Commission decries university’s uses of city’s historic properties Big screen football games in the Colonial Quarter and big volume bands at Government House will have the City Commission taking another look at a partnership agreement with the University of Florida, which manages some 34 state-owned historic properties here. Resident Chris Fulmer raised concern during public comment on a large screen in the Colonial Quarter televising a football game, and later in commission discussion Mayor Nancy Shaver cited, “my concern with the leasing of Government House during the Nights of Lights kickoff with that God awful band that played at a very high decibel rate. “(The university is) not really being partners that are sensitive to our city.” Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline said of the Colonial Quarter actions, “These are tenants; my issue is with the University of Florida. The tenants didn’t make us any promises. UF made us promises.” Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman added, “When I hear such a comment (about the big screen) it makes me second guess the flexibility we’ve been showing on some of the requests we’ve been getting.”    City Manager John Regan suggested, “We should go back and review the original partnership agreement” with the university. He added he’ll meet with UF Vice President Ed Poppell “to discuss our dismay over this trend.”
December 12 2018
Parking attendant state award winner Michelle Hill, a decade-long employee at the City of St. Augustine’s Visitor Center parking facility, is the 2018 state winner of the Carol Easterling Award, an annual recognition by the Florida Parking & Transportation Association for front line employees in the parking industry. “Your nomination by (Visitor Center Manager) Sharon Langford expressed your dedication to the City of St. Augustine by keeping a high standard of customer services as a priority,” said Salena Tepas, Carol Easterling Award Committee Chair.    Michelle or one of her 14 full and part- time co-workers are likely the first people who meet and greet visitors to St. Augustine, and Michelle welcomes the role as unofficial greeter and information host, says Langford, shown nabove with Hill.
City wades into rental regulation City commissioners Monday waded into the rental wars, first with City Manager John Regan and Planning and Building Director David Birchim outlining state statutes controlling rentals and city codes that preceded those statutes, then discussion to form more effective local regulations. Newly seated Commissioner John Valdes, with years of experience as a builder and member of city boards, said, “Setting out inspecting rental properties is going to be arduous but one concern is we are populated by yellow pine frame structures sitting in close proximity to each other. “They are unsprinkled, they have one point of access and egress – they are basically fire traps. They can set the buildings around them on fire and St. Augustine has burned before. The fire marshal can’t inspect because people won’t invite him in. They’re just happy to have a place to live.” Birchim said the city does respond to renter complaints, “but this (proposed stronger regulations) would be different. We are going to go after every rental to get in that property.” Commissioners decided to start tackling rental properties by fashioning regulations for short-term rentals and posting an education plan on the city web site with fire safety rules.
Gamble Rogers Holiday Faire at Colonial Quarter The Gamble Rogers Music Festival Holiday Faire is set for Friday, December 14 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Colonial Quarter on St. George Street. The free community event will feature live holiday music, caroling, and a crafts, and gifts market. The VW Bus photo-booth will feature $5 pictures with Santa! Food, drinks, baked goods, hot cocoa, and s’mores will be available for purchase. See the Facebook event here.
