Council member: Riverwalk price keeps changing

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville City Council member is demanding answers from the city about the Southbank Riverwalk.

John Crescimbeni said he is being told different things about how much it's going to cost to complete the project, which is currently in the demolition stage.

Last summer, Channel 4 reported the city had planned to not redo 900 feet of the Riverwalk near the Duval County School Board building.

Council members recently caught wind of that and had the city find an extra $2 million to finish it. The money has not been approved, and now council members are learning it may actually cost more than they thought.

In 2010, the city set aside $15 million for the project. That price tag is now at $17 million, and it could go slightly higher.

During a City Council finance committee meeting Tuesday, Crescrimbeni had plenty of questions for the builder and the city's Public Works Department. He said he's very upset by what he's hearing about the price tag changing.

"I think what I am getting is a different answer each week," Crescimbeni said. "I find that very troubling and very concerning. I think the City Council and the taxpayers should be getting straight answers, not twisted, confused answers at council meetings or committee meetings. Quite frankly, I am pretty disturbed about the information we are getting out of the Public Works Department."

The issue now is the extra $2 million to add the 900 feet. It could actually be $2.3 million or it might be less. The council was going to take it up as an emergency, but not anymore. Council members say there is no hurry.

The Haskell Company is building the new Riverwalk and has been meeting with contractors. A spokesman said he believes it will bring it in for $17 million. As for the original confusion with the council and why members were not aware of the problems, he's not sure why they were not informed.

"I don't know," said Charlie Rocheleau, of the Haskell Company. "I got asked to go to a groundbreaking ceremony. I was sitting there with Karen Bowling and the mayor asking your questions, answering them very pointedly. I don't know how the council, when they read that article, didn't get it."

Crescimbeni and others would like to see a special meeting on the Riverwalk and have all parties available to answer questions.

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