Lenny Curry’s capital improvement plans are conservative, pragmatic


During the Lenny Curry budget address Monday morning, much was said about the capital improvement program.

The rhetoric soared. As Florida Politics reported:

“Our capital improvement program,” the mayor said, “has a focus on economic development,” including the port and work for our local work force.

Infrastructure and public works; also an issue. Capital projects are “way behind,” he said, and the new budget addresses that.

Seventy million dollars in new capital projects are imminent, using, Curry said, $58 million that was “lying around.”

Capital improvement projects include expanding ADA access to libraries, sidewalk repair and construction, the Jax Beach pier, the St. Johns River Ferry, and libraries.

Looking at the capital improvements, the emphasis is on functionality over swagger. We’ve discussed some of the projects in the past few days; the new Capital Improvement Plan gives a look into Team Curry racing against time to deal with some major issues.

Downtown street and lighting improvements, ash remediation, water quality improvement, drainage rehabilitation, landfill expansion and Shipyards remediation are all projects that will get work in the next five years that should have been done decades ago. The ash remediation, at four sites, encompasses issues going back to the early part of the last century, and drainage is an issue through much of the reclaimed swampland that makes up Duval County. The Shipyards project, meanwhile, remedies what has become a local embarrassment on prime real estate.

Likewise interesting: replacing a fire station in District 9 that was “built in 1960 and has serious mold and design issues.” It also doesn’t meet current ADA or female separation requirements.

Another fire station in 9 and one in District 10 have similar problems. Those replacements will happen in the next three fiscal years.

The Liberty Street fix is going to take five years, but that’s in part because options such as replacement with different structure types are on the table. As well, libraries are getting significant attention. A renovation of the 30-year-old Mandarin Branch Library will remedy outdated systems and design; meanwhile, the main library is in line for creation of collaborative work spaces, a concept that aligns with Curry’s campaign vision.

Bulkhead evaluation is on the table for FY 2015-16, and attention to repair of “existing deteriorated/damaged sidewalks” described as “hazardous” and “which could result in liability for citizen injuries.” Having seen runners tasting pavement regularly, I can only conclude that’s a distinct possibility.

Roof repairs have been backlogged from FY 2014-15. In FY 2014-15, less than $30,000 was allocated for the task. Time is of the essence here; this has been a rainy summer. Roofs in peril include those at Public Works and at the main library.

The Jacksonville Beach Pier is finally going to have deck replacement, because it’s “at the end of its recommended life span.”

Parks will be brought up to ADA guidelines. The ADA is a quarter-century old, so they are about due.

There’s more.

A brownfield site at Lonnie Miller Regional Park in District 10 has been remediated; it will, by the end of FY 2018, feature a skate plaza, ball fields, and basketball courts.

The 17-year-old splash park at Hanna Park, meanwhile, is set to be replaced in the next three years. The equipment has eroded and has a cracked and peeling surface.

A replacement of dysfunctional docks at Sisters Creek; a boat ramp replacement at County Dock; a kayak launch at Tillie Fowler Park.

The football metaphor holds. The Curry Capital Improvement Plan budget takes advantage of field position with money they found through efficiency, and applies it to neglected projects throughout the city (“the power running game”). It may not be every council member’s wish list. But there is something for them to claim they delivered when they go to Citizens Planning Advisory Committee meetings in their district.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


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