On Wednesday, Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland delivered the annual State of the City address on the City’s YouTube channel and Facebook page. A full transcript. ofHolland’s prepared remarks is below.
Holland also recognized the year’s recipients of three awards:
Citizen of the Year – Greg Peters, Pastor of Parkview Baptist Church. Peters was honored for his partnership and efforts in mobilizing the community behind the successful ‘Feed Palm Coast’ initiative. Peters also continued efforts to support food drives, brought the community together with the Palm Coast Unites event, and other charitable work. You can watch the video of the award presentation here: https://youtu.be/Afe-ioFT0OQ.
Public Safety Award – Bob Snyder, Florida Department of Health in Flagler County – Administrator; Dr. Stephen Bickel, Florida Department of Health in Flagler County – Medical Director; Jonathan Lord, Flagler County Emergency Management Director; and Gerard Forte, City of Palm Coast Fire Chief. The local response to the COVID-19 crisis was a collaborative response between the DOH-Flagler, Flagler County Emergency Operations Center, and the City of Palm Coast Fire Department. The coordination and strong teamwork among the agencies helped keep the community informed as well as aiding the City leadership to make sound informed decisions throughout the crisis. You can watch the award presentation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRTY8SZ91i8.
Next Generation Award – Brandy DeMarco, City of Palm Coast Firefighter. DeMarco has shown a strong commitment to her family, community and nation. She is a graduate of the Fire Department’s intern program and moved on to become a career firefighter while also holding an additional job. She also served in the U.S. military. You can watch the award presentation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7fdQfFkH98.
Here’s the text of Holland’s speech, with the video below:
Hello. I’m Mayor Milissa Holland and I would like to extend warm greetings from sunny Palm Coast, Florida. This year your city leaders conquered complex challenges and celebrated strategic successes all through a year of unprecedented uncertainty. We stayed focused – paying close attention to the needs of our developing community, we strengthened partnerships and stayed attuned to ever-changing opportunities to deliver on your priorities.
2020 was a year that Palm Coast’s connections with local and regional partners proved that being part of something greater makes Palm Coast more resilient, more capable and more durable.
I’m proud to be part of this collaboration of leaders who have worked together to realize so many incredible achievements for our City. My focus for this annual State of the City presentation is to share with you how our focus on you, our residents, and the vision we have set together for our city has empowered our community and set us on an exciting path forward.
The public health crisis presented our community with the broadest challenge we have ever faced as a City. Our way of life has been disrupted, local businesses impacted, and we grieve for all of those we have lost.
Through it all our staff and community has faced this challenge head on and I am proud of how we responded this past year and continue to respond today.
Our City Hall closed in March, but that did not mean serving our residents stopped. The IT Department acted swiftly to provide remote work options for staff. Departments innovated to continue to provide services such as online permitting and virtual inspections.
The Palm Coast Fire Department worked alongside county emergency management officials to deliver safe and timely responses to all calls for service. Firefighters applied new ways to better protect themselves on the job such as wearing reusable and sanitized head gear to cope with the significant shortages of PPE and deliver continuous services to the community.
We also coordinated information from the Florida Department of Health through a series of nineteen virtual town halls that saw an average over one thousand views weekly. And our communications team helped share important emergency information with the community via various channels including the city web site and social media.
The community came together to take care of our neighbors. Through great community partnerships together we raised $100,000 and provided 10,000 boxes of food to 3,500 cars at Town Center in May. Remaining funds have been used to support local food pantries and food drives. Thank you to our community partners, volunteers, and those who have risen up to help.
When it came time to reopen city amenities, departments, facilities, and reintroduce events and programming the Fire Department leadership provided instruction aligned with CDC guidance to do so safely.
Additionally, as vaccines have been coming into our community … our Customer service reps pitched in helping answer calls for information in coordination with the Flagler County Emergency Operations Center.
We remain vigilant and doing all we can to keep residents and visitors safe until this crisis is behind us.
