Five Points could see improvements

Proposal could be part of upcoming city budget

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The latest budget may allow the city to make some neighborhoods safer, including Riverside's Five Points.

The more than $1 billion city budget will be presented on Monday, and this time the mayor is not calling for a tax increase. Instead, it appears the city will be able to spend money on neighborhoods rather than take it away.

Some money could be used to change the often confusing Five Points intersection.

For years, store owners and people who drive through the area here have been asking for improvements to the odd intersection. Merchants even paid for plans, which call for new landscaping, road and sign improvements.

Now the City Council members who represent that area say they're glad there's a chance the city might be able to pay for some changes.

"This is the first time since I've been a city councilman that we've seen a little bump in the income from the ad valorem tax," Councilman Jim Love said.

That's because the city revenue, or the money coming in from property taxes, has jumped an additional $18.8 million, bringing the city total budget to over $1 billion.

"Keep in mind, this is a modest increase," mayoral spokesman Dave DeCamp said. "We have other costs that are increasing in the city, and we have to balance that out and make some prudent decisions."

Some of those decisions could be in areas like Five Points. While the Mayor's Office won't say how much it is considering to spend there and what it will do, it is being discussed.

"That's a good example of the options we have since we have some economic success, and we have seen increased revenues because of it," DeCamp said. "So it's really premature to say what will be in the final budget since we are making these decisions in the next week or so, but its a good example of the options we have."

That option is important to store owners who first proposed the idea.

"I see that Riverside is the growing part of Jacksonville, and you have to keep feeding it," said Bill Martin, of the Five Points Merchants Association. "It's the only way its going to continue growing is to keep adding to it."

There are other enhancements the mayor is considering, but his staff is still tinkering with the budget plan, which he will release Monday.

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