50 years ago: $9M bond issue for new airport narrowly approved

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• Voters supported by a slim margin a proposal to issue $9 million in ad valorem tax bonds to help finance a new $26.7 million airport.

When the ballots were counted, the vote was 7,934 in favor of the plan and 7,330 against, a margin of only 604 votes.

Mayor Lou Ritter, who lobbied for the new airport for several years, said plans were in place to issue the bonds in August and proceed with condemnation of a 4,200-acre site in North Jacksonville.

Construction of the new airport could begin in September and the facility could be operational by early 1968, he said.

The final tally was heralded by the business community.

“The citizens of Jacksonville have taken a giant step forward for the economic future of our community as well as for the cause of aviation safety,” said Robert Davis, chair of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce Aviation Committee. “I am tickled to death about the results.”

Luke Sadler, chair of the Citizens Airport Advisory Committee, was pleased with the results, but expressed concern over the slim margin of approval.

“I am pleased that we got a yes vote, but I’m disappointed that the margin was not greater, which would indicate to me that there are more opportunists and self-interested citizens in our city than we first thought. I had hoped for a wider margin,” he said.

The $9 million bond was the keystone of the project. That amount, along with $9 million in revenue certificates and $8.7 million from the federal government, comprised the financing plan for what would become Jacksonville International Airport.

Had the ad valorem bond issue been defeated, the city would have been prohibited from issuing the revenue certificates and likely would have lost the federal grants.

• Jacksonville was cited as a prime example of water pollution as the state House of Representatives approved an anti-pollution bill.

Under the legislation, it would be unlawful for anyone to intentionally or negligently place or release foreign objects, materials or substances in inland waters so as to impede navigation or adversely affect recreational use of the water.

The bill empowered the Board of Conservation, the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission and all local and state officers to enforce the proposed law.

In 1965, the Board of Health was the only agency with enforcement powers pertaining to pollution.

It was pointed out that under Florida law, the word “person” embraced industrial plants and other businesses that dumped effluents into streams.

There was some question whether the bill also would include municipalities. Jacksonville’s dumping of raw sewage into the St. Johns River was cited by Rep. John Hasson of Sarasota as the worst example of water pollution in Florida.

“Of the 16.8 million gallons of raw sewage dumped daily into streams throughout the state, 15 million gallons come out of Jacksonville,” he said.

Final vote on the bill was 75 to 29. It was immediately certified to the Senate.

• Pru-Tect, manufacturer of a telephone directory cover, was named Junior Achievement “Company of the Year” at the second annual Future Unlimited banquet.

The company’s sales were $2,315.70 with a profit of $435.36. More than $200 in federal income taxes were paid by the company.

Stockholders received a 10 percent stock dividend and a liquidation dividend of 40 percent.

It was the second consecutive victory for a firm counseled by the Prudential Insurance Co. of America.

The award was presented at the close of a year of hands-on business education during which 400 high school students operated 20 companies with 18 showing a profit.

Program sales totaled $17,445, nearly double the combined sales in 1964, the first year of Junior Achievement in Jacksonville.

• A 41-year-old bridegroom from Connecticut spent his wedding night in the Duval County jail, courtesy of the FBI.

Philip Leroy Hutchins of West Haven was married in Kingsland, Ga., and arrested hours later in Jacksonville on a warrant issued by the U.S. Board of Parole charging a parole violation.

The FBI said Hutchins also had written numerous fraudulent checks on a closed account at the First New Haven National Bank, cashing them in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Ohio and Florida.

Hutchins had been in North Florida for two weeks and met his bride, a Jacksonville woman, just a week before his arrest, according to the FBI.

• State Rep. Bill Basford of Duval County helped block passage of a bill dealing with frogs, which was filed by Rep. Harry Westberry, a fellow member of the Duval delegation.

Westberry’s bill would have required purchase of a license by retailers and wholesalers who dealt in frog legs.

Cost of the annual license would have been $500 for wholesalers and $45 for retailers. License fees were to be turned over to the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.

Westberry said he favored the bill because it would assist in the conservation of frogs. Selling frog legs was a major business in the state, he said.

Basford said he considered frog legs a delicacy. He added the price already was too high and the bill would increase prices for consumers.

“I see nothing in the bill to foster more frogs,” he said.

Rep. Bill Williams of Bay County said requiring a license to sell frogs would “hurt the littlest of the little people” in his county who killed and sold frogs for a living.

The bill was defeated 89-20.

• The attorney for a former Duval County patrol officer facing burglary charges entered a motion in Criminal Court suggesting his client was insane.

Giles P. Lewis filed the motion on behalf of Woodrow Pruitt, 31, who was scheduled for trial May 31 before Judge William T. Harvey.

Lewis asked Harvey to appoint one or more psychiatrists to examine Pruitt to determine his sanity before trial and also his sanity on Jan. 7, the date of the earlier of two offenses charged.

Lewis said Pruitt was unable to understand the nature of the charges against him and also was unable to cooperate with his attorney in preparing defenses to the charge.

The co-defendant in the case, also a former patrol officer, was Clyde Bryant, who died from a gunshot wound to the head he sustained while playing Russian roulette after he was charged.

Since Bryant’s death, Pruitt was acting irrationally and carrying on incoherent and unintelligible conversations, Lewis said.

The pair was charged with breaking into the warehouse of the Kenco Chemical and Manufacturing Co. along Lem Turner Road on Jan. 12 with intent to commit a felony and with grand larceny of paint samples valued at $343.

In another case, Pruitt alone was charged with breaking into Chandler’s Drive-In at 1821 Beach Blvd. in Jacksonville Beach on Jan. 7 with intent to commit a misdemeanor and petty larceny of a $10 electric shaver and a $10 radio.