Jacksonville, FL (November 21, 2019) – Councilman Becton hosted a public meeting with Cordial Drive residents along with JEA and the Office of General Council of the city to introduce a program to resolve a critical problem whereby property owners of this neighborhood do not have safe drinking water because of failing, shallow private wells.
Cordial Drive is a private, tax reverted roadway with a history that dates back many years before neighborhoods were required to be platted. Having a list of issues and no one to hold responsible, they reached out to their district councilmen for help. Cordial Drive is an 800-foot stretch of dirt road off Fayal Road, off Greenland Road just west of Philips Highway. Consisting of 11 homes, most all are experiencing the serious problem to their quality of life and health with no access to quality drinking water that we all take for granted.
Residents in reaching out to Councilman Becton reported the murky, unsanitary and potentially hazardous water quality coming from their facets and taps. To help these residents, Councilman Becton reported the issue to city officials but was told the City could not be responsible for Cordial Drive because of its private tax reverted status.
Tax Reverted roadways are not official city public roadways but private roadways that have been abandoned by the original developer. In not paying taxes and never having improved these rights-of-ways to city standards and accepted by the city, these roadways have been placed in a tax lien status. Within the City of Jacksonville, there are hundreds or even thousands of miles of roadways that have this status. It is a conundrum for residents along these roadways and in many situations like Cordial Drive, most residents live on fixed incomes and cannot fund the investments that it would take to resolve this issue.
This lack of ownership and access to city services has left residents at a standstill with issues that include roadway maintenance and their ability to receive city services including water and sewer. However, Councilman Becton in working with the administration and JEA has offered the residents a possible way forward of their access to clean water by way of a Public – Private partnership to have services installation that they so desperately need.
“The problem for which these residents face is of great concern and it has been frustrating to see the issues caused by how these properties were divided and sold and the original property owner having abandoned the obligations for which come with developing multiple properties, called subdivisions by today’s standards.” Councilman Becton explained. “This would never happen today due to the platting requirements for homes of three or more being built.”
A community meeting was held at a local business, Hrustic Brothers Inc. on the evening of November 21st. Councilman Becton hosted the community meeting with JEA representatives and presented a public-private partnership plan to initiate a solution for the failing wells of the Cordial Drive residential community. JEA’s Project Outreach team, Greg Corcoran, Nancy Jennings, and Nancy Kilgo along with COJ’s Office of General Council Attorney, Shannon Eller, attended the meeting. Corcoran is the Manager of JEA’s Community Involvement and Project Outreach, and he led JEA’s presentation alongside Councilman Becton. Corcoran explained the new program and the benefits of installing city water services to the neighborhood.
JEA provided the residents in attendance with a folder that included the handouts on JEA’s Neighborhood Assessment Program (NAP) for a Water Main Extension, including a map of Cordial Drive and a List of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), General Guidelines, and Tips for Water Conservation.
JEA Summarizes the program and its timeline. According to cover page, JEA offers a water main extension program, which “provides a means for neighborhoods to finance the water main extension through a special assessment process. This program is currently available in the City of Jacksonville, not including the other municipalities located in Duval County or in other counties where JEA provides water service. Other municipalities would need to adopt a separate special assessment option for their jurisdictions.
This program focuses on water main extensions located within the public rights of way in a defined neighborhood boundary.”
JEA said interested neighborhoods should be aware of three things when considering this program: 1) Two-thirds of the property owners within a neighborhood must agree to the program. 2) One hundred percent of the property owners within the neighborhood will be assessed a pro rata portion of the total cost of the project, if approved by the governing body – currently limited to the City of Jacksonville. 3) The neighborhood representative is responsible for coordinating participants.
For a neighborhood to get approved, “JEA staff will consult with interested neighborhood representatives or groups to explain the program. JEA will make a preliminary inspection/survey of the neighborhood to identify a feasible physical project from a water system operations standpoint.
The preliminary study data, including boundaries and preliminary costs, will be provided to the designated neighborhood representative. The neighborhood representative will be responsible for talking with the property owners to gain required participation levels. JEA representatives will attend neighborhood meetings as requested to explain the water main extension process and special assessment process and may be accompanied by representatives from the City as needed. JEA and The City of Jacksonville will not market or be responsible for seeking the required neighborhood participation. JEA will assist in providing information and project guidance.
The neighborhood representative(s) will take the preliminary study information back to the property owners within a selected area and work to get the required level of commitment before a project can move forward for more detailed review. When the neighborhood finds general support for the project area and enough participation, a NAP estimate will be prepared outlining more refined project costs.
Once the NAP estimates are provided to a neighborhood, the owners may reconsider their commitment based on the NAP costs. Two-thirds (2/3) of the benefited property owners must sign a petition to agree to a special assessment for the costs before the petition is submitted to the Jacksonville City Council for formal consideration. The petition should be submitted to JEA with a check for the petition fee made payable to the Duval County Tax Collector. The petition fee is currently $10 per lot, parcel or other unit of property currently found on COJ’s City Fees website. An additional fee for required advertisement of a public hearing will be required with submittal of the petition to the City’s Legislative Services, the amount to be calculated with petition submittal. If approved by the Council, 100% of benefited property owners will be assessed actual costs of the completed project on a pro-rate basis. The program is currently available only in the City of Jacksonville and may be available in other JEA service areas at a future date.”
Eight of the nine property owners representing the total of 11 properties on Cordial Drive were in attendance and agreed to the program’s requirements and financial costs. It was equally agreed that residents were very appreciative of the plan that Councilman Becton worked out with the city, whereby half of the costs would be paid with city funding as a result of this partnership.
“The Public-Private Partnership Plan that I was able to offer the residents was to provide for 50% of the funding by the City,” Councilman Becton said. The total project costs of approximately $110,000 would be split 50/50 with the residents and for their costs, it will be paid out over 20 years, if necessary. The projected month cost above the monthly services used would amount to about $30 per month.”
As the quick and positive response was gratifying and well worth the extensive amount of time and efforts it took to assemble the preliminary approval of this new program, Councilman Becton and JEA are now working on the formal process to get this program officially signed off.
“Help is on the way for these residents. It is gratifying to know that there is a workable solution available for these residents, and I am eager to get it implemented as soon as possible,” Councilman Becton said. “I certainly appreciate the response and partnership that Mayor Curry has provided in knowing that this situation needs our help too.”
JEA is currently drafting contracts for the property owners to sign, confirming their community’s support of the Neighborhood Assessment Program and the installment of the water main extension along Cordial Drive. We will update this article as we receive more information.