Jacksonville, FL (October 8, 2018) – It’s that time of year, City Council has passed the city’s 2018-2019 budget, a new fiscal year that begins on October 1st is beginning and Councilman Danny Becton is eager to update his constitutes on accomplishments and future opportunities within the District. Yes, it’s time for District 11 Town Hall meetings!
Councilman Becton’s Town Hall meetings provide for the perfect opportunity to have one-on-one facetime with constitutes and to have city department heads on hand to engage the public.
“These city leaders are the boots on the ground to answer questions and explain those projects that everyone sees and has questions about”, stated CM Becton. “These meetings give residents the ability to be inform and get answers on everything District 11 along with major topics within the City of Jacksonville”, CM Becton added.
Topics discussed ranged from updating resident on the new city budget, promoting accomplishments and future opportunities, to discussing the economic and growth management news around the District. “Transportation is always a hot topic in this area and projects are always of special interest to residents”, CM Becton noted. “District 11 has it’s fair-share of improvements that are taking place with more on the horizon which residents want to be aware of”.
Town Hall North is one of several planned community meetings scheduled this time of year as we start out addressing the neighborhoods toward the top of the district. Councilman Becton kicked off these series of scheduled presentations with a private Town Hall for residents of Sweetwater by Del Web Community during their monthly morning “Koffee with Katie” event on October 8th. The North meeting is to be followed by a Southern event in Nocatee on October 25th to provide convenience for residents and neighborhoods within a large geographic footprint that District 11 provides.
Town Hall North was held at the Southeast Regional Library on October 8th. It started at 6:00 p.m. and a crowd of about 50 people attended, city officials and staff included. Councilman Becton began the meeting by introducing the multiple department representatives there to present and answer the communities’ questions which included: Public Works, Neighborhoods, Park & Recreation, Solid Waste, Planning & Development, JFRD and JSO. A special guest of CM Becton included a representative from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) who provide a presentation of projects taking place within the District.
Councilman Becton was the first presenter of the evening, which began with the most recent news regarding City Council and the city’s 2018-2019 Budget, totaling $1,209,498,411 (Billion) dollars. “Property taxes of $674,796,752 million make up 56% of our budget”, CM Becton explained. “of the remainder, the State provides $177 million (15%), JEA contribution $117 million (10%) and other sources in the amount of $216 million (18%) are derived from places that include Franchise Fees, Utility Services Taxes and charges from services to name a few”.
“Jacksonville continues to benefit from property value increases in our neighborhoods and business communities” CM Becton explained. “While the City Council has not raised the millage rates in many years, including my four years on council, these property value increases have translated into higher tax bills for most residents”.
On the expense side of the budget, CM Becton explained, “$673 million (55%) is spent on JSO and Fire & Rescue budgets”. “This year while we have added more police officers in the past, this budget included 95 additional fire fighters for new and upcoming stations”, Becton noted.
The presentation continued by discussing transportation and project priority of CM Becton. The completion of past initiatives including the Sweetwater Parkway traffic light and the soon to be active traffic light at Blue Fin Drive we proud accomplishments. Updates on the Deerwood Parkway Bridge widening, improvements at interchanges for JTB / Gate Parkway and at San Pablo, along with improvement on Baymeadows Road were all were part of the update provided.
Also discussed with excitement was recently passed legislation 2018-459 for property set aside for the New Fire Station #63 for the Baymeadows East area. This bill while it approved the purchase and sell agreement for the land for the new station, now we are waiting on the city to close on the property. “It’s not closed yet,” explained CM Becton. “So, I don’t want to spike the football just yet,” CM Becton added. “But we are hoping to close on the property soon.”
Councilman Becton also discussed the anticipated third phase of the 9A/Baymeadows Park, whereby budget bill 2018-504 approved and partially funded the new amenity of a $4.5 million-dollar start-of-the-art future Baseball Quadraplex. The $2.25 million-dollar appropriation for 2018-2019 will provide for the planning and design of this new facility with the remaining $2.25 million-dollar appropriation planned for 2021-2022 budget that will ultimately begin construction.
