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bobliocatt

Mayor Wants $141M More For Better Jax Plan

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Mayor John Peyton said he wants to improve the Better Jacksonville Plan, but the city would need a $141 million loan to make it happen.

The money would come from a bond, a loan that the city would pay back with taxpayer dollars.

Peyton and the City Council are working to make this happen, in order to fund even more projects for the plan. "There is not any one big hit," said Peyton. "There are a lot of little things that really need support." Some of the major projects include:

1. The purchase of new buildings to add more city office space: $33 million

2. Building and renovation of eight fire stations: $12 million

3. Fixing sidewalks: $6 million

4. Repairing bulkheads and making improvements to the Riverwalk: $6 million

5. Solving jail overcrowding: $12 million

Sheriff John Rutherford said this last change is necessary. "The overcrowding at the jail is a significant issue that we're going to be addressing. This will help some of it," Rutherford said.

Jacksonville will also continue funding some downtown housing projects. Among these is the Strand, a high-rise apartment and condo project currently being built on the Southbank. The city is setting aside $4 million for the developer.

To avoid troubles such as those with the Shipyards deal, the developers won't be paid until the work is completed. "Yeah, we did learn our lesson from the Shipyards," said City Councilman Reggie Fullwood. "The Strand is structured a lot differently."

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Good for him! I like everything on that list, though I wish there was some Convention Center funds included, but let's not get carried away. You can clearly see that there will be some city office movement, near Hemming Plaza. And I like that we're seeing some attempts made to handle the jail situation.

This might just turn around Peyton's reputation; having some long-overdue action downtown! I'm anxious to see how this unfolds.

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5. Solving jail overcrowding: $12 million

Perhaps it is time to consider moving the Jacksonville Sherriff's Office and Duval County Jail out of Downtown. The JSO building's infrastructure is a mess and both it and the jail are sitting on some pretty valuable land. If the Jail is overcrowed anyway...

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I agree with the list and also with Springfieldian's comments. I am surprised that no money was put in for the road work cost overruns. I guess that will be addressed later.

Apparently the city is looking at the Ed Ball building. In addition to the Ed Ball building itself, there is also a 2 story building at Hoagn & Adams that Wachovia sold to the same buyer of the Ed Ball building. I wonder if the city will buy that as well. If so, I hope they demolish it and sell to a developer for a residential mid-to high rise.

Speaking of Wachovia, I hate that they are taking 2,000 employees and moving them to the overcrowded 'burbs. That is 2,000 people that will lose a major incentive to live downtown. Not to mention the loss of their spending in the downtown area (lunch and lunch-time shopping specifically).

One bright side to Wachovia's move is that they will at least help in the redevelopment of the UniversityBlvd/Emerson St area. At least that is closer-in than Deerwood, and in need of redevelopment.

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^It is unfortunate to see Wachovia move so many employees out of downtown. Although its great to see that half will be going into another area of town, in need of renovation (Emerson), it was reported yesterday, that the remaining 1,000 employees will be moving into a large office building in Deerwood Park.

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I agree! That is a shame that so many people are moving out of downtown. Hopefully, an increasing number of people going into downtown will compensate for the lost employees and exceed that number.

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Speaking of Wachovia, I hate that they are taking 2,000 employees and moving them to the overcrowded 'burbs. That is 2,000 people that will lose a major incentive to live downtown. Not to mention the loss of their spending in the downtown area (lunch and lunch-time shopping specifically).

Another reason the $$ incentives should stop flowing into Southside (especially the Tinseltown/Deerwood area). The momentum is built, the money flow should stop. This move; however, is probably driven by executives' wanting a shorter drive in to work.

It's sad to see the city's center being moved out of Downtown but that seems to be the plan as I see it. At least Herb, the Davises, and the Skinners are doing well because of it.

I am happy to see the Emerson move but I would rather see it as an expansion site, with jobs being added instead of just shuffled around.

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Some of the major projects include:

1. The purchase of new buildings to add more city office space: $33 million

2. Building and renovation of eight fire stations: $12 million

3. Fixing sidewalks: $6 million

4. Repairing bulkheads and making improvements to the Riverwalk: $6 million

5. Solving jail overcrowding: $12 million

I think that list sounds really great overall. All 6 of those items are clearly worthwhile.

Now, if only the city would get the money by eliminating some of those stupid overpass projects (that few people even want anyway) instead of passing a new bond issue.

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I agree, I can understand placing a couple of overpasses on Southside Blvd (at Atlantic and Touchtone), but most of the others (ex. Atlantic @ Kernan, Beach @ Hodges) are cleary not needed.

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While I agree all of the things on the list are necessary (I wish #7 was for the convention center), I really don't see this as popular with the people as Better Jax. The only one that I think will really touch the average citizen is the Fire Stations. However, it it were left up to the voters, I would vote for this.

And by the way, while I agree with you completely about Beach & Hodges, I think the one at Atlantic & Kernan is necessary, especially with the growth north of Atlantic.

