JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a victory against the opening of a liquor store in a Brentwood neighborhood, community leaders are expressing their disapproval toward the construction of a new District Four Medical Examiner Office (MEO) in that same area.
City records show the search for a new MEO was in the works in 2016, and the possible layout came before the controversial liquor store construction project or the KIPP Jax Voice Academy school that it sits next to.
The first phase of the new District 4 Medical Examiner’s Office has already started and will be built with a state-of-the-art forensic toxicology lab and more space for daily operations. It will also give physicians around the world the chance for a medical fellowship at the location.
The need for a new MEO office was apparent during the opioid epidemic in 2017. The I-TEAM walked through the facility with then-MEO Chief Doctor Valerie Rao, and showed the 55-year-old building was outdated, small and in need of new technology.
There were 28 other locations taken into consideration before deciding on the North Davis Street location, near Interstate 95 and Golfair Boulevard, in the Brentwood area.
Residents are not happy with the decision.
“Whatever due process they went through, they don’t live in this community, we do. We are the homeowners, we are the ones that pay taxes, we are the ones who sustain Brentwood, and any process they go through we should know about it,” said Lydia Bell, who is the president of the Metro Gardens Neighborhood Association Brentwood. “No one said anything to us in 2017.”
Despite the opposition, the development of the new medical examiner’s office is moving forward. Rezoning is being considered but it is not expected to stop the construction.
Bell said she believes the liquor store should be converted into a community center and believes the MEO should be a walking trail for senior citizens who live in the community.
The new MEO is being built in Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman’s district.
Pittman plans to host a public community meeting at Brentwood Park Apartments on Sept. 18.
“The meeting is an opportunity to bring the Mayor’s Office, City Dept. Staff/representative from City Dept., Staff the Medical Examiners/Forensic Site and residents to discuss concerns, recommendations and solutions in a community setting,” Pittman wrote in a statement to News4JAX.
The News4JAX I-TEAM has been following these controversial issues in the community since April when neighbors fought against the opening of the liquor store across the street from the school.
According to Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan, the city is in negotiations to buy the liquor store and get community input on the property’s future. The property is currently valued at about $135,000, according to city records.
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