Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Funding Channel Deepening; Council Takes the Initiative

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Funding Channel Deepening; Council Takes the Initiative

Article excerpt

When a public official starts talking about the "gorilla in the room," you know you have a problem.

Communication is the problem.

The gorilla reference indicates the size of the problem.

So how will the city pay for its share of dredging the St. Johns River? And can the city even justify the dredging project economically?

The Times-Union supports the dredging because there is no going back to smaller ships. They're getting bigger. And if the port is to remain competitive, it has to have a river channel that doesn't shut out the biggest ships.

But JaxPort's poor communication skills certainly haven't helped. The opponents have dominated much of the public discussion so far.

A simple announcement of a publicly noticed meeting between City Council President Lori Boyer and Councilman Bill Gulliford produced a packed conference room, an indication that the city is starved for information on this existential project for the local economy.

"We haven't talked much about the gorilla," Gulliford said.

In short, what will the project cost the city? There are federal funding concerns.

How will the money be raised when the city is financially strapped?

Does the city even have the capacity to fund the dredging or would other needs have to be sacrificed?

Boyer recalled that the port task force never had a definitive recommendation about the city's funding source.

What are the port's options if the money can't be raised? Is there a Plan B?

There is no Plan B and no plans for a Plan B, JaxPort's interim CEO Eric Green insisted.

Would dredging the first few miles of the 13-mile project be worth it? Green said it would.

FINALLY, A PUBLIC MEETING

Gulliford and Boyer suggested a public meeting in which the entire City Council and interested citizens could hear these financial projections.

Gulliford is rightly concerned that the council will be given a last-minute emergency request for funding with council put in the pressure-packed position to act without considering all the information. …

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