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Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Complex stadium bill, $150 million in social benefits could be passed on – 104.5 WOKV

By meerna Jun12,2024

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Time is officially running out for the Jacksonville City Council to take action on a stadium deal after formal legislation was tabled at noon Tuesday.

“This makes the whole process official,” said Council President Ron Salem (Group R 2 At-Large).

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Salem said council members are ready to take action and is optimistic that a final vote on the bill, which has been codenamed “904,” will take place in just two weeks.

“It’s going to be a big test to get out of this before the break, and then we’ll come back and deal with the budget, potentially hurricane season as well. So we all would like to release it on June 25,” Salem said.

Generally, the legislative process takes 30 days.

But Salem said that while the $1.7 billion deal, which includes a $925 million city investment, will move twice as fast, it will be subject to the same level of review.

“We’re meeting all the requirements in a little bit less time,” Salem said.

RELATED: The Jacksonville City Council begins workshops on the proposed Stadium of the Future deal

The bill will be presented publicly at today’s council meeting and will go to its first committee meeting on Thursday.

Next Thursday will be the first day that amendments can be made, and if they are approved on Jan. 25, the contract will be ready to be presented to NFL team owners in October for final approval.

“I hope it will be passed with a clear majority vote at the council level,” Salem said.

But one element of the deal appears to be at risk of being derailed: the $300 million community benefits agreement, which includes $150 million in city spending on parks, workforce development, affordable housing and homelessness.

RELATED: UNF Poll: Duval Voters Hesitant, But Want to Finance Billion-Dollar Stadium Deal

At Tuesday’s meeting of business leaders, Salem was asked how the city could afford to shell out $925 million for a stadium and $1 billion for a new jail while restoring police and firefighter pensions.

Salem indicated he wanted the CBA to be further reviewed due to financial concerns.

“And you might see something that tries to address this and move it into some separate legislative cycle,” Salem said.

In particular, Salem noted that he is not a fan of the $1 million amount allocated for parks projects in each local government district.

Moreover, Salem argued that there are few details about who will receive the remaining $136 million and how it will be distributed.

“It’s not clear through the legislation how all of this is going to be monitored, etc., so we need to get answers to these questions,” Salem said.

RELATED: Jaguars Stadium deal finalized, residents fear impact on historic districts

On the other hand, council member Matt Carlucci (R 4 at large) favors passing the entire agreement in one go.

“We’ll score a touchdown or a field goal. And I’m all for scoring a touchdown,” Carlucci said.

He argued that by waiting for the mayor to release his budget proposal in July, some social services could be weakened or abandoned altogether.

“We have a chance. We shouldn’t waste this opportunity,” Carlucci said.

Mayor Donna Deegan also defended the inclusion of the CBA.

“Through the combination of stadium renovation and the Community Benefits Agreement, we can finally fulfill our city’s promises to everyone. I hope that the City Council will accept this once-in-a-generation investment as the unified package under which it was negotiated,” Deegan said in a statement.

However, council member Rory Diamond (R-Ward 13), a longtime CBA opponent, argued that even without the city’s investment, the Jags would still commit $100 million to community development.

“What deal would you rather have: $100 million from the Jags for free or $150 million from the Jaguars but you have to spend $150 million and give it to politicians? It’s easy. You always take free money,” Diamond said.

Salem said we can likely expect to see an amendment rolling out the CBA introduced next Thursday.

Diamond indicated that he believed there would be enough votes to make this happen.

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By meerna

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