Neptune Beach leaders and state representatives are vowing to continue to fight for funding for improvements to culverts along Florida Boulevard near 5th Street. Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $400,000 initially allocated for the project from the state budget.
“We’ll keep fighting for it. I think it’s an important and worthwhile project,” said State Rep. Cord Byrd, who lives in and represents Neptune Beach. Byrd originally asked for $950,000 for the project.
Neptune Beach City Manager Andy Hyatt also vowed to reapply for the money next year.
“That’s an evacuation route for hurricanes and storms,” Rep. Byrd said. “Obviously the beaches where that’s important for people to be able to leave in case there’s a bad storm. But also for general flooding in the area.”
One man who lives next to the creek told First Coast News his backyard floods during nearly every major rainfall.
“It does affect people and I’m sure I’m not the only one,” said Rich Westenbarger.
Westenbarger was unaware $400,000 for the improvements was initially included in the budget, but now that it’s gone he’s a little concerned.
“Where’s that money gonna go?" he asked. "Or is somebody gonna be able to fix this? Or are we just looking at this to maybe get worse?”
Hunter Livingston, who lives across from the creek on Florida Boulevard, is not concerned.
“We do get a little bit [of flooding] over here but nothing that I’d even really worry about,” he said. “It did get really full [during Hurricane Matthew], thought it never overflowed. We live right across the street from it so we were kind of eyeing it.”
Livingston said he appreciates the city’s needs being brought before the legislature but understands there may be more pressing issues in need of funding.
“We recognize that we might not be as big a priority, hold as big a stick as some of the other surrounding areas,” he said.