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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jul. 4, 201612:00 PM EST

50 years ago: First week of Medicare program 'calm' in North Florida counties

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

The public was described as “calm” during the first week of Medicare in North Florida, but the paperwork involved was creating confusion. Problems of the health care revolution were primarily administrative.

Although both sides said they weren’t pointing fingers at each other, the Social Security Administration and the intermediary, Blue Cross, squared off over forms.

Doctors in St. Augustine were reported to be “100 percent behind a boycott” of the federal forms, while Jacksonville physicians reported no effect from the new program other than “a few strange phone calls.”

Except for the lack of forms and difficulty deciphering those received, spokesmen said hospitals made the transition “very smoothly.”

Questions continued as to who was supposed to do what, when, how, where, why and to whom.

Most activity in the state was in the Tampa area with little change from normal noticed in Jacksonville, said Dan Lewis, Blue Cross claims division administrator.

• City Commission blocked unexplained City Council fund transfers and appointed City Auditor John Hollister Jr. to oversee the purchasing department on a temporary basis.

Mayor Lou Ritter was asked if any or all of the actions by the commission were related to the ongoing investigation of city affairs by the Duval County grand jury.

“No comment on the grand jury question,” said Ritter.

The blockage of the council transfers — a total of about $10,000 — not only included fund resolutions, which the commission had the power to concur or reject, but also involved council contingent fund transfers.

Usually, the commission had no say over council contingent fund transfers, but it had control over city spending.

On Ritter’s motion, the commission directed Hollister not to issue vouchers for the items involved until he learned what the funds were for from council members sponsoring the expenditures.

Ritter said since he had to sign all city vouchers, he wanted to know how the money was being spent.

He said the City Charter required bidding on purchases of $1,500 or more for general items.

Ritter said some of the items to be bought by council members could be similar and it might be possible to issue a call for bids on them.

• The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra received a Ford Foundation grant of $325,000 to expand the orchestra’s programs.

The symphony was one of 61 in 33 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia named as grant recipients in the foundation’s $80.2 million national grant program.

Of the total, $250,000 was given in endowment funds and $75,000 in expendable funds.

• Florida Junior College at Jacksonville was scheduled to open in August, using abandoned buildings for classrooms.

President J. Bruce Wilson said it would be two years before the college would have a permanent home.

“It could be done in a crash program in one year, but two years would be better,” he said.

Classes were set to begin at the Cumberland Project, emergency housing at Roosevelt Boulevard and Park Street built in World War II for Navy personnel.

In better news, the college reported its first money for student loans.

An allocation of $2,916 was received from the Florida Student Scholarship and Loan Commission, a program administered by the state Department of Education.

Under the program, a student would repay the loan following graduation or termination of attendance. An interest rate of 4 percent was charged.

• A search began for $165,000 in emergency funds to meet the repair bill for city sewer cave-ins and street damage caused by heavy rain.

On the request of City Highways and Sewers Commissioner Henry Broadstreet, City Commission directed the city auditor to search accounts for surplus funds and report his findings to the commission in two weeks, if not before.

Broadstreet said the city engineer’s office had a list of 362 cave-ins, which he described as the largest number he had known in his career.

• The Duval Air Improvement Authority postponed adopting rules and regulations governing air pollution in the county while it considered protests from representatives of industrial concerns.

Several representatives pleaded for time at a public hearing held to discuss the proposed regulations.

Their pleas were answered when Authority Chair George Auchter continued the hearing for two weeks until the agency’s next regular meeting July 20.

However, Auchter warned the authority did not want “any undue delay” in pursuing its course of action mandated by the 1965 Legislature.

“We’ve got a lot of distressed people in Duval County who, rightly or wrongly, feel they have been put upon by industry. We’ve received petitions from hundreds of people complaining about pollution,” he said.

• Timuquana Country Club wanted the Duval County Equalization Board to reduce its 1966 county tax assessment from $1.18 million to $500,000.

The club’s request was the first from what was described as the “million-dollar neighborhood” for the 1966 equalization sessions.

The board took up the request while conducting morning, afternoon and evening meetings with taxpayers complaining about their assessments.

The petition listed the property at 4028 Timuquana Road as a country club and golf course covering 280 acres.

It said the land was purchased in 1928 for $25,000 and listed building costs at $550,000. It also listed a $250,000 mortgage dated Jan. 12, 1959, with about $205,000 due and said the property was insured for $612,500.

• A fire in the chief’s barracks at Jacksonville Naval Air Station destroyed one wing of the three-section building, causing an estimated $35,000 in damage.

There were no injuries.

Naval authorities declined to release details and would not speculate as to the origin of the blaze, but an investigation was underway.

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