News

Water Taxi service soltuion


UPDATE June 5 -- The City of Jacksonville is purchasing two water taxi's Friday and plans to have them in service Saturday, according to said Chief Administrative Officer Karen Bowling. Water taxi service was expected to end Friday, but after downtown hotel operators and other businesses voiced concern, the city was able to come up with a solution.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In less than two weeks, the Jacksonville Water Taxi (JWT) is shutting down.

HarborCare has notified the City of Jacksonville that it will suspend water taxi services after the expiration of their current contract with the city. The company says the city rejected their bid to continue service. The notice says the service does not meet the required number of minimum seats. JWT has less than 40 seats per boat.

The city says the Jacksonville Parks department plans to rebid and restart water taxi services as soon as possible.

Four names added to Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Wall


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- More than 1700 names are written on the Veterans Memorial Wall near Everbank Field. Lives all given for our freedom. On an overcast Memorial Day morning, four more names were added.

Deangelo Brown, Kejuan Haywood, Johnny Oliver and Dustin Curtiss.

Curtiss was a Marine, father avid runner and husband.

"He performed honors at hundreds of funerals for active duty and retired service members, which he always said was the greatest honor of his life," said Curtiss' wife during the ceremony.

Johnny Oliver was a sailor, killed in Bahrain last May. His wife is still dealing with his loss.

"Sometimes I wake up and I think, Johnny how am I going to do this? How am I going to go on without you? Then I think about it and we have to keep living for them, because if we keep talking about them and keep their memory alive, they will never die," she said.

Mayor Brown appoints Acting General Counsel


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jason R. Gabriel was appointed as Acting General Counsel to lead the City of Jacksonville's legal strategy and initiatives.

The move comes after General Counsel Cindy Laquidara announced April 23 that she will depart the City of Jacksonville to join the Akerman LLP law firm effective July 1, 2014. She has repeatedly been honored for her advice and counsel during more than 15 years with the City.

Since Laquidara's departure will be effective on July 1, 2014, Mayor Brown has filled the vacancy with an Acting General Counsel pursuant to Section 7.205 of the City of Jacksonville Charter. That appointee will be subject to Council confirmation and will serve until July 1, 2015.

Pension agreement reached after two weeks at city hall


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- After starting miles apart the city and the police and fire pension fund found middle ground to reach agreement on pension reform.

The challenge was resolving a $1.6 billion unfunded liability that had a pension task force recommending a tax increase to pay the bill.

The deal has the city kicking in $40 million annually until the fund is 80% solvent. Pension fund agreed to pay $107 million toward the unfunded liability.

Police and firefighters under the deal eventually will have to contribute 10% of their pay toward their pension.

"Happy days are here again and we are delighted reached an agreement on this serious issue," said pension administrator John Keane who represented police and firefighters.

City pension negotiations ongoing


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Mayor Alvin Brown and the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund are finding agreement on some issues, but road blocks on others.

The two sides for two weeks have been working to find common ground on how to shore up a $1.6 billion dollar unfunded liability.

"Our members always paid our contributions,' said pension administrator John Keane in noting the city has failed to pay its share.

The city is agreeing to pay $40 million extra annually to help make up the deficit.

The pension fund has agreed to contribute $60 million this year toward the unfunded amount with a cap of $105 million overall.

The sticking points are the cost of living adjustments given to current members. The fund wants the COLA to remain at 3% with the city wanting the cap to be 2.25%.

Pension board adopts city practices for public records requests


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The city's police and fire pension board is adopting city practices in handling public records requests following an expensive lawsuit that cost several hundred thousand dollars.

Curtis Lee sued the pension board over its public records practices. The retired lawyer was awarded a judgement of more than $75,000 which he planned to collect on Friday.

That never happened. The board voted to put the money in escrow while it appeals to a higher court.

"It started as a quarrel over $326 charge. Now they have spent $375,000 between the $300,000 spent on their attorneys fighting with me," said Lee who was upset with the board's action. He says the money being put in escrow during appeal will cost him hundreds of dollars a month.

The pension board decided as a result of the legal action to fall in line with city policies and procedures in handling requests for public documents.

24 children find forever homes in time for Mother's Day


JACKSONVILLE, Fla.-- More than a dozen Duval County mothers adopted children in need of loving families. The Honorable David Gooding finalized the adoption of 24 children by 17 families in time for the children to spend their first Mother's Day with their new families. The children range in age from seven months to 17 years old.

Althea Gale is a new mother to Antonio.

"This is the best Mother's Day I could have ever asked for," said Gale.

Gale says she picked Antionio up him up from Shands hospital when he was just three months old.

"He couldn't even lift his head up because he was so malnourished," said Gale. "And, I knew from that day that he was my son."

Antonio's birth parents lost custody because he was unhealthy and weighed just nine pounds at three months old. However, Althea nourished him back to life.