Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced Thursday a $26.8 million investment towards phasing out septic tanks in three Northside neighborhoods. It’s on top of a $30 million investment made in 2016, and still far short of estimates of the project’s total cost.
The project is a lingering commitment Jacksonville made to some 35 neighborhoods when the city consolidated its government with Duval County’s in 1968. Jacksonville promised to remove unsafe and environmentally unfriendly septic tanks and connect households to the city’s sewage system.
Decades later, that promise has not been kept, and the environmental risks are only worsening due to aging septic tanks and climate change.
Now, Curry said the new infusion of cash, which is roughly half from the city’s coffers and half from JEA’s, will go towards phasing out the tanks in Beverly Hills, Biltmore and Christobel.
The mayor said he knows the investment is a drop in the bucket compared to what’s needed. “While I’m glad we’re able to produce this funding for these three neighborhoods, there are 30 on our priority list that still need this important work. This work in total could cost more than 2 billion dollars. That’s billion with a B.”
Curry said it’s an important step in a years-long effort to fix the broken promise of septic phaseouts.
The mayor thanked City Council members Ju’Coby Pittman and Brenda Priestly Jackson and Council Vice President Sam Newby for their advocacy around the project.
“This is a game-changer,” said City Council Vice President Sam Newby. “The city of Jacksonville promised our citizens over 50 years ago that we would take care of them. And now we are.”
Priestly Jackson said the project was targeted towards some of Jacksonville’s most economically disadvantaged areas. “We have an obligation first and foremost to serve the needs of the least among us. And what does that mean? For us, it’s those neighbors who, for various reasons, have been overlooked and oftentimes find themselves challenged financially to address certain needs in their community.”
The mayor’s announcement comes two days after a much larger proposal from City Council President Tommy Hazouri, who filed legislation that would put $100 million towards the same issue.
“We know that $100 million is just the beginning of the necessary funding to fulfill our promise. We care deeply about our city; I hope JEA in conjunction with the City will soon make a commitment to further the efforts of eradicating septic tanks,” Hazouri said in a statement.”
Curry said he hasn’t seen Hazouri’s bill yet or had a conversation about it. “I couldn't tell you with any specificity, what the plan is, how the money will be deployed over what time, so I just don't I don't have an answer to that specific legislation.”
The mayor added he is committed to “working with this council and coming up with a comprehensive long-term solution to this.”
Contact Sydney Boles at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.