How St. Johns County plans to spend millions in American Rescue money, and what could come next

A new $5 million medical center is in the works for the West Augustine neighborhood in St. Johns County.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A new $5 million medical center is in the works for the West Augustine neighborhood in St. Johns County.

Community leaders say the center is a dream come true, and a big need.

The county is using money from the American Rescue Plan to pay for the facility and they say the need is great in West Augustine, which has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Greg White, a long-time community activist in West Augustine, said the addition of the new facility is monumental.

“St. Johns County is the richest county in the state and for 10 consecutive years, it was recognized as the healthiest county in the state. I live in West Augustine, which is considered a low-to-moderate-income area. Unfortunately, the illness in that area is very high,” said Greg White of the West Augustine Steering Committee.

The medical center is part of St. Johns County’s plan for more than $51 million of federal funding it is getting from the American Rescue Plan.

The county already used $8.8 million for a vaccination site, parks public safety and other projects for Phase 1.

For Phase 2, the county also plans to put $7 million towards water and wastewater infrastructure in Hastings, $1 million for premium pay for public safety and $500,000 for an exterior improvement grant program. County commissioners approved the funding for those projects this week and are also looking into giving Home Again St. Johns, a group that works with the homeless population in the county, nearly $3 million to help build a new facility.

That potential funding for Home Again has the backing of Commissioner Sarah Arnold.

“I think that what they’re asking for absolutely falls under the umbrella of what ARPA was designed for and I would be happy to support this,” Arnold said during a commission meeting Tuesday.

Some residents say the county needs to put more funds towards what they call an affordable housing crisis in the county, and White said there is also more work to be done in West Augustine.

“Certainly, more funding is needed. If you take a low-to-moderate income area and then it’s not funded for centuries, certainly, one year, two years is not going to erase all of that. So yes, we will be seeking more funding,” White said.

The county will still have about $28 million in rescue funds left over for Phase 3 and is looking at putting that money towards new handheld radios for first responders, a new vocational school and a large nonprofit grant program, but nothing is set in stone.

County commissioners will talk more about where that money will go when commissioners meet again on April 5.

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