History’s highlight The Siege of 1702 The holiday season of 1702 was grim for St. Augustine’s 2,000 residents and garrison, crowded inside  the walls of the Castillo de San Marcos. That the Castillo was only recently completed was a singular gift  the settlement could acknowledge.  November 6, 1702. "The enemy is approaching by land and by sea and they are bringing the means to attack and besiege the  royal fort." Governor Joseph de Zuniga y Zerda issues his proclamation to  the garrison and people of St. Augustine. The governor orders all  inside the fort, including "all priests, friars, women, children, Negro  slaves, free Negroes and all Indians of whatever nation which have  rendered obedience to his Catholic Majesty.”  Urgent messages have been sent to the Spanish garrisons at  Apalachee and Pensacola, to the French garrison at Mobile, and to  Spanish headquarters at Havana, Cuba.  English Carolina Governor James Moore, with 1,000 troops out  of Charleston, 500 on land under Colonel Robert Daniel and 500 under sail with Moore, must seize this  Spanish base on the North American continent.   November 7. Zuniga and his officers review the garrison strength. It should be at 355. But of 412 men, only  18 infantry and 18 militia are experienced in battle. He hasn't the strength to counterattack.   November 9. Throughout the afternoon, a steady stream of criollos (creoles, of Spanish descent born in  America), Spaniards, Indians and Negroes flow into the fort. The governor declares it his duty and moral  obligation to protect all people of all races who live under the Spanish flag.  Infantrymen are sent to carry in shingles which had been piled in the plaza to roof the church, as well as the  tablazon (planking) of the church. These materials will provide "lodging and quarters where the women and  children could find refuge . . ."  November 10. At dawn the English land force takes over the town without resistance, sets up headquarters  at the Franciscan Monastery south of the fort, and occupies the mission and village at Nombre de Dios north of  the fort. November 11. Governor Zuniga orders "a sally of brave men escorted by two lines of muskeeters in order  to put to the torch all the large and small houses" within a range of about 750 feet of the fort - the effective  range of a cannon ball.   November 24. English heavy guns, moved into position, begin firing on the fort. The Spaniards return fire.  The tense wait continues, the defenders unaware that messages have reached Havana, Pensacola and Mobile,  and relief is coming.   December 19. English trenches run along the south and western sides of the fortress; gabions - wood  cylinders filled with earth - support the trenches and provide cover for the attackers. Skirmishes break out as  the Spaniards move to destroy the gabions.   Each side awaits reinforcements to give it the decisive edge.   December 24. Christmas Eve, two sails are sighted. They are English. Morale inside the fort hits bottom.  The governor calls for a Christmas Eve party and bonuses for the troops. His accountants say the treasury  can't  afford it. The governor replies, "Charge it to next year's account!"  December 26. At midday, four sails are sighted on the southern horizon. They are Spanish, the relief fleet  from Havana. December 29. The sight of the Spanish fleet is enough to make the English retreat. The English decide a  retreat by sea would be stopped by the fleet; they destroy their own ships and flee on foot.   Excerpt from Siege, in St. Augustine Bedtime Stories. Click for further information on this fascinating  historic series with 24 accounts of famous people and events.      Image: Siege of Saint Augustine fineartamerica.com
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Commission approves St. Francis bed costs The price of short-term lodging is going up – not the Airbnb sort but the homeless shelter sort, and not as a goal of St. Francis House but to help police enforcement. Commissioners Monday approved an increase to the city for 12 beds at St. Francis House $36,000 to $162,000 a year - from $8/bed/night to $37/bed/night. The beds allow police to enforce city rules against sleeping in public. “The city can’t keep people from sleeping in public if there’s no alternative place for them to go,” City Manager John Regan said. “Saint Francis house is not an overnight shelter,” Mayor Nancy Shaver said. You can see that model falling away in every city in the country. “Saint Francis house takes people into their program, gets them IDs, helps them find jobs and helps them find housing. That is the program and the approach that is the solution to homelessness. “What we have here are beds that help us enforce our camping ordinance and that quite frankly we're lucky to have.”  It’s the first cost adjustment since the program was initiated in 2007.
Appeal moves forward to save a red cedar tree An appeal will go before the City Commission January 14 to save a 21-inch diameter southern red cedar tree at 61 Lighthouse Avenue. The Planning and Zoning Board in November approved removing 26 trees including that red cedar for a home for Edward and Laura Byles. She’s a granddaughter of former Mayor Eddie Mussallem. The City Commission Monday approved legal sufficiency for neighbor Chad Smith to make the appeal. Smith is not appealing the decision to remove the 25 trees on private property but that one tree – a protected species in city code - which is on public right of way.   Tree Mitigation Fund OKd Street Tree Committee member and advocate Gina Burrell got a thank you “for keeping this in front of us” as city commissioners Monday adopted a Tree Mitigation Fund which will include fees paid in lieu of planting replacement trees and fines from unpermitted removal of trees. "This Tree Mitigation Fund shall be used by the City to plant and maintain trees in appropriate locations and support the city's tree program within the City right-of-way or on City or other public property to promote street tree rehabilitation, maintain a diverse tree inventory and support tree canopy throughout the City," according to the resolution.
Charter review under study City Attorney Isabelle Lopez will do a full review of what corrections have been made to the city charter and what policy changes commissioners may want to consider, promising an update by March 2019. City Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline also urged getting information to the community as soon as possible to get input in the review process.