Our City has grown to nearly 90,000 residents and expected to expand to almost 130,000 in the next ten years. And that trend will continue in the years beyond.
It is no surprise either. The vision set forth in the Prosperity 2021 plan set the stage for the Strategic Action Planning we adopted 4 years ago. The plan was to grow our local economy by creating vibrant places, making our city attractive and competitive and fostering inviting neighborhoods. The strategic investments we have made and continue to make in our infrastructure, amenities, activities, and safety of our community make Palm Coast an attractive place for individuals and businesses.
Through uncertain and challenging times we have remained diligent to be good stewards of our financial resources. The City of Palm Coast remains financially sound and proud to say that we have zero municipal debt.
We are committed to being transparent as our residents expect and deserve. . We have managed a budget for all of our services and goals. Our budget allocation increased from FY2020 to FY2021 and we are continuing to allocate those valuable financial resources to invest in our community.
Property tax revenue allows us to support the services that are vital to protecting and maintaining our community such as fire, police, street maintenance, and more.
Sales tax revenue is a vital source of revenue to our community. Those dollars are put back into our community and help provide for capital improvements like additional baseball fields, facility and park upgrades, our roads, and so much more. Spending locally and supporting our local economy benefits us all. It was encouraging to see, and reflective in local sales tax performance, that 66% of respondents to our recent Citizen Survey said they were aware of the benefits and 70% said they changed their shopping habits to buy more locally. Those are the reasons for our efforts behind the Be Local Buy Local campaign.
We are seeing one of the most exciting times in our history. Through solid planning, strategic investments, partnerships, and execution we are realizing a boom in economic development and opportunity. We have created vibrant places, making our city attractive and competitive and fostering inviting neighborhoods.
Palm Coast Town Center boasts nearly 1600 acres. As defined by the Brookings Institute, an Innovation District “facilitates the creation and commercialization of new ideas and support for economies by growing jobs in ways that leverage their distinct economic attributes.” That idea is a reality within our own Innovation District which is becoming the hub of an ecosystem that will be home to business incubators, universities, retail shops, parks, health care and high-tech companies, and most importantly a center for creating the jobs of the future: 530 of the 1,000 residential units are committed, 500,000 square feet of commercial space is remaining.
An additional section is being developed as an Arts District. Town Center will also be the epicenter to a vibrant collaboration of artists, entertainers, and culture. It will be a hub of activity that attracts a plethora of businesses.
Today I proudly share with you how our efforts on attracting industries with economic foundations based on education, healthcare, technology and manufacturing have led to the creation of over 1,000 new jobs this year in Palm Coast This strategic development allows a highly-skilled and talented workforce to reside locally, and creates opportunities to retain younger generations by creating a pipeline of talent to high paying careers right here at home.
The University of North Florida and Jacksonville University have become the latest call Town Center home.
The University of North Florida is creating the groundbreaking MedNexus, a first of its kind in the nation, right here in Palm Coast. UNF will offer an expansive set of disciplines linking our students from Flagler Palm Coast and Matanzas High Schools, and Daytona State College to a wide variety of healthcare certifications and degrees that will lead them to the careers of tomorrow with regional medical partners. As the nation’s first comprehensive, university based medical nexus, it will provide a pathway from a quality education to high paying positions in a variety of medical fields.
The highly respected Jacksonville University will launch their first ever campus expansion here in our Innovation District in Town Center. It will serve as an added connection for students. Jacksonville University will be offering master’s degrees in nursing, speech language pathology and clinical mental health counseling, with advanced credentialing and new state of the art programs in business and other disciplines coming in the future.
AdventHealth announced a new $100 million dollar standalone medical facility on Palm Coast Parkway, marking the single-largest health care investment in Flagler County. This four-story hospital is scheduled to open in late 2022 and will join AdventHealth Palm Coast to provide additional convenience and comprehensive care, including world-class orthopedics and cardiovascular medicine. This expansion is expected to provide an initial 400 new jobs, and that figure is expected to grow to as many as 700 with an average salary of $67,000.
