ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
85°
Clear
H 87° L 76°
  • cloudy-day
    85°
    Current Conditions
    Clear. H 87° L 76°
  • clear-night
    77°
    Morning
    Clear. H 87° L 76°
  • cloudy-day
    87°
    Afternoon
    Partly Cloudy. H 89° L 76°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

Stories About The 2018 Jacksonville Budget

    The Jacksonville Equestrian Center sits at a critical time for determining how it’s funded in the future, but it’s also at a turning point for realizing the potential of what the property can be.  “This is the crown jewel of the Westside. We’re very proud of it, and we hope people will come out and enjoy it,” says Northeast Florida Equestrian Society Board Chair Peggy Fuller.  WOKV brought you an in depth look Monday at the cost challenges that have beset the venue in recent years. The nonprofit running it, Northeast Florida Equestrian Society, believes they are on the road to turning that around, once they get their new covered arena open and in use.  It’s just one of several projects and programs designed to not only start cranking up the venue’s use, but better connect it with the community.  Covered arena  The Equestrian Center’s contract says the first priority of NFES is adding a covered outdoor arena. That offers many different opportunities when partnered with the main arena- from a large show running more efficiently with multiple spaces, to a large show expanding further because of the additional space, to the ability to run two compatible shows at once in the two separate covered spaces. Because the new covered ring will be open air on the sides, it will also let the Equestrian Center increase programming in the summer, since the main arena now does not have air conditioning.  For NFES, this gives them a space to host smaller community events, while also positioning them to be more competitive for large, national competitions.  “To make this facility something that’s a destination, and people are proud of. This is a draw to Jacksonville, that this is somewhere somebody wants to come,” says NFES past Board Chair Joanne Connell.  IN DEPTH: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s $1.2 billion City budget proposal In fiscal year 16-17, the City Council committed $1.3 million for a covered ring, and NFES has secured a donation to match that, as part of a naming rights agreement for the space. The contract amendment between the City and NFES initially outlined the project’s completion as October 1, 2018.  To date, the construction has not actually started.  During recent City budget hearings, Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department Director Daryl Joseph said part of the reason NFES didn’t meet revenue projections is because those were put together with the expectation the new covered arena would be up and running. The City blames the delay on a number of factors, including the weather, hurricane and project design. NFES says the delay was driven in large part from the City- they took months to review and approve the donor match agreement, and once that was done, NFES says City codes had changed, so they had to deal with design changes and code variances.  The City confirms the funding for the project is still allocated, and it’s believed the projection for the total project cost will still hold, despite the delay. The project timeline has also received a one-year extension, following a City Council vote last week.  The plan is to take two existing outdoor rings and combine them in to one new 270x270 sq ft ring, that has footing to match the interior arena. A 300x300 sq ft cover will hang over that ring and will connect to the existing arena, with a buffer space in between the two buildings serving as a livestock holding area.  Fuller says they already have events that have committed to expanding, once the covered arena is in place. They’re also hoping it will lead to a major show anchoring in Jacksonville, meaning they schedule the same weekend here every year. NFES is not yet booking events for the venue, because of the delays that have taken place with construction. They’re now hoping to be able to break ground soon, with completion of the project late Spring or early Summer.  With how the shows are booked- several years in advance- Fuller says it could take that long to see the full benefit, but the patience will be worth the wait.  Other improvements on site  The long-range plan has even more improvements for the site, both in infrastructure and offerings. NFES believes the next phase should be the support around the new covered ring.  With 423 stalls currently spread across four barns, NFES hopes to start selling out more, once the new venue creates more demand. If the demand increases enough, they could potentially build even more barns in the future, which feeds a primary revenue source for them- stall rentals.  GALLERY:Jacksonville Equestrian Center With expanding space for the horses, comes the need for their human counterparts to go somewhere. NFES hopes to add more RV rental sites in the future, to achieve that.  The contract “Work Plan” between the City and NFES says the nonprofit will refurbish barns, stalls, camping and RV spots, trails, parking, and landscaping. The Plan also calls for new bathroom and shower facilities near barns three and four, improved pavilions, additional livestock pens, covered bleachers, and much more. The Equestrian Center Master Plan includes a lot of this, and NFES is already separately working on more ring space, which is being funded by private donations.   There are also on-site revenue services that are growing. They would like to expand the therapeutic equipment they have for horses, which could then be rented by horse owners at events. NFES further tells WOKV they also may have a donor lined up for a farrier space on-site, whereas any farrier or vet who provides services for events currently has to do work in the stalls.  Equine Therapy program  Another hallmark of the Equestrian Center’s future is a planned “state of the art” equine therapy program.  Fuller says they have a sponsor that allows them to start the program by partnering with an accredited therapy group, which brings horses to the Equestrian Center and performs the services. They hope to ultimately be able to build a separate structure on the property to house the program full time.  “Our theory is start small and build slowly, and then we’ll be successful. If you dive in, I think, all at once, you sometimes overstep. We want to start small and build,” she says.  The program provides both physical and mental therapy services, for everyone from veterans to people with autism.  “It’s exciting now that this has been actually realized, assisted therapy has been realized as a true therapy. And we want to be involved in that,” Fuller says.  Connell says they’re especially proud of being able to aid the military community through this service, because of the origin of the land, which used to be with Cecil Field.  Diverse programming  The Equestrian Center is only one of the facilities in that area. Taye Brown Regional Park includes the Equestrian Center, the Cecil Recreation Complex’s Aquatic Center, and the ballfields. There are also miles of trails- including ones you can take a horse on- and a golf course nearby.  The contract between the City and NFES talks about partnering with those other venues to create “destination package deals”. NFES says they absolutely see the surrounding attractions as benefiting them, in creating more appeal in the immediate area.  The “Work Plan” further speaks about not only expanding equine-related events, but other community and diverse activities.  “A big boost at other equestrian centers is the development and ownership of ‘downtime’ nonrated shows that will fill low-demand calendar dates,” the contract says.  NFES believes the therapy program can ultimately be something that helps program the Equestrian Center every day, because it will run on week days, when large shows and events typically aren’t taking place. They’ve also already grown substantially in attracting a range of events. From dog agility shows, to RV shows, FDOT Career Day, concerts, rodeos, and much more, NFES has focused on bringing in something for everyone.  “Most of our events are free and open to the public. There’s no parking fee, there’s no entrance fee, and we want people to come, encourage people to come and see what we have our here,” Fuller says.  Marketing  The City also continues to explore how to help promote the venue.  In recent action recommended by the Tourist Development Council and approved by the City Council, guidelines were created to establish criteria for awarding all tourism development grants, including those used for marketing and special events. Part of that included setting aside $20,000 specifically for promotion the Equestrian Center, separate from the $800,000 in Special Event Grants that cover other events and City venues. According to the City, this funding will be used specifically to lure events that draw participants from outside of the area, and for advertising events at the venue.  The grant money was pulled from the overall special events fund because of the unique nature of the Equestrian Center and events being recruited. As such, the TDC and Visit Jax wanted it to be handled differently. Jacksonville Equestrian Center Executive Director Tim Jones says the core problem is that the standard grants are being measured by hotel night, but that’s not the metric that most accurately represents the economic impact they have, since many participants stay in RVs or scatter at hotels that accommodate dogs or other animals they travel with. Instead, he envisions something that gives more weight to stall nights, for these new grants.  “It’s a City facility that attracts tourists, and we [the TDC] thought there was an opportunity to help them bump the level of their game, if they could offer some grants to some of the people to bring in the kind of ‘National Championship of X’, as opposed to just having the regional competitions,” said City Councilwoman Lori Boyer, during the TDC’s recent budget hearing.  The funding is coming from the City’s tourism development tax, as part of the TDC budget.  Looking ahead  NFES understands that not everyone is familiar with- or necessarily even in support of- the Equestrian Center, but they’re continuing to work to change that. Highlighting that this is a Better Jacksonville Plan project, Fuller says voters supported it ahead of its construction in 2004, and now there is a need to maintain it, and an opportunity to program it to its fullest.  NFES is committed to continuing to educate the City Council and community at large on the events and opportunities the venue holds. With most of the events at the Equestrian Center being free and open to the public, they’re hoping everyone takes the time to visit- not just those passionate about horses and equestrian events.  In the coming year, the City of Jacksonville will closely consider how to subsidize this venue in the future. NFES says they will closely partner in those discussions, and continue to prove why they believe this is a worthwhile investment.  WOKV continues to track how Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and the City Council are spending your tax dollars, with the final vote on the City’s $1.2 billion budget proposal coming next week.
