by Max Marbut
When he leaves the City Council due to term limit rules June 30, Warren Alvarez can look back at quite a list of things he has accomplished for his constituents in District 11.
One of the things he said he’s most proud of is that he was able to fund the projects while holding tight to the Northside’s Council bond money until the final weeks of his second term.
“I spent the last eight years finding other (sources of) money to finance projects in the district. You can always find some money laying around somewhere,” said Alvarez.
Alvarez used his considerable and well-known negotiation and finance skills to facilitate many improvements in the areas of public safety and park development.
The park projects started as soon as Alvarez took office.
“Mayor Delaney put $6 million in the budget to buy Sheffield Park,” he said. “It was 385 acres and then we got the School Board to buy 50 acres to Build New Berlin Elementary School, which will be the first school in the county to have grades one through eight.”
Alvarez said he also “found” $1.6 million for Dinsmore Park, $385,000 for a park in Cisco Gardens and $285,000 to improve the park in Garden City.
“We took down an old log cabin there and we got some grief for that, but it was eaten up with termites and unrepairable.”
One of his most astute negotiations, Alvarez said, was the deal he made for the 12-acre San Mateo Park. When it was all said and done the City got the property for about half of what it was worth.
“It’s out in the middle of an industrial area. The land was appraised for $1.7 million, but I got the owner to sell it to the City for $800,000.”
People who need to call a fire truck or a paramedic have seen a big improvement in service in the past eight years. New fire stations have been added and others have been improved which means response times are much shorter than they used to be in the Northside.
“We were able to rebuild the firehouse in Maxville for the volunteers and install a new generator. We moved the firehouse in Oceanway. We built a new one in Dinsmore, where the firehouse used to be so bad the firefighters had to go to Garden City to take a shower, and we’re designing a new firehouse for Heckscher Drive.
“We also put a Jacksonville Fire & Rescue unit at Fire Station No. 49. There used to be a 35-minute run time to Oceanway, but now that’s down to 15 minutes and we have much quicker response on calls to Black Hammock Island,” said Alvarez.
The improvements to public safety were critical because of the population growth in the district in the past eight years. Alvarez said the pace is not likely to diminish and that’s great.
“You can’t stop growth because if you do, you kill the economy.”
He also said he is confident the Mayport Ferry will continue to operate despite the current budget issues in Tallahassee.
“We can’t replace it with a bridge because it would be too high. We can’t tunnel under (the river) because it’s solid rock. The state could keep the ferry running for what it costs to paint the Dames Point Bridge. We’ve just got to shake the right bushes.”
As Alvarez looked around his practically empty office Tuesday, he was obviously feeling pragmatic about his tenure on the Council and said packing up and leaving reminded him of an old song.
“It goes something like ‘I got along without you before I met you and I’ll get along without you now’.”
If you’re looking for Warren Alvarez after June 30, he said you might find him near Boone, North Carolina where his brother owns property.
“I never liked to play golf. I like to fish and hunt. I’d rather be in the woods or on the creek.”