JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The funding for the city of Jacksonville’s septic tank phaseout program has run out for another neighborhood, the News4Jax I-TEAM has learned.
The I-TEAM previously reported that the city is short for more than 500 families in the Christobel neighborhood. Now we’ve learned installation of city sewer services in the Beverly Hills East neighborhood is also in jeopardy after city leaders confirmed they underestimated costs.
The city and JEA now say they will need $6 million to complete the septic tank phaseout program in the Beverly Hills East neighborhood. The news comes just three months after city leaders announced they are also $25.8 million short on septic tank funding for the Christobel neighborhood on Jacksonville’s Northside.
″I keep hearing the same story: Later. It’s always, there’s no money in the budget now, and they’ve already started it, so it’s just a matter of when it reaches you, so we started, but it’s going to take a while before we reach you,” said Beverly Hills East resident Steve Salem, who recently moved to Jacksonville from Miami.
Salem says he’s willing to wait on the city to connect his home to Jacksonville’s sewer service.
JEA and the city together pledged $30 million to the project in 2016.
JEA’s CEO Jay Stowe addressed the insufficient funding publicly last week, saying a study conducted to estimate the total cost of the project was wrong.
″I don’t know the details of exactly why it’s off, but the combination of time, the economy and the complexity of the work makes it harder to do, and the estimate was not the same as what the funding was in place for,” Stowe said.
JEA says 255 homes were slated to be switched from septic tanks to city sewer services in the Beverly Hills East neighborhood. The utility says that 150 homes are directly affected by the financial shortfall of $6 million.
In the Christobel neighborhood, News4Jax has confirmed that 509 homes are directly impacted by the $25.8 million shortage.
Locals say the real problems arise following heavy rains, when their septic tanks back up from the floodwater and the runoff of human waste goes into the river.
″Water will actually cover this street. Two months ago, this whole street was underwater,” Salem told News4Jax on Wednesday.
Salem, however, says he’s doesn’t have that problem because his septic tank is raised above the flood level and it doesn’t back up. He and others are hoping JEA and the city will one day fulfill the promise they made 60 years ago during consolidation.
″When I call JEA, they answer, they’re responsive, they’ve given me candid responses, it’s the money is not there, they don’t’ know why the money is not there because the people I’m talking to don’t have control of the money,” Salem said. “You’re dealing with layers of people.”
Jacksonville city leaders say the original estimate for the projects were based on previous septic tank phaseouts that didn’t include hookups on private property. The city also points out that design standards and regulatory requirements have changed over the years, resulting in overall higher costs.