  • While the Veterans Memorial Arena, Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, and other Downtown venues are familiar to just about anyone in Jacksonville, there’s another City facility that sits along the Westside that, for years, has been known to a more niche audience- the Jacksonville Equestrian Center.   The nonprofit that runs the venue has been working to grow its use and exposure, but has faced funding challenges, construction setbacks, and other problems in that goal. Now, the Equestrian Center sits at a critical time, where the City has to determine how to fund it moving in to the future.  WOKV is bringing you a deep dive in to what’s brought this City-owned facility to this point, the funding questions looming, and how those involved believe it can turn around in the future.  History  In 2014, the nonprofit Northeast Florida Equestrian Society took over the management of the Equestrian Center from the City of Jacksonville’s contractor SMG. That company manages the other City venues, but the District Councilman at the time, Doyle Carter, convinced his colleagues that the Equestrian Center needed a more specialized touch.  NFES does not receive a management fee, but is instead only paid for “actual, reasonable, and budgeted expenses to perform the Services”, according to the contract with the City. That document further says operating expenses are to be funded by revenue from the Equestrian Center, which includes donations, admission fees, concessions, advertising and sponsorships, and related sources. Ticket sale revenue is used for funds for performers or incidental expenses for an event, with any excess also going toward operating expenses.  There is also the possibility to sell naming rights for various aspects of the Equestrian Center or even the Center itself, and that money would be used solely for capital improvements on site.  NFES has been generating revenue, and that’s grown since they’ve taken over, but it has not been able to meet the expenses. As a result, the venue gets a City subsidy every year to cover the gap.  Short term funding  The subsidy is not new- predating NFES management, the highest level was in FY 2010-2011, where the Equestrian Center received more than $760,000 from the General Fund, which is the portion of the City budget comprised of your property tax dollars.  When NFES took over, the funding was instead shifted to the Taye Brown Trust Fund, which is fed by a host fee for solid waste at the Trail Ridge Landfill, instead of tax dollars. Since they took full control in FY 2014-2015, the subsidy has largely stayed below the levels predating NFES management. In both this fiscal year and the last, the Equestrian Center received a little more than $400,000, but that number is up to $465,508 in the proposed budget for FY 2018-2019.   The numbers overall are also not matching projections for what NFES hoped to be doing at this stage.  During budget hearings last month, the Mayor’s Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa said NFES revenue wasn’t only short of meeting expectations, but they were going to be short for the fiscal year overall.  “This nonprofit has done a good job, but they’re beginning to slip here lately,” Mousa said.  The Jacksonville City Council voted last Tuesday to allocate $50,000 to be used to allow the Equestrian Center to continue operating through this month. This was Carter’s last bill on the Council, although he was not actually present for the vote, because he previously stepped down from his seat in order to run for Tax Collector.  The City Council bill also creates and funds an “Extraordinary Repair and Maintenance Budget”, which covers “large scale, non recurring repair of maintenance projects” like repairs from fire, storms, burglary, or structural failure, according to the contract. It further clarifies that the City is responsible for capital expenses over $2,500, which will be considered as part of the annual Capital Improvement Program that is put together during the City budget process.  NFES says this is a crucial change, because it makes the City’s responsibility clear, helps them streamline the process, and potentially provides access to more funding for these emergency, unexpected infrastructure and equipment issues.  NFES says the increase in this year’s budget proposal accounts for rising capital maintenance costs. Between this fiscal year and the last, NFES says they have had some $90,000 in expenses come up because of infrastructure failure and equipment problems, including $9,000 for an elevator, $8,600 for the sprinkler system, $16,300 for repairing the indoor arena footing, $35,000 for equipment rentals, and more. They say, because the facility is now 14 years old and some of their equipment even predates that, issues like this aren’t uncommon, and are an obstacle to their goal of decreasing the subsidy the venue needs.  “We would like to work towards that and strive to work towards that, but again, as the building is aging, we’ve got repairs that need to be done. As our equipment is aging, we’re having to rent equipment,” says NFES Board Chair Peggy Fuller.  NFES tells WOKV these emergency repairs and a capital project not being constructed according to its timeline led to them falling short of projections.  The $50,000 in the City Council bill is coming from the Taye Brown Trust Fund as well, but that leads to another big decision pending in front of the Council, because the Trust Fund won’t be able to support the needed overall budget subsidy in the future.  Long term funding  The Taye Brown Trust Fund was identified several years ago by Carter and other Council members as a way to support the gap between the operating expenses and revenue at the Equestrian Center. The fund consistently brings in about $200,000 annually from the host fees, and is designated to use at the Taye Brown Regional Park, which includes the Equestrian Center.  The demands of the venue have drained revenue from the Trust Fund quicker than it has been coming in.  As a result, the Council Auditor’s Office says the Trust Fund has dropped from around $1.3 million in FY 14-15, to less than $450,000 as this fiscal year closes out. The FY 18-19 budget proposes $465,508 from the Trust Fund for the Equestrian Center. While the Trust Fund will be able to cover that, when the annual income from the host fee is considered, it will leave a very small balance, so the auditors do not believe this Fund will be viable for supporting the Equestrian Center in the future.  “The concern is noted. If the Taye Brown Trust Fund runs out of cash, you either have to cut back on operational expenses or supplement with the General Fund. That’s your two options,” Mousa said during the recent budget hearing.  IN DEPTH: Jacksonville’s $1.2 billion budget proposal During this year’s budget hearings, Council members were cautious about adding any recurring expenses. While property values and construction have helped the General Fund overall grow in recent years, Florida voters will decide in November whether to give themselves an additional property tax exemption, which would leave an estimated $27 million hole in the City budget next fiscal year. That could make it difficult to absorb this venue’s subsidy in to the General Fund.  But, through various budget and Council committee hearings, the ground has been laid for identifying some other funding line- General Fund or otherwise- not only because the Taye Brown Trust Fund will likely not cover the expense in the future, but because the City wants to allow the Trust Fund to recover, so it can be spent on the Taye Brown Regional Park overall, as initially intended. The Park is part of the Cecil Recreation Complex, with also includes ball fields, an Olympic-size pool, trails, and more.  “It needs to start building back up, so we can do other economic impacts out there for the Sports Complex. So, in the future, that’s going to be an issue that’s going to have to be taken care of,” Carter said during a Committee hearing on the emergency maintenance funding bill.  