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Latest from Matt Augustine

    Some changes are coming for an intersection you probably drive every day. The Florida Department of Transportation is upgrading signs at the intersection of I-95 and I-10. We’re told they’re working to make signs more reflective in order to cut back on the need to light them. “We want to try to make it as clear as we can for signage,” says FDOT Spokesman Ron Tittle. Tittle says the project will be focused on I-95 from MLK Parkway to I-10, and then I-10 west from I-95 for a few miles. He says there wasn’t any specific incident that is sparking the change, rather their engineers are constantly assessing what could improve efficiency and safety on major roads. They’ll also be adding more “mile marker” style signs at the interchange, so that in the event of a breakdown or other emergency, you can more clearly give emergency responders a picture of where you are. Tittle says the construction will last through mid-next year, but shouldn’t have a very substantial impact on traffic. Single lane closures will begin around 7:30PM, and if needed, double lane closures would be after 9:30 PM on I-10 or 10 PM on I-95.
  • One woman is in critical condition after a fire in the La Esparanza apartments near Memorial Hospital on University Blvd. on the Southside 'This was basically almost the icing on the cake, to use the archetype cliché, of a busy day for the B-shift,' says Jacksonville Fire/Rescue spokesman Tom Francis. Francis says JFRD got the call around 2:30 a.m. and they arrived to find one of the apartment buildings burning from the bottom up. Firefighters had to enter the burning building after hearing reports of a person inside. 'They found an adult female in a bedroom on the floor, the walls already encased in flame. They brought her out and she was transported to UF Health where she's listed in critical condition,' says Francis. JFRD says that even though this is a large apartment complex, firefighters were able to quickly get the flames under control and keep it from spreading to other buildings. Francis says in all, there were about 60 firefighters on scene. The cause of the fire is unknown at this time. The State Fire Marshal's Office is investigating. The Red Cross is also assisting families living in the eight apartments that were damaged by the fire. WOKV will update this story as more information becomes available.
  • A former employee with the State Attorney's Office in the Nassau County office who says four years after she was wrongfully fired in 2009, she finally got closure Wednesday in the form of a $175,000 settlement. 'I felt like I was making a complaint to the proper people that I was supposed to make my complaint to,' says Julie Lyncker. Lyncker says she filed a complaint with State Attorney Angela Corey about her new boss, Wesley White, who she says had been asking her to call then-sheriff and family friend Tommy Seagraves and ask for things. 'He asked me to call him when he was on vacation because [White] felt like the Sheriff would answer my call and no one else's.' Lyncker says White embarrassed her in front of other employees on several occasions when she said she didn't feel comfortable doing what White asked. She says when she filed the complaint, she became the focus of the investigation instead and was eventually fired for what the State Attorney's Office said was having conversations about sex with employees. 'None of those other people were disciplined. The only difference between Julie Lyncker and those other employees is that Julie Lyncker complained about Wesley White,' says Lyncker's attorney Joseph DeBelder. Lyncker says she was fired in retaliation for filing her complaint, but in a statement the State Attorney's Office denies that. 'I never thought that I would lose my job.' She says she's just ready to move on with her life. The full statement from the State Attorney's Office reads: 'The SAO maintains that Ms. Lyncker's allegations of retaliatory discharge are not valid. The SAO contested the claims, would continue to contest the claims, and in good faith believes there is a valid foundation for the defense of such claims. But as is common in civil cases, Ms. Lyncker and the SAO have determined that their respective interests would be best served by completely resolving and settling this case.' Wesley White also denied any allegations of wrongdoing and says he opposes any form of settlement in the case.
