Author Topic: Councilmembers duke it out  (Read 953 times)


  • The Jaxson
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Councilmembers duke it out
« on: August 21, 2007, 10:15:49 AM »
Finance Committee rejects Scott Park bill

by Mike Sharkey

Staff Writer

Monday’s City Council Finance Committee meeting was highlighted by a rare public dispute between two Council members and an even more rare defeat of a Council member’s bill.

Council member Denise Lee adamantly opposed a bill introduced last month and sponsored by Council member Mia Jones that would have appropriated a little over $280,000 from the Class 3 Mitigation Fund for use at Scott Park. Lee contested the bill on several fronts including who actually owns the property on which the park sits. Lee insisted the park actually belongs to the Duval County School Board, thus the City can’t legally fund any improvements, regardless of the funding source.

Lee also cited the fact that Jones has over $1 million worth of funding for her district in the form of Better Jacksonville Plan money and bond money.

More than anything, Lee opposed the bill because the landfill is in her Dist. 8 while the park is in Jones’ Dist. 10.

“This is not a good bill,” said Lee, explaining that City ordinance requires that landfill mitigation fees go towards the communities nearest the landfills first. Scott Park, Lee says, is over six miles from the landfill while Cisco Park – which is in her district – is next door to the landfill. “This is six miles versus next door. It’s an issue of principle. Cisco Park is right next door to the Jones Road landfill.”

Two weeks ago the Finance Committee waived the City ordinance that requires landfill mitigation fees be used for public improvements near the landfill when it approved a bill that sets aside funding from the Trail Ridge Landfill Mitigation Fund for the Taye Brown Regional Park at Cecil Commerce Center. The landfill is in Council member Ray Holt’s district while the park is in Council President Daniel Davis’ district and is 8.2 miles from the landfill. That fact was not lost on Finance member Art Graham Monday.

“We started this mess two weeks ago,” he said. “We shouldn’t have gone down that path.”

Jones defended her bill and said it met every City requirement and the improvements to Scott Park were long overdue.

“This community has waited a long time to make this park a little bit better. Not a lot better, but a little bit better,” said Jones.

Lee said her opposition wasn’t personal, she just doesn’t believe the funding for Scott Park is coming from the right source. And, she said, she is willing to help Jones find the funds.

“I applaud anybody who looks after their district,” said Lee, who’s in her second stint on the Council. “Certainly Ms. Jones is trying, but not at the expense of Dist. 8.”

After about 20 minutes of discussion and debate, Lee called for a vote. The Finance Committee voted 7-0 against the bill.

The Finance Committee did approve a bill that will allow the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department to sell as surplus a 1970 65-foot Eugene Johnson marine rescue boat. The boat was replaced earlier this year by a brand new model and named after former Mayor Jake Godbold.

Larry Peterson, chief of the JFRD’s administrative services division, said the JFRD would use the funds from the sale of the boat to buy smaller marine vessels capable of navigating into difficult to reach areas.

“We are expected to do rescues in water and we need this type of equipment,” said Peterson, adding the boat could sell for as much as $200,000.

Janice Billy of the Council Auditor’s Office said funds generated by the sale of surplus City equipment traditionally go into the City’s general fund. Finance member Kevin Hyde suggested the bill be amended to approve the funds going to JFRD provided it is put below the line until the boat actually sells. The Finance Committee approved the amended bill, 7-0.

The Committee deferred Mayor John Peyton’s reorganization bill. Jack Gilrup, the City’s retired chief of Disabled Services, addressed the Council Rules Committee Monday morning and the Finance Committee Monday afternoon. Gilrup said he was concerned because the reorganization plan essentially dissolves the Disabled Services Division and spreads the jobs and services among the new divisions.

“I am here to reiterate my opposition to what we consider a dismantling of the division,” said Gilrup, who retired early this summer.

Gilrup said he spoke with members of Peyton’s administration who he said admitted the decision was a mistake.

Peyton’s Chief of Policy Adam Hollingsworth said the administration will sit down with Gilrup and others with similar concerns.

However, when questioned Hollingsworth didn’t guarantee the division would remain intact. Hollingsworth said the administration believes “the same level of service can be provided” by spreading the duties of the division among various departments, “especially in a difficult budget year.”
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  • The Jaxson
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Re: Councilmembers duke it out
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2007, 02:47:57 PM »
Wow, from the sounds of this, this should be an interesting four years with this council.