Delaney Hears about Missing Fire Hydrants

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Scanlan, Times-Union staff writer

There were complaints about flooded ditches, and dangerous ditches, and even questions about getting rid of them.

But Mayor John Delaney also heard about garbage at JTA bus stops, improvements that haven't been made at a Southside soccer park and fire hydrants promised but never delivered in Mandarin at a town hall meeting Monday at Spring Park Elementary School.

Nineteen of the estimated 100 people who attended the hour-long session had complaints mixed with kudos at the hour-long session, but most griped about the ditches that handle drainage in many older neighborhoods.

John Hamel said the ditches in his Sans Souci neighborhood are too close to the street.

"There is no easement at all," he said. "There is no room for sidewalks."

Public Works Department Director Joe Miller said the city doesn't have the money to get rid of all the ditches, but will look into Hamel's concern.

He and Delaney said they will also look into whether the flooded ditches in the Pine Forest neighborhood need cleaning after one woman complained that they were full of "water moccasins." And neighbor Henry Turner wondered why those ditches haven't been replaced with drainage systems while neighborhoods on either side of his have.

Delaney said the city has a prioritized list of drainage projects and "it is a question at the end of the day of money. Your neighborhood may be coming down the line."

The mayor holds numerous town hall meetings in conjunction with the city's Citizens Planning Advisory Committees, which represent Jacksonville's half-dozen zoning districts. This time, Delaney was backed up by a number of department heads as well as City Councilwomen Suzanne Jenkins and Elaine Brown.

Delaney said that since he began holding these town meetings, most residents' questions have been handled by city staff quickly.

"Not always do you get the answer you want," he said. "Every now and then we can't pave a road in gold, and we can't always say yes."

That prompted Greater Englewood Neighborhood Association president Vicki Kutscher to wonder why some of her complaints to the city's new One-Step Call Center [630-CITY], set up so residents only need to call one place to complain about problems, haven't been answered.

"We love it and hate it," she said. "It seems that calls are closed out and they are not completed."

The mayor said the city is still "working out some glitches" and monitoring the progress of some calls to make sure the center is working. …