I am proud to welcome Boston Whaler to Palm Coast. Boston Whaler chose Palm Coast as home to their new manufacturing facility because they recognized our commitment and accomplishments in creating and sustaining a vibrant, healthy and safe city that has a track record of responsibility and good decision making. As one of the nation’s premier boat manufactures, Boston whaler has made a significant commitment to workforce development, environmental enhancements and to partnerships with our High school Flagship Programs. Boston Whaler is expected to add 300 to 400 jobs over the next 18 to 24 months. The first boats are anticipated to come off the production line at the Palm Coast facility during the second half of 2021.
The Florida National Guard also put down roots here by opening a new 72,000 square-foot readiness center. The Palm Coast Readiness Center provides our soldiers a state-of-the-art facility for drills and training exercises, a permanent headquarters for their staff, and a local staging and operations center during times of natural disaster. The day to day economic benefits have also contributed to the strength of our local economy as our local businesses have been proud to welcome the woman and men of the US Armed Forces.
These are just some of the partnerships we have assembled with other local and regional organizations.
And this is just the beginning. More is coming.
We are committed to investing in our infrastructure to keep it delivering outstanding service to our residents and ready to handle continued growth. This includes city-wide storm water management, our roads, traffic management, City facilities, and more. We know companies and organizations factor the quality of municipal services into their decision before starting up or moving to an area.
Our storm water drainage system is comprised of more than 1200 miles of swales and 500 miles of pipes. Connected to these waterways are 19 storm water control structures. Florida’s natural storm seasons present challenges. We are devoting more resources to upgrading the entire system in logical order with the newest technology. Our plan improves drainage as a whole, addressing our entire system, in a comprehensive and strategic approach. This will keep floodwaters moving off roads more efficiently. Last year, we completed major drainage improvement projects in the R and F sections as well as a major pipe replacement project on Belle Terre Boulevard. Work on the multi-year improvement project will continue in other areas of the city.
This past year our crews were hard at work and completed 39 miles of swale maintenance, and 184 miles of ditch maintenance
This year we project to have completed 20 – 35 miles of swale maintenance, and 140 miles of ditch maintenance.
To put that in perspective, our crews typically are able to accomplish about 25 miles of Swale maintenance per year!
On top of that we have resurfaced 35 miles of roadways and are projected to complete another 20-35 miles.
We are also working to complete the design and permitting for the expansion of the city’s wastewater treatment capacity. The project is currently on schedule with construction to begin towards the end of this year. New wells, new raw water mains and various pump system upgrades are also planned. Operating water systems on a 24-7 basis is no easy task. But we successfully provided this service. And in doing so, our Water Treatment Plant #2 earned the 2020 “Outstanding Membrane Plant Award” recognizing our operations.
Infrastructure isn’t just below the ground. Many residents notice the great care put in to beautifying our city when they get off of the interstate. The freshly manicured medians, perfectly painted buildings and solidly paved roads continue to receive routine attention. Last year more than 500 hazard trees were removed throughout the community and new flowers and trees were planted on major thoroughfares. Colorful new water fountains welcome everyone to Palm Coast in traditional Florida Fashion.
We have also been working on upgrading our high-speed internet known as FiberNet, our own comprehensive fiber optic network infrastructure. And I am proud to say we do so Debt Free. FiberNET networking equipment was upgraded last year and now we are working to bring more providers onto the network to offer more choices, better reliability and competitive pricing better serve our residents. FiberNet also benefits the City by forming the backbone of City operations and saving our residents an estimated $310,000 annually in costs and generating capital revenue for our City IT department.
Our variety of parks and various amenities bring residents together to connect with family and friends and share experiences. The investments in these areas are strategic and create a sense of place. They enhance the health and wellbeing of our residents and are an integral component of public safety as well. Investing in our diverse amenities is part of our commitment to the high standards that make Palm Coast an exceptional place to live.
Enhancements and improvements to our recreation amenities every year significantly improve the safety, security and user experience for park and trail users, walkers and cyclists.
