South Ponte Vedra Beach, an area located between Ponte Vedra Beach & St. Augustine and includes the Guana State Park.

FL - Coronavirus: St. Johns County commissioners split over beach spending during COVID-19 threat

A St. Johns County beach project led to disagreement among county commissioners over spending priorities in light of COVID-19. This week, St. Johns County commissioners voted 3-2 to approve spending $200,000 to advance the design piece of what’s expected to be about a $22.2 million dollar beach dune project. The effort is intended to replace dunes that were lost in Hurricane Matthew.

Commission Chair Jeb Smith and Commissioner Jimmy Johns voted against the move.

Commissioners also voted 3-2 to have the county prepare a financing proposal for the project, which Johns and Smith also voted against.

The county expects 87.5% of the $22.2 million to be reimbursed by FEMA and the state, and the rest will be the county’s responsibility, said Joseph Giammanco, the county’s disaster recovery and grants director.

The county would be reimbursed for expenses as the project goes along, but the county will still have to borrow money, county officials said.

Johns said he supports the project but would not vote to spend $200,000 because it’s uncertain how much the COVID-19 pandemic is going to affect the economy, and he said he would be in favor of considering the issue at a later date.

The project would place sand dunes along about 20 miles of the county’s coastline, including parts of Ponte Vedra Beach, South Ponte Vedra Beach, Vilano Beach, Crescent Beach and Butler Beach.

Because dredging and pumping sand is not feasible with the size of the project, it is expected to completed by having trucks haul in sand, Giammanco said. It will take thousands of truckloads of sand to complete the operation, and it hasn’t been decided yet where the sand will be taken from, he said.

The project is expected to be completed by the summer of 2022.

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