JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mayor Lenny Curry and his staff are working on budget plans and ways to spend tax dollars, and on Friday, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department laid out its wish list.
JFRD’s budget projection for next year is $313 million -- about a 12% increase.
The department is looking at building three new fire stations and staffing those fire stations. Fire Chief Keith Powers hopes to house a new marine unit at Naval Air Station Jacksonville that would better help with water rescues near the Buckman Bridge.
The cost would be over a million dollars to staff the boat out of NAS Jacksonville. Powers said during a meeting with the mayor’s staff that it takes the current marine unit based out of Metropolitan Park about 25 minutes to arrive at the Buckman.
“That area of the Buckman Bridge is a wide area. There are a lot of boating accidents and a lot of people get in the water down there, so we need to get down there in a quicker amount of time to save lives,” Powers said.
When it comes to JFRD’s plans to build three new fire stations, one would be in a site near eTown off State Road 9B on the Southside. Another would be on Harts Road off Dunn Avenue on the Northside and the remaining station would be at Firestone Road near Wilson Boulevard on the Westside.
Something that’s taking a chunk of the department’s budget is overtime pay due to COVID-19. Recently, seven JFRD personnel contracted the virus during a search and rescue mission at the site of the collapsed condo in Surfside.
“Obviously, it’s affecting the overtime piece of our budget because of the number of people we had to have in quarantine due to COVID. That increased our overtime budget and we are prepared for that in the upcoming budget as well,” Powers said.
JFRD was the last city department to present its budget request. There is a larger pot of money this year for the mayor and City Council to draw from because the city’s tax base is growing.
After Friday’s meeting with the fire department, Brian Hughes, the mayor’s chief administrative officer, said the overall budget, which could be over $1.5 billion, will contain many new projects.
“That includes about a half billion (dollars) in capital improvement,” Hughes said. “Infrastructure, roads, sidewalks, pedestrian crossings and drainage projects are the things we’re going to need to build in order to make a more resilient city.”
The mayor will present that budget to the City Council on July 20.