Millers Creek board passes budget, sets assessment

Just under the wire with barely a quorum, the Millers Creek Special Tax District’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously March 28 in favor of a mandatory budget, which needed to be sent to the city by April 1.

The city requires a tax district budget covering the period between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017 be in place by April 1 so the ordinance can be written in time for the tax assessor to process special tax district bills for November.

Also in the meeting, the board voted to name its secretary, Sharon Johnson, to the board in place of Nate Thilges, who resigned his position. “I will be honored to serve on the board,” Johnson said.

The board decided to hold a clean-up day in May so homeowners surrounding Millers Creek can gather to pick up litter. The Pulido brothers, Danny and Rene, said they would host a barbecue after the event. However, the board began to second guess this decision a month later during its meeting April 18 when resident Bobby Baker suggested clean-up day be held during Jacksonville’s “Fight Blight” effort for Millers Creek and Spring Park, July 30 through August 5, when volunteers working with the city would be available to join in.

In the March 28 meeting, Johnson said, due to a scrivener’s error, the original ordinance 2014-700-E, needed to be amended because the number of board members was inconsistent within the legislation. During the meeting, the board voted to instruct the Office of the General Counsel to list seven board members instead of five in the amendment.

The board’s regularly scheduled meeting March 21 had been postponed until March 28 at the request of Rene Pulido, board president, which may be one reason only four of seven board members attended. In its meeting April 18, only Johnson, Derek Flint and Rene Pulido were present, causing the board to be unable to vote on any business. A quorum of four is needed for the seven-member board to legally make any decisions.

In accepting a budget March 28, the board agreed to set the annual assessment at $3,000 per property owner. Some of the big-ticket items listed in the budget include $6,500 for a bathymetric survey, $14,261 for engineering fees, $10,000 for legal fees, and $15,000 to reimburse homeowners who ponied up money for first-year expenses. The board expects to raise $81,060 in assessed revenue and lists its total expected expenditures at $62,184.84, leaving a projected reserve of $18,875.60 to carry over to the next year.

The board also discussed two estimates from marine surveyors, Degrove Surveyors, Inc. for $6,500 and a lower one from ARC Surveying & Mapping, Inc., for $6,000. The cost will cover a determination of the amount of dredging needed in the creek. Board member Jonathan Wright, who had solicited the proposals, said he leaned toward Degrove’s proposal because they “got right back to me,” while he needed to “hound” the folks at ARC to get back to him. ARC presented their proposal only two hours before the March 28 meeting, he said.

Following the discussion, Wright agreed to attempt to negotiate a lower fee from Degrove. However, when the board informally discussed the issue again on April 18, with Wright not present at the meeting, Baker, a professional civil engineer, suggested the board might use ARC because the quote was cheaper and they have done a lot of work with the Port of Jacksonville.

“We are lucky Bobby is here to clarify his opinion,” said Johnson. “If we vote we may go with his recommendation next time we are all together.”

Due to his engineering expertise, Baker also said he would be willing to work pro bono, saving the district a substantial amount of the $80-100,000 cost to oversee the results of the engineering survey by helping to shepherd it through the permitting process. “However, I want to be held harmless and have no liability if I do this,” he said, noting there was “a lot of risk and no reward.”

In both meetings it was noted that residents at Mayfair Village Apartments have made “considerable progress” in cleaning up trash around the dumpster on their property after the board wrote concerning its effect on Miller Creek. In the April 18 meeting, the board discussed writing a similar letter requesting the property manager at Plantation Condominiums clean up trash surrounding an overflowing dumpster near the creek.

Also discussed during both meetings was the recommendation to ask Dr. Richard P. Sollee and Attorney T. Geoffrey Heekin to voluntarily join the special tax district. Both men own property adjacent to the creek, but were not included among the 28 homeowners in the district when it was originally set up. Sollee owns a dental practice at 3813 Atlantic Boulevard, bordering the creek. Heekin lives on Morier Street, near the mouth of the creek facing the St. Johns River. “I suggest we politely invite them to join,” said Rene Pulido, noting the dredging project will increase their property value by giving them access to navigable water.

The next Miller’s Creek Special District meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m., Monday, May 16 at Cuba Libre in St. Nicholas.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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