Posted January 7, 2017 12:02 am
By SHELDON GARDNER firstname.lastname@example.org
Future undecided for St. Augustine Beach farmers markets near county pier
The future is in limbo for Wednesday farmers markets in St. Augustine Beach, as St. Johns County’s top official doesn’t plan to recommend renewing the agreement that allows the event at Pier Park parking lot.
“We’re a little surprised,” said Bill Jones, president of the St. Augustine Beach Civic Association, the organization that runs the markets.
The current agreement allows the the civic association to use part of the St. Johns County Ocean Beach & Fishing Pier parking lot to operate the markets at Pier Park parking lot. That agreement will expire July 31 without County Commission action to extend the contract.
The county plans to let the board know that the contract will expire, but county officials don’t plan to bring it to the commission for an official vote on whether to end the contract, said county spokesman Michael Ryan. That would only be necessary if the contract were being considered for renewal.
The market is held from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each Wednesday year-round.
As it stands, the civic association doesn’t pay the county for using the pier lot for the markets but has to pay for other expenses, Jones said. But he said revenue from the markets supports Music by the Sea concerts and other community outreach efforts such as donations to the Betty Griffin House.
“We were optimistic that the county would see the value of the farmers market for tourism and the financial backing,” Jones said.
Without the market revenue, which is supported by vendor’s fees, the civic association would have to cut down on concerts, he said.
As for moving the market, “It cripples us financially. … and it changes the community feel,” Jones said.
Jones said the civic association asked for a lease extension about eight months ago.
But County Administrator Michael Wanchick’s letter to Jones explains that “the current request to renew the agreement is inconsistent with the operational and financial direction of the County. Therefore, after careful consideration, we are unable to recommend that the County Commission approve a five-year extension of the existing agreement.”
Wanchick’s letter cites concerns over parking as a main reason for the change, and he notes the increase in visitors and residents over the years has changed the “landscape” of the county and has led more people to the pier parking lot.
“Allowing special events to utilize this limited beach front parking has resulted in complaints questioning why the County is permitting special activities in this location at the expense of beach parking which is acknowledged to be in short supply,” according to Wanchick.
The letter also notes that the county’s cost of providing cleanup and maintenance and other improvements has increased, and the county’s General Fund has been subsidizing Beach Services Fund to the tune of more than several million dollars.
That’s not sustainable, so the county is moving forward with plans to charge for off-beach parking at the pier and other spots, according to the letter.
“This initiative, when implemented, will further reduce the County’s ability to accommodate special events at Pier Park,” according to the letter.
The letter notes the county is open to hashing out another deal, where the civic association could lease an alternative county-owned site.
Jones said the civic association is in negotiation mode.
“We’re engaging in talks with the county to try and find a resolution that’s good for everybody,” Jones said.
From St. Johns County’s side, things are at a standstill.
“The county is awaiting a response [from the civic association],”Ryan said.
Once the county gets a response, officials can discuss alternative locations such as the St. Augustine Amphitheatre, Ryan said.
Ed's note: The Administrator's letter was sent on December 1, 2016 -- 38 days ago!
Well let us start with the facts !
The Civic Association did not pay their electric bill for years.
They allowed unlicensed vendors to sell food.
Bill Jones has two convictions for unethical conduct by SJCSD.
Vice President of the Beach Civic Association, Bob Samuels committed a battery on a disabled vet at the Pier. (on you tube)
The Beach Civic Association has refused to open their books for audit.
The President, Bill Jones, has allowed parking in handicapped spots by non handicapped people/vendors and has himself been parking in handicapped spots.
Only accepting cash for payment, why ? (easier for book cooking ?)
Has turned the Summer Concerts into a Drunken Disgrace instead of a Family Value Theme.
The County has become well aware of the Civic Associations Slush Fund with taxpayer money. (go party with your own money,not the taxpayer $)
Now that Andrea "Angry" Samuel lost her City Commission seat, the County wants to dump the Beach Civic Association for mismanagement, Bulling, unethical acts/bad behavior and not in the County s best interest or image. Angry was the reason why it was allowed to go on so long. The Beach Civic Association could and should DUMP Jones and Samuels. Then approach the County !
Weren't there allegations several years ago about Association management misappropriating funds?
Yes, very Smart Man,.......... yes indeed ! If St Augustine Beach had a Picture- nary, next to the word unethical would be a Jones photo ! The Beach Civic Association has called for an Emergency Meeting !
I think it is BYE BYE BIILY AND BOOBIE TIME !
Elect Nico or Amanda or BOTH ............ TODAY !
It is time to restore integrity and class back to the Beach Civic Association.
IT IS TIME TO GET BACK TO THE Original Mission !
.............................DUMP THE CHUMPS.....................................
ELECT AMANDA AND OR NICO NOW !