At Holland Park, an estimated $6.28 million dollar renovation is underway re-introducing this multi-generational amenity to the community. The expanded playground and brand new splash pad are comprised of five play zones. The playground design is reminiscent of natural features of the local land with 20 new pieces of equipment for children to stay active. The splash pad reflects the freshwater aquatic and ocean areas of the region and features dozens of sprays from various constructed animals and creatures. The city also added a trellis with four bench swings, five new covered pavilions, and a large shade sail structure to keep children cooler in the summer months. These add to the overall experience for park-goers, which offers about 26 acres to explore and enjoy. (Bocce Ball? Other Dog Park Renovations)
Our Palm Coast Community Center serves as the hub for our Parks and Recreation Department and hosts indoor recreation activities for all ages. Normally, 15,000 people come through the facility annually for programs, and 30,000 for rentals. The building was designed for residents with their health and the environment in mind. In fact it was just awarded the prestigious LEED silver certification, meaning the design and construction were completed to ensure sustainability and efficiency. Palm Coast Community Center is home to a wide variety of programs and activities for all ages including 26 Senior-specific programs in 2019-2020.
Palm Coast has a rich tradition and history of tennis. Legends such as Andre Agassi have played here. Tom Gullikson, former player, Davis Cup Captain, and USTA National Coach served as the local tennis community for more than 15 years. Last year the Palm Coast Tennis Center welcomed more than 17,000 players to the courts. Over 3,000 participated in adult and youth clinics and more than 250 players participated in lessons.
The facility is also home to the Palm Coast Open, a USTA Pro Circuit tournament which attracts an estimated 2,000 in visitor attendance. Nationally-ranked tennis players such as Reilly Opelka (a Palm Coast local), Taylor Fritz, Alex Rybakov, and others from around the world have competed here and delighted fans at this tournament. This year’s event is planned for the Fall.
Plans are in the works for an upgraded facility. The goal going forward is to create a regional racquet center that will include additional tennis courts that are both full and junior-sized, pickleball courts, and a clubhouse with dining. It will set the stage for a facility equipped to host regional events that will further boost our economy. The planning process includes our staff and residents who are working together to take this facility to the next level.
And who can resist the lush greens of the Palm Harbor Golf Course. In its last full year of operation it saw 43,000 rounds sold. Golfers also saw several upgrades to the clubhouse restrooms and kitchen flooring. New LED lighting was added, inside and out.
Four new baseball diamonds were constructed at the Indian Trails Sports Complex to accommodate growing youth sports in our community. Design was completed in-house by city engineers and construction work was performed by Public Works special projects crew at a significant cost savings Field upgrades contained new storm water and irrigation systems under the fields, as well as new fencing, clay, sod, player’s benches, dugouts and bleachers. The concession building received a sizeable upgrades that will now allow regional tournaments and events to be held.
Visitors to the Lehigh Trail Trailhead off of Belle Terre Parkway can look forward to several enhancements at one of the city’s most popular paths. This is thanks to a direct result of great partnerships between the City, the Florida Department of Transportation and the River to Sea Transportation Planning Organization. The City of Palm coast obtained a nearly 2-milion dollar grant for renovations and safety enhancements.
These infrastructure improvements and amenities are supported through the Be Local Buy Local campaign. This initiative highlights how shopping local reinvests sales tax dollars back into community-wide projects. Some of these dollars have paid for street resurfacing and upgrades at several city parks. And last year, more than $8.2 million came back to the City to help fund these types of improvements.
It is a top priority to keep our citizens safe under any and all circumstances. And last year, with local partners, we managed to navigate through a pandemic while increasing safety on our roads, in our neighborhoods and reduce crime throughout the community as a whole.
Traffic, signaling and streetlight improvements were also important safety components in 2020.
