Nonprofit dedicated solely to Hemming Plaza revival


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Hemming Plaza could undergo huge changes if a newly formed nonprofit group is successful. The city is working to get a private entity to operate the downtown plaza.

The group Friends of Hemming Park wants to oversee a renaissance of Hemming Plaza. Wayne Wood, who was instrumental in starting the Riverside Arts Market, is heading up the group.

"We want to bring art, we want to bring food, we want to bring entertainment. We plan to do programming in the park seven days a week," Wood said. "There is going to be so much going on in downtown and Hemming Plaza in particular that people will come from all over the city, not just people who work downtown, to see what is going on."

Things like festivals, Shakespeare in the Park and ballet.

The budget for this non profit group would be $1.25 million and there would be a full time as staff of about eight.

FCN's One Spark Top 5: Alert The Boss


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Leading up to One Spark, we've asked creators to submit their videos, and our viewers to vote on their favorites on our Facebook page.

We are featuring the top vote getters in that competition on air and here online as well.

Alert The Boss is a product developed by Evan Diamond, a UNF student, and has been in the top of our voting ever since the beginning.

The product sets up a direct text line for businesses to display, allowing customers to anonymously text feedback directly to a manager, or someone in charge.

"It can be awkward to tell someone face-to-face when you're unhappy with their work," Diamond said.

Volunteers clean up Hemming Plaza before One Spark


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Ahead of crowd funding festival One Spark, 100 volunteers are working to clean up Hemming Plaza.

"There has been a lot of hard work," said Valerie Feinberg with Downtown Vision Inc.

Over the weekend, new flower beds were planted all across Hemming Plaza. Future plans call for more upkeep, and making Hemming Plaza more attractive.

"We just want to make it look as fabulous as possible," said Feinberg.

Thousands are expected in downtown for One Spark. Feinberg said it's a chance to show off Hemming Plaza, while attracting more visitors, and more business.

City leaders challenged to solve pension mess


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With an election year right around the corner, city's leaders are being challenged to solve a pension mess with a $1.7 billion deficit in the police and fire fund.

A task force appointed by Mayor Alvin Brown since last summer has been studying the options. On Thursday the group presented to the mayor and city council a 50 page plus outline of an action plan.

That plan includes reducing benefits as well as raising taxes to erase the huge deficit. The calls for voters being given a voice in approving a half penny sales tax that would generate an estimated $68 million a year.

"The goal is to get this done as soon as possible," said Mayor Brown following the brief presentation.

The mayor told reporters afterwards he is not on the bandwagon to raise taxes.

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Pension task force wraps up work


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- An in depth study into the city's $1.7 billion police and fire pension deficit has been wrapped up at city hall.

The Jacksonville Retirement Reform Task Force is recommending benefit reductions and increasing by $68 million the contribution dedicated to erasing the deficit.

The recommendation to raise money is to put before voters a half penny sales that would generate 68 million a year. The city council would have to vote on whether to put a sales tax on the ballot possibly this November.

"We inherited a whirlwind, we are at the end of the line. It's all built up over a number of years, now we got to resolve it," said City Council President Bill Gulliford.

Man suffers medical emergency in patrol car


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man suffered a medical emergency while in the back of a patrol car early Thursday morning.

Around 4 a.m. Thursday, an off duty officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office noticed a Nissan sedan in the commercial portion of Davis Street driving slowly through the area, according to JSO Chief of Investigations Adam Brown.

The officer felt the car appeared suspicious and stopped it. The unidentified driver of the car allegedly admitted to police he did not have a license and was taken into custody.

After securing the suspect in the rear of a patrol car, the arresting officer went back to the Nissan to check out the center console. The suspect was allegedly seen fidgeting with it during the traffic stop, Brown detailed.

Fire crews battling commercial fire


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- An early morning fire Monday damaged police equipment and a city-owned building in the downtown area.

It happened at the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office's pretrial services building around 3:30 a.m. in the 500 block of North Washington Street.

Battalion Chief Neal White with the Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department said firefighters learned of the fire from an alarm inside the building.

Upon arrival, White said it was difficult for firefighters to locate the fire because of the building's large size.

He said the fire itself was on the second floor and relatively small, but that smoke made putting the flames out more difficult.