Growing in the future  The contract with NFES was initially signed through the end of the next fiscal year September 30, 2019. It has since been extended through September 30, 2024, according to contract documents. Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department Director Daryl Joseph says NFES has been making progress- but he’s urging the City Council to be realistic.  “I don’t want to paint the picture that this is ever going to be a revenue generating facility, because I don’t have that forecast. So, there may always be a need for a subsidy for this facility,” Joseph says.  That isn’t necessarily a concern to some on the Council, with Councilwoman Lori Boyer highlighting that the General Fund subsidizes other venues like the Arena, Baseball Grounds, and more. NFES further says how the City acquired the overall land requires it be used for active and passive recreational purposes, and since voters approved the Equestrian Center under the Better Jacksonville Plan, the City has a responsibility to make sure it’s maintained. Councilman Bill Gulliford also says, while revenue has fallen short of projections, it is getting better.  “Some years ago, it was sort of desperate, so it’s really turned around,” Gulliford said during the Equestrian Center budget hearing.  NFES views themselves as similar to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, where a non-profit operates that City venue. The Zoo, however, has received a $1.3 million allocation from the General Fund each of the last few years, and the Council is poised to approve a 5-year, $25 million capital funding plan to help the Zoo achieve their new Master Plan.  Joseph says NFES has been doing well in trying creative ways to create more revenue and solicit more and different events.  WOKV requested an interview with the City about the Equestrian Center, but received statements in response to our specific questions. They say it’s a “unique facility and venue” for Jacksonville, and they are “optimistic” about NFES’ commitment to improvement and what the future holds.  NFES believes they are on the right path to turning around overall. Coming up Tuesday on WOKV, we’re bringing you a closer look at that progress, and the big projects NFES believes can be the start of a bright future.
  • The City of Jacksonville is aiming to spend $3 million to replace a section of the Northbank bulkhead in the next fiscal year, saying there have been many problems. The funding wasn’t initially included in the proposed Capital Improvement Program put forward by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry as part of the budget approval process, but Councilwoman Lori Boyer says the need changed when they got an updated assessment report on the state of the bulkheads.  “Post-Irma, the bulkhead failures are growing and becoming more problematic, and we really need to start with the replacement of some of the Northbank bulkhead sections,” Boyer says.  A bulkhead is a retaining wall or seawall, and specifically in the areas of concern, it’s the wall bordering the Northbank land along the St. Johns River. During a recent budget hearing, Boyer said there have been “a bunch” of bulkhead problems, and- after receiving the failure report- the Administration agrees that funding needs to be moved in to this year.  IN DEPTH: Jacksonville’s $1.2 billion City budget proposal In the original CIP for the next fiscal year, there was no money set aside for Northbank bulkhead repair, but the funding started in FY 19-20 allocated several million dollars each of the following several years. Not wanting to increase the debt load on the CIP for the next fiscal year, the proposal put forward by Boyer, in cooperation with the Administration, takes $3 million of the $4 million that was proposed for JAX ASH Site Pollution Remediation. To offset that, Boyer proposed $3 million of the $4 million in bulkhead repair funding for FY 20-21 be moved to JAX ASH Site Pollution Remediation for FY 20-21.  “It gives us the ability to start the work on the Northbank bulkhead a year earlier, and we really need to do that,” Boyer says.  The first phase of the work will be behind the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts, between Hogan and Pearl. One segment on either side of that has also been identified for action- the block behind the Landing and the block behind CSX.  “We are piece-mealing it, but that’s not to say the Landing bulkhead will stay deteriorated forever, nor the section in front of CSX,” says Curry’s Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa, who was asked about the segmented approach.  The proposal keeps the CIP “budget neutral” overall, and the Administration and Public Works Department have assured the Council that there is still enough funding going toward JAX ASH, even with this reduction in the upcoming fiscal year.  “It’s a good move,” says Mousa.  Mousa says JAX ASH deals with a Consent Decree between the City and the EPA for the cleanup of ash City-wide. He says this is a remnant of when the City used to burn solid waste and allow people and construction sites to use that ash as fill. That was done before regulations, and once it was learned the ash has lead and can be harmful to very young children, the City was required to either place two feet of clean fill over the ash sites or remove the old ash outright and put it in a landfill.  Because the sites are scattered across the County, the exact total cost for remediation was not made clear at the hearing, but Mousa says there has been a lot of money put in over the years. Even with the proposed funding shift, there is still $13 million going toward that effort through various other funding lines in FY 18-19. Public Works says, overall, then City has about $24 million left to be done after that. Then, they will continue to do testing and monitoring long term.  WOKV requested a copy of the bulkhead failure report, but the City says it is exempt from public records requests, because it depicts structural elements of bulkheads owned by the City.  The proposal has been approved by the Finance Committee. It is now pending approval by the full City Council, as part of the overall City budget and CIP approval later this month.
  • It’s something for Downtown dog owners to get excited about. The proposed Capital Improvement Program that was put forward alongside Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s $1.2 billion City budget proposal includes $400,000 to retrofit Main Street Park in to a dog park.  The Main Street pocket park sits across from the Main Library in Downtown, on Main Street between E Duval Street and E Monroe Street. It is currently green space that is not specifically programmed much of the year.  The CIP says there has been an increasing number of people in Downtown owning dogs, and the City believes this will be a better use of the park space.  IN DEPTH: Jacksonville’s proposed $1.2 billion budget While the proposed CIP would have the City borrow up to $400,000 for this project, the projected budget at this point is $352,500. The project details obtained by WOKV show the biggest expense would be $180,000 in synthetic turf. There would also be $63,000 in fencing and gates, $50,000 for site work like pavers and stairs, and $42,500 for rock mulch. Irrigation, a drinking fountain, and agility equipment round out the expenses.  The project details say there are also shade sails being considered, but the projected cost is more than $80,000.  The project proposal, as well as the full CIP and City budget proposal have already been vetted by the City Council Finance Committee, but are still pending approval by the full City Council later this month. If approved, this won’t be the only dog park in Downtown, although it would be the one on open park space. Pet Paradise Park opened up with the Jaguars pre-season, and it hosts a few dogs each game inside of TIAA Bank Field.
