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NE Florida federal employees impacted by government shutdown

Federal employees in the Jacksonville area are preparing for the impact of the government shutdown.

Our Washington Insider Jamie Dupree says the furlough resulting  from the government shutdown means non-essential personnel in the federal workforce are not working. Jamie says, generally, Congress will act to give these employees back pay once a budget or short-term spending plan is passed.

News 104.5 WOKV is updating a list of the agencies and impacts that are expected locally.  As we receive confirmation we will provide updates here.  Among the agencies we are working to hear from include the FAA and Federal Court.  

U.S. Navy

Civilian employees who are not-exempt from a furlough would not be able to work until a short-term resolution or budget is passed.  Locally that would impact thousands of people in Navy Region Southeast. The precise number is not clear.  

A spokesperson for Navy Region Southeast says they are providing clear guidance to employees as they get it.

Naval Hospital Jacksonville and their five branch health clinics continue to meet operational requirements, so hours of operation, appointment lines, and TRICARE Nurse Advice Line remain open. You may see longer than usual wait times for routine and preventive care and prescriptions because of the civilian furloughs.

Army Corps of Engineers 

Employees were still told to report to work Monday, in order to execute orderly shutdown activities. They are assessing any potential impact to ongoing projects.

National Weather Service

Meteorologist in Charge Scott Cordero says the National Weather Service is considered ‘essential personnel’ so there would not be a local impact.

National Park Service

The Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas Visitor’s Center are closed because of the shutdown.

Unlike the last shutdown in 2013, the grounds at these facilities are not be restricted from the public. You are, therefore, able to get on the lawn around the Castillo and the beaches at the Fort, just not in the physical structures themselves.

FBI Jacksonville

FBI Jacksonville says all agents and support personnel in field offices, including Jacksonville, are considered exempt from furlough, because their operations are directed toward national security and violation of federal law.

Jags watch parties, Marvel Universe LIVE and more this weekend.

Friday-

  • Marvel Universe LIVE- This is perfect for the family! Over 25 Marvel Super Heroes and Villains performing high-energy stunts, tricks and manuevers. Multiple showings starting on Friday and running through Sunday!
  • Jake Owen at The Florida Theatre- Doors open at 8pm and tickets start at $87.

Saturday-

  • Jax Health and Wellness Expo- free event at Morocco Shrine Auditorium between 10am and 2pm keeping those resolutions going strong!
  • Mac and Cheese cook off at Bartram park Brewz- from 2-5pm, you can’t go wrong with craft beer and Mac and Cheese. Everyone’s a winner!
  • Jacksonville Giants vs Fayetteville Flight- Miss basketball? The Giants play at UNF arena at 7pm. This family friendly game starts at 7pm.
  • Morning Fatty at Surfer Bar- In the mood for some dub/reggae? 21+ and it’s FREE

Sunday-

  • Women’s Day of Action at the Landing between and 11am and 3pm- Marking the one year-anniversary of the largest political protest in rcent history, Women’s March Florida is leading a statewide day of action to bring awareness and support to Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and the Florida Keys.
  • Jags Watch Party at Mellow Mushroom in Avondale starting at 3pm- CBS 47 Action News Jax will be there filming “Jags All Access” show too!

Jacksonville bakery sends turnovers to Steelers QB Roethlisberger

The Jacksonville Jaguars not only beat the Pittsburgh Steelers this past weekend to send themselves to the AFC Championship game, but they tacked on a few more turnovers during the victory.

Now, a Jacksonville victory wants to give Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger a literal taste of those turnovers.

Cinotti’s Bakery posted on Facebook that they’re sending a thank you to Big Ben.

“We appreciate the turnovers you gave us over our season so in return we wanted you to get a TASTE of 7 turnovers,” the post says.

The bakery also posted a photo of the label which shows they sent apple, blueberry, and cherry turnovers to Roethlisberger at Heinz Field. Seven turnovers represents the two from the Jags this past weekend added to the five they racked up when they beat the Steelers earlier this season.

Jags fans are not shy about voicing how they feel about the team.  Fans recently gained national headlines for sending trash cans to Jadeveon Clowney of the Houston Texans, because he called Jags QB Blake Bortles trash.

With their win over the Steelers, the Jags now face the Patriots in the AFC Championship Sunday in Foxborough at 3:05PM.

Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette not injured in crash approaching Dames Point Bridge

Five days before the Jaguars play in the AFC Championship Game, running back Leonard Fournette has been involved in a crash. 

It happened on the I-295 East Beltway approaching the Dames Point Bridge today.  

Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Dylan Bryan tells WOKV News that Fournette was not at-fault in the three-vehicle, chain reaction crash.  The driver who caused the collision will be cited for careless driving.  

A spokesman for the Jaguars says Fournette’s car was rear-ended and he was not injured. 

The Florida Highway Patrol thanked Fournette for thanking their trooper for his service and taking a photo with a boy who was involved in the crash.

Jacksonville Jaguars: “We ain’t done yet”

It was chilly in Jacksonville, but that didn’t stop thousands of Jaguars fans from crowding in to EverBank Field Sunday night to welcome home their team- which had just earned a spot in the AFC Championship. 

GALLERY: Jags homecoming celebration

The Jags topped the Steelers in Pittsburgh 45-42 to win the Divisional match. Soon after the game ended, the City and Jags announced they would be opening up EverBank Field for a celebration. Despite only having a few hours notice, fans came out in force.

Head Coach Doug Marrone and several players addressed the crowd, with Defensive End Calais Campbell drawing big cheers by promising “we ain’t done yet”.

Still others led fans in a “DUUUVVAAAALLL” cheer.

While waiting for the team to arrive, fans were entertained by music, the ROAR of the Jaguars cheerleaders, the D-Line drum line, Jaxson de ville, and highlight and hype videos. The Club Level was also packed inside, as fans kept warm while waiting for their team.

Huge cheers rang out when a plane flew over the stadium- which was soon confirmed to be the team plane. From that point, fans were treated to frequent live looks at the team as they deplaned and made their way to EverBank Field. As soon as they got to the field, they came out immediately- with many players heading straight to the fans for high fives.

Many fans told us they’ve been waiting to see this spirit for years. One- who wears customized Jags gear to music raves- tells us he has seen more respect recently, including people yelling “Duval” at him.

Other fans are new converts. We found a person in Steelers gear who said now that the Jags had knocked out the Steelers, she would be rooting for Jacksonville moving forward.

The Jags play the Patriots in Foxborough Sunday at 3:05PM for the AFC Championship. Our partner Action News Jax is the official Jaguars station and will have full coverage throughout the week, including special shows at 7PM and pre- and post-game coverage.

Players react:

Newly rebuilt lanes of I-95 southbound set to open this weekend

Another big change is coming for Jacksonville drivers on I-95.

Newly rebuilt lanes of I-95 southbound just after the Fuller Warren Bridge are slated to open this weekend. With the opening of those lanes comes a big change in the traffic pattern, because there will be a decision point at the base of the Bridge where you’ll commit to going to the Southside, or US 1 or Atlantic.

For I-95 southbound drivers who are heading to the Southside- not much changes. You will take I-95 south over the Bridge and keep driving straight, but traffic will now connect to three newly rebuilt lanes of the highway. If you stay on that main stretch of I-95, there will be no option to exit until Emerson.

After the new lanes open and the traffic shift takes effect, the lanes that you are currently driving on will become collector-distributor lanes, meaning they collect limited traffic and only provide exits for a few select routes.

For drivers leaving Downtown on the Main Street or Acosta- not much changes. You will drive on the lanes that are currently being used, but the difference is that those lanes will eventually connect to the new I-95, whereas now the lanes simply become I-95.

For I-95 southbound drivers who want to take US 1 or Atlantic- you’ll need to exit at the base of the Fuller Warren. There will be a new exit lane on the right just after the San Marco exit, which will ultimately connect you to the lanes that we’re driving on now. Once  you’re connected, the traffic pattern continues as you know it now- with the exit to Atlantic on the left and to Philips on the right.

While the FDOT is only opening one exit lane from I-95 southbound to US 1 and Atlantic at this stage, they will open a second one later in the project.

The FDOT says the change is set to be in effect Saturday at 8PM. Prep work will begin Friday night, although there is no clear word at this point what kind of lane closures- if any- you should expect. The opening of the new lanes is subject to the weather.

