JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Nearly a dozen city-owned buildings are draining your tax dollars. The city of Jacksonville is paying thousands in utility costs for vacant buildings.
On a sunny day in Jacksonville, you're sure to find dozens of people walking and running along the scenic St. Johns River. It's the reason Josephine Riley straps on her running shoes every day. “On a beautiful day like today, to be able to look at the river and get some sunshine, you just can't beat it."
But it's not all picturesque in downtown Jacksonville. Directly across from the river, the old Duval County courthouse sits empty.
“Obviously it's an eyesore and I hope they take care of it,” said Riley.
Even though the old courthouse is vacant, the city is still spending your taxpayer dollars to keep it maintained. Action News did some digging and uncovered utility records from the city of Jacksonville.
The old courthouse became vacant in July when the new Duval County courthouse opened for business.
In August the city of Jacksonville paid $45,858 for utilities; $42,934 for the month of September; $27,799 for the month of October. The city finally turned off the water in November, the bill for that month was only $6,451.
Action News took the utility bills to city councilman Bill Gulliford. We wanted to know why the city is putting any money into buildings not being used. “I think it's simply you got to do some minimal maintenance to keep it up,” said Gulliford. “The consequences of not doing minimal maintenance would be quicker deterioration because if the building deteriorates it becomes unsafe."
The prime riverfront property is worth an estimated $19 million. Gulliford and runners like Riley hope the eyesore will soon transform into a moneymaker for the city.
A city spokesperson told Action News that they are sending out requests for proposals sometime next week for all city-owned vacant properties, including the old Duval County courthouse.
The city owns eight properties worth nearly $27 million. You’re paying an annual cost of $3,988 for electricity and $2,587 for water at the Armory at 851 N. Market St. Electricity at the Snyder Memorial Building, 226 N. Laura St., costs $6,688 annually.