyard, carol singing and a nativity presentation in the sanctuary. Have some warm soup or Christmas cookies and enjoy the company of friends and family both from our church and from our community. Take a deep breath and rediscover the joy of preparing to celebrate the birth of our Savior! Advent Lutheran Church is located at 2156 Loch Rane Blvd. behind Old Time Pottery. For more info, go to or call (904)272-6370.

Hotel stays extended through Jan. 6 for eligible Irma survivors

ORLANDO – Eligible Hurricane Irma survivors receiving Transitional Sheltering Assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency may receive an extension to stay temporarily in hotels while they look for an alternative place to live.

The Transitional Sheltering Assistance program, which pays for short-term hotel stays, has extended eligibility from Dec. 3 to Jan. 6, with hotel checkout on Jan. 7. Participants in the program will receive a phone call telling them whether they are eligible for the extension and what they need to do to remain at their current hotel or find a new hotel. Applicants must meet certain requirements to remain eligible.

Hurricane Irma survivors who are not currently in the program but who may be eligible are notified automatically. TSA participants must be registered with FEMA and be eligible for disaster assistance.

FEMA pays directly for the room and any applicable taxes. Applicants are responsible for all other incidental costs, such as meals and transportation. Hotels may require a credit card for incidental expenses.

A household of four or fewer members is authorized one hotel room and a household of five or more is authorized additional rooms based on a limit of four people per room. One member of each household 18 or older must reside in each room.

TSA-eligible applicants must find and book their own hotel rooms. The list of participating hotels is on, under the link Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program or by phoning the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362. For TTY, call 800-462-7585. For 711 or Video Relay Service, call 800-621-3362.

FEMA is hiring Florida residents to support Hurricane Irma recovery

ORLANDO – The Federal Emergency Management Agency is hiring local residents to assist in the disaster recovery effort in the Jacksonville area in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Residents of Florida who wish to apply can find details at; search using keyword Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FEMA is looking for workers with work experience in floodplain management, cost analysis, civil engineering, site inspections, flood or casualty insurance and historic preservation.

It is the policy of FEMA to provide equal opportunity to all employees and applicants in every aspect of their employment and working conditions. FEMA supports the concept of affirmative employment to ensure that personnel policies and practices provide equal employment opportunity without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, genetic information, or retaliation/reprisal.

Those hired will join the recovery team already in place, which is composed of local and federal workers, voluntary agencies, and community organizations. Through temporary local employees, FEMA gains valuable community insights, provides jobs, and allows Floridians to be on the front lines working to rebuild their community.


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