JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- City councilman, Clay Yarborough, is proposing an $8M project to consolidate two elections offices.
Supporters of the ordinance claim it will save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. Opponents believe it is too expensive.
The proposal would mean the elections office at Gateway Mall and downtown would move elsewhere. Already, the shopping center sits mostly empty.
Jack Rafidi operates a hamburger and hot dog eatery, Lemon Tree, inside the Gateway Mall. Now in his 27th year, the small business owner has seen better days at the Northside shopping center. "It was like in the 90's, 1992, it was kind of like 80 percent booming," Rafidi said.
The proposal's popularity is gaining ground with some other council members.
"We have to make prudent business decisions that benefit the taxpayers as a whole and staying out there is not a prudent business decision as far as I'm concerned," said Jacksonville councilman, Bill Gulliford.
Supporters say building a new office on the city-owned La Villa property would save taxpayers money. According to Yarborough, moving out of Gateway would net $660 thousand in savings a year in rent. The plan calls for selling the downtown elections office and putting that money towards constructing a consolidated office at I-95 and State Street.
Duval County Supervisor of Elections, Jerry Holland, is in support of the measure.
Mayor Alvin Brown's team isn't on board. They say building new is too costly and they want to wait on any potential moves. They are not the only ones who think that way.
"But what they're proposing is to utilize the building just because we own it and that's like sorta saying to you I know you need a truck to pick things up but I only have a car, so take the car and go pick things up. It's stupid," said City Councilman Bill Gulliford.
With most store fronts chained up, Santa won't be visiting the Gateway Mall. And even if Gateway loses another tenant, Rafidi said his business will survive. "I have faith in God and I know this is only temporary."
The Mayor's administration released a study last month suggesting if a consolidated move took place, it should be done at the Yates Building in downtown Jacksonville.
Councilman Yarborough plans to propose the ordinance at Tuesday's city council meeting.