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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jan. 28, 201512:00 PM EST

Neptune Beach still at odds with city over tipping fees; Atlantic Beach proposal on table

by: David Chapman

Two beach communities for years have been at odds with the city over solid waste fees.

Claims and counterclaims of what the outlying communities owe for the so-called “tipping fees,” with a price tag that’s soared into the hundreds of thousands.

Atlantic Beach has reached a settlement with Jacksonville. Another beach community doesn’t exactly appear close.

Neptune Beach Mayor Harriet Pruette addressed City Council members Tuesday, telling them a “fair and sincere” letter and proposal sent in October to Mayor Alvin Brown and general counsel was never acknowledged.

So, she’s given it to council to take up — which it will after legislation is drawn up and introduced by Bill Gulliford, who represents the Beaches communities.

Pruette wrote she was frustrated and disappointed that there no meaningful discussions between the mayors on the topic, which had been delegated to Brown’s staff. Brown spokesman Dave DeCamp later said there have been numerous opportunities to meet with Neptune Beach, but they have been declined.

The Neptune Beach proposal offers a trade-off, of sorts: Neptune Beach wouldn’t pay the city the more than $620,000 worth of tipping fees the city says it’s owed. In return, the beach community wouldn’t seek compensation for the more than $900,000 it’s spent on animal control services overthe years, a service the city would provide moving forward.

That proposal was considered insincere, Public Works director Jim Robinson told council. It brings up issues outside tipping fees and mediation on the subject is the direction the city is pursuing. Robinson later said the city offered a previous proposal that had the beach community giving the city water-quality credits, but was rejected because it included factors outside the scope of tipping fees.

As a show of good faith, the city would pay mediation fees for Neptune Beach.

Still, the lack of communication was concerning to some council members.

“You may not have thought it was sincere,” said Matt Schellenberg, “but you have to respond … they are due a certain amount of respect.”

A bill representing the Atlantic Beach settlement was introduced Tuesday, which will have that community paying almost $323,000 to the city. That was negotiated down from the more than $975,000 the city had billed.

That settlement, Robinson said afterward, came through a day and a half of mediation talks. The hope is a similar route with Neptune Beach will produce a result.

“It was a very successful means to reach a result (out of the courtroom),” Robinson said. “We need cool heads, and that’s what a mediator does.”

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