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Sunday, January 01, 2017
PROPAGANDA ALERT: RECORD YEAR-END SUMMARY OF 2016
No byline: Wonder why?
Posted December 31, 2016 04:58 am - Updated December 31, 2016 08:17 am By
By PETER WILLOTT A parked car sits in water on Saragossa Street following Hurricane Matthew. The hurricane hit the area Oct. 7.
By PETER WILLOTT Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre on Oct. 24.
The last 12 months will carry many memories for St. Johns County residents, whether it be from natural disasters, elections, the loss of friends or heroes, or something else. Here, The Record recaps some of the most important stories of 2016.
“The biggest, stunning thing I’ve seen is you can go 20 minutes one way and it looks like nothing happened and you go 20 minutes the other way and there’s going to be years of repair.” — St. Johns County Commissioner Jeb Smith
It’s been nearly three months since Hurricane Matthew visited St. Johns County, and the effects of the Category 3 storm could linger. Areas near rivers and coastlines across the county were damaged and filled with debris, and many people are still facing demolishing or repairing their homes.
Most of the estimated $151 million in damage to county assets came at the beaches, officials said. The county estimated that more than 500 homes remain at risk after the hurricane.
A PRIEST DISAPPEARS
“We’re just hoping and praying that somewhere he’s still alive.” — Patti Schiavo, on then-missing retired priest Father Rene Robert
Rene Robert’s disappearance and death shocked the county and the people who knew him, who described him as a selfless servant who sometimes put himself in harm’s way for others. Authorities believe he was shot and killed in Georgia by Steven Murray. They also believe Robert had been ministering to Murray. A November hearing in the death penalty case was delayed.
Robert had signed a letter that said he would oppose the penalty even if someone killed him.
DONALD TRUMP VISITS A FLORIDA STRONGHOLD
“This country needs to be run like a business, and it hasn’t been for all of these years. Plus he’s not scripted, that’s for sure.” — St. Johns resident Andrea Jones, speaking from the St. Augustine Trump rally.
Thousands of people flocked to the St. Augustine Amphitheatre in October to see then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. The day included a visit from a Trump plane at the Northeast Florida Regional Airport, and several big-name speakers at the amphitheatre, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
During his speech, Trump attacked the political establishment and the assembled media, and made a series of promises about what he would do in office. The list included strengthening the nation’s military, selecting U.S. Supreme Court justices “in the mold of Justice (Antonin) Scalia,” and repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.
He also promised that if he won, “everything will change.”
CRIMES AND CONVICTIONS
“It is our wish that the families find some measure of peace as a result of this plea, and we are certain that St. Johns County is a safer and better place with the defendant behind bars for the rest of his life.” — State Attorney R.J. Larizza about the sentencing of Johnny Lawrence Williams Jr.
A double-shooting in the daylight rattled West Augustine in 2016.
This year, Judge Michael Traynor sentenced Johnny Lawrence Williams Jr. to life sentences for the shootings, which killed 24-year-old Jamie Antoinette Wilson and 18-year-old Keiwuan Je’vante Murray. Authorities said Williams shot Wilson, the mother of his infant son, in the front yard of a home on Rollins Avenue before driving to another part of the neighborhood and shooting and killing Murray.
In a separate incident on Nov. 16, authorities found the bodies of Charles Ray Durden, 27, and Staffon Demarius Larry, 26, after extinguishing a burning SUV at the corner of Spring Street and Fred Waters Way. Authorities are still looking for information in that case, which they say is a homicide.
In December, Cheik Tidiane Diaw was convicted of murdering Ashley Olsen, a former Summer Haven resident, after meeting her at a Florence, Italy, nightclub, according to the Associated Press. He denied strangling her.
Also this month, Judge Michael Traynor sentenced Christopher K. O’Neal to 37.5 years in prison in the murder of Carle Starke, an autistic man. O’Neal, who was 16 at the time Starke was killed, pleaded guilty to first-degree felony murder as well as carjacking and burglary charges. Investigators believe O’Neal was one of several juveniles who were burglarizing cars in St. Augustine when they saw Starke and identified him as an easy target, and planned to steal his car.
Investigators don’t believe O’Neal pulled the trigger.
And in December, Jacob Sikes Kline was sentenced to about 12 months in state prison for his role in a home invasion robbery. Kline, 20, was the last of five defendants to enter a plea. He is the son of St. Augustine Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline.
A CHANGING CITY
“I’ll have to wake up and figure out how not to drive here.” — St. Augustine Police Chief Loran Lueders, on retiring after 35 years with the department.
St. Augustine’s workforce experienced big organizational changes this year.
St. Augustine’s police chief Loran Lueders retired, and Barry Fox took over the post. Also, St. Augustine Police Department Cmdr. Michele Perry and Cmdr. Stephen Fricke, both of whom had decades of experience at the department, retired this year.
At the St. Augustine Fire Department, Chief J.C. Costeira retired. Carlos Aviles became the new chief, and a short time later he had to face Hurricane Matthew and a mandatory evacuation of the city.
