Gaffney Responds to Shad's $660,000 Field of Dreams | Politics

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Gaffney Responds to Shad's $660,000 Field of Dreams
Gaffney Responds to Shad's $660,000 Field of Dreams

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A council member took us on a tour of a couple of parks in his district to highlight some of the problems here.

"It makes me feel sad," Councilmember Johnny Gaffney said.

Gaffney is reacting to our investigation, that showed a new $660,000 synthetic soccer field going in at Losco Regional Park. 

Last night, we featured his colleague, Council Member Art Shad talking about the new field that he championed, and not apologizing for the price.

"We didn't make this investment with the idea that we were going to save money," Shad told First Coast News.

Shad said people who have a problem with it should bring their concerns to their own council members who didn't deliver projects like this to their districts.  But, council member Gaffney said it's not that easy.

"Yes, now you can't eat the whole elephant, you've got to eat a little bit at a time, you know, and we have to make a decision, as, we're not there yet," Gaffney said. "Do we want to balance the budget, it we want to balance the budget, we have to bite the bullet.  If we want to balance the budget, there's nothing there for another two or three years."

"Let's say you wanted to come watch a baseball game here at Wigmore Park.  You'd watch them play on this field full of weeds.  I guess you're supposed to sit here on these bleachers," a disgusted Gaffney said. "Look at these bleachers right here.  Is this an embarrassment or what?"

Gaffney continued to walk through the park and pointed out several things that were wrong with it.

"It's a grass field, let it be a grass field.  Not kids playing on clay with weeds. We have this pavilion here and there's nothing there.  A pavilion with nothing there.  There should be tables there. We've got glass right here on the ground.  Glass here, that's another safety hazard."

We also found two metal stumps sticking out of a pitcher's mound.

"Is this a safety issue?" Gaffney asked.  "It's a safety issue.  It's hazardous."

We brought these concerns to the city department that oversees parks.  Pamela Wilson Roman, manager of Marketing and Community Relations with the City of Jacksonville spoke to us.

We asked simple questions: "Pam, what I showed you here on this video at Wigmore Park with the bleachers that are falling apart, the two metal mounds that I showed you and the broken glass, is that a safe park?  I'm not a park expert, so I can't tell you what a safe park is.  Do those look like safe elements?  Again, I'm not an expert on that."

We stopped rolling our camera, and Roman stepped out to ask another member of the department about these safety issues.  She wanted to be clear that she is not a safety expert.  When she returned, she had a new answer.

"We had someone go out and inspect the park, and they have determined the conditions at the park are not safe and I have been told we are going to address the problem first thing in the morning."

While this park will be repaired, Gaffney is still concerned about the bigger picture: How one member of city council can request 15- to 20-percent of the city's park improvements section of the capital improvements fund without getting a full vote from the 19-member city council. 

"I just want to go and examine the policy with these procedures and see how we can make it more equitable for all," Gaffney declared.

We mentioned earlier that this park has no bathrooms.  We asked the city about this.  After our interview, the city left me a voicemail and said this park is classified as a neighborhood park, and these types of parks are not required to have restrooms in the city of Jacksonville.



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