This is a similar concept to what the FDOT did on I-95 northbound in the same area.  Back in October, newly rebuilt lanes of I-95 northbound opened, and the lanes that had been used during the construction became designated only for Downtown traffic. As it stands, if you want to get to the Main Street, Acosta, or Prudential, you have to exit just north of Emerson. If you do not exit, the highway carries you straight over the Fuller Warren.

The overall project, known as the Overland Bridge project, is slated to be completed in the Spring. It’s aim is to improve the flow of traffic by adding more lanes, while reducing the amount of weaving and lane changing by providing the designated lanes. FDOT says they will have signage up to help with the changes, but they’re asking you to use caution as you and other drivers get used to the changes. 

You can get more information on the FDOT project website.

Public dollars approved as “The District” development clears Downtown Investment Authority

It’s a major step forward for a long-planned project on Jacksonville’s Southbank, but there’s still a steep climb to see ground break. 

Jacksonville’s Downtown Investment Authority has approved a public takeover of the purchase of land on which the multi-use development “The District” is slated to be built. The group behind the 30-acre, $433 million development, Elements of Jacksonville LLC, won the right to develop the JEA land back in 2015 for around $18.6 million. Since that time, the deal has not actually moved forward. The new proposal partners the City, DIA, and Elements in the purchase and initial development, with a significant upfront investment from the public sector. 

“It has not been easy,” says DIA CEO Aundra Wallace, about the year-long negotiation to hammer out this plan.

This deal is still subject to approval by the JEA Board, Mayor’s Administration, and Jacksonville City Council. The goal is to clear those hurdles by the end of March, although a change made by the DIA Board Wednesday is expected to face objection by JEA, which could push things back. 

The proposal has JEA assign the Purchase and Sale Agreement over the property from Elements to the City instead, and allocates development rights to the DIA. The property closing date is projected as mid-July. 

The DIA would make a one-time cash payment to JEA of $1,859,000 at the time of the closing. The DIA would provide JEA with a cash flow note- essentially a promissory note- for $17.59 million. The DIA would pay only interest for the first decade, and then principal from the eleventh year on. Initially, the proposal envisioned this money coming from the Southbank Tax Increment District- a special line of funding with money generated from and going to Downtown’s Southbank. Despite assurances from Wallace that they had enough money in that pot, the DIA was concerned about how exposed that left them in terms of having money to finance other Southbank projects. Ultimately, they adopted a motion to pay back only 25% of the JEA obligation through the TID, with the other 75% coming from project revenue. 

“Let the loan be based on the success of the project, and we’re all in this together,” says Board Member Oliver Barakat, who proposed the change.

Wallace said through the meeting that, in his negotiations, it seemed JEA would not be open to that option, because it leaves them more exposed. His staff added that JEA doesn’t have an economic development arm, and they’re looking to simply offload the property.

“This is the one way that we could get people most uncomfortable to agree,” Wallace says.

His concern is to the degree that he asked the Board what he should do if JEA does not adopt their change. Barakat said they would not immediately “cave”, and Wallace would have to bring the deal back to them to take another look. 

That second look would come on January 17th, with the JEA vote currently scheduled for the 16th. 

The DIA is also issuing a cash flow note to the City of Jacksonville, because City dollars would cover $26.41 million in public infrastructure for the project. This payment will be made through project revenue, with all of the revenue being deposited in to the Southbank TID, and 25% of that then being transferred to the City. Once the JEA principal payment kicks in, 25% of that City share of the project revenue will go toward that JEA note. 

The term for payment on each of those cash flow notes is through December 31, 2040. 

Elements will fund the first nearly $18.7 million in public infrastructure and anything beyond the City’s commitment, with the total public infrastructure expected to cost $45.1 million. There would be benchmarks along the way where Elements would have to show they have the equity and financial backing needed for the development, and are keeping up with the pace of development. 

Once the City and the DIA formally take over, they are responsible for the debt, even if the project goes under. DIA Staff says they have checks built in along the way so that they can easily track if progress seems to be going off the rails. Wallace also plans to ask the Board to hire a special owner’s rep who has specialized knowledge and can serve as their point for this complicated project. The developers consented to that, but the Board was cautious about putting in too many constraints.

“The fastest way to kill a deal is to put barriers in front of it,” says Board Member Dane Grey.