Streetlights were installed this year along several stretches of Belle Terre Parkway and that will continue into 2021. The nearly $100,000 project adds 6 miles of lighting with 261 lights from Palm Coast Parkway to US Highway 100. Later this year, we plan to enter into the design phase to continue adding street lights south on Belle Terre Boulevard to US Highway 1.
In addition 170 lights are planned for Seminole Woods Parkway this year from state road 100 to US 1, and 31 lights to go up on Ravenwood Drive.
We continue to re-time traffic signals to increase efficiency of traffic flow at each intersection. And a new coordination plan will increase the flow of traffic through the Palm Coast Parkway and Belle Terre corridors resulting in smoother travel throughout the city.
Drivers will continue to see construction on Old Kings Road as the widening project moves forward. This first phase will widen Old Kings Road from Utility Drive to about half a mile north at the northernmost intersection of Kings Way. Dedicated turn lanes and sidewalks will be added. Further phases of this project will resume as F-DOT grant funding becomes available. The City is receiving reimbursement through an FDOT grant of over $6.5 million dollars to facilitate this important transportation road traffic safety improvement.
We are focused on providing opportunities for our youth residents to stay active through investing in the expansion and improvements of our sports complexes, parks, and the variety of programs at our Community Center. Little League is growing each year and hosted almost 1,000 players in 2020 and we saw the addition of two new fields and other facility upgrades. Over 600 participated in flag football with Mad Dogs. Participation in soccer has grown to over 1200 players.
Our top-notch Fire Department is always ready to respond. With 5 Fire Stations, 5 front-line fire engines, 4 backup engines, 2 frontline aerial apparatus, 57 Firefighters, and almost 40 volunteers the team handles about 20 calls per day and is committed to achieving a 7minute response time.
The Fire Department is also active in the community. Through community outreach programs our Fire Department provides in-home safety guidance, assistance with maintaining smoke detectors, car seat installation checks and advice, safety talks, and more.
This year teens are participating in our Junior Fire Program. These teens get hands-on experience with a variety of aspects of being a firefighter. They suit up and participate in training exercises that provide education on firefighting and being a paramedic.
Not only did our city departments enhance safety, so did Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies. Five additional deputies, which includes one deputy dedicated to Town Center, are being added this year to the force that helps keeps Palm Coast safe. Crime is down more than 18% from 2019 to 2020. To add to that, in the past four years, crime is down 48% … which is the lowest crime rate in at least 25 years.
Because of all of these efforts by our public safety partners, it is no surprise that recent survey results showed more than 95% of residents feel safe in their neighborhood.
I’ve already talked about meaningful development, strong infrastructure and increased safety, let’s talk about the quality services we are committed to providing to the community.
We pride ourselves being business friendly. We focused on identifying and simplifying procedures to ensure development progresses promptly. In the midst of a pandemic and even with residential and business permits continuing to grow, we triumphed. In 2020, more than 50,000 inspections were completed and 67 development applications were processed. To meet demands for efficiency and safety, many of these inspections were handled virtually.
We also redesigned our Business Tax Receipt process to help new license applicants open their doors quickly as possible.
It’s always good business practice to ask customers if we’re suitably meeting their needs. So during the permitting process, customers are surveyed on their experience. At three recent charrettes between contractors, planning professionals, business owners and staff, discussions were held to improve our methods. The feedback we received will prove to be invaluable as we move forward.
As we employ these measures, we’ve also reconnected with our partners at SCORE – which stands for the Service Corps of Retired Executives. Mentors provide free educational and organizational support for local aspiring small business owners. Last year, 12 mentors held 218 sessions with their 126 clients. And they are helping business-owners right here in our city hall.
If you’ve ever asked Alexa for help, you will appreciate one of our newest connections. In 2020, our residents and business owners were able to get information from City staff via this popular Amazon voice assistant, regarding services such as garbage collections, event dates, permit statuses and more.
Exemplary customer service is not just a goal. It is part of our mission to residents. To better inform and connect with you, the City continues to solve customer needs and track requests through the popular community engagement platform called Palm Coast Connect.
