Curry's budget seeks millions for park & sidewalk upgrades

Other capital projects include $5M for a new fire station & $1M for a new pool

By Jim Piggott - Reporter, Brittany Jones - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Mayor Lenny Curry is set to present his proposed budget on Monday to the Jacksonville City Council.

Ahead of Curry’s presentation, a News4Jax review of city documents found $58 million set aside for capital improvement projects. Of that, millions of dollars are allocated for upgrades of the city’s parks and sidewalks.

"It's consistent with my priorities," Curry said Friday. "It's the fifth budget I will present without a tax increase. I have the investment in public safety, in neighborhoods and in sidewalks, parks and Kids Hope Alliance, so stay tuned."

On Sunday, Curry released a video detailing the upcoming budget that he he shared with News4Jax.

Curry said the budget will support law enforcement officers, adding personnel to further incorporate the Shotspotter gunfire detection capabilities and the NIBIN database to help better combat gun violence. In addition, the city will continue to invest in Cure Violence, a program at aims to reduce crime in at-risk communities.

The state of Jacksonville’s park infrastructure has been under scrutiny since the death of 3-year-old Amari Harley, who died in October 2017 after falling into a septic tank at Bruce Park in Arlington.

The child’s death underscored the lack of upkeep of at city parks. As part of Curry’s budget, he’s seeking $3 million in park funding. While the tragedy raised awareness about safety issues at city parks, those visiting Bruce Park on Friday told News4Jax they feel more still needs to be done.

"If you turn around and look at the baseball field here, you will find that all over the city – primarily in minority areas – where the baseball fields are run down," Ken Lewis said.

"They are spending it everywhere else, except where they needed for children," added Chris Meeks, noting that outdoor activities are how youth traditionally build character.

The mayor also wants to spend a significant amount of money making parts of the city more pedestrian-friendly. In fact, there are a number of neighborhoods where there are no sidewalks. 

As a result, many people just wind up walking down or across the street.

Curry aims to spend about $11 million in the hopes of changing that. While some areas would add sidewalks where currently none exist, others would receive repairs to make them more handicap accessible.

According to the mayor, $2.5 million will be used for drainage and safety improvements in the Brooklyn neighborhood. An additional $1.5 million will be used for railroad crossing upgrades.

In addition to parks and sidewalk improvements, the budget calls for $5 million for a new fire station, another $5 million for upgrades to older stations, $5 million for the Jacksonville Zoo, and $20 million for improvements to UF Health Jacksonville.

Among other things, the proposed budget allocated more funding for public pools. That could include the construction of a new pool in the Arlington area. Roughly $1 million would go toward that project.

Curry's budget aims to build on the Kids Hope Alliance's work with a nearly $2.7 million increase to support its programs. Funding will also be used for juvenile justice diversion programs that were previously managed by the State Attorney's Office.

The mayor's budget also calls for $1.5 million for dock redevelopment at Mayport, $1 million dollars in matching funds as part of a five year agreement for improvements at the Florida Threatre and $1 million for improvements at the Ritz Theatre and Museum and the Prime Osborn Convention Center.

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