Author Topic: Finance defers Bishop’s river study bill  (Read 1386 times)

Steve

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Finance defers Bishop’s river study bill
« on: March 04, 2008, 10:44:12 AM »
by Mike Sharkey

Staff Writer

Two words turned a sub-10 minute City Council Finance Committee meeting Monday into a nearly hour-and-a-half discussion.

As it turns out, those two words – “among others” – caused the deferment of an emergency bill sponsored by Council member Bill Bishop and prevented the Council from breaking a rule that several members spent many hours working on.

Bishop is sponsoring legislation that would provide $100,000 for Jacksonville University to conduct a “hydrology study report” on the effects of Central Florida removing millions of gallons of fresh water from the St. Johns River. Funding for the study will come from the Environmental Protection Board Trust Fund. While Committee member Denise Lee has enough heartburn over the funding source – she has requested an itemized list of the environmental citations that have helped amass the $100,000 including exactly which neighborhoods were guilty of the infractions – her biggest issue with the bill is an absence of a Request for Proposal stipulation.

In order for the City to contract directly with JU on the study, the Council will have to waive a section of its ordinance code. It’s that waiver that didn’t sit well with Lee or Committee members Kevin Hyde, Art Graham and Richard Clark. Hyde was Council president when the Council passed an ordinance that required all bills with a waiver stipulation to also pass the Council Rules Committee. Bishop’s bill was not assigned to Rules.

“I was City Council president when the Better Business ordinance was created,” said Hyde. “I will not support this bill until Rules hears it.”

The Rules committee met earlier Monday. However, the bill wasn’t on the agenda. What set Lee off wasn’t the fact the bill wasn’t assigned to Rules. She was more upset by the fact it was suggested that if Finance approved the legislation – which Finance Chair Art Shad said was legally permissible – the full Council could vote by a two-thirds margin to forego passing the bill through Rules.

Graham agreed.

“It doesn’t sound like this is coming out (of Finance) anyway unless there’s a special Rules meeting,” he said.

Graham, Lee, Hyde and Clark all expressed concern that approving the bill for the purpose of going before the full Council Tuesday night without the OK from Rules would give the impression the Council was circumventing its own rules.

“We worked pretty hard on that rules waiver,” said Clark. “I have to agree with Council member Lee. She’s right. I think we should defer this and let Rules take a look at the waiver.”

The bill was deferred, but earlier Lee questioned the apparent lack of an RFP process. Attorney Peggy Sidman of the Office of General Counsel explained that through a couple of City rules, it was possible to award JU the contract without putting the study out for bid since JU is already working under a different City contract. Lee said operating in that manner wouldn’t look right to the public given the City’s recent history surrounding the procurement of goods and services.

“I think personally this should go out on RFP so it stays clean,” said Lee. “If we do it this way, what’s going to happen the next time?”

Bishop disagreed and stressed the urgency of the bill given the situation in Central Florida and the City’s recent decision to battle water withdrawals legally.

“The whole purpose of the bill is to get Jacksonville in the forefront of the water use issue,” said Bishop, who was visibly unhappy after the meeting with the Committee’s decision to defer the bill. “It’s a big deal now and it’s becoming a bigger deal.”

Bishop explained that JU is already working with the University of North Florida on a study that examines the current condition of the river.

“About the only thing they are not looking at is the effect of the withdrawal of large quantities of fresh water,” he said. “We could do an RFP, but it’s a question of timing. An RFP would put this out two to three months and put us behind the power curve.”

http://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/showstory.php?Story_id=49563

Steve

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Re: Finance defers Bishop’s river study bill
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2008, 10:47:44 AM »
Here's what's frustrating - I get that you can't just nad a business a contract (I agree with that).  JU is a non-profit, fully accredited university that will be doing a study with the money.  All accredidation programs have strict governance on what can be done with grants given from anyone - it's not like the president can just go buy a Lexus with the funds.

Personally, we should be using the univerisities (JU, UNF, FCCJ, EWC) for more stuff like this - when we can do a study on something, let's do it here.  JU has a very strong marine science and marine biology program, and it's things like this that get people frustrated with government.