City Council Member Klufas Talks Campaign for County Commission Seat as Election Season Kicks Off

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Current City Council member Nicholas Klufas sat down with us to discuss his decision and plans for his County Commission Campaign. With the May 13th deadline passed, it’s official that Klufas is going to be one of the names on the ballot for County Commissioner. We asked him his stance on a variety of issues pertinent to the quality of life for residents in Flagler County.

What initiated you to decide to run for county office? The biggest factor for me to run for county is being term limited at the city; so eight years now, dedicated services. Today, we’ve accomplished a lot of great stuff since 2016, and I want to continue my service at the county level. So really, the term limits, the other option would have been to run for mayor or try to go for a state representative, but I think it could be most effective at the county level and I really like to see us continue to work together with our municipal and county relationships. Back before 2016, it was a wild time. The county and the city almost didn’t even talk, two city managers that wouldn’t even speak to one another. It was very interesting that, the city had almost no relations, that’s a wild thing to think about. We work so much in synergy today, and I’m thankful for that, but, yeah, only eight years ago, we weren’t even talking to one another.
Do you still think that there is more growth that can happen to bring a more cohesive bond with the City and County and how would you plan to kind of continue that momentum of partnership? I think that what we have been able to establish, at least from the city level over the last eight years has laid the framework for the city and the county to work more tightly at an economic development level. So I think we work great now with our utilities because we have to extend the water utilities and wastewater out to Flagler county, the county utility and the city have had to work hand in hand, and that’s something that isn’t really optional because it’s a utility. But I think now that we potentially will have the great elected officials, economic development staff and team and really be able to have some impactful decisions made for the city and county as a whole, especially with our westward expansion. And we have a lot of competition to our north and south in St. John’s county and volusia. It’s a very competitive scene right now as far as relocating businesses.
Okay, so you mentioned that you’ve had a lot of points of success in your eight years in office. Can you share with us some of the highlight? Sure. Yeah, so if I just go through, I’ll just rip off a couple of them. I would say, number one, the Palm Harbor Golf Course. So prior to 2016 the Palm Harbor Golf Course was losing a quarter million dollars a year because it was managed by a company called Kemper Sports. That seems like forever ago, but the city was actually thinking about shutting down the golf course, and instead we internalized all management, and it’s now supported by city staff, and it’s now profitable and that’s a tremendous, really the catalyst to a tremendous, environment and community over by Palm Harbor Golf Course. If you go into the C-Section, you can just feel how vibrant the golf course is. It’s a tremendous facility, great public private partnerships, that’s one. Number two, the cell phone wireless master plan. That was something that was a direct champion effort of mine. Believe it or not, cell phone service was worse here in 2016. I know that may seem impossible but cell phone service was immediately eliminated the height restrictions on the towers, which makes a difference because center line for the cell phone tires makes a difference for how they project out the signal, essentially and we still have work to do. Right now, we do have one more cell phone powered per the cell phone wireless master plan should be installed on the Palm Harbor Golf course, but not all city council members are there, there’s only two of us that are willing to vote for this. So there’s still work left to be done. We can improve cell phone service even further if we were able to put a tower up on our golf course and that would also improve cell phone service on the other side of the bridge, which would be an improvement for Flagler County as well. But it’s a matter of public safety and we identified that in 2016, built its cell phone, wires mounted, we got people on board, and thankfully the service has improved, but we still have work to do. After that, I’d say continuous street lighting program.
What would you say are some of the biggest issues that the county itself face? On top level beach renourishment. We have a big issue with Mother Nature and the impending terrible hurricane season that’s probably looming, I think. It’s estimated to be 32 or 36 named storms that make landfall this year. Last year, I think there’s 22 predicted and there’s 22. So I hope that they’re bad at predicting, but it seems like they’re spot on. An incomplete dune renourishment solution is one that has a days numbered, meaning that if we don’t fulfill the entire requirement to make, like, a concerted sea wall beach renourishment effort in the hole, not just Flagler Beach, but also extending up to the Hammock. It’s going to be incomplete and it’ll fail and that’s kind of how sea walls work is. That if you don’t have a complete solution it’s not a solution. So I think that’s one of the biggest impediments to growth in Flagler County as far as beachside is ensuring that we have the beach. Okay. So a lot of residents seem to feel that taxes are one of the biggest issues that they face here. 
So how do you plan to keep the taxes from increasing astronomically while still taking care of all of the needs that the county has as it continues to grow? So thankfully, the county doesn’t have a water utility, and I say that kind of jokingly, but in all honesty, because the aging infrastructure in Palm Coast, the failures that we’ll see in the future of Palm Coast aren’t because of the additional growth, but it’s because of the 60 year old infrastructure that’s basically at the end of life. Now, in Flagler County, of course we have infrastructure, but we’re in a little bit more fortunate position where we don’t have to manage our water utility and things along those lines. The efforts that I’m making this year at the city, I think that there are costs that are being incurred by the city and potentially also the county. I would like to bring up the issues of the county, such as basically failing to have solar panels on your building that can be funded through state grants and my goal this year is through strategic action planning process is to have a feasibility study done for all of our city facilities to install solar panels and then deferred the expense instead of taking it to our bottom line saving defer that expense to a dedicated arts and cultural program so that it has a dedicated funding source which doesn’t exist today in Palm coast. Today in Palm Coast, arts and cultural arts falls under Parks and Recreation, and it doesn’t belong there itbelongs in its own category. And without a dedicated funding source, it’ll never get there.I feel adamantly that at the county we can do the same exact things. There just hasn’t been initiative to make the push to do this type of, I don’t want to call it green, but that cost saving measures, that can be reinvested into our community.
