Tuesday, June 22, 2010

St. Augustine Record: Proctor: City asked for law -- Representative says he followed public's wishes to put properties in UF's hands

Proctor: City asked for law -- Representative says he followed public's wishes to put properties in UF's hands
Posted: June 22, 2010 - 12:05am

* Photos


St. Augustine officials who now oppose giving the University of Florida control of 34 state-owned properties in the city had originally begged the Legislature to put them under UF's financial umbrella, state Rep. Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine, said Monday.

Proctor was responding to criticism that he did not represent the city's interests in sponsoring a bill in 2007 giving the university that dominion.

"I did exactly what they asked me to do," Proctor said.

He chafes when city officials say he should listen to the people, because he listened to them.

To support his case, he released copies of letters Monday from former Mayor George Gardner and Mayor Joseph Boles praising his work in passing the bill that gave the University of Florida control of the historic properties in St. Augustine.

Proctor made his remarks in response to comments published in Sunday's Record by people opposed to the University of Florida's role in the historic properties.

One particular accusation -- that UF would increase its net worth by absorbing the city properties -- is completely untrue, he said.

"There's no way UF can put them as an asset because the properties belong to the state," he said.

Another, that UF would turn the commercial properties into classrooms, he called "foolish. They're going to need every one of those rents to manage the properties."

The law remained inactive until this year, due to the recession, and went into effect when the state funded it for the first time this year.

Proctor said, "(City officials) asked for help and got it. Then in April they changed horses."

Boles admitted his initial support yet remains opposed to it despite that.

"It didn't really help us to transfer ownership (to the university)," Boles said Monday. The buildings are owned by the state and would be managed by the university.

Boles said building the $10 million visitor orientation center in the Spanish Quarter involves the city donating the Mary Peck property, worth $480,000, to the National Park Service. But UF, he said, wants to use the proposed visitor center as a "hospitality house" to make money, which he opposes.

"UF's got to bow out. They're the monkey wrench in that plan," Boles said. "It's no longer our Spanish Quarter."

He wanted the Legislature to put the $650,000 in appropriated money into UF's budget, not make it a separate appropriation, which could be cut.

Boles said he respected Proctor, calling him a man of principle.

"The bottom line is that the state will see a $6 billion shortfall next year," Boles said. "If oil washes onto West Florida beaches, (the shortfall) could be double that number. The only recurring revenue stream for these properties is the city of St. Augustine. Even when times were good, the state had no money for historic preservation."


* November 2005: Former Mayor George Gardner sought enough money for preservation by proposing a "preservation fee" on narrated tour tickets, such as that levied in Savannah and Charleston.

* February 2006: Gardner announced development of a lobbying team for the Legislature.

* July 2006: Proctor wrote Boles to tell him UF President Bernie Machen was interested in the university becoming the "fiscal agent" for state funds designated for the properties.

* August 2006: Gardner news release said the city and St. Augustine Foundation would present a program to UF regarding "maintenance and interpretation" of the properties.

* April 2007: HB 851 passed unanimously into law, authorizing the transfer of the properties.

* April 2010: City officials begin their opposition to the UF plan.

May 29, 2007

The Honorable Charlie Crist


The Capitol

Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Dear Gov. Crist:

When the Legislature approved House Bill 851, it took action that ensures the future of over 30 historic properties in downtown St. Augustine, some dating back to the earliest days of Colonial Spanish Florida. The legislation provides for the University of Florida to contract with the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund for the management of those properties, a move that will help safeguard Florida's most important historical resource, the City of St. Augustine.

The legislation grew out of recommendation of a special task force led by Dr. Judity Bense, chair of the Florida Historical Commission. Under the sponsorship of Rep. William Proctor and Sen. Jim King, HB-851 and its companion SB-2404 did not receive a single vote in opposition in any committee hearing or during either floor vote.

I am writing to invite you to come to St. Augustine to sign this legislation. The signing would be in The Governor's Office in Government House, one of the historic properties, and would emphasize the state's commitment to historic preservation and to sharing the story of Florida's and the nation's spanish heritage.

The City of St. Augustine has hosted many significant events, and our Public Affairs Office will work closely with your office to provide a smooth and fitting ceremony.

Thank you for your consideration, and I urge you to contact me at 904.824.4278 to discuss this further.


Joseph L. Boles Jr.




This is in regard to the article published in the June 20, 2010, edition of The St. Augustine Record pertaining to the University of Florida and the historic properties. Several comments were reported that require a response.

It was suggested that the University might desire the properties in order to increase its net worth. Given that the properties belong to the state of Florida and that the legislation authorizes the University only to manage the properties, the arrangement has no bearing on the University's net worth.

The statement was made: "Nobody knows if UF will improve historic tourism, turn those buildings into classrooms, or let the properties sit." Given even a cursory review of the finances involved in the maintenance of the properties reveals that leasing arrangements must be maintained.

With regard to finances, the article reported the revenues derived from monthly rentals. What is missing is a list of operation costs and capital requirements. Data provided to the University Florida appears to indicate that the city must allocate at least $200,000 each year in addition to the rental and parking income. If this assessment is accurate then the $650,000 in recurring revenue from the state will offset the net loss to the city and will provide approximately $450,000 a year for program and property improvements.

A question was raised as to whether the city would be returning to a system that was in place 10 years ago. (Actually, it was 13 years ago.) One can only assume that the speaker was referring to the past operations of the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board. An arrangement such as proposed with the University of Florida never existed in St. Augustine but such an arrangement does exist between the University of West Florida and the city of Pensacola and it has been demonstrably successful.

As to the allegation that in sponsoring this legislation, I did not act in the best interests of the District, the following materials document the sequence of events that led to the passage of the legislation:

* On Jan. 19, 2007, I wrote Mayor Boles a letter enclosing a copy of the legislation to be filed in the Florida House confirming that Senator (Jim) King would file a companion bill in the Senate.

* On May 29, 2007, I sent Mayor Boles a letter enclosing a copy of HB 851 and a copy of the (bill) analysis.

* On May 29, 2007, Mayor Boles sent a letter to Governor Charlie Crist inviting him to come to St. Augustine to sign the legislation. "The signing would be in the Governor's Office in Government House, one of the historic properties and would emphasize the state's commitment to historic preservation and the sharing of the story of Florida's and the nation's Spanish heritage," Boles said in his letter.


Bill Proctor was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives, District 20, in 2004 to represent a portion of St. Johns County. He is a candidate for reelection. He is chancellor of Flagler College.

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