Using this platform, you can tell us at any time, from anywhere about any issue you have or see. Residents can set up a work order and track the progress from inception to completion. Because of your reporting, we have been able to determine what the core issues are in the city and apply direct resources more efficiently.
The result has been incredible. About 31,800 cases were submitted and solved through Palm Coast Connect in 2020. The average resolution time for cases is now four days, which is an improvement over 2019 when we had just started tracking it and closing cases in five days.
We’re able to deliver exceptional levels of service by connecting us all to smarter, quicker technology. Creating an account at palmcoastconnect.com will get you connected any time day or night. That’s along with more than 8400 of your neighbors who signed up in 2020, bringing the total to more than 12,600 residents connected.
Palm Coast Connect provided data we never had. Part of utilizing this platform was to identify efficiencies. As a result, we are able to manage our day-to-day better by assigning city crews to fix various concerns by who is closest, whether it be a tree down, or litter, or other various concerns. We have streamlined our reporting process from paper to digital.
Through the platform, residents can also sign up for a free inspection on their smoke alarms and batteries, electrical hazards and how to properly store hazardous chemicals handled by Palm Coast firefighters.
We offer multiple ways to get in touch with us whether by email, phone or Palm Coast Connect. And we’re hearing from many of you. This past year, customer service representatives answered more than 119,000 calls, a 4 percent increase over 2019. More than 9,000 emails came in to the city last year, about a thousand fewer than the previous year.
Our City is getting recognized within Florida and beyond. This past year we were honored for our City to receive several prestigious awards and recognition.
As we talked about earlier, we take pride in being fiscally responsible and transparent because that is what our residents deserve. The awards the City received this past year are a testament to the strong financial system and management at the City. Those awards and recognition included:
- The 2020 Government Finance Officers Association Certificate Popular Annual Financial Services Reporting Award
- The Government Finance Officers Association Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting and Distinguished Budget Presentation Award
- The 2020 Florida Association Public Procurement Officials Award of Excellence
- And Fitch Ratings upgraded the City of Palm Coast’s utility outstanding obligations bond rating from A+ to AA. By having high ratings, this helps the city secure financing for Utility operations at attractive and lower interest rates, and thus, finance other projects at a cost effective rate.
Our Stormwater program was recognized and received the Florida Stormwater Association 2020 Outstanding Achievement Award. This award recognizes the City for demonstrating development and implementation of innovative projects, innovations in the areas of Stormwater management, finance, permit compliance, adequate funding, a stable and talented staff, intergovernmental coordination, best management practices, and improved level of service.
We also received the International City/County Management Association’s Certificate of Distinction for our work incorporating principles of performance management, comparative analysis, and data-informed decision making.
And last, but certainly not least . . .
Waterfront Park, one of the City’s most popular destinations for locals and visitors, received the Traveler’s Choice Award from TripAdvisor. And just recently our Community Center received LEED Silver Certification that is a testament to our commitment to safe, sustainable, and green building practices.
These are awards and recognition that we can all be proud of and shine light on the hard work being done to not only be the best, but also the commitment to a high level of standards our residents expect.
People are always asking me ‘what can I do?’ We have so many different opportunities. There are programs through the Fire Department in protecting your neighbors. There are boards and committees to volunteer your time and talent. Participating in our community surveys and public meetings helps guide our city council’s decisions. We offer a citizens academy which provides you with a more in-depth look at how the city works and a chance to converse with top leaders and managers. We’re coming up on our 45th session and have hosted nearly 1200 residents through the program since 2005. Our residents’ involvement is helpful to delivering on serving our community.
To sum things up, we faced and conquered complex challenges and celebrated strategic successes through a year of uncertainty. Our strategies and goals – have projected this path. It is no wonder that the city was recognized with the prestigious ‘Transformation in Foundations of Livability’ award by the International City and County Management Association because you said we’re moving in the right direction.
Through our connections to our partners and strategic planning, we are laying the foundations for continued success for generations to come.
Thank you for listening and let’s all take care of ourselves and each other.