How on a county level, are you planning to keep up with the rising infrastructure that the county has to take care of without again raising those taxes? Yeah, I mean, keeping taxes low is always going to be at the forefront of all of our decision making. But at the end of the day, new resources I’m sorry, new solutions are going to require new resources, so unless we’re trying to plan to do something different. Then it’s very hard for me to say, hey, this is how we’re going to do all those great things without actually incurring a financial burden. And I say that with eight years experience on our city council, I could blow smoke and say, we’re going to do all these things. We’re going to cut jobs, we’re going to eliminate resources and make them available in other places but the reality is that the county government has rolled back their tax rate and then also kept it flat, so there isn’t much room to cut as far as budgetary concerns at the county. So I think it’s going to require innovative thinking solutions that may be a little bit out of the box and also partnering with the city to try to have economies of scale. I think that we have set up the framework in place with our county and our city government in the last eight years to really be able to combine some of our budgetary concerns into broader efforts to serve Flagler County and Palm Coast as a whole. Okay, and also what I would like to see is bringing an additional tourism dollars. I think the development to the west to offset some of this tax burden that we’re going to incur because we can all see that inflation is not inflation because it is slowing down slightly, but inflation, our budget, with the rollback, has not kept up for inflation, which is really difficult multiple years in a row now, but we need to continue funding the maintenance operation center at the city and, yeah, bringing additional tourism dollars, the westward expansion with the sports facility that’s planned and projected to be out there bringing in tourism dollars. That we charge a bed tax for every person who stays in the hotels here in Palm Coast, to have some sales tax on gasoline. These are things that transient visitors to our area can contribute to our economy and then all the respects they can go home, they come here, they spend their money, and they leave. So, trying to incentivize that type of tourism and economic stimulus will play a vital role in this.
What are your plans to help fix some of the stormwater issues that exist in the county? Yeah so number one thing is we continue to work with our partners at Tallahassee; we have been very fortunate over the past eight years have a legislator that’s been in our corner and the biggest grant that can come down for Flagler county for infrastructure along those lines. Would be things that eliminate any bone who’s on septic tanks or leach fields. There is a major, major initiative at a state level for the environment to be put as a priority as far as releasing nitrates into soil. And there are a lot of opportunities on the coast in Flagler and up into the Hammock where we will have monies available to us in the future to be able to get them off of septic and onto storm water and onto waste water and that is going to take a concerted effort at Tallahassee to make sure we can get those dollars directed to us. But that’s the biggest opportunity in my mind is trying to position ourselves to say, hey, we are trying our absolute hardest to be in line with these state priorities of getting off septic and leach fields and let the funding flow.
With how dangerously low the aquifers are getting, what are your plans if elected? Yeah, so that’s obviously a very important issue and it’s not just the city issue, it’s countywide because obviously Flagler County residents, no matter what city they live in, whether it’s unincorporated Bunnell, we’re all reliant on the aquifers. Specifically, I can speak to our efforts at the city, we were able to lobby for funding for two additional rib sites, rapid infiltration basins. In the city of Palm coast this past legislative session, and as long as the governor signs a budget, we will get monies for those, but having more rapid infiltration basin sites. They call them rib sites and basically they look like little circles, and they have basically circle hills around them, and that allows us to recharge the aquifers faster. Instead of just spraying and misting; so being able to recharge the aquifers as fast as possible.
Why should voters choose you? In 2016, I chose to be the change. I became the youngest elected official in Flagler County history and I’ve built my reputation up on a proven track record, a track record of being diligent, always finding the best solution and being a voice. Our city council, and it’s been a privilege to be a two time vice mayor, my peers respect me. I’ve been able to have a positive impact on our local government and all I ask for the voter is to look at my track record, reach out to me if they have any questions at all, and I’ll stand behind everything that I’ve ever voted for and I don’t have any vested private interests or anything along those lines. I know everybody always hollers about being invested in real estate and being a real tour and things like that. I’m in technology; I am the best candidate because I’m running on a proven track record. And my election promises from 2016 to 2020, I’ve made substantial, if not total progress on them and what I thought I was going to do is what I’ve tried my absolute hardest to do. 
By Krys DeWind

Krys DeWind has been a Flagler County resident since 2016. She is active in her community and is always looking for ways to better it. She has a community first attitude which is one of the central founding ideals of the Flagler County Buzz.

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