City demands return of $338,500 used for water taxis

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Tens of thousands from across the nation are expected to make their way to downtown Jacksonville this weekend for the Florida Country Super-fest. But one thing that will be noticeably absent are water taxis. Friday the city of Jacksonville demanded the money it just forked out for two used vessels to be returned. The letter was sent to Trident Pontoons, Inc. in Tavares, FL. It says the company failed to deliver two boats as promised within a certain amount of time. And now the city wants back the $338,500 it quickly shelled out.

More than 80,000 people are expected to gather downtown for the 2 day Florida Country Super-fest. Big name artists such as Florida Georgia Line and Miranda Lambert are helping to pack Everbank Field.

"I work at the stadium and the arena and I am thrilled that we have so many activities," said Janice Christiansen.

There are certain things people such as Christiansen expect to see in downtown that they will not find this time around, such as the water taxis along the St. Johns River.

"It's a shame because it was very nice to ride around on," said Jeff Swenson. He actually worked on the water taxi as a deck hand for 18 years with its previous owners.

The city's move Friday of asking for a refund of the hundreds of thousands of dollars used to purchase two water taxis, Swenson says is not surprising.

City officials say they were supposed to arrive last weekend but instead just one was sent on Friday and it only accommodates 49 people.

"They shouldn't have jumped the gun so fast," said Swenson.

Jacksonville City Council President, Bill Gulliford agrees. Council members have voiced their concerns about the speedy purchase.

"I'm disappointed and we've seen an inordinate amount of this kind of thing," said Gulliford. "And it's a lack of experience and a lack of good judgment sometimes."

And while the dilemma is worked out, Christiansen remains optimistic, "The water taxi they're going to work it out so that there will be another resource for people to use."

The chairman of Beaver Street Fisheries, Harry Frisch is interested in purchasing the boats. The city says within the next two weeks they'll begin to advertise for bids from private companies to run a water taxi service. JTA Friday announced plans to offer complimentary shuttle service during this weekend's event.

CLICK HERE for a look at the Country Super-fest line up.


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