Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'One-Stop Shopping' for Government New Office Will Be in Fruit Cove

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'One-Stop Shopping' for Government New Office Will Be in Fruit Cove

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Scanlan, Times-Union staff writer

Pamela Stephens stepped carefully over the wooden framework to the east side of the cleared property on Flora Branch Boulevard in Fruit Cove before standing next to some scattered steel reinforcing bars.

In about 18 months, the sand on which she and St. Johns County Tax Collector's Office co-workers stood Monday afternoon will be their home. A 10,055-square-foot, $1.2 million government annex will be built there.

As the ceremonial groundbreaking for the annex was wrapping up nearby, she gazed out the imaginary window of her future office at the thick trees nearby and teasingly typed on an imaginary computer.

"I am very excited, and I know all the people in the area are excited. Everybody will be at one location, and it will be one-stop shopping," she said. "I love the location with the woods behind us. I can look out the window and see the wildlife when I get a chance."

The annex is being built to give government services in the fastest-growing part of the county one home. They are currently split at two sites in Fruit Cove. Five employees of the Sheriff's Office, building and codes office and property appraiser share a storefront at the Julington Square Shopping Center at 445 Florida 13. The clerk of courts, tax collector and voter registrar share a small former portable classroom building next to the Mills Field baseball complex on Race Track Road.

Former County Commissioner Pal Howell was able to get the site donated to the county two years ago. Current Commissioner Nicholas Meiszer and some county department heads suggested looking for an alternative closer to County Road 210 a year ago, concerned the donated site wouldn't be big enough.

But after the search showed other possible 4- to 5-acre sites would be too expensive or too close to other possible county offices at the World Golf Village and the planned Nocatee development, officials agreed to proceed with the existing site.

Land was cleared for the site a few weeks ago, and a retention pond to the north of the planned building was dug. …

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