Buzz: Steve Wallace, Big League Dreams, Jury Parking and More
Wallace Under Investigation
Florida State College at Jacksonville has voted to terminate its contract with former president Steve Wallace after learning he's being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for alleged abuse of leave time and ethics violations. According to The Florida Times-Union, the board voted 7-1 Aug. 13 to terminate the contract Wallace was given after he stepped down in October 2012 amidst spending and college operational problems. The exit contract, worth $1 million, would have granted Wallace a salary and benefits through December.
Taking Big League Steps
Clay County Commissioners voted Aug. 13 to begin negotiating a contract with the Clay County Development Authority for a ballpark sports complex with $19-$25 million price tag. If the project is built, it will be managed and maintained by California-based Big League Dreams. The vote was 4-1; Commissioner Robbie Robinson was the lone dissenter. It was made after three hours of discussion that included former Jacksonville Jaguars player Tony Boselli arguing on behalf of the park. Supporters claim the park, to be built near Middleburg, would bring economic benefits to the county; opponents say it's public money being used to subsidize a private enterprise. Read Folio Weekly’s story at bit.ly/BigLeagueProblems.
Good News for Jurors
On Aug. 13, Mayor Alvin Brown and Duval County Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell announced that starting Oct. 7, free parking will be available in the Courthouse garage for those called to jury duty in Duval County. So no longer will jurors have to park at EverBank Field and ride a shuttle to the courthouse. About 400 to 500 folks report for jury selection most Mondays — now they can park at no charge, within easy walking distance of the courthouse. If chosen for service, jurors can park free Tuesday through Friday.
Public-Private Partnership Director
An executive on loan from Florida Blue will serve as the new director of the city’s Office of Public-Private Partnership. Mayor Alvin Brown appointed Earnie Franklin to the post in the city’s Office of Economic Developments. City spokesperson Aleizha Batson said Franklin will serve without pay from the city. He was most recently president and CEO of Incepture, a wholly owned subsidiary of Florida Blue. Franklin replaces Renee Finley, who returned to Florida Blue after about 18 months with the city. Franklin, to serve the same term length, will focus on expanding the city’s partnerships with private and nonprofit organizations.
Like many city offices feeling the pain of budget cuts, officials of the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville think a 14 percent funding cut approved by the City Council Finance Committee is too large. The cut represents a $345,000 reduction to the Cultural Council, which allocates funds to local arts and cultural organizations, such as the Jacksonville Symphony and The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. The CCGJ is urging residents to contact the City Council and ask that the funding be restored. More information is available at culturalcouncil.org.
Zoo officials are heralding the birth of a baby jaguar on July 18, which happens to be the same birthday as Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan. On Aug. 11, the seven-pound unnamed kitten had its first wellness check with zoo staff. Jaguars center Brad Meester, his wife and six daughters joined in the event. This birth puts the number of jaguars in the zoo’s Range of the Jaguar exhibit at seven. Though this is the 50th jaguar to be born at Jax Zoo, officials said it's noteworthy because the mother jaguar, a wild-born cat from Guyana, represents a new bloodline for the North American jaguar population.
Amphitheatre Could Break Even
After years of running a deficit, the St. Augustine Amphitheatre is close to breaking even. Officials said ticket sales from the sold-out Alabama concert Aug. 9 may help put the venue in the black. St. Johns County Manager Mike Wanchick said he's pleased with the progress being made to reduce the deficit, which dwindled to $120,000 in 2012, after hitting a high of $544,000 in 2009.
Shelter Challenge Grant
The Chardonnay Foundation has announced a $200,000 challenge grant to help the Nassau Humane Society build a new 11,000-square-foot animal shelter and adoption center. The challenge grant, which runs through Oct. 31, will match donations to a capital campaign. Last year, Nassau County Humane Society’s no-kill shelter celebrated more than 500 pet adoptions. About $1.2 million of the $2 million needed has been raised. Fundraising will continue during the construction. For details, go to nassauhumanesociety.com or write to NCHS, P.O. Box 16090, Fernandina Beach FL 32035.