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Council to Vote on $1.7 Million

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Council expected to vote on $1.7 million bailout plan

The Jacksonville City Council is expected to vote tonight on a deal that would take on $1.7 million in debt and rehabilitation costs from the St. Johns River City Band's failed attempt to fully renovate a historic downtown church.

Under the proposed deal the city would bail the band out of its financial obligations on the Snyder Memorial building. The city would then own the building and market it for redevelopment.

The deal includes the city paying $800,000 to finish renovations, forgiving a $650,000 loan and paying off $250,000 in liens on the property placed by contractors who weren't getting paid. Two council committees unanimously approved the proposal last week.

"We've learned from the past, we've had to live with the present, but we are emphasizing making a major impact in the future with this band," said Mike Davis, executive director and music director for the band.

The city and band agreed in 2000 that the band would renovate the Gothic-style former church at Laura and Monroe streets and make the building its headquarters. The band was supposed to make annual payments on the $650,000 loan, but never did.

A $285,000 state grant to the band fell through and the organization moved to an Arlington strip mall after contractors couldn't be paid and the power was shut off.

Davis and Dick Brown, president of the band's board of directors, say the band just wants to get back to making music and playing community functions. Brown is married to council President Elaine Brown.

"We did a disservice to River City Band by letting them get involved in this situation," Councilman Lad Daniels said.

Daniels said this is a prime example of what happens when an organization is encouraged to do something out of its specialty -- such as a community band getting into the historic preservation business.

The band, which has about 30 musicians, performs at city and community functions and also runs honor bands for middle schools and high schools.

The city will finish the renovations in the building and try to make its money back in the sale, said Susie Wiles, a top aide to Mayor John Peyton. T

The city does not have an appraisal on the property, Wiles said, but the assessed value is about $930,000. "It doesn't do anybody any good to just let that building sit there, half finished," Wiles said.

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