Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville, Neptune Beach a Contrast in Fiscal Priorities

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville, Neptune Beach a Contrast in Fiscal Priorities

Article excerpt

Byline: PHIL FRETZ

This is a tale of two cities ... and of two different approaches to spending.

One city is called Jacksonville. Several years ago, its City Hall asked voters for permission to spend $190 million on a new courthouse.

The voters, feeling that was a reasonable price, said "yes."

But immediately, the cost estimates started climbing.

And the mayor, who admittedly had inherited this mess when he took office, flipped. Then he flopped. Then he flipped again.

He would spend a little more - but not a dime more than that. Then he would build a half courthouse. Then he wouldn't do that. Then he would start over. Then, he wouldn't.

Now, he's ready to go ahead with a $350 million courthouse. And that's a best-case scenario. It may cost $395 million.

The other city is called Neptune Beach. Several years ago, its City Council agreed to spend $350,000 replacing a 50-year-old wooden bridge that led to a subdivision.

The lowest bid, however, was $1 million. That couldn't be helped, they were told; the cost of construction materials was spiraling out of sight. Jacksonville had heard the same story.

But no one in Neptune Beach panicked. They temporarily patched the bridge, using city employees, and began looking for less-costly alternatives.

And they found them.

First, City Manager Jim Jarboe found a newer, cheaper technology that he says works just as well but costs a lot less.

The result: The city signed a contract to replace the bridge for $356,000. That's about what was originally envisioned.

There's more. ...

The city also got a $100,000 state grant and $50,000 from Jacksonville Beach, which may have felt some obligation to help since the bridge actually serves residents of both cities.

That gets the price down to $206,000. It doesn't get any better than that, huh?

Wrong. Read on:

After the contract was signed, a new option was discovered. The savings: $30,000.

Total cost to the city: About $175,000. Not $350,000. Not $1 million. Just $175,000.

Pretty impressive, huh?

FROM THE MAILBOX

A letter from John Klein of Orange Park:

"Joe Biden is a cheapskate. …

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