  • For the first time since Hurricane Matthew, the campgrounds at Huguenot Park are re-opening. The City of Jacksonville believes it’s an exciting time for the recreation opportunities available for you, but could also mean positive things for revenue at the site, and the impact that has on the budgets for the park and City overall.  Revenue at Huguenot Memorial Park is driven by entrance fees, campground rentals, and shelter rentals. Before Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department Director Daryl Joseph says the park, and specifically campgrounds, had been in demand.  “It is a popular facility, so when it closed down, of course we’ve been impacted by that. We were seeing a spike in usage prior to the hurricanes,” he said during a recent City Council Finance Committee budget hearing for the Parks Department.  The Park previously reopened, but after that, the focus turned to restoring the amenities. The Parks Department has focused on rebuilding roads, reconstructing the campsites, refurnishing them with picnic tables and fire rings, and more- although that process was further hampered by Hurricane Irma in 2017. Now, the City confirms 38 of the 72 campgrounds are in operation once again, with the rest slated to be open by the Spring. Two shelters are also now available to rent, with a third remaining under construction, but expected to open in the next couple of weeks.  As for the roads, Joseph says they have built a temporary road to get to the beach. They intend to start construction in the fall on a more permanent road, with the hope that it will be available to use next summer. The coastal road suffered substantial damage from Matthew. With these services now getting up and running again, the City hopes revenue will quickly follow. In the proposed $1.2 billion City budget from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Huguenot Park had to be subsidized by a $369,442 transfer from the General Fund- or taxpayer driven portion of the budget. That amount is a few thousand dollars more than what was allocated for the current fiscal year, and represents money that could have been put elsewhere, if the subsidy was not needed to balance the budget.  Joseph says they’re not relying just on the return of services to spark more revenue. He says they’re looking at opportunities like adding electricity at campgrounds, because that’s something that is frequently requested. He was hesitant to say raising fees outright is the answer, because he doesn’t want to price the park out. Currently, it is level with the fees at Hanna Park, and an annual pass will get you in to both locations.  IN DEPTH: Jacksonville’s proposed $1.2 billion budget Hanna Park has a transfer from the General Fund of $846,320 in the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, but it is not to balance their budget. Instead, it’s to be able to pay with cash, instead of debt, for several capital projects, with the commitment to pay back that General Fund loan through excess revenue in the near future. The Park did not require a transfer from the General Fund in the current fiscal year.  The transfer will combine with other Hanna Park revenue to fund a $1.02 million package of three improvements- the playground, the Splash Park, and campground restroom renovations. There aren’t many details on the specifics of the projects, but WOKV was able to obtain a rendering of the proposed Splash Park.  City Council Finance Committee members highlighted that not only does Hanna Park not need a transfer to balance its budget, but it is sustaining capital projects from its revenue as well. They are hoping that once Huguenot Park is fully up and running again, it will follow in kind.  “It’s a tremendous amenity for our County,” Joseph says.  Previously, $550,000 was allocated for the creation of a permanent beach access road for Huguenot Park that is more removed from the shoreline and, therefore, less prone to washing out. That project also included new campsites that were lost to shoreline erosion. WOKV asked the City what the cost was for all of the repair work done at Huguenot Park- to see how it stacks up to the allocation- and we have not yet been given a specific answer.  While the Finance Committee has given a preliminary thumbs-up to the Mayor’s proposed City budget- which includes these funding lines and projects- the budget is still pending approval by the full City Council next month. WOKV continues to work through the City budget proposal, and will update you as we learn more.
  • Grants for community groups fighting violence, a vacuum truck to drain inlets, and renovations to bring more services to the Sulzbacher Center are just some of the budget enhancements the City Council Finance Committee has made, as they wind down their process of reviewing Mayor Lenny Curry’s $1.2 billion City budget proposal.  As the Committee vetted the budget with the City Council Auditor’s Office, they changed some financial assumptions and fixed some accounting points, ultimately freeing up $877,331 in uncommitted funds. Also through this process, Council members have heard requests from various departments and organizations about funding or items they want that did not make the Mayor’s proposal. Those were put on a list of “enhancements”, along with requests from the Council members themselves, for a total of 16 items for $1,614,250, with some of that funding being recurring dollars. On Thursday, they decided on six projects to get the funds.  IN DEPTH: Full coverage of the $1.2 billion City budget proposal Two of the enhancements come amid a wave of violence that has hit Jacksonville. The first vote the Committee took was $300,000 to fund small grants for community and faith-based organizations working anti-violence efforts.  “The idea is to create small cells within our high-risk communities and ask our small faith-based and community-based organizations to work together to pool their resources. We think that is a strategy that will allow for us to make our most significant impact and to be able to measure the outcomes,” says Kids Hope Alliance CEO Joe Peppers.  Despite this being one of the last items on the list of possible enhancements in front of the Committee, it was the first action they took, because of the overwhelming support that had become apparent. This will funnel through KHA, which already has $50,000 budgeted for the effort. Curry has also committed $50,000 in executive reserves for similar grants, bringing the total to $400,000.  “I think that it’s a big win for the community and Jacksonville,” says Councilman Reggie Gaffney.  The second area is grief counseling, trauma care, and burial costs for children who have been exposed to or are victims of violent crime. Initially, the KHA sought $60,000 for this effort, but the Committee budgeted $42,732, as part of the final compromise to fund several initiatives.  Hand-in-hand with these public safety initiatives is the Council’s mission to fight homelessness and boost services for that community. As such, they threw support behind a measure that was put forward at the last minute by Council President Aaron Bowman, to benefit the Sulzbacher Center.  The proposal initially sought $200,000 to co-locate the Mental Health Resource Center’s Quest Program and Link Program, which provides housing assistance and mental health services, respectively. Close to $51,000 is for renovating currently vacant space to accommodate the new services, which is one-time funding. Recurring costs come through an estimated $70,000 in increased utilities and just over $79,000 to use JSO to increase security on site. To compromise with the other projects, Bowman committed to working with JEA to handle that bill elsewhere. The Committee agreed to fund $120,000, with the Sulzbacher Center seeking partners to make up the gap.  “You know we know how to squeeze a dime at the Sulzbacher Center, so if we need to give $5,000 to grief counseling to children, it’s kind of hard for me to say no to that,” says Sulzbacher Center President and CEO Cindy Funkhouser.  Another non-public safety priority is Public Works, and specifically drainage.  “I look at the things that are going to bring maybe some benefit, is going to be for the whole community, that would be significant in the arena of basic service. And that’s what goes first and foremost, and that’s our primary responsibility first and foremost, basic service,” says Councilman Bill Gulliford.  Several Council members said they have been inundated with calls about flooding in neighborhoods across the City, so they are funding a $360,000 vacuum truck, or Vac Con, to be used to drain inlets and pipes.  “Whether we’ve had more rain this year or not, it is a challenge for our department to keep up with the requests, and I think having the extra equipment is a valuable asset,” says Councilwoman Lori Boyer.  