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Stimulus Projects At The Beach

Tom PattonMoney to the North of us, money to the South of us.

And yet Neptune Beach is left with a shrinking tax base, but still too much money to get anything from the Federal stimulus. I wonder if we’re the only little town in the nation to not get a dime?

To the North, of course, the Mayport Ferry is slated for $3 million in upgrades to the ramps that get the cars on and off the ferry. Ports spokeswoman Nancy Rubin said every dime will be spent on the ramps. To me it doesn’t seem like you could spend $3 million on ferry ramps, but I suppose it’s possible. It’s really a pity that some of that can’t go into operating costs, because it won’t matter how nice the ramps are to get on and off the boats if the boats aren’t running.

I know... that’s not the way the stimulus money works.

Operating a ferry is not a “shovel ready” project that puts people to work. Hiring contractors to build new ramps is a “shovel ready” project, so new ramps it’ll be.

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Still, that’s not necessarily bad news. It does mean there’s a commitment to the ferry, and that’s been an open question for a while. I don’t think they’d pump that kind of money into the ramps if they planned to stop running the boat. But then, it might just be the only thing they were allowed to spend the money on.

To the South, there’s $5 million to be spent on 9th Street South from 1st Avenue South to Osceola Avenue. Curbs, gutters, sidewalks, and drainage. Not that 9th Street doesn’t need it, it does. It’s a pretty major thoroughfare between Beach Boulevard and South Beach Avenue. It runs through an area of Jacksonville Beach known as “The Hill”, which is not the best part of town. Drainage in the area is bad, and anything resembling a heavy rain floods the streets. It’ll be worthwhile to have work done on 9th Street.

Here in Neptune Beach, we apparently didn’t have any “shovel ready” projects that qualify. There was an article recently in The Beaches Leader in which Neptune Beach Mayor Harriet Pruette said there was too much money in Neptune Beach for us to be in line for any stimulus, but goodness knows Florida Boulevard could use some drainage work, and to be widened with a turn lane, and maybe a couple of lights. But apparently even with a 5 percent reduction in property values, which will affect the tax base, we’re too wealthy.

It doesn’t seem that way at our house.

We’re here kind of in the hole of the donut. Most of the money would likely trickle down anyway. I don’t know that there are construction companies here in Neptune Beach that could get a contract to work on a road. But all those people have to eat somewhere, and we do have some nice restaurants, and they might need something from K-Mart or the drugstore. Still, the improvements would have been nice.

I don’t begrudge Jacksonville Beach or Mayport their stimulus projects. I drive on 9th Street and I sometimes use the ferry, so I’ll get something out of it, as will most everybody at the beach.

But I can understand Mayor Pruette’s frustration.

5 Responses »

  1. Are you positive that the money is free stimulus money (i.e., a grant) instead of loan money from the stimulus program?

    There's a big difference of course, since one type doesn't have to be paid back and the other does.

  2. Larry,

    That's an interesting question. Isn't most of the infrastructure stuff free grant money?

  3. I'm positive that at least some of the stimulus money is SRF (state revolving fund) loan money.

    And to make matters worse, they don't even give the municipalities an interest rate break!

    Check with DEP about their stimulus money for water/sewer projects.

  4. Interesting info, thanks for the heads up... might be worth some investigation.

    Can't say I'm personally a big fan of any of this "stimulus" stuff.

  5. It is interesting that Jaxport has plans to spend 3 million dollars on a ferry ramp that has been working fine for over sixty years,not to mention that the electric motors which hoist the ramps from the deck just fine. The money should have been used for a backup ferry which according to hornblower for about 2 million dollars. The FBI should look closely into how the 3 million dollars is spent, so as to keep the ferry operationable and not used as personal loans as before.
    Jaxport attempt to dance around the lawsuit with this new ploy is quite amusing,
    considering documented evidence of misconduct on their part. I am quite sure the U.S. Attorney General will conduct its own review as well.