Tri-City Ledger -

By Gretchen McPherson
Ledger Staff 

Jay students see politics up close and personal

Jay Town Council holds last meeting at Jay High School


February 14, 2019

Gretchen McPherson

Jay students listen as Jay council conducts business

Officers in the Student Government Association at Jay High School got to see first hand how Jay town council conducts a meeting, discusses and makes decisions to approve, disapprove or table items on the agenda at Jay Town Council's Monday night meeting on February 4, in the school's library.

"We are trying to become more of a community-driven town that allows us to be more in touch with our school system, so students can see how government works, and those type of things," said Jay Mayor Shon Owens. "It's important for the leadership in the school system as well as the town that we see a need for some type of partnership there."

Owens said that Principal Stephen Knowlton is working with Jay Operations Manager Eric Seib to get more people involved in the town.

"Mr. Knowlton is a great asset for Jay High School as well as the community," said Owens. "I could envision us as a council doing a meeting there maybe a couple of times a year just to get more and more students involved."

During the meeting at Jay High School, the council discussed:

Repaving project

Seib told council members the Florida Department Of Transportation (FDOT) will begin the Highway 4 repaving in August and the FDOT will conduct water line swap out prior to the paving. Engineers from the FDOT talked to businesses that will be effected by the paving and waterline change outs.

Mayor Shon Owens suggested having engineers come up with future waterline adjustments involving tie-ins and stub outs and install them now to avoid having to do it later and include them in the scope of work. Seib said he would work with the engineers to make sure they have the right tie-ins.

There was discussion later in the meeting about water line replacement, which may overlap the repaving project, effecting Highway 4 traffic flow, which concerned Owens.

"Starting Highway 4 in August is going to put us into a situation with the farming community, the gathering season is going to be a nightmare," said Owens. "We're going to have to have some direction on how to route them. I think that's another reason why State Street is so important, if it's ready, versus North Commerce." Will be single lane.

Economic development

"I've had some positive results," said Seib, updating council members on the results of the first public meeting on Monday, Jan. 28 to gather input on how the town can best spend a $17,500 grant for economic development. "We are holding these meetings and exploring all ideas for ways to spend the money. It is a process that will take a while and we want as much input from Jay business and property owners as we can get. The open house was the first meeting and we will have two more to give everyone a chance to have some input."

Seib said on Jan. 31, the Santa Rosa County Board of County Commissioners authorized the Santa Rosa Improvement Vitalization Enterprise (StRIVE) Grant. The grant is intended to provide commercial property owners and business owners grants for facade and signage improvements to upgrade the appearance of property, increase property value and stimulate economic activity in the county. Opening later this spring, the program requires a 1:1 match from the applicant, with a $1,000 maximum award for sign improvements and $5,000 maximum for facade improvements.

Grant funding of $50,000 will be provided from economic development funds, which will be distributed on a reimbursement basis after submittal of proof of expenditures.

Seib said there are ideas that the town could work with business owners to present that match, or that each business owner who has smaller projects can put them into one big project. That would allow a contractor to get a bigger scope of work and get a better pricing than individual small projects, which are a big cost point. Contractors don't want to take the smaller jobs.

Mayor Owens suggested reaching out to nearby colleges to see if there is someone like an architect student who might volunteer to help the town with some designs.

"I think it would be wise for us to maybe reach out and see if we could find someone that would help us with design concepts, versus just going back with the same old thing," said Owens. "Maybe it might start a trend. I don't want to spend all our dollars on an architect, but I would like to have some model of what we would like Jay to become."

Seib said the problem can be getting around to enough store owners or business owners to accept and move forward with that, but did say that using the same contractor across the businesses makes it more consistent.

Councilman Josh Holloway suggested getting 100 precent cooperation of the storefront owners before they act on it.

Owens said he thought it was lack of business owners' participation to step forward, which has been the problem in the past.

Legislative Appropriations

Crystal Weatherington, with Dewberry Engineering, gave the council an update on applications for monies to make improvements to Bray Hendricks Park and replace waterlines.

"We submitted four applications, two to the house and two to the senate," said Weatherington. "The park master plan was for $300,000 and the waterline replacement on Highway 4 from Highway 89 to Darney Lane was for $300,000. Florida State Rep. Jayer Williamson will sponsor both the park and the waterline in Tallahassee."

A representative with the USDA Rural Utilities Service Grant application met with a representative from Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project (SERCAP) who will assist the town to format the application correctly so they USDA will fund application, which has to be matched. Seib said grant monies they have already received could be used as a match. There was no movement in the USDA grant because was shutdown due to government shutdown.

Waterline replacement

Weatherington gave an update on the waterline replacement in the downtown area between Smith Tractor and Magnolia Lane project that with the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), all the administrative and oversight contracts are signed and executed. Now the town is doing the environmental review. Part of the process is to go over timelines, and the town can anticipate a start date of late April, maybe early May when they will bid it out, with advertisement requirements and a bidding schedule. Weatherington speculated that the project may take about 120 days to reach completion.

The next Jay town council meeting will be at 6 p.m., Monday, Feb. 18, at Jay Town Hall. The public is invited.


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