Clay County commissioners discuss major capital investments with fire chief, sheriff

Amid a population spike, Clay County leaders have begun discussions on major capital investments for the area, including things like a new jail and improvements to major roads.

Commissioners spent the morning Tuesday meeting with the fire chief, sheriff and other county agencies about where tax money needs to be spent.

Sheriff Michelle Cook says the county has outgrown its jail, and she’s also looking at a possible plan to shutdown and sell substations in Orange Park, Green Cove Springs and Middleburg, and possibly move into places like large strip malls where citizens could go in and do things like request police reports.

Building a new jail is by far the most expensive need. County Commission Chair Betsy Condon says the conversation about funding the jail is ongoing.

“It’s easy to say that it’s an 800-pound gorilla because it’s so expensive to build a new jail,” Condon said. “But the sheriff has really worked with the commissioners where we’ve been able to allocate $5.2 million in funding to give her an expansion for five to seven years. So we are really in a good place for five to seven years.”

The other big expense involves roads. The county has put together a comprehensive list of roads that need to be improved, including County Road 220, which connects Middleburg and Fleming Island.

Data shown during the meeting included impact fees, which are the fees developers pay when new homes are built. Middleburg, Orange Park, Keystone Heights and Oakleaf Plantation are all expected to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars.

District 4 — which includes Lake Asbury and Green Cove Springs — their impact fee totals $13 million. That’s the area around the First Coast Express that’s expected to add tens of thousands of new residents in coming years.

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