This is something the Administration says they can use, although they didn’t budget for it, because they prioritized litter and blight issues with the available funding in the budget proposal. The Administration says this would likely bring the City’s Vac Con fleet to the highest level its ever been- at six overall- with two of those being replaced in the next budget proposal, because of age.  Another enhancement is $50,000 for Agape Family Health. In similar action last year, where there were available contingency funds, the Council gave Agape $187,962. In this budget proposal, Curry offered up $100,000. Agape had sought not only to be restored, but enhanced to $250,000 overall, because they say demand is rising. Instead of the $150,000 requested, the Committee budgeted $50,000.  “Our numbers are going up, in terms of the number of uninsured that we’re seeing. So it just means that we’ll have to see them, and then we’ll be in the red,” says Agape CEO Mia Jones.  A small $4,599 was set aside to ensure new City Council members would have access to the full communications and parking allowance during the transition time. Finally, the Committee decided to increase the employee cap of the Tax Collector’s Office by two- they had sought four- but those positions are not funded at this time. The Tax Collector’s Office wants the positions in order to offer new services, including processing concealed carry permits. They are projecting that revenue from these services could cover two positions, so that money will be shifted internally.  In approving these projects, there were several proposals that the Committee passed over.  The Public Service Grant Council initially sought more funding for grants, but scaled that back to request $50,000 to hire a consultant to study the return on investment of grants in the program, and the priority populations they serve. Public Service Grant Council Chair Lara Diettrich says this would have given them information to answer questions the Council consistently puts forward.  “I find it frustrating that you’re telling me no, when I’m trying to answer you,” she says.  Some Council members saw this as an expense on a narrow snapshot in time, as opposed to something with broad impact.  The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville was hoping to get at least $1 million additional to boost the grant funding they provide to 27 organizations. Executive Director Tony Allegretti says he is thankful for the support the Council and Administration has provided, but he wants to see them move toward funding levels like what they had before the economic downturn. Councilman Jim Love also linked the grant program to the City’s overarching public safety concerns, because he says the programs they fund serve 400,000 kids each year.  “I think it helps with the violence in the city, because if you’re busy with art, you’re not busy with other things,” Love says.  While several Council members say they support the organization and work that’s being done, they did not see this as a priority in this specific City budget.  Councilwoman Joyce Morgan asked for $200,000 for a mobile broadcasting vehicle for WJCT to be used during an emergency like a hurricane, but she was short on answers for what else the vehicle could be used for, so that it wasn’t just sitting around most days.  Overall, the Committee was especially wary of recurring expenses- anything like salaries, which would be committee in future budget years as well. The reason for the hesitation is that Florida voters will weigh a new homestead exemption on the November ballot, and if that passes, it will save the average homeowner, but cost the City tens of millions of dollars in the next budget in lost property tax revenue. Anticipating that hole, the Administration and Council didn’t want to overcommit going in to the next proposal. That hesitation and how the other projects were prioritized led the Committee to pass on a proposal to add an additional engineering position to Public Works, to help with the large number of capital projects and other work taking place.  There had also been two requests relating to the Jacksonville Public Library system- one to generally examine increasing hours, and another to specifically add three hours each week at the Southeast Library. Love says he spoke with the JPL Director, who was satisfied with the hours boost that’s already included in the budget, which will ensure that every library is open at least six days a week.  The decisions on the Committee and Curry’s overall budget proposal are still pending approval by the full City Council. That vote will take place next month, before the start of the next fiscal year, October 1st.
  • After the mass shooting at the Jacksonville Landing, triple shooting following the Raines-Lee High School football game, and fatal shooting of a 7-year-old girl in a robbery-gone-wrong, city leaders are looking at a different approach for fighting back against violence. “Either we do nothing, and keep standing on the sidelines, and you see what we’re getting. Or we all try to do a little more,” says Councilman Reggie Gaffney, during a recent budget hearing.  Gaffney has put forward a $300,000 proposal for a “Stop the Violence” initiative, which would funnel through the Kids Hope Alliance. The funding would be used for small grants for grassroots nonprofit organizations that work on fighting violence and overall bettering their communities. Gaffney wants to target organizations that are already “in the trenches”- they know their neighborhoods, they know who’s at risk, they know how their community will respond to different tactics- and have new ideas that they haven’t been able to get off the ground, because they’re strapped for resources.  “We’ve gotta do something- like I said- to stop this violence, to get these kids back on track, because these are our kids, and these are our greatest investment,” says Councilman Sam Newby.  IN DEPTH: Jacksonville’s City budget proposal KHA already has $50,000 for grants like this in their proposed budget. The $300,000 enhancement will be debated by the City Council Finance Committee during a budget hearing Thursday, and if the Committee signs on, it would be considered as part of their vote on the overall $1.2 billion budget proposal from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, ahead of the start of the next fiscal year.  Not wanting to wait for the next fiscal year, Curry has now moved $50,000 from executive branch reserves to the City’s grant office, in order to fund grants similar to what the Council is working to budget for. Curry’s Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa told the Finance Committee that they would target faith-based community organizations that need administrative assistance to implement their programs. He says Curry wants to move “lightning fast” on getting these grants out, and they will rely on the processes already in place for solicitations to receive and rank proposals for funding.  “I am heartbroken by these senseless acts of violence that are impacting children, both as victims and perpetrators. We must create a path that shows our youth a better way- one of hope and opportunity,” Curry says.  If all the proposed dollars come through, that would be $400,000 for this initiative. The KHA had this $50,000 in the existing year budget as well, but Newby says they had 15 requests, and could only fund five with that level of money.  Another possible enhancement the Finance Committee will weigh is $60,000 to KHA for grief counseling, trauma-response services, and burial costs for children exposed to and victims of violent crime. KHA Joe Peppers says they want to stand up a full response team for trauma and grief counseling, but while they work on that larger vision, this funding would allow them to start contracting some services.  The Finance Committee overall praised a new focus on mental health initiatives for local children, although the question through the budget process continues to be if this is the best investment and the right place to budget for the initiatives. Councilwoman Lori Boyer raised the question of whether programs addressing violence in the community should be put through the Public Service Grants process in future years.  Councilman Bill Gulliford added that he sees the violence in this city now as fundamentally different than that of the past, wherein he believes youth now don’t know right from wrong, as opposed to prior generations who knew the difference, but ignored it. He’s putting the blame for that on parents, but offering that one organization that addresses that issue and may deserve some of this grant funding is “Operation Empower Parents”.  Gaffney made it clear that he thinks it’s important to secure the funding, but then allow experts to determine which groups should get it. This funding push is one of many public safety-centered requests in Curry’s budget proposal. There is also money to establish a “Real Time Crime Center”, the establishment of a task force to review the City’s network of surveillance cameras, and more. WOKV continues to work through the budget proposal, and will continue to update you as we learn more.
