Orange Park places moratorium on gas, sales tax-funded projects

Town adjusts priorities amid COVID-19 pandemic

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ORANGE PARK – The Town Council recently voted 5-0 to put a temporary moratorium on all projects funded by the gas and sales taxes save for two projects.

With a State of Emergency enacted indefinitely from the governor’s office, which translates to an indefinite delay in Clay County and Orange Park, the town council is preparing for the possible future where things remain unchanged for months. To account for what could be, Mayor Connie Thomas proposed a moratorium on certain projects until Sept. 1.

“I propose a moratorium on gas and sales tax spending until Sept. 1,” Thomas said. “We can hold off on all projects until then.”

The council ultimately voted unanimously to approve it but the council and town manager Sarah Campbell came to an agreement two of the town’s Capital Improvement Plan projects under the gas tax and sales tax should remain. The first project is a paving maintenance project that has a cost of $165,000. The second project deals with purchasing machinery and equipment for IT projects. It has a cost of $60,000 and had already been started, which is why Campbell asked that it be excluded from the moratorium.

Campbell told the council the gas tax fund has enough money to fund both high and medium priority projects but not low priority projects. The sales tax fund has enough money to cover only the high priority projects and the water and sewer fund has enough to cover all of its projects.

“No recommendations for project holds, as these are fully-funded,” Campbell said.

Wanting to err on the side of caution, the town will continue with the fully funded water and sewer projects but will hold off until Sept. 1 on all other gas and sales tax projects.

In other business, the $10,000 set aside by the town council two weeks ago found a home with Clay County.

“I had phone calls with our counterparts at Clay County about all of your wishes for the funds...and I felt they could meet all of your wishes and desires, so we made the donation of $10,000 to Clay County,” Campbell said. “They partnered with Fresh From Florida and used the funds to purchase canned goods to make family food boxes.”

With Florida under a State of Emergency, the town council worked through how it will handle the Fourth of July. Moosehaven is usually the host of the town’s Fourth of July celebrations but with the community nearly completely closed off due to the coronavirus, that isn’t an option this year. Moosehaven director John Capes said Moosehaven would still be willing to have a firework show.

Campbell said town staff had a hard time determining how a firework celebration could work with social distancing enforced and recommended to the staff instead that they do something else to celebrate the holiday. The council agreed that a vehicle parade through the town similar to its annual Christmas parade would work best.

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