Major projects were also on tap for the city. St. Augustine embarked on a mobility project, an effort that could spawn projects that will take years. The project is focused on improving traffic and parking conditions in the city.
“The whole point that I’ve been trying to make is that if you want to maintain the quality of life that you have, there’s a certain cost to that, and we’re coming up short.” — St. Johns County Administrator Michael Wanchick
St. Johns County is still grappling with its own popularity.
This year, county commissioners have looked at tweaking impact fees and discussed how to pay for the impact of growth on the county. Commissioners recently discussed the possibility of instituting a 5-cent-per gallon gas tax to help with transportation needs in the face of growth, especially in the northwest.
The discussion came during a meeting when commissioners approved spending up to $5 million to acquire right-of-way for County Road 2209.
SCHOOL DISTRICT GROWTH, CHANGE
“Impact fees, school concurrency dollars, sales tax dollars — they all help, but none of them by themselves make up for that loss of capital millage by the state.” — Michael Degutis, chief financial officer for the St. Johns County School District
It was the first year that the St. Johns County School District began to see the fruits of a half-cent sales tax increase approved by voters in 2015 for capital improvements.
With the tax increase in place, the school district approved issuing up to $60 million in sales tax revenue bonds to build a K-8 academy and elementary school. Though the tax won’t expire until Dec. 31, 2025, and is expected to generate $150 million over its lifespan, it’s still not expected to keep up with the need for school space created by county growth. School district officials have cited a major challenge as decreases in capital millage the state allows to be collected.
And there have been some significant leadership changes. Tim Forson, former deputy superintendent of operations, will replace Joe Joyner as the district superintendent. Joyner will serve as president of Flagler College, a post William Abare Jr. announced he would retire from in 2017.
TECHNICAL COLLEGE SHAKE-UP
“We have been concerned for years, and we are glad this is finally occurring.” — St. Johns Education Association President Michelle Dillon speaking about an investigation into “alleged irregularities” at First Coast Technical College.
The St. Johns County School District took control of First Coast Technical College this year after a district investigation into the school’s financial affairs. Other concerns were also raised such as testing concerns and staff qualifications.
“If you think self-investigations are OK, don’t vote for me. If you think guns recoil forward, don’t vote for me.” — Debra Maynard.
It was the first time since his election in 2004 that David Shoar had an opponent in the race for St. Johns County Sheriff. Debra Maynard, a former St. Johns County deputy, ran on a platform that included accountability for officers believed to be involved in domestic violence. Shoar won with more than 80 percent of the votes cast.
During her campaign, Maynard also indirectly referenced the death Michelle O’Connell.
O’Connell died of a gunshot wound on Sept. 2, 2010, in the home of her sheriff’s office deputy boyfriend, Jeremy Banks. The gun used was Banks’ service weapon, and the death was ultimately ruled a suicide despite protests from family.
Elections also brought some changes to the St. Johns County Commission. Former commissioners Rachael Bennett and Bill McClure did not seek another term. Paul Waldron and Henry Dean took their seats after winning elections this year.
In St. Augustine Beach, Maggie Kostka defeated Commissioner Andrea Samuels, who had also served as mayor.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
“There’s something wrong with saying, ‘We can’t create something for the working class and the populations in our community.’” — Bill Lazar, executive director of the St. Johns Housing Partnership
Officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking this year for a 100-apartment homeless services center off State Road 207, but the agency has still been searching for more funding to truly get the project off the ground. Home Again St. Johns is leading the effort alongside acting as the lead agency in the St. Johns County Continuum of Care — the umbrella organization made up of all homeless service providers in the county, which is responsible for distributing federal grant money and other tasks.
St. Johns County’s lack of affordable housing was in focus again this year.
A November report estimated a deficit of 4,000 affordable units in the county, according to the Northeast Florida Regional Council’s Affordable Housing Committee.
“Fear, my dear? You don’t have fear when you have a job to do.” — Barbara Vickers on what Dr. Robert Hayling said when asked what his greatest fear was during the civil rights movement.
St. Augustine bid farewell to Dr. Robert Hayling, a leader of the city’s civil rights movement, at a memorial service at St. Paul AME Church in February.
The service included speeches from The Rev. Andrew Young, a former United Nations ambassador; former Florida Sen. Tony Hill; fellow civil rights activist James Jackson; and Hayling’s sister, Yvonne Hayling Clarke.
The city of St. Augustine also honored Hayling by naming a Lincolnville park after him. The city dedicated the Dr. Robert B. Hayling Freedom Park, an area that used to be called Riberia Point, in September.
BILLBOARD RILES RESIDENTS
“Many of us feel like someone has taken the voice of our entire community and blasted it on a billboard in a way that has nothing to do with our own beliefs or feelings.” — Becky Williams, who created the petition to remove a St. Augustine Beach billboard that targeted Islam.
A petition gathered thousands of signatures from around the globe to remove a billboard on State Road A1A in the St. Augustine Beach area. The billboard’s message: “Islam Bloody Islam, Doomed by Its Doctrine.”