St. Augustine church claims county broke its promises to maintain drainage system

Ken Amaro reports. 5/5/17

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- The leadership and members of St. James Missionary Baptist Church are in a struggle with the St. Johns County Commission.
 
The problem is buried beneath heavy bushes: a broken drainage, which belongs to the church, but the county promised to maintain.
 
"They're suppose to cut all the trees here so that the drainage system works," said Norsalus Jackson, the director of operations for the church.
 
On rainy days, the problem is very evident. The streets surrounding the church flood easily.
 
"They said a month ago, if they would have done their job we would not be having this conversation," he said.
 
The agreement was formed nearly two decades ago between the church and a former county commissioner. It was done on a handshake.
 
"That was the verbal agreement," Jackson said. "The handshake was his bond."
 
Why was it necessary? To address the street flooding the county needed to tie into the church's drainage system, in return the county would do the needed maintenance.
 
"They would take care of our retention ponds and our drainage swale in return for tying into our drainage," he said.
 
Fast forward to 2017, the county commissioner is no longer in office, there is no written agreement and now the church is seeing the results of poor maintenance, a broken pipe and parking lot damage. 
 
"The pipe has come up," he said. "It now spews into the parking lot and washes away the coquina."
 
The erosion is causing considerable damage to the parking lot.
 
"This is where a lot of people's cars get messed up,' Jackson said.
 
 Jackson said now he and his congregation are living with broken promises.
 
"They promise and promise that they would take care of different issues, parking lot issues and they have totally reneged," he said.

 
Greg Caldwell is assistant public works director. He said the problem came to their attention in April and they're working on a resolution.
 
"I think the county is stepping up and trying to what is right " Caldwell said.
 
He said the county has presented a written proposal.  The proposal calls for the county to redo the parking lot, a one time event, and going forward the county will maintain the drainage system.
 
It is being reviewed by the attorney for the church.
 
"Everyone has to control their storm water," Jackson said. "We control ours, they need to control theirs and that's the reason our parking lot has eroded. It is because all of their water comes on private property and damages it."
 
Caldwell said he is is hoping over the next few days the negotiations produce a positive outcome.
 

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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