  • The Duval County Tax Collector’s Office wants to add more services for you- including processing concealed carry permits- but they say they need more staff to make that happen. As the City Council Finance Committee works through the $1.2 billion City budget proposal from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, not many departments have asked for much, beyond what the proposal puts forward. During a budget hearing last week, though, the Tax Collector’s Office said they need to turn around years of cutbacks.  Chief Administrative Officer Sherry Hall says they had 244 full time positions in 2010, but are down to 226 now, with many of the cuts coming because of the economic downtown. In that same time frame, she says their transaction volume has risen 11%.  “We’re to the point now where, although we’re constantly trying to improve our efficiencies, improve the service level, where we need to slowly start adding back in some of those positions,” Hall says.  IN DEPTH: City budget proposal from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry Some of those efficiencies have been rolling out ways to help customers not have to even get to an office, in order to lessen that in-person demand. Over the last year, Hall says they’ve seen online transactions triple, because there is no fee for paying your property taxes and other ecommerce transactions.  “It encouraged- which is very useful to us of course- customers to do business online, and hopefully, keep them our of the branches, which is always the goal- to make it more convenient,” she says.  But there is still a lot that gets done in the offices every day.  “Our population is only growing, our transaction volume is only going to continue to grow,” Hall says.  So when they look at adding services, like processing concealed carry permits, Hall says they don’t want to stretch the resources they have. She says procession that can take an average of 45 minutes, so it would have a significant impact on the customer flow for the average Tax Collector’s Office employee.  Her ask to the Finance Committee is four entry level, full-time employees, with salary and benefits landing at $36,976 each. In all, the request is $147,904.  The funding is recurring, though, meaning it would continue in future year budgets, as opposed to being spent on a one-time expense. That’s a big reason the Administration didn’t include it in their budget proposal, according to Curry’s Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa. He says they’re using extreme caution with recurring expense enhancements, because of concern over a likely revenue shortfall next year, which will be created if Florida residents approve a new homestead exemption in November.  Hall says they would expect a revenue boost to partially offset the hiring costs. She says about 25% of the customers who currently process their concealed carry license through the state, instead go to the Tax Collector, in similar counties who have started processing the permits. While she acknowledged that they can’t necessarily expect that demand in the first year, if the projection holds true, it could mean about $86,549.  The Finance Committee has added Hall’s request to their list of possible budget enhancements, which they will ultimately vote on later on in the review process, before the full Council votes on the proposal ahead of the start of the next fiscal year October 1st.  WOKV continues to work through Curry’s budget proposal and how your tax dollars are being spent. Stay with us as we learn more through the budget hearing process.
  • As early voting winds down across the First Coast for the Florida primary, Duval County’s Supervisor of Elections is vowing to try to open early voting sites on two college campuses for the November election. And he says he doesn’t need more funding to do it.  A recent court ruling allows college campuses to now be used for early voting sites in Florida, but does not require it. There has been a passionate push in the community to add the locations, despite there not being a mandate. With an early voting site right across the street from Jacksonville University, the focus of the push has been the University of North Florida and Edward Waters College.  “Putting in two new sites, in the middle of two elections, is a logistical nightmare,” says Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan.  During a City Council Finance Committee hearing on the Supervisor’s budget, Hogan told Council members that the request from people in the community and some on Council has led him to pull some staff from focusing on the ongoing election, to start studying this issue. Based on the general metrics they use- population density, growth, and related areas- he says they don’t believe there is a need for a new early voting site, except potentially the Bayard area. Despite that, he says they’ve been working on the potential to establish early voting on the two campus locations for the November election.  IN DEPTH: $1.2 billion city budget proposal from Jacksonville’s Mayor By shifting around some salary dollars and tapping federal funds for equipment purchases, Hogan told the Committee he wouldn’t need more funds for this goal.  “We think we found the money to do two sites, but the logistics of that is what’s troubling us,” Hogan says.  He says it will be relatively easy to establish early voting at EWC, because there is already an Election Day precinct on the campus. While there are different equipment demands on Election Day, versus early voting, he says it puts them in a better position.  UNF is more challenging, although Hogan says the campus representatives he’s been working with are passionate about finding a solution. He says he is trying to figure out early voting there, although there are other options being considered. He says they’re looking at whether shuttles can be set up to take students to the Southeast Regional Library a few miles away, which is used for early voting. They’re also considering increasing their presence on the campus for the month ahead of an election, to encourage registration and vote-by-mail efforts, while also exploring using students as poll workers or interns.  City Councilman Garrett Dennis is the leading voice on the push for this expansion, having spent 15 years in the Supervisor of Elections office himself. He thanked Hogan for the efforts, while adding he hopes to see that pay off in November.
  • The Jacksonville Light Boat Parade will be back on Thanksgiving weekend this year, as the City takes back ownership of the event and the estimated $60,000 bill. WOKV has learned that decision is coming at the request of the JAXSPORTS Council, who had been hosting the event for the last few years.  We first started asking about the event, after finding a line in the $1.2 billion City budget proposal from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, which said some overtime salary costs were being reduced in a Sports and Entertainment subfund, in order to offset the cost of adding the Jacksonville Light Boat Parade as a new event. The City confirms they are budgeting $60,000 to sponsor the event, although the overall City budget proposal is still pending approval by the Jacksonville City Council. IN DEPTH: WOKV digs in to $1.2 billion City budget proposal Asked why the City is taking on the event again, a Spokesperson says the JAXSPORTS Council decided not to organize and sponsor it any more.  “As a long standing Jacksonville holiday tradition, Mayor Curry wanted the event to continue under the purview of the City, returning to Thanksgiving weekend,” says the City statement.  The JAXSPORTS Council initially denied that, in an interview with WOKV.  “I don’t know why they would make that statement, since we budgeted it in our budget,” said JAXSPORTS Council and Gator Bowl Sports President and CEO Rick Catlett during the interview.  Catlett first told WOKV during two separate interviews that the City wanted the event back. JAXSPORTS Council has run it for several years, because the event struggled to find private sponsors for a few years after the City pulled its backing during the economic downturn and a tight City operating budget.  Catlett reached back out to WOKV Wednesday to say that he had spoken with his staff and learned the JAXSPORTS Council had, in fact, asked the City to take back the event. He says they want to refocus the JAXSPORTS Council on large-scale sports events, and the Light Boat Parade falls outside of that.  He says he doesn’t know if they would have continued running the event, if the City hadn’t taken it back.  “We would have had to take a look at our budget to see if we could afford to do it, if we could continue to do it in line with where we had made a decision to focus on major events,” he says.  A records request for communication this year about the event between the City and the JAXSPORTS Council yielded only a few logistics emails, and one from March confirming the City would be taking over the event, but not saying why. A City Spokesperson says there were verbal discussions about the ownership of the event. WOKV requested an interview with someone involved in those discussions or representative of the Sports and Entertainment office, but we were given the City statement instead.  Regardless of who is hosting it, Catlett says they’re excited the event will continue.  “We could not be happier about the fact that Mayor Curry sees this as a major quality of life event for the citizens of Jacksonville,” he says.  He further says the JAXSPORTS Council and Gator Bowl Sports will continue to work closely with the City on many events.  The Light Boat Parade is being moved back to Thanksgiving weekend this year, which is when it was held for many years while the City was running the event. The JAXSPORTS Council and Gator Bowl Sports moved it to New Year’s weekend, as part of the festivities around the annual bowl game, which is now called the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. Catlett says the move was the only way they could justify taking over the event to their Board, but he believes the citizens of Jacksonville will be happy to have it back on Thanksgiving weekend.  A City Spokesperson says they do anticipate the event will continue in future years.  The Jacksonville Light Boat Parade will start at 6:30PM on Saturday, November 24th, in Downtown Jacksonville. It will be capped with a fireworks show around  9PM. The proposed Sports and Entertainment budget will be up for review by the City Council Finance Committee on Thursday. WOKV will be monitoring this discussion, and will continue to update you as we work through the Mayor’s budget proposal to see how your tax dollars are being spent.