A host of other concerns were raised by the DIA ahead of their vote. Some were concerned that the DIA is essentially paying for a deal that JEA and Elements negotiated. Others wanted to make sure the early investment dollars from Elements would be used toward lasting improvements in the land, instead of administrative, legal, and similar costs. Still others wanted commitments that there would be work for Small and Emerging Businesses. Ultimately, the Board gave Wallace direction that he should work to achieve certain benchmarks in these areas, although they did not set any of the benchmarks in stone because of concerns from Wallace and the developers about what would be attainable. 

While tax dollars would go in to the purchase of the land, the plan is to see Elements take the parcels over time, and therefore get the long-vacant property back on City tax rolls. The developers have also agreed to pay a special assessment, to further boost anticipated revenue to the City.

The District envisions a “healthy living” cross-generational concept, with the goal to bring people of all ages together in a community that supports active living. The plan includes residential, retail, office, and restaurant space, as well as a signature hotel- an AC Hotel by Marriott. It would also extend the Southbank Riverwalk not only to meet the existing span but to create a continuous loop over land as well. The development also calls for marina space, a grocery store, a drug store, and plenty of park space- including a park along the River. 

Peter Rummell and Michael Munz- two prominent Jacksonville businessmen behind Elements- told the Board there are already many negotiations underway and some nearing final stages for occupying the development. They said they’ve cleared all the needed regulatory hurdles to this point, and this land deal is the only thing standing in the way of moving forward. 

Despite their reservations, many DIA Board Members said they supported the concept and the overall drive to revitalize the Southbank and put the vacant land to use.

“I personally think it’s time to get busy,” says Board Member Ron Moody.

“I’m willing to swallow hard and give you a chance from our perspective to do this, and God be with you,” says DIA Vice Chairman Jack Meeks.

In the end, while there were two votes against the change in the financing of the JEA payment, the resolution itself passed by a unanimous vote. If the project is fully built out, the DIA’s conservative estimates project at least a $98 million impact over 25 years.

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens catches another case of Jaguar fever ahead of team’s second playoff game

Get ready for discount admission at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens this Sunday. 

With the Jacksonville Jaguars playing their second playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the zoo will be offering $5 admission on game day. The zoo also offered the same discount last week when the team took on the Buffalo Bills. 

There is a catch to get the special discount, you’ll need to be sporting your Jags gear. 

“We are going to be making a friendly wager with the Pittsburgh Zoo like we did Buffalo that involves donating to the conservation effort of choice…and some famous Primanti brothers hoagies,” says JJ Vitale, Public Affairs, and Social Media at the Zoo. 

The Zoo is also planning to have extra jaguar keeper talks and enrichment in the Range of the Jaguar. 

Vitale says the zoo will continue to offer $5 admission to those wearing Jags attire each game day for the Jaguars during their post-season.

Florida bill would add new requirement before couples can marry

The state Legislature wants to tell Floridians how to have a healthy marriage.

In the wake of sexual harassment and affairs among state lawmakers, Jacksonville Republican Rep. Clay Yarborough filed the Florida Guide to a Healthy Marriage bill in the state House on Monday.

Lakeland Republican State Sen. Kelli Stargel filed the Senate version last week.

The bill would prohibit couples from getting a marriage license until they verify they’ve read a new Florida Guide to a Healthy Marriage.

“The statistics have been staggering over the years for divorces and kind of the subsequent problems that go along with that, like children who don’t have families that are put together,” said Yarborough.

The bill said the guide would be written by a panel of six marriage and family advocates.

That panel would be appointed by the governor, Senate president and speaker of the house -- all Republicans.

The guide would cover topics like conflict management, communication, parenting responsibilities, financial management and domestic violence.

Jacksonville divorce attorney Heather Quick said she does not think the guide will lead to fewer divorces.

“Probably not,” said Quick. “Challenges don’t typically happen in those first months to years. So how much they’re going to remember that and how much impact it will have when problems do arise, I do wonder about that.”

Yarborough said taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook; that’s why the bill said the committee would raise funding for the guide from private sources.

Action News Jax asked Yarborough if those private sources could include churches or other religious groups.

“There’s not an exclusion in the bill. It doesn’t specify who the funds would or wouldn’t come from,” said Yarborough.

Costs could include design, layout, printing and distribution.  

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