Also, of note was the mention of bill 2018-089, which rename the park to “Fort Family Regional Park at Baymeadows” and the motivation behind its passage earlier this year. CM Becton and Perimeter Reality, the subsidiary of Fort Family Investments reached an agreement, for the payment to the city of $1 million dollars over the next ten years for these naming rights. It was the first contribution to the city of its kind and written into the legislation was the stipulation that these dollars where to only be used for capital improvements within the park itself. The sign is now installed within the park and Councilman Becton said a ribbon cutting for this renaming occasion will be announced in the near future.
Other news for which CM Becton provided, included economic news in District 11 which saw the opening of its first Wawa off Beach Blvd & Central Parkway, the grand opening of the LifeSouth Blood Drive Center in Deerwood Center and the recent announcement of a new Bentley Dealership coming to the JTB-I95 area.
“It says a lot about Jacksonville to be able to support such a business of Bentley Motors stature here in our city”, Becton stated. “To have this type of company see our city for this opportunity is impressive and exciting on so many levels along with the continued international presence which Jacksonville continues to employ.” “Jacksonville continues to be on the move and District 11 plays a big part in that,” CM Becton acknowledged.
CM Becton’s presentation concluded with an overview and update for several neighborhood and commercial projects taking place around the District. Project that included: The Baymeadows Golf Course area redevelopment, E-Town, the Southside Quarter, Wells Creek and Williamstown.
Following CM Becton’s presentation, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Sara Peasants, presented next. Peasants said she lives in District 11 and very much was aware of the growth. Her presentation went over several FDOT projects that are in the works to help manage the daily traffic congestion.
FDOT is currently constructing Express Lanes which are also called managed lanes that will be placed on I-295 from Butler Blvd to State Road 9B. These new lanes will be tolls lanes using the Florida Sun Pass System to supplement the free lanes that will also continue to be provided. Peasants said the idea is to help manage the traffic in the free lanes, by providing a pay option in these express lanes, but only if you want to use them to offset the continued growth of commuters.
“Everyone benefits, but it’s a choice,” explained Ms. Peasants. “If you want to use them, they are an option.” “As we are expecting the traffic to double by 2040, this is a good way to manage that growth.”
Existing lanes will remain toll-free, but the express lane toll rate could vary depending on traffic. The minimum toll is .50 cents. An Express Lane is also being built on I-295 from the Buckman Bridge to I-95 and is expected to open in 2019. Peasants ended her presentation by showing a video of the I-295/9B express lanes and how they will work.
Also presenting for the event was Director of the Neighborhoods, Stephanie Burch, who prepared a presentation that broke down the different divisions of her department. One topic of interest was the department of Code Enforcement discussing what the department can and can’t cite. As an example, Burch said the city cannot cite someone for having a garbage can outside their house, but it can cite someone for having landscaping and shrubs that are too tall.
The number one CARE ticket through the city’s 630-CITY that the neighborhood department receives from District 11 concerns mosquitos and the request to spray.
A WastePro Representative was also on-hand, Mr. David Searcy as he addressed questions regarding the district’s solid waste pickups and the concern among residents as to the level of poor service some thought was being provided. Topics discussed covered issues including the unexpected breakdown of the automated garbage trucks how this was affecting the reliability and completion of daily routes.
“We do know our truck breakdowns are an issue and we are working to address this immediately,” Searcy said. Searcy said WastePro has plans to replace their equipment. The organization spent over $500,000 for maintenance with their last budget and recently just acquired three new garbage trucks in order to expand their fleet which will help in addressing these service level problems.
A public Q&A forum followed the presentations. Director of Planning and Development, Bill Killingsworth, Operations Director of Public Works, Bill Joyce, Chief of Traffic Engineering, Chris LeDew, and Parks and Recreation Director, Daryl Joseph were on hand to address residents’ concerns and questions, as well as Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, Chief Riska and Chief Powers, and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Lieutenant Knecht.