Locals gather for Blocker rally

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Local residents gathered for a rally Tuesday, Aug. 9, at the Palm Valley Barn for St. Johns County Commissioner Jeremiah Blocker, who is seeking re-election to the District 4 seat.

The rally was hosted by Deb Chapin, Palm Valley Barn owner and event planner. In addition to Blocker, candidates for other races attended, including Kelly Barrera (St. Johns County School Board, District 4), Martha Gleason (Anastasia Mosquito Control District, Seat 2) and Suzanne W. Green (St. Augustine-St. Johns County Airport Authority, Group 1).

Blocker told the assembly that he was excited about the future of the county, which he said was “right at a moment of incredible opportunity.” He specifically pointed out the work of the county’s Parks and Recreation Department.

He praised the school district, which annually finishes at the top spot in the state, and addressed the population growth currently under way.

“If you have 100,000 people who want to move somewhere, you’re doing something right,” he said.

Of course, this growth has impacted the county and its residents.

“Our challenge is how to manage that growth to make sure that we control it effectively,” Blocker said. “One of the issues that we brought to the community is that we need to look at how we’re growing. For those of you who don’t know, in St. Johns County, the current system of growth — of paying for growing — was put in place back in the 1940s. It’s not the 1940s anymore.”

He said, under the current system, the county gets its revenue only after the house is built. That revenue is needed for roadwork, additional firefighters and more.

“That’s not an effective system,” Blocker said.

He and others have called for an arrangement in which the revenue would be collected up front so that it could better fund things impacted by the growth.

On another matter, Blocker said the county has committed to raising the minimum salary for law enforcement personnel.

“If you’re going to recruit the best and retain the best, you have to pay for that,” he said.

Asked by one attendee about the proposed 1-cent sales tax that will appear on the November ballot, Blocker said it would pay for some infrastructure needs, particularly with regard to first responders.

He said there were three ways the county could meet these needs: raise taxes, borrow the money or let the voters decide. The County Commission chose the latter.

Blocker faces Krista Keating-Joseph and write-in candidate Michael C. Lanza in the Aug. 23 primary.

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