Q&A with St. Johns County Commission Vice Chairman Christian Whitehurst, District 1
Q: Can you outline your vote in mid-February to proceed with consideration of a one-cent infrastructure sales tax to be placed on the November 2022 ballot?
A: I ran for this position as someone who would work to solve problems in St. Johns County. Right now we have infrastructure gaps and we don’t have the money to fix them. So, I and all the commissioners are waiting for feedback from the residents. I hear some people demanding that we address infrastructure issues. The question is, are we willing to pay a penny more on every dollar we spend to fill these gaps immediately, or should we wait until the general budget allows money to be spent? Whatever decision voters make, we provide guidance on how to address the shortcomings.
Q: What’s the next step?
A: Under state law, the council does not have the authority to raise sales tax. It has to be a community decision and go to the ballot box. I trust the residents of St. Johns County to make this decision.
The County Board of Commissioners has asked our staff and legal team to get back to us with an order stating where the money is going and when the surcharge will end. Possibilities for using the money include roads and infrastructure; public safety; parks and recreation; and libraries. We will have two readings of the ordinance, the first on March 1 and the second and final reading on March 15, when council will take action and vote. The good news about this timing is that it gives the community plenty of time to learn about these shortcomings and how they would like to address them, and then let us know their preferences.
On the list of needs are public safety items; I encourage readers to contact Sheriff Hardwick and Fire Chief Prevatt to find out why they are asking for money. Additionally, roads and parks will be tackled and both elements are far behind in the Northwest, so there is potential for a lot of benefits for District 1.
Q: What’s happening with the Helow property?
A: At the same Board of County Commissioners meeting, Mr Helow asked the council to continue with his transport mitigation agreement until an uncertain date. As a backdrop, when this project came to us for transmission to the state, I voted to approve the transmission, but emphasized that this was not an indication that I would approve the project. I had planned to do all my due diligence during this transmission period and I did. When we approached the time for approval, I had gathered my facts and felt that the needs of NW St. Johns County took precedence over the project at that time. Over the past two weeks, in conversations with the Helow staff and team, it has become clear to them that I have too many concerns and so Mr. Helow has decided to pull the project for the time being.
Q: What is the best way for our readers to contact you?
A: Readers can email me at [email protected] or call me at (904) 584-5348.