  • We're finding out that scheduled repairs to the leaky downtown library are being delayed several months after the city says the damage is worse than they originally thought. 'I know money is tight, but yes, I would like the library taken care of,' says frequent library-goer Heather Johnston. Between the water-stained walls, the plywood on the skylights, and the tarp still on some fourth floor books, library-goers like Johnston and others say they can't believe the repairs aren't done yet. 'Do the necessary fixes so that it would not put its customers in a bad situation,' says resident Shirley Reed. It's a problem the city knew about for two years before they set aside $1.4 million last March to fix it. That was supposed to be done last month but a city spokesperson says the project is bigger than expected and they're pushing that completion date back to May. 'We pay our taxes, we do what we can to make sure the library is here for all kids,' says Johnston. Councilman Don Redman oversees the downtown district, and says with a library this new, there's no reason for all the issues. He says he's been told this winter's weather has played a role in the delay. 'It's been a rough winter. We've had a lot of rain and a lot of setbacks, so they tell me is the excuse that they're using,' said Redman. Despite being asked several times, the city spokesperson would not say how much the project has cost so far, saying only that the project budget for the library is $1.4 million. Councilman Redman couldn't say either whether or not the project had gone over budget but says he'd imagine if it did he would find out about it because council would have to approve the additional funds. The city has filed a lawsuit against the companies that built the main library because of the leaks. That litigation is ongoing.
  • We're hearing from one of your local representatives about how proposed cuts to the military could affect Northeast Florida. 'We'll look at what [President Obama] has to say but I can tell you with confidence what we end up doing is not going to be a direct reflection of what he has proposed,' Congressman Ander Crenshaw tells Jacksonville's Morning News. Crenshaw says the world isn't getting any smaller or safer, so this isn't the time to be making deep cuts to America's armed forces. One of those cuts? The proposed drawdown on production of littoral combat ships, which are replacing the old Navy frigates. Crenshaw says  the fleet would be at its smallest since World War I. 'And these littoral combat ships, all of those on the East Coast will be homeported at Mayport and they're the key to the Navy's future. He says cuts like reducing production on littoral combat ships will likely prolong the delay on Jacksonville getting a nuclear carrier. 'The good news is the Navy hasn't changed its mind. It's still part of their strategic dispersal strategy.' Defense secretary Chuck Hagel also wants another round of Base Realignment and Closure. Crenshaw's response? 'That's going to fall on deaf ears.' Listen to Crenshaw's full interview on Jacksonville's Morning News here
  • It was a case of mistaken identity and hasty police work. We're hearing an apology from the Clay County Sheriff's Office for wrongfully arresting and putting an 18-year-old in jail for 35 days man for a crime he didn't commit. Cody Lee Williams says he felt hopeless while he was in prison and only found out that he was being charged with having sex with a girl under age 12 weeks after he'd been in jail. When he made the connection that police were actually looking for Cody Raymond Williams, with whom the innocent Cody had gone to school at Clay High School, he called his mother, who called investigators and got them to admit they'd made a mistake. Sheriff Beseler said in a statement 'In fairness, let me say Deputy Hawkins has a good record with our agency.  He has no prior discipline and many commendations in his file. In this case, however, he took short-cuts and didn’t do a thorough investigation. The result was an innocent man was accused of a terrible crime he didn’t commit.  Arresting an innocent person is something we fear far more than letting a guilty person get away.  I extend to Cody Lee Williams my apology for this error and we will seek to make things right for him.  Detective Hawkins received disciplinary action for his lack of following proper investigative procedures and the supervisors who failed to properly review his work have also been held accountable.  This incident is an anomaly for the CCSO and is certainly not representative of the excellent work done by the men and women of this agency day in and day out.” In another document pertaining to Hawkins, Beseler wrote 'As a result of your incompetence, an innocent man was arrested for an offense that he did not commit.' Cody Lee Williams' attorney, Kristopher Nowicki, says his client isn't holding a grudge. 'I think you'll find that he is salt of the earth.  He's a nice kid.  He doesn't hold a grudge.  He doesn't want to be in the limelight, but he is,' Nowicki said. The Clay County Sheriff's Office has been informed that there is a lawsuit pending, so taxpayers could end up on the hook for the mistakes. Detective Hawkins has been given a ten day unpaid suspension and will be demoted from detective to the patrol division. Three other deputies were also disciplined.
  • One person has been life-flighted to UF Health Gainesville's burn unit following an incident at the Advanced Disposal plant on Normandy Blvd. near Herlong Rd. The Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department says they got the call in just before 8 a.m. Sgt. Jay Farhat with JSO says two private contractors with the company Pilot Electric were working on a panel in an electrical closet and for some reason the power had not been turned off. An electrical short set one of the workers' clothes on fire and his coworker and several other employees had to help put him out. 'When he took the brunt of the charge, apparently some of his clothing ignited. Other employees immediately put him down on the ground,' says Sgt. Farhat. He was airlifted to Gainesville in critical condition. The worker that helped put him out suffered minor injuries at the scene. JSO says they are working with OSHA to determine why the electricity had not been turned off before the workers started fixing the panel. The investigation is ongoing.
