Jacksonville, FL - Finishing Jacksonville’s Southbank Riverwalk will happen- with a two million dollar boost from borrowed money.
That’s the recommendation today from the city’s Finance Committee, with a vote in front of the full City Council scheduled to come.
We first told you several months ago that the initial $15 million budget for the Riverwalk reconstruction would fall short. Since that time, city lawmakers have been digging in to what caused the budgeting problems and what it would take to finish the project. The contractor and subcontractors have agreed to freeze the total they need at $2.3 million until May 1st.
“I suspect if we don’t local in that price now, it will only continue to go up,” says Councilman John Crescimbeni.
So despite many lingering questions on project oversight, the Finance Committee gave the green light for getting the full funding approved. Public Works has told the committee they were able to save about $300,000 from the initial budget allocation for the project. The remaining $2 million will now be borrowed.
Finance Chair Greg Anderson says it’s important to see this project completed, and this is likely the most affordable way to do it at this point.
“When we’re walking on it and we’re enjoying the views and we see how it’s been programmed, I think it’s going to be a great addition to the community,” Anderson says.
He says he wants to keep the taxpayers front and center when making these decisions- and that the city may need to pay closer attention to how contracts for some projects like the Southbank Riverwalk are being funded. Crescimbeni wants to go even further, figuring out how to prevent the scope of a project from significantly changing between when it’s approved and when it’s enacted.
“We’re just going to have to settle some of these questions later,” he says.
Upon Crescimbeni’s request, the Office of the General Counsel reviewed the authority of the Mayor to move ahead with this construction project knowing the funding was no longer enough to fund the whole project. The decision, attached to the left, says it is within the Mayor’s discretion to move ahead once the Council approves, and that he has no obligation to bring it back in front of the Council.
“We’re going to have to figure out a way that we can rein this in,” Crescimbeni says.
The Mayor’s Office issued a statement reading in part that they appreciate the partnership of some of the Councilmembers working on this project.
“The destructive approach by a few other Council members provides little benefit to our residents and quality of life,” the statement reads.
The funding approval is scheduled to go in front of the full Council next week. The Southbank Riverwalk enhancements are scheduled to conclude later this year.