A Jacksonville landfill whose closure has become a bottomless
pit for tax dollars is about to swallow $3.4 million intended
for parks and recreation improvements.
Although city officials promise eventually to reshuffle dollars
to make up the loss, the switch will delay countywide recreation
enhancements by at least five months and reduce the scope of a
five-year plan for drainage improvements.
But the immediate problem is keeping contractors moving earth
at the 242-acre dump off New Berlin Road in North Jacksonville.
"The last thing the city needs right now is for that contractor
to walk off that landfill for a lack of dollars," said Sam
Mousa, director of public works.
The cost of capping the landfill has reached $28 million, $8
million more than the city budget provided this year and double
the amount city officials expected to pay when they shut the
gates in 1994.
If approved by the City Council, the extra money should finish
the job by the end of September, Mousa said.
"Guarantee in blood, no," said city Finance Director Mike
Weinstein. "Guarantee as in expectations from all parties, yes."
The closure became a financial albatross after the first
contractor, S&E Contractors, walked off the site in a dispute
with city officials over payments and closure design.
Faced with unknown conditions at the landfill, and under
pressure to complete the covering by state environmental
officials, the city negotiated an agreement with J.B. Coxwell
Contracting that did not place a cost ceiling on the project.
Instead, the contractor collects payments based on time and
materials spent at the landfill.
Four months ago, the city pumped another $4 million into the
project. Now, Mayor John Delaney is asking the council to
provide another $4.2 million.
Of that, $3.4 million will come from the $5 million received
last year by the city as a partial reimbursement of taxes paid
to the defunct Cross Florida Barge Canal. The rest is unspent
money from other garbage projects.
The barge canal money was intended for a variety of parks and
recreation improvements, ranging from seed money for an
equestrian center at Cecil Field to the purchase of a 10-acre
park on Beach Boulevard that includes the old State Forestry