In the campaign for City-County Consolidation over 50 years, promises were made to communities throughout Jacksonville—and especially on the northside—that voting for Consolidation would bring investments in infrastructure and community improvements to neglected neighborhoods.
Top among those investments was a commitment to phaseout septic tanks and move neighborhoods onto the safer, more environmentally friendly, and more efficient sewer system. Year after year and administration after administration, those promises were left unfulfilled.
When my team and I entered office in 2015, we came in with a commitment to investing in infrastructure in neighborhoods throughout Jacksonville. And we did that by proposing budgets with serious investment in our neighborhoods that had been neglected for so long. In fact, last year my budget included one of the largest capital improvements plan this City has ever seen. And being cognizant of these unfulfilled promises, we worked with JEA in 2016 to allocate a total of $30 million to Septic Tank phaseouts, and soon added another $15 million to the effort to cover additional costs. As part of that work, my team put together and prioritized a list of more than 30 neighborhoods that sorely need septic tank phaseouts. And we began work on the top 3 neighborhoods on that list: Biltmore, Beverly Hills, and Christobel.
Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstance and challenges that can occur in projects of this magnitude, our funding ran out and we couldn’t complete the project in these three neighborhoods. But while the funding fell short, our commitment to these communities did not.
Working in collaboration with Councilmembers Newby, Pittman, and Jackson—and with our partners at JEA—we announced a new plan to allocate additional dollars to complete the much-needed septic tank phaseouts in Beverly Hills and Christobel. The City of Jacksonville is putting forward $14.3 million, and JEA will spend $12.5 million for a combined total of $26.8 million to complete this project and fulfill that 2016 commitment.
I am grateful for the great collaboration from my colleagues that are here with me today, and for the leadership at JEA. We will also be working with our representatives in the state legislature to secure additional funding for these neighborhoods.
This is the right thing to do for these communities, and it’s the right thing to do for our city.
But while I am glad we are able to provide this funding for these three neighborhoods, there are over 30 more on our priority list that still need this important work. There are over 30 neighborhoods that are still waiting on this government to fulfill those promises made long ago.
This work, in total, could cost more than $2 billion.
We have to start somewhere. We can’t keep writing this issue off as a multi-generational and multi-billion dollar problem that is too big to address. We made promises to do this, and the time has come for government to start keeping its promises to its people, however big or however expensive.
Stay tuned for the announcement of a plan in collaboration with my colleagues on City Council to address this decade old issue once and for all, very soon.