Water taxi issue costing Jacksonville

Council members: City losing out without service, but it's not an emergency

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – City Councilman John Crescimbeni and others say the water taxi issue troubling downtown is a mess and the city is losing out.

Now the mayor's staff is trying to chart a new course to bring back the service.

It had hoped that would happen by this Friday, but Tuesday night the council voted 12-7 to refuse making the purchase of two water taxis an emergency.

Some of the mayor's top staff members said they needed to buy the water taxis because it was an emergency and Jacksonville's reputation is at stake. The council doesn't see it that way and turned down the emergency funding.

It might take it up again in two weeks, but right now some members say it leaves the city in a big trouble.

"We are in probably the worst position we could possibly be in," Crescimbeni said. "But ultimately I want to see some type of resolution that provides for a water taxi service in downtown Jacksonville, just like we had since 2002."

How the city got in this position is still being debated, but the council is placing the blame on the mayor and his staff, saying they dropped the ball and then made mistakes in trying to fix it.

"Did the mayor's office blow it?" Channel 4's Jim Piggott asked Councilman Don Redman.

"They did, yes," Redman said.

"And they say you were standing behind them," Piggott said.

"I was standing behind trying to get the water taxi service going," Redman said. "Standing behind them and the way they were operating, no I was not."

The mayor's plan was to spend $340,000 and buy two used water taxis out of South Florida to begin operations last weekend. That plan started taking on water when the city realized it needed Coast Guard approval to operate the boats. More problems surfaced when council members said their approval is needed.

"Well, I'm questioning if they have been legally purchased," Crescimbeni said. "The money was apparently wired to the boat vendor last week. If they had the authority to do that, why did they come to the City Council last night and need us to sign off on it?"

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