JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The new CEO of JEA says he is ready to address a longstanding problem in the Jacksonville community: a promise made 60 years ago during the Consolidation to connect the Northside and Westside neighborhoods with urban sewers so they could join don’t have to rely on septic tanks.
On Thursday, Jay Stowe, CEO of JEA, spoke about the agreement the city made with JEA in 2016 to invest more than $ 30 million in exiting septic tanks in three Jacksonville neighborhoods. News4Jax learned last year that the program stalled when the city ran out of money. Stowe talked about how wrong it was in estimating how much the program would cost.
“I’m not sure why it was exactly that way, but the combination of the time, economy, and complexity of the work makes it harder to do, so the estimate didn’t match the funding available for it,” Stowe said.
Stowe said the city and JEA could not complete the septic tank phasing out program due to a lack of money. He couldn’t yet say why the money was running out.
The program, which connects the city’s sewers to homes, is slated to complete in both the Biltmore and Beverly Hills neighborhoods. However, those in charge of the city state that they do not have the means to complete the project in the Christobel congregation. That means that people there will have to stay in septic tanks for the foreseeable future. The neighbors say the septic tanks are back in operation after heavy rains in the area, causing a stink of human feces and urine.
“Unfortunately, there is not enough money for the project from the city and JEA to fund all of these areas,” said Stowe. “We asked the JEA staff to work with the city staff to rethink the septic tank phasing out plan and set a plan for further development. We cannot take the project step by step and I look forward to working with the city and our partners to find a solution. “
Northside-based Yah Ya Kariem calls it a failure by the city, which he pointed out was considering spending more than $ 200 million to fund the Lot J plan. That deal was eventually rejected by the Jacksonville City Council. Kariem wants his church to be a priority.
“Here we are again in this community – a black community – we are at the bottom of the barrel again,” said Kariem.
Stowe, who has only been in charge for eight weeks, said he couldn’t solve problems 60 years old right away, but he was determined to work with the city to deliver on its promise to the people.
“There is a team of people who have been looking at this through public works and JEA for the past few years and we’re going to bring that back together to address the third area that needs to be done and a long term solution for the next a couple of years, ”said Stowe.
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