More Funds to Be Dumped in Landfill Money Was Intended for Parks, Recreation

Article excerpt

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

Tower. …