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While I agree all of the things on the list are necessary (I wish #7 was for the convention center), I really don't see this as popular with the people as Better Jax.  The only one that I think will really touch the average citizen is the Fire Stations.  However, it it were left up to the voters, I would vote for this.

And by the way, while I agree with you completely about Beach & Hodges, I think the one at Atlantic & Kernan is necessary, especially with the growth north of Atlantic.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I didn't read that this was going to a referendum. If a tax increase is not involved, it would probably only require city council approval.

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Peyton capital plan up for vote

By MATT GALNOR

The Times-Union

Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton's first major capital spending plan -- borrowing $141 million to build eight fire stations, buy a downtown office building and pay for a slew of other projects -- is expected to gain City Council approval tomorrow.

Other major projects include $6 million to repair sidewalks, $13 million for traffic improvements and $12 million to the Sheriff's Office for, among other things, a new forensic lab and jail maintenance -- a little something for everyone.

That's partially the point.

To get his plan through the council, including initially unpopular dollars for the equestrian center and the Jacksonville zoo, Peyton needed to add enough to make everyone happy.

"Adding a more diverse group of projects and initiatives certainly helps, but it wasn't the only factor that made me and some other council members change their minds," said Councilman Reggie Fullwood, who chairs the council Finance Committee.

The bonds will be paid back over 30 years from the city's general fund, which includes various taxes and fees for services.

As part of getting council support, Peyton doubled the accounts of the 14 district council members, who'll now have $1 million to spend on any projects they see fit in their district.

"I think it comes under the line 'With 13 votes you can do anything.' They're buying 14 in case someone's absent," Councilman Lad Daniels said.

Daniels is one of five at-large council members who does not have any money to spend on projects. Anything over $100,000, however, needs a vote from the whole council.

Peyton first proposed the bond in July during his annual budget address. That proposal had $500,000 in each council account.

A proposed $4 million to fix drainage and add parking at the equestrian center and $5 million for zoo projects both drew early opposition from the council.

Fullwood and others said the more they learned about the equestrian center and zoo proposals, the more comfortable they became.

District accounts are important, council members say, because they allow them to actively fix problems in their district -- match dollars with a local athletic association, make a $25,000 drainage fix, plug the holes that come up that other departments don't have the money for.

Those dollars can often be used to leverage other money, Councilwoman Lynette Self said, encouraging private groups to raise a certain amount on their own.

Each council district had $1 million to be used only for recreation projects as part of the Better Jacksonville Plan voters approved in 2000. Many of those accounts were drained, however, by the time six new district council members took office in 2003.

Overall in the $141 million bond, the largest chunk -- about 23 percent -- is headed to "building consolidation."

Of that, $8 million will pay for design and renovation of the Haverty's/YMCA building, a 60,000-square-foot, city-owned building across from City Hall.

The city has been in negotiations to buy the Ed Ball Building on Hogan Street, but a deal has not been finalized, said Adam Hollingsworth, Peyton's chief of policy. The nine-story building, home to Wachovia Bank offices, is appraised at more than $27 million.

The Haverty building, and likely the Ball building, would house employees now in the City Hall Annex on Bay Street or in other leased space across the city.

Yet it's the smaller dollar amounts -- $1 million for dredging projects, $800,000 for San Marco Boulevard improvements, $400,000 for a Shands Community Health Clinic -- that are often part of getting everyone on board.

"I think it touched everyone, it picked up all of our issues and concerns," Councilwoman Sharon Copeland said.

Copeland, who represents Mandarin, said she was especially pleased with the more than $300,000 for a drainage project at Chuck Rogers Park in her district and $500,000 to buy land for a senior center.

She was initially down on the zoo money but came around after Peyton's office required the zoo to raise the $10 million it pledged before the city gives its $5 million.

Those tight provisions come from lessons learned on the equestrian center.

The Northeast Florida Equestrian Society was supposed to raise $5 million to build permanent barns, but it brought in less that 20 percent of that total. The $4.3 million in the bond proposal would pay for additional parking and improvements to the temporary barns, which are often under water and can't be used because they aren't up to code.

More than $32 million is already in the project -- $29 million from the Better Jacksonville Plan voters approved with a half-cent sales tax in 2000.

--------------------------------------------------

Capital spending plan

Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton is proposing to borrow $141 million for various city projects, the biggest capital plan since he took office in 2003. The City Council is scheduled to vote on the proposal Tuesday. The highlights include:

Office space consolidation, including buying a downtown building: $33 million

Transfer to a reserve account to potentially pay for part of a multi-modal transportation center and other neighborhood improvements in Brooklyn and LaVilla: $15 million

Discretionary accounts for each of the 14 council districts: $14 million

Urban area traffic improvements: $13.8 million

Fire station replacement and renovation: $12.6 million

Sheriff's Office, including a new forensics lab and jail improvements: $12 million

Sidewalk repair: $6 million

Repairing the St. Johns River bulkhead: $5.7 million

Capital projects at the Jacksonville zoo: $5 million

Equestrian center: $4.38 million --------------------------------------------------

matt.galnorjacksonville.com, (904) 359-4550

This story can be found on Jacksonville.com at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stor..._17429641.shtml.

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