  • A source has confirmed to WOKV News that the U.S. men's national soccer team will play an exhibition game at EverBank Field on June 7. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says the men will play an international friendly against Nigeria. It will be their final exhibition game before heading off to Brazil for the World Cup. Jacksonville hosted an exhibition between the U.S. and Scotland in May of 2012, which drew a crowd of over 44,000 fans to EverBank Field. The U.S. beat Scotland 5-2. WOKV will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.
  • After Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called for significant cuts to the military Monday we're learning what that could mean for Northeast Florida. Keeping in mind Congress still has to approve any cuts to the military, the ones with the biggest potential to impact us would be any Base Realignment and Closure that may happen and a reduction in production of littoral combat ships, which are supposed to replace old Naval frigates that are being decommissioned. The Times Union reports there will also be a ten percent cut to the Florida National Guard. In a statement, Congressman Ander Crenshaw said 'Because the Administration’s Defense Budget has not been officially introduced to Congress, it’s too early to comment on which proposals may or may not be rejected.  My commitment to our national security at home and around the globe remains unwavering and steadfast.  Working together with my colleagues on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, we will review the fine print, ask questions and take testimony at hearings, and analyze the details with particular attention focused on the proposal’s impact to our national security. As the process moves forward on Capitol Hill, the Subcommittee will write its fiscal year 2015 Defense Appropriations Bill, which I can confidently predict will not be a direct reflection of Defense Secretary Hagel’s initial request.' Senator Marco Rubio's office also released a statement that says, in part “Every day, we are reminded that the world remains as dangerous as ever and that we need a modern military to protect the American people and U.S. interests abroad. It is vital that we maintain a strong U.S. military that serves as a capable deterrent, ensures freedom of the seas, and provides security for ourselves and our allies. We also need a military that is able to project force globally when crises emerge, sometimes at a moment’s notice. I am concerned that the budget announced today will put all of these goals at risk. Reducing the size of the Army to its lowest levels in seventy years does not accurately reflect the current security environment, in which the administration’s own officials have noted the threats facing our country are more diffuse than ever. Cutting key Air Force and naval capabilities just as we are trying to increase our presence in the Pacific does not make strategic sense. I am concerned that we are on a path to repeat the mistakes we’ve made during past attempts to cash in on expected peace dividends that never materialized. Mistakes that caused our allies to question America’s staying power and encouraged our enemies to test us.
  • A new poll out of the University of North Florida covers a number of questions related to Jacksonville's unfunded liability of $1.7 billion for its pension system.  Among the proposals that have been offered to reduce the city's pension obligation, one would require the JEA to increase its annual contribution to the city.  It may lead to higher electric rates.  'Over 70 percent of Jacksonville residents are opposed to that,' says assistant professor of political science Dr. Michael Binder at UNF. Despite the fact that the survey sample size was 502 people, Dr. Binder says he thinks it's safe to say most of the city is against this new pension plan because JEA says it would have to raise rates. 'I think that the public looks at that and says 'Well that makes sense. If they're going to be paying several hundred million dollars, where is that money coming from? It's got to come from us, the consumer.'' The poll also finds 60% either somewhat supporting or strongly supporting asking future public safety employees to pay more into the pension system.  The survey also showed that where 37 of participants last year felt the city's top priority should be improving jobs and the economy, this year the most support went to improving education with 27 percent saying that should be the top priority. Participants were also asked a couple of questions related to the pension plan. According to the poll, 'The public also opposes (56 percent) a small increase in property taxes dedicated to reducing the pension obligation. Three proposals to reduce the pension obligation that do have community support include requiring current (62 percent) and future employees (70 percent) to pay more into the pension system. There is also tepid support for requiring future public safety employees to work longer until they become eligible to receive pension benefits (51 percent).' UNF released a poll last week showing Mayor Alvin Brown's approval numbers as well as the hypothetical results of a mayoral race between Mayor Brown and several other potential candidates for the GOP. Data showed that though the Mayor's approval ratings are down from this time last year, he is still generally favored by the voting public. This week's poll dives more into some of the most important and controversial issues his administration has tackled since he took office in July 2011. For example, Dr. Binder says he thinks citizens know that something has to be done about the pension and want something done about it, but they just don't like the way the Mayor wants to do it. 