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Jacksonville, FL (July 28, 2020) – Councilman Becton and 16 other present council members approved Bill 2020-377 for funding regarding the Jacksonville Port Authority (JAXPORT) Harbor Deepening Project. This Bill was introduced on June 23rd and assigned to NCSPHS, TEU, Finance, Rules, and Jax Waterways Commission.

“The Harbor Deepening project is very important to the City of Jacksonville and the Northeast Region. Future ports with the ability to make ports of call for the larger ships which require 45 – 47 feet of water, will have a tremendous advantage,” Councilman Becton said. “Supporting JAXPORT in this endeavor guarantees that we will be a top tear port of the future. Supporting JAXPORT means continuing to grow and prosper from the huge economic benefits that our region sees within the companies that depend on the international marketplace and results in an regional employment boom of thousands of jobs impacted directly and indirectly thru logistics, transportation and warehousing.”

According to the bill summary, 2020-377 “authorizes the borrowing of up to $40 million via the City’s commercial paper facility for the purpose of loaning funds to the Jacksonville Port Authority to fund the harbor dredging project. It amends Ordinance 2020-261-E to increase the bond issue net proceeds by an additional $35 million (from $120 million to $155 million) to be allocated to the dredging project.”

The Bill appropriates the $40 million loan and $35 million grant to JAXPORT. It amends the FY 2019-20 budget ordinance (2019-504-E) to replace Schedule B4 (Debt Management Fund Detail) to reflect the allocation of these funds to the dredging project. It authorizes the City to enter into an interlocal agreement with JAXPORT for the loan and grant. It invokes the direct contracting authorization in the Procurement Code to exempt the appropriation for the dredging from a competitive procurement process. The Finance and Administration Department is designated as the City’s oversight agency for this transaction and one-cycle emergency approval is requested.

The total cost of the harbor dredging project (three phases) is estimated at $484 million. To-date, JAXPORT has funded Phases A and B through a combination of federal, state, and private contributions. The upcoming Phase C has an estimated cost of $223,823,200 and JAXPORT needs city participation in matching further Federal and State funding to complete the next phase of the project. JAXPORT has an agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation to fund $46,103,589 on a reimbursement basis. Through this bill, the City will provide $40 million in funding to pay for the up-front dredging costs in anticipation of receiving the reimbursement when the FDOT grant is eventually received (including interest and bond issuance costs). The other $35 million contribution will be in the form of a grant from the city itself.

The bill’s preamble states that the City commits to providing funding of an additional $25 million in a grant to fund the dredging project in the FY 2020-21 budget, with the understanding that that grant amount could be increased by up to an additional $10 million with further Council approval depending on the bids received by the Army Corps of Engineers for Phase C of the project. Emergency approval on a one committee cycle is requested because JAXPORT is required to have the local sponsor share of the funds for Phase C committed by August 20, 2020 or face significant cost increases.

“This deepening project has been highly supported by the Federal and State beyond our expectations,” Councilman Becton said. “Where several years ago, we were discussing possible funding amounts in the range of $150+ million dollars, now it appears our required local match is to be $70 million, below half of what was anticipated. Between those entities and JAXPORT tenants who have also provided $28 million in funding, there is a great deal of investment by many different parties that show just how important this project really is and what it means to our local, state and national economies.” 

By Tiziana Onstead, District 11 Executive Council Assistant