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Ormond Beach Observer Friday, Dec. 15, 2017 4 years ago

How Volusia County is preparing for growth

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Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen and County Council Chair Ed Kelley tackled topics revolving around this during the Eggs and Issues event on Friday, Dec. 15.
by: Jarleene Almenas Senior Editor

We have been rediscovered, said Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen during the December Eggs and Issues event by the Daytona Regional Chamber on Friday, Dec. 15.

Dinneen and Volusia County Council Chair Ed Kelley were the guest speakers at the event, and discussed topics from fixing the growing transportation problems and being fiscally responsible to economic development and growing a diverse workforce — all side-effects of the recent growth the county is experiencing. 

"This place is really bottom of the verge of exploding into being one of the best community in the state of Florida, and all we got to do is take advantage and ride the wave that’s here," Dinneen said.

Dinneen and Kelley identified three key issues and how the County is planning to solve them.

Traffic

Kelley said he views transportation as something to improve upon in order to remedy their existing traffic issues, namely Granada Boulevard, Dunlawton Avenue and State Road 44. He proposed a half-cent transportation sales tax from all the cities to make traffic bearable.

“That would give us the funding we need to address the major transportation issues that we have,” Kelley said.

One of the ways the tax revenue would be used would be to upgrade the systems on existing traffic lights to adjust wait times as appropriate. He also said that 40% of the revenue would come from tourists or non-residents passing through town.

“It’s not going to be that big of a hit on this one individually, and the big thing is you know that we need to do something for the problems or the issues that we have right now," Kelley said.

And while he said increased levels of traffic shows they are making progress in growth with the addition of new businesses, restaurants and retail stores, they have to remedy the transportation problems present now without the thousands of homes coming in along LPGA.

Money Matters

Dinneen said reinvesting in infrastructure is a way to solve many community problems. That being said, Dinneen added that the County Council is focused on trying to keep taxes in control and make sure they address the community's needs at the same time.

The county's five-year plan, which has already figured in to all of their expenditures to date, includes the construction of a $3 million elections warehouse, a $5 million investment in off-beach parking, a $7.5 million EVAC building and a $6 million medical examiners facility. All of those projects are considered in the current tax base, Dinneen said.

They were also able to retain 10% in emergency reserves and Dinneen said they are planning to reduce the debt in the general fund to zero come November.

“We’ll have no debt in the general fund, which will be the first time since 1975,” Dinneen said.

He said that is the result of good elected officials who believe it's better to be fiscally responsible than to "cut ribbons." The lack of debt will allow flexibility at the county level to build a new court system if the choose.

Economic Development

In terms of job creation, Dinneen mentioned Brown & Brown Insurance, whose headquarters will be stationed in Beach Street in Daytona Beach. The $4.5 million capital investment made to keep the insurance company local is also bringing 650 jobs with it.

“How devastating would it have been had they left," Dinneen said. "It’s going to change Beach Street like nothing else before.”

Kelley said there are newer facilities coming in to the area as well as nicer hotels and people willing to invest in businesses and properties, comparing those outcomes to a domino effect.

“That’s what it takes," Kelley said. "It takes the private sector. All government can do is to create a pathway for those things to occur and then it takes the people willing to put their money in to their words and create that.”

One example? Hard Rock Hotel in Daytona Beach.

“The difference that was made by the previous council to allow Hard Rock to do what they did was the catalyst that’s going to change the face of our beach," Kelley said.

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