More than $60 million worth of municipal projects are coming to Green Cove Springs, as city officials expect to see commercial and population growth in the coming years.
Last week, the Green Cove Springs City Council approved the construction of a new $1.5 million public works administration building and allocated an estimated $18 million for the improvement of the city’s water distribution system. The Green Cove Springs Police Department (GCSPD) is also working toward adding a K-9 unit to the force.
Assistant City Manager Mike Null discussed several other improvements coming to the city, including roughly $30 million in upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant and a combination of grants and city funds topping $1 million to improve community parks and the city pier.
Officials are also working on modernizing the city’s electrical grid with a $10.7 million loan.
Combined, the projects are expected to top $60 million, with the funds coming from a combination of grants, loans and city funds.
“We’re doing improvements to replace outdated infrastructure, to catch up to standards,” Null said. “And then we’re also doing capacity improvements in all those areas. For the park areas, that’s to further attract folks to Green Cove Springs. So a lot of what we’re doing is to prepare for the growth we hope we’re going to see.”
Green Cove Springs, which is the county seat in Clay County, is looking at the completion of the Jacksonville Outer Beltway - an approximately 46 mile expressway that will run through Duval, Clay and St. John’s counties - as an opportunity to attract new residents and businesses. The section of the expressway near Green Cove Springs is scheduled to be finished in 2023.
“It’s very exciting,” said Mayor Steven Kelley. “Ever since getting involved here with the city, it seems like staff has been working overtime.”
The City Council initially designed the public works administration building to cost $1.8 million, but decided to cut that number to $1.5 million after talking to architects and contractors.
“We had to kind of scale back what we were doing,” Null said of the cuts. “What that means for us is that it will just require a little more maintenance a little sooner than we had hoped.”
The reductions include cutting some storage space, a generator, and some upscale floor and wall finishes.
The old public works building was built in the 1960s and took a beating during Hurricane Irma, triggering mold issues.
The water distribution system improvements will occur over the next several years as some old lines built with iron pipes in the 1940s are replaced and more lines are added to increase capacity.
“The number of residents is growing, the demand for water is growing, so we have to make sure that we’re ahead of some of that demand,” Null said.
The improvements to the wastewater treatment plant will help keep up with growing water needs, as it reuses water and prevents it from leaking back into the Florida Aquifer and St. Johns River, according to Null.
Meanwhile, the GCSPD has selected an officer for its new K-9 unit, and paid $8,200 for a used Chevrolet Tahoe from the North Miami Beach Police Department that will serve as the unit vehicle.
However, they’re still missing one key component.
“We haven’t actually received a dog yet,” said Operations Lieutenant Shawn Hines with GCSPD. “That’ll be shortly coming…we’re in the final stages of the infrastructure portion with getting everything ready.”
Once the department receives the dog, they’ll pair it with the selected officer, and then the team will undergo six months of training.
Kelley said he’s seen consistent growth in Green Cove Springs the past few years.
The council has also created a 2025 vision plan to get a handle on future development.
“We have a few areas in town that when they do redevelop, that can have a large impact on how people live and work and travel throughout the city. It’s on us, we’re trying to consider how that works - and basically - thoughtful planning for what life is going to be like in the next five, ten years or so.”
Kelley owns a coffee shop a block away from City Hall. He said he’s seen very little backlash about the city’s developments, and hopes more local businesses will take a chance on Green Cove Springs.
“Now is the best time to get involved,” Kelly said.