Health and Human Services Center
Construction on the new county Health and Human Services Center has begun and should be completed a little ahead of the deadline for us to be out of the old location. A few people thought this to be a terrible idea; it passed our board 4-1. You decide!
The old location on U.S. 1 South purchased by the county in 1999′ needed repairs in excess of $4.5 million and was considered functionally obsolete per a recent appraisal report. This would be to a building 40 years old so you still have an old building. The board agreed on a sale to Lowe’s for $8.0 million. Keep in mind that this would return a property to the tax base that had been tax exempt since the county took ownership in the nineties. This would be an increase to the commercial tax base, the county’s number one priority. They would have around 140 employees that would increase jobs and more tax money to the county. The store would also pay sales tax to the county. All of this commercial tax money would be new to the county, helping to reduce the tax burden on residential properties. Lowe’s did not request incentives, another plus for the people of our county because the dollars would start coming in earlier. They will pay impact fees as required.
Tax money in the amount of $3.5 million would be joined with the $8.0 to build the new building on property we already own. No reduction in taxes because it is already off the tax rolls. The location is just south of our county administration building and more centrally located in our county. Bus service is available from Sunshine Bus to that location. This would place most county services in a general location.
In case you are wondering, we do have an obligation to furnish this service and the housing of this service. We will spend $1.0million less in your money to build a new building that will be paid for in 15 years (The $3.5 million would be a loan). Lease space was not available to satisfy our needs unless we separated all of the departments all over the county. This would be a real bad and expensive decision for you, the taxpayer. Does it make sense to pay a lease with your money so we can increase your revenue from the person that owns the property? In 15 years we have nothing but a higher lease. I’Il let you think about that one!! We have a large number of people that use this service from allover the county. The location we decided on is great for the people that use this service.
The building now houses the following state agencies: Department of Health and Children’s Legal Services. County agencies: Family Integrity Program (CBC), Social Services, Veterans Services and Sheriffs Sub-Station. Federal agencies: Veterans Administration Clinic, Stewart-Marchman-Act Behavioral and Rural Healthcare (Azalea FQHC).
We receive lease dollars from some of these agencies at the current market price. The Veterans Administration Clinic is of course a federal service and we are negotiating with them to house their office in a separate building from the Health and Human Service Complex. We would construct that next to the HHS Building. The lease dollars would offset the cost, not you the taxpayer.
St. Johns County Commissioner, District Two