The Local Government Study Commission Task Force report on the court structure in Duval County recommended changes in organization that it said could simplify the judicial process.
In place of the six existing courts, the report suggested a two-tiered system: A circuit court with five divisions and a magistrate’s court.
Circuit divisions would be probate, civil, criminal, domestic and juvenile. The magistrate’s court would replace the justices of the peace, small claims court and municipal courts.
All judges would be required to be lawyers and all judicial offices would remain elected. Circuit judgeships would be for six-year terms, while magistrates would be elected for four-year periods.
The elected clerk of the circuit court would serve all courts and the clerk of the criminal court would be abolished under the proposed plan.
Circuit Judge Marion Gooding said streamlining the court system had been advocated for several years and he thought revamping the court structure was a good plan. It would “simplify the court system and make things better for litigants,” he said.
• Winners of the Jacksonville Jaycees’ annual holiday lighting contest were announced by Wilford Lyon, the club’s president.
The winner in the residential religious category was John Zurvalee of 3217 Dellwood Ave.
Mrs. George Zilbert of 6520 Anvers Blvd. took first place in the residential novelty category.
The religious commercial prize went to the Duval Boys Parental Home at 1345 Jessie St.
The Lakeshore Volunteer Fire Department at 20132 Jammes Road was declared the winner in the novelty commercial competition.
• The only thing harder to find than a ticket to the 22nd annual Gator Bowl on Dec. 31 was a place to stay if you were coming from out of town for the game.
Tickets sold out in mid-December and hotels and motels were referring callers to lodging as far away as Brunswick, Ga.
The team from the University of Tennessee would stay at the Ponte Vedra Inn before moving to the Roosevelt Hotel Downtown three days before the game.
Syracuse University was practicing in St. Augustine while staying at the Ponce de Leon Hotel. The team would move to the Robert Meyer Hotel on Dec. 29.
The game would be broadcast in color to 200 stations and an estimated 15 million viewers.
The Gator Bowl Radio Network would carry the game on 125 stations with 1 million listeners expected to tune in, including fans in Jacksonville, where the game would be blacked out on television.
• Kitchen cabinets were built into Mayor Lou Ritter’s home and $341.42 of the cost was paid by the city, according to records of the city auditor and contractor.
Ritter paid the remaining $158 of the cost by personal check, the contractor said.
As for the $341.42, Ritter said in a statement, “I have never authorized nor consented to any improper payments by the city.”
He suggested a power play, centering on controversy over the job of Jacksonville police chief, was behind disclosure of the information to news media.
One of the possible sources named in Ritter’s statement denied any knowledge related to the allegation.
“I don’t know a thing about those cabinets or anything else. I have no statement to make,” said George Branch, a retired police officer.
Ritter said Leroy Durden, a city employee, told him Branch had asked him to tell Ritter that information about the cabinet work might be made available to the grand jury.
“George Branch contacted me and asked me to relay some information to the mayor. I fulfilled his request,” Durden said.
Another principal named by Ritter, Joe Carlucci, also said he had no statement to make.
The work was performed by Bailey Brothers Inc., a cabinet-making business in Wesconnett. Company President Charles Bailey made all of his records of the transaction available to reporters.
Original city vouchers that authorized payment of the $341.42 were unavailable because they had been subpoenaed by the State Attorney’s Office.
However, an accounts payable ledger sheet in the city auditor’s office verified checks totaling that amount had been issued to the cabinet company.
Ritter requested the Duval County grand jury investigate the allegation.
• The volume of mail doubled the week before Christmas at the Downtown U.S. Post Office parcel post and truck terminal.
The facility at 845 W. Bay St., which served much of Florida and South Georgia, experienced a pileup of mail.
“If we don’t keep incoming mail moving out, everything will grind to a halt,” said George Carter, superintendent of the terminal.
“Any serious stoppage and we’d have mail jammed to the roof,” he added. “We don’t have the equipment, men or storage space for it.”
More than 18,000 sacks of packages, Christmas catalogs and other mail weighing 720 tons passed through the building each day, twice the normal traffic.
• Holiday tidings of good cheer reached most of the inmates at the city prison farm, courtesy of the City Pardon Board’s one-word message: “Freedom.”
The board, meeting in its traditional pre-Christmas session, granted pardons to 119 prisoners serving terms for minor offenses and who had no serious criminal records.
There were 222 names on the list submitted, but the board determined some of the inmates had records that did not warrant the seasonal amnesty.
The glad tidings were delivered by the members of the board — City Council President Lemuel Sharp and council members R. Laverne Reynolds and Barney Cobb.
Inmates would be released at 11 a.m. Friday.
During the session, the board also denied one routine application for pardon from a woman who was serving a sentence for driving while intoxicated and having no driver’s license.
She asked for a pardon to attend a relative’s funeral, but the board compromised by directing she be escorted to the funeral under guard and then returned to the prison farm.
• City Supervisor of Building Herbert Oatman agreed with the Local Government Study Commission’s recommendation that a consistent building inspection policy and building code were needed.
“The building code and zoning laws should be applied countywide to eliminate many problems,” he said.
One of the problems was that a person building just outside the city limits didn’t have to comply with the same regulations as someone building inside the city limits and the situation created confusion, said Oatman.
Another advantage of countywide administration would be in the interpretation of the law.
“Even if laws read the same, but are interpreted by two different departments, the interpretations can vary,” he said.
Another recommendation from the commission was the department should become self-sustaining, but a fee system for housing inspections would have to be established since none existed in 1966.
Oatman reported since 1953, the department had run at a deficit of about $17,000 per year and he said a slight increase in fees could offset the shortfall.
He pointed out that employment of people in the department should not be dependent on the city’s construction level from year-to-year, because it would result in continuous firing and rehiring of personnel.