The Latest News Headlines

  • A Florida Uber driver allegedly refused to let her fare out of the car Wednesday, forcing the female passenger to jump from the window of the moving vehicle, police said.  Destiny Racquel Green, 30, is charged with kidnapping to commit or facilitate a felony and false imprisonment. Leon County Jail records showed Green remained in jail Friday afternoon.  Tallahassee police officers were called early Wednesday morning to a Walgreens parking lot following a 911 call in which the victim -- who identified herself on social media as Brooke Adkins, 19, a college student from St. Petersburg -- could be heard screaming for help in the background, according to WTXL in Midway. When the officers arrived, they found Adkins with torn jeans, soaked through with blood, and scrapes on her hands.  Adkins told officers she had been hanging out with friends at a Tallahassee club when she called for an Uber to take her home, the news station reported. She showed officers the app on her cellphone, which showed Green as the driver assigned to her.  Police officials said that, on the way to Adkins’ home, Adkins asked Green to instead drop her off at The Edge, an apartment complex near Florida State University. Things started getting weird at that point, Adkins said in Twitter posts.  “I was already at my destination and she asked me if I could ride around more with her,” Adkins wrote. “I told her she could take me around the block but to keep the meter on (just in case), and after that she would not let me get out of the car.” Adkins, who was seated in the back seat of the vehicle, wrote that the child lock was on the doors of Green’s car.  As the two women drove around, Green was pulled over near Florida State University by a state trooper. WTXL reported that, during the stop, Green asked Adkins to put her hands on the center console and hold it down.  Adkins found the request odd, but did as Green asked.  >> Read more trending news The Tampa Bay Times reported that Green told her passenger she was taking her to the hospital. Adkins told her she did not need to go to a hospital, but Green refused to stop. “Adkins said she asked Green to let her out of the vehicle at almost every stoplight, and Green continuously said ‘no’ and nothing else,” police officials said, according to the Times.  Adkins called 911. About 25 minutes after Green passed Adkins’ drop-off spot, Adkins made her move. She rolled down the window, holding the button down so Green couldn’t roll it back up, and jumped, police said.  Investigators caught up with Green at her home later that day, WTXL reported. Before they could say anything, Green told them she’d quit working for Uber because of “the girl” to whom she had given a ride, the news station said.  Green said Adkins had wanted to go to the hospital, but did not say why, police said. She told them Adkins jumped from the car on the way to Capital Regional Medical Center, WTXL reported. Investigators wrote in police reports that Green made several comments that were non sequiturs and seemed paranoid during questioning, the news station said.  An Uber spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that what Adkins reported to police is “troubling.” “We have removed the driver from the app and stand ready to support the police investigation,” the spokesperson said.  Adkins took to social media Wednesday to warn other young women of the dangers surrounding them. The initial tweet, which included photos of her torn jeans and battered legs, has since been retweeted more than 91,000 times.  “Tonight, I realized that being kidnapped from an Uber driver is 100 (percent) real,” Adkins wrote. “I’m so thankful that I got out OK, but jumping out a moving car window and running for help has to be the scariest thing I’ve ever gone thru (sic).” She wrote that she wanted girls to be aware and to always remain safe.  “Kidnapping has been happening more recently than ever and I want to raise awareness that everyone just needs to be safe and aware of your surroundings, and also who you are with,” Adkins wrote. 
  • After posting a schedule for a Monday morning vote on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court, unable to work out an agreement for testimony from a woman who accused the judge of sexual misconduct back when they were teenagers, Republicans gave extra time to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford to consider testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It’s not my normal approach to b indecisive,” Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) tweeted late Friday night from his home state of Iowa, as he tried to both press ahead with a vote on President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, and hold open the possibility of testimony from Ford. The late night change of heart created an odd mixture of reaction, as even after Grassley said he was giving more time to Ford’s legal team, Democrats were still churning out news releases after midnight criticizing Republicans for their treatment of the allegations against Kavanaugh. “By blocking both an FBI investigation and a hearing where all three witnesses present during the assault could answer questions under oath, the Senate will fail in its duty to the American people,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Judge Kavanaugh I just granted another extension to Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed w the statement she made last week to testify to the senate She shld decide so we can move on I want to hear her. I hope u understand. It’s not my normal approach to b indecisive — ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) September 22, 2018 With all the extensions we give Dr Ford to decide if she still wants to testify to the Senate I feel like I’m playing 2nd trombone in the judiciary orchestra and Schumer is the conductor — ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) September 22, 2018 As the sun rose on Saturday morning, it still wasn’t clear whether Ford would testify. “Dr. Blasey Ford has been clear in her desire to testify following an independent, thorough investigation by the FBI,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). But Republicans were still suspicious of the allegations brought by Ford, who says she was sexually attacked by Kavanaugh at a high school party in the 1980’s. “Their decision to reveal this allegation at the most politically damaging moment reeks of opportunism,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Under the timeline originally unveiled by the Judiciary Committee on Friday night, Republicans scheduled a vote for Monday morning on a list of judges, with one prominent name at the top of the list: “Brett M. Kavanaugh, to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,” it read. The recalcitrance, stubbornness and lack of cooperation we’ve seen from Republicans is unprecedented. And candidly, the dismissive treatment of Dr. Ford is insulting to all sexual assault survivors. — Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) September 22, 2018 Ford’s lawyers wanted her to testify next Thursday – Grassley and Republicans were offering Wednesday. There was also talk of Ford talking directly to investigators in California, instead of traveling to Washington, D.C.