'Taking stands on issues that are politically unpopular going into an election season is dangerous...so if I were the Mayor and if I were on the Mayor's team, I would be potentially concerned.' Binder says he hopes this data is not just looked at as a set of numbers, but useful information that politicians and decision-makers in the city can look at as a gauge of where the public's opinion stands. 'I think this is a great opportunity for the elected officials to look down and say 'Hey, here's what the citizenry think and maybe we should take this into consideration.' Mayor Brown's spokesman sent a statement in response to the poll, saying the language does not describe the Mayor's proposal.  Spokesman David DeCamp says Brown's proposal would not require JEA to do something in exchange for nothing. Instead, he has suggested a partnership in which JEA would make an increased contribution to the City of Jacksonville for a limited period of time, and in exchange the City would help JEA find savings and revenue opportunities to offset the increased contribution.
  • Matt Augustine

    Matt Augustine is the reporter for Jacksonville's Morning News but he wears many hats. You'll see him out even before the sun comes up as he spends his early mornings traversing Jacksonville tracking down the latest details on the day's top local stories and breaking news. Matt is also a television reporter for Action News Fox 30 WAWS and CBS 47 WTEV and can be seen between 5 and 9 a.m. on weekdays. You can also hear Matt on Saturdays from 12-1 p.m. as he co-hosts The Consumer Law Hour with Chuck and Eddie Farah. Matt is also a stringer for the NFL Network on Sirius XM and provides updates for Sirius at all Jaguar home games. He began his career at WOKV in June 2011 as an afternoon producer.

    Born in Athens, Georgia, Matt's family moved to New Hampshire where Matt spent his childhood. He still retains his passion for New England culture and the Red Sox and Patriots and hopes to move back one day. After graduating high school, Matt attended Syracuse University in central New York, where he went to the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and is proud to call himself a graduate and a die-hard Orangeman. He was lucky enough to spend a semester abroad living in Madrid to complement his Spanish minor and though he doesn't get many chances to use it, Matt is just about fluent in Spanish and dreams of one day returning to Spain.

    While at Syracuse, Matt was a jock, Promotions Director, Morning Show Director, sports broadcaster, and Programming Director at WJPZ-FM "Z89", a completely student-run radio station serving the greater Syracuse area. He was hired in July 2010 as a part-time dayside news reporter and sports analyst for Newsradio AM 570 and 106.9 FM WSYR. He has done everything from covering New York's midterm elections to covering a national political convention to DJing pop music to play-by-play and color commentary to running a radio station with a staff of about 120 students to interviewing musicians, actors, and even politicians like former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

    When Matt is not behind the microphone or out on a story, you might find him out walking his dog Leela, catching up on sleep, playing his guitar, visiting friends at his favorite local hangout, the European St. Cafe in San Marco, finding the best eats in town, or taking in some live music.

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  • The University of North Florida has signed on to a campaign with Florida’s other public universities requesting additional funding for mental health services from state lawmakers. UNF joined the “Safer, Smarter, Stronger” initiative with the goal of adding six full-time employees to the Counseling Center staff. In total, the state’s universities are requesting $14.5 million to hire 137 staff members. UNF is asking for $578,760 from the state to fill its positions.  The director of the Counseling Center, Dr. Andrew King, says the wait time for students to receive non-crisis counseling services can be as much as three weeks, which he finds problematic to the state’s goals.  “The students will not get the help they need, when they need it, and things will get worse,” King told WOKV. “Even students who only come in and see us three times a week, their retention rates are better, their graduation rates and they graduate with fewer excess hours.” King says this success rate aligns with Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s “Finish in Four, Save More” campaign to have students finish college in four years.  According to date provided by the university, Counseling Center staff members had more nearly 8,000 appointments with students from 2015-16.  
