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- 2012 - April - 18th -
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Shea

City Council will take time for economic reform

by David Chapman, Staff Writer

 City Council does not plan to rush its approval of Mayor Alvin Brown’s proposed legislation to reform Jacksonville’s economic development structure and speed up deals.

The legislation was introduced to Council March 27.

On Tuesday, two more Council committees deferred discussion on the two ordinances that would reduce the amount of time to approve incentives deals and also create a Downtown Investment Authority and an Office of Economic Development.

The Council Finance Committee decided Tuesday morning it will hold a joint meeting with the Council Rules Committee next week to discuss the two pieces of legislation.

Council member Bill Bishop, who chairs the Rules Committee and served as chairman of the Finance Committee Tuesday, made the announcement.

Finance Chairman Richard Clark and Vice Chairman Warren Jones were excused from the meeting.

Later Tuesday, Council member Bill Gulliford formed a three-member subcommittee consisting of Recreation, Community Development, Public Health and Safety Committee members to examine the legislation and provide another perspective.

The subcommittee will be chaired by Council member Doyle Carter and include Council members Robin Lumb and Matt Schellenberg. No meeting date has been set.

Jacksonville Civic Council Executive Director Don Shea, an executive on loan to the Brown administration and a driver of the legislation, said the three-for-three sweep of deferrals at the committee level was to be expected considering the complexity of the bills.

“I think it is fine,” Shea said Tuesday. “It’s a response we saw coming. It may end up being a little more streamlined after all the necessary discussion from people at the table.”

The Council Auditor’s Office issued a seven-page list of concerns, questions and recommended amendments to both ordinances Monday for Council consideration.

Shea said some of the auditor’s observations deal with policy and technical points. He said administration officials will likely respond to Council members during the committee meetings.

Shea said there does not seem to be pushback on the reform itself, but some aspects, such as funding, are discussion points.

“There are 19 different viewpoints on all this and ultimately it will be sorted out,” he said, referring to Council members.

In other action from committee meetings:

• The Finance and RCD committees both approved the proposed economic development agreement between the City, the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission and Bi-Lo. The agreement provides the company with a $2 million “Recapture Enhanced Value” grant to create 100 jobs and make a taxable investment of $79 million. The state’s incentives will total $4.64 million. The deal is offered to attract the merged headquarters of Bi-Lo and Winn-Dixie. Jacksonville-based Winn-Dixie was acquired by South Carolina-based Bi-Lo.

• The Rules Committee approved several appointments and reappointments to City positions. They are Elaine Spencer as chief of Housing and Community Development; Vincent Cameron to the Civil Service Board; Lisa Strange Weatherby and Walt Bussells to the JEA board of directors; Alisa Wilkes to the Building Code Adjustment Board; Jim Robinson as Public Works director; and Charles Griggs and Terrance Freeman as reappointments to the Jacksonville Journey Oversight Committee.

• Rules withdrew a resolution to appoint Jacksonville Aviation Authority Executive Director and CEO Steve Grossman to the Tourist Development Council.

• The Rules Committee also deferred an ordinance introduced by Gulliford and Council member John Crescimbeni that would eliminate trustee-elected members of the Police and Fire Pension Fund board of trustees. Bishop said the deferral came at the request of Council President Stephen Joost, who wanted to speak on the topic but was out of town.

dchapman@baileypub.com

356-2466

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