  • The East Coast is no stranger to hurricanes and the destruction that follows. The Saffir-Simpson scale was developed to help determine damage and flooding before it strikes.   What is a hurricane?  A hurricane is a rotating low-pressure weather system that converts the energy of warm air into winds and waves. Hurricanes have “warm core” centers, meaning the center of the storm is warmer than the surrounding air. Warm ocean temperatures and wind patterns that spiral air inward are necessary for a hurricane to form.>>How to use the internet during the storm when your internet is down The “eye” of the storm is produced as the warm air rises in the storm’s center and a center of low pressure is created. When the pressure in that area drops, more air is pulled in, creating a sort of heat-pump effect that causes the storm to repeat the process and grow in intensity. The storm will continue to do so until it’s supply of warm water is interrupted. Thunderstorms spiral out from the eye and the water is pushed ahead of the storm, building what is called a 'storm surge.' The storm surge forms to the east of the eye. >>What is a storm surge and why is it dangerous? When a system has sustained winds of 39 mph, it is classified as a tropical depression. When the winds reach 39 mph or higher, the depression becomes a tropical storm and is given a name.  At 74 mph, the system is a hurricane.  What is the Saffir-Simpson scale and what does it have to do with hurricanes?  The tropical system is assigned a category depending on its wind speed. Here are the categories, the wind speeds and what those winds will likely do once the system makes landfall: >>What is the Saffir-Simpson scale; how does it work; is there a Category 6?  Category 1 -- 74 to 95 mph: Very dangerous winds will produce some damage. Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to the roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.  Category 2 -- 96 to 110 mph: Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly-rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.  Category 3 -- 111-129 mph: Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes. Category 3 storms and above are considered major hurricanes.  Category 4 -- 130-156 mph: Catastrophic damage will occur. Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.  Category 5 -- 157 mph or higher: Catastrophic damage will occur. A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and walls collapsing. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.   Here is a video that shows the increasing level of damage in each category.  
  • Hurricanes can leave behind tons of damage, including flooding. But did you know that treading through the wrong kind of water can cause illnesses or even death? Floodwaters and standing water are often contaminated, posing several risks, such as infectious diseases, chemical hazards and injuries. Here are six sicknesses you should beware of in the aftermath: Diarrheal diseases Drinking or eating anything that has come in contact with floodwaters can lead to cryptosporidiosis, E. coli or giardiasis. While cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis are brought on by parasites, E. coli is caused by bacteria. Symptoms from each include diarrhea, gas, nausea and vomiting. Cryptosporidiosis, however, can even be fatal for those with weakened immune systems, such as AIDS or cancer.  Wound infections Open wounds and rashes that are exposed to floodwater can cause tetanus or Vibrio vulnificus. Tetanus is a bacterial infection, and it can enter the body through breaks in the skin like a cut. >> 10 tips to stay safe when returning home after a natural disaster Vibrio vulnificus, another bacteria, can be contracted the same way. Many people become infected by consuming undercooked shellfish or exposing an injury to brackish or salt water. Other illnesses  People affected by flooded areas can also get trench foot. It occurs when your feet are wet for long periods of time. It can cause pain, swelling and numbness. >> Read more trending news  You should also be aware of chemical hazards from materials that may have spilled into the water. And be cautious of electrical hazards, since there are puddles that may be electrified due to fallen power lines. Curious about other diseases you can catch? Take a look at the full list at CDC’s official website. 
  • A hurricane leaves a path of destruction and many are left trying to figure out how to begin the chore of cleaning up and repairing their property.  >> Read more trending news  Insurance companies will send claims teams to the affected areas after the event so that customers can get the process of filing a claim started and get the money to repair their property in a timely manner.  Here is a step-by-step guide on how to file an insurance claim following a hurricane or flood:  1. It is important to file the claim with your insurer as soon as possible. Thousands of people will be filing claims, and you want to get yours as high as you can on the list.  2. The Insurance Information Institute, an organization that provides information on insurance issues, suggests you make temporary repairs to your home if they are needed to protect it from further damage. Save the receipts for supplies so you can turn them in for reimbursement.  3. Once you are able to speak to an insurer, you will need to ask these questions: Is the damage you described covered under the terms of your policy? How long do you have to file a claim? How long will it take to process the claim? Do you need estimates for repairs? 4. This step is very important: Once you make the claim, be sure to write down the claim number. Again, insurers will be dealing with thousands of people -- make it easy for them to communicate with you about your claim by having the claim number written down where you can find it. 5. When you speak to your insurer, record the day and time of the conversation and with whom you spoke. Take notes about what is said and if any monetary amounts are mentioned. 6. You need to be ready to provide an accurate description of damages to your insurer. If you can safely do it, walk around your home and make notes on what was damaged.  7. After you contact them, your insurance company with send you a “proof of loss” form to complete or will send an adjuster – a person trained to assess the damage to property – to your home to get the information on your losses. To speed this process along, start gathering information about your property and the items that were lost or destroyed. A proof of loss form will ask you to describe the items damaged or destroyed, provide the approximate date of purchase and estimate the cost to repair it or replace it. If you happen to be able to produce receipts for items, that would be a help as well. 8. Another step you can take to document what was damaged is to photograph or videotape the damage. Be sure to point out structural damage in the photos or video. 9. Do not throw out damaged items. You want an adjuster to see them first. 10. If you are unable to live in your home and must stay elsewhere, keep all receipts for any living expenses – hotel rooms, food, and other costs of evacuation. Most homeowner policies that cover windstorm damage will cover those costs. 11. Be wary of anyone who comes to your door offering to do repairs or claiming to be insurance adjusters.  12. If you have no insurance, you can register for federal disaster relief at DisasterAssistance.gov. You do that by downloading the FEMA mobile app or by calling 1-800-621-3362.  Disaster assistance can help with temporary housing, home repairs and other disaster-related expenses, including crisis counseling and legal assistance. Click here for more information on FEMA aid. Water vs. wind: What is covered? Hurricanes cause wind and water damage. Homeowners insurance covers these hazards in a different way.  >>Does insurance cover hail damage to your car, house? Homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage – including flooding that is caused by storm surge. You would have needed to have flood insurance to pay for damages caused by water beforehand. Structures or belongings that were damaged by flooding are covered only by flood insurance. Wind damage is not covered in some coastal states. You would have had to purchase a separate windstorm policy in advance, which is a common thing in those coastal states. Both North Carolina and South Carolina are states where insurance companies can charge special deductibles for wind damage. Damage to your car is generally covered by your automobile insurance. Finally, be patient. It may take a while for someone to get to you and assess your damages.    

The Latest News Videos