Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ash Settlement Wins Support; Several Council Members Say Deal Should Have Been Resolved Sooner

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ash Settlement Wins Support; Several Council Members Say Deal Should Have Been Resolved Sooner

Article excerpt

Byline: GREGORY RICHARDS

Several members of the Jacksonville City Council said Tuesday they support the city's proposed settlement with about 4,500 residents who claim they were exposed to toxic ash generated by municipal incinerators operating decades ago.

A $75 million settlement, which would cost the city $25 million, was approved Monday by nearly all those residents. The courts have not determined how much the plaintiffs' attorneys will receive, but it is usually in the range of 25 percent, said Cindy Laquidara, the city's chief deputy general counsel.

Although the settlement has the blessing of Mayor John Peyton, the council needs to approve the deal.

While the members have concerns about the city having to pay yet another expense -- cleaning up the sites where the ash was produced and dumped will cost an additional $100 million -- they said it's a bill that's past due.

"The money we're spending here is real money that could otherwise be used for other things," said council President Kevin Hyde. But "you spend your money as a matter of taking care of your priorities. I deem this as a priority."

Councilman Reggie Fullwood said he's pleased by the settlement, but he wishes it could have been resolved sooner for the sake of the residents. Though the lawsuit was filed in 2003, the existence of the ash has been known for years.

The four main incinerators and ash dumps -- in North Riverside and Northwest Jacksonville -- operated from the 1910s through the early 1970s.

Still, "it's not going to be an easy process to find the money to make the payment," said Fullwood, whose district contains one of the ash sites, where the Forest Street incinerator once operated.

The city plans to pay for the $25 million, which is due by Dec. 1, by taking money from a city loan fund, according to legislation filed with the council Tuesday. …

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