  • JEA is investigating a 1-million-gallon sewage leak it says was the result of vandalism.  The leak happened here at a lift station along Lenox Avenue near Interstate 295 and Normandy Boulevard, and neighbors miles away are dealing with the stench  After the raw sewage leaked into the Wills Branch of the Cedar River, JEA issued a strong warning to neighbors: no drinking, swimming or fishing.  Amber Smythe and her family live along a nearby creek where some of the sewage ended up.  “There’s been like, a sewage smell coming from the creek behind our house,” Smythe said.  Smythe’s husband sometimes fishes in the creek and even though they don’t eat the fish, Smythe --the mother of two and expecting her third -- said the leak is a concern.  JEA said the leak was caused by wire and rags clogging the sewer line. It is investigating but believes the clog was intentional.  “You ride through here at night, all the roads, and you’ll be like, aw man. It's bad at night, it's bad at night,” Jacob Ellenburg said.  Ellenburg lives next to where the leak happened. He said there’s always a smell but the last few days have been especially bad.  Ellenburg said, “You don’t want to drive without your little circulatory air. Driving past here, you want to keep where it’s not fresh air coming in, 'cause it’s not fresh.'  JEA and the state Department of Environmental Protection are investigating.
  • An American Airlines pilot died Wednesday after he suffered an apparent medical emergency on a flight from Dallas to Albuquerque, New Mexico, airline and airport officials said. >> Read more trending news The pilot was identified as American Airlines first officer William “Mike” Grubbs, a company spokeswoman told the Albuquerque Journal. “We’re taking care of first officer Grubbs’ family and colleagues, and our thoughts and prayers are with them during this time,” the spokeswoman said. Grubbs, who was based in Dallas, collapsed in the cockpit Wednesday afternoon as the crew of Flight 1353 prepared to land in Albuquerque, WFAA reported. Dan Jiron, a spokesman for Albuquerque International Sunport, told KOB that the flight crew warned of a medical emergency as the plane approached Albuquerque. After it landed, authorities found Grubbs dead. Jiron told the Journal that the emergency didn’t affect the airport. No passengers were injured.
  • For the fourth time in the past six days, President Donald Trump has used his platform on Twitter to take a swing at a group of more conservative Republicans in the House, this time raising the specter of using the bully pulpit against them in the 2018 elections, if they don’t get on board with his legislative agenda. “The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast,” Trump said on Twitter. “We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!” he added. The Twitter jabs against the Freedom Caucus are becoming somewhat routine for Mr. Trump, who was frustrated that he was unable to convince those lawmakers to back a GOP health care bill last week. Even before today, those type of tweets by the President have drawn frowns from some members of the Freedom Caucus, who say they’re not budging on their conservative principles, just to give Mr. Trump a legislative victory. “I disagree with him,” Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) said earlier this week, after Mr. Trump signaled his displeasure with the Freedom Caucus opposition to the GOP health bill. “My conscience was to get rid of Obamacare; this doesn’t do it,” Yoho said of the GOP plan that had the blessing of the White House. “Some of the constant tweeting is at minimum distracting, and at maximum, counterproductive to a legislative agenda,” said Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), who also knocked the President for using Twitter to keep grousing as well about Hillary Clinton. “You’re fighting yesterday’s story if you are fighting against a candidate you were once running against that is no longer the candidate you might be running against,” Sanford said.
  • A principal at a Christian school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is facing child porn charges. Jeff Goss is the principal at the Christian Education Alliance in west Tulsa. Goss was arrested Tuesday morning by federal officials after they reportedly caught Goss using an online application to view child pornography. >> Watch the news report here Authorities said the application lets people enter chat rooms and share videos, pictures and more. Agents from Phoenix said Goss showed his face in the chat room, and they were able to track his IP address. Goss reportedly confessed to using the app at least five times. >> Read more trending news Agents said he preferred children ages 10 to 12 and did not care if they were girls or boys. Goss allegedly told officers that he primarily teaches children ages 12 and 13. School officials said they did not find out about the allegations against Goss until FOX23.com called them. They said he did not show up to work Wednesday. The station confirmed that he is in the Tulsa County Jail. The school's website says that it has served home-school families for more than 20 years.

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