JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A group in Jacksonville, whose sole purpose is to address racial and social inequalities in neighborhoods, is preparing to make an announcement about the septic tank program.
Earlier this month, city leaders told the News4Jax I-TEAM they don’t have enough money left in the city budget to phase out hundreds of septic tanks in the Christobel neighborhood. Now, they are vowing to make things right.
Jacksonville City Councilwoman Brenda Priestly Jackson, who is chair of the Social Justice and Community Investment Committee, expressed her passion for completing the project promised to underserved neighborhoods in 1968 during the city’s consolidation.
″I will tell the public to be patient with the process," she said. “I am committed to making certain that we fund some inequities in the city of Jacksonville to improve the quality of life for our neighbors immediately, especially since we have the funding available.”
The Biltmore and Beverly Hills neighborhoods are both well on their way to phasing out septic tanks in a program funded by both JEA and the city, but funds to the Christobel committee ran out, sparking anger in one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods -- especially during talks about the development of an entertainment district in Lot J.
“What is more valuable? What is more important: the health of the community or Lot J?” said Northside resident Yah Ya Kariem. “Again, I understand the economic advantage of doing that, but what about the health issues that it may create in this area? What about the stench we have to put up with because Lot J has to be done before you put sewage in this area?”
During a committee meeting held Monday on Zoom, Priestly Jackson alluded to fellow City Council members that her committee has found a funding source, however, the details are still being working out.
“Not ready to roll it out yet, which will come from this committee, but I will tell you it should be something substantive based on the presentation from Mr. (John) Papas, (director of the city’s Department of Public Works), and the work that others have done on prioritizing those septic tanks that need to be removed for our neighbors, as well as those that impact the aquifer and other things in Jacksonville," Priestly Jackson said.
The committee chair wouldn’t go as far as to announce how much extra money is needed to complete the Christobel project or where the money will come from. She said the answers to those questions will be made public in the committee’s Nov. 9 meeting.
″I just wanted to just say thank you for just considering information that you’re going to bring about the septic tanks because one of them, in particular, is in the Cristobel neighborhood," said City Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman. “The constituents have been waiting a long, long, long time.”
″I’m so glad we are going to address the Christobel issue because my thing is we’ve been promising that neighborhood for over two years, and it’s not their fault because the city ran out of money," said City Councilman Sam Newby. “So I’m glad we are going to tackle that.”
While residents of the Cristobel neighborhood told the I-TEAM this is encouraging news, they’ve also been waiting for decades for the city of Jacksonville to fulfill its promise.