JACKSONVILLE, Fla — JEA spent $238,000 preparing for the Republican National Convention and will likely not be reimbursed, adding more money to the city's tab to host the event that never happened.
The city-owned utility's expenses continue to undermine statements made by Mayor Lenny Curry and his aides, who aggressively courted the event and said local taxpayers wouldn't pay anything to host it. City Council auditors last week revealed the city could likely absorb $154,000 in overtime pay and consulting fees related to the event.
That brings the total of RNC-related costs to $392,000.
JEA will likely absorb its costs, as the city never received a federal grant that was supposed to cover JEA and City Hall's expenses, said JEA spokeswoman Gerri Boyce.
Boyce said JEA's convention expenses were a combination of salary and material costs, as the utility immediately began hardening its water and electrical infrastructure near the downtown convention site as soon as the GOP announced they were moving the event from Charlotte to Jacksonville.
"It's very similar to what JEA did in preparation for the Super Bowl," Boyce said. "You have to make sure that the assets that provide electricity, water and sewer are protected... Most people don't think about it, but you have to make sure you have a system in place so you can still provide those services."
Boyce said some of the work was related to securing utility assets, while other work was performed to ensure its infrastructure was ready to handle the demands of a large-scale event. JEA also decided to perform routine maintenance and other scheduled improvements that were supposed to be completed in the next few years.
The expenses will be absorbed by JEA's annual budget, Boyce said.
When the GOP announced it was moving its convention to Jacksonville, Curry said a private committee was raising money to pay for the event and that no local taxpayer money would be spent.
An aide for Curry told City Council members on July 24, the day after Trump canceled the convention, that the city spent staff time but not taxpayer dollars preparing for the event. However, Councilman Garrett Dennis asked the City Council Auditor's office to conduct its own review of the expenses.
Last week, auditors revealed that the city could end up paying $154,000 in event-related costs "above and beyond" its day-to-day expenses. Overtime costs, mainly from Jacksonville Sheriff's Office employees making security preparations, made up more than half of the amount.
The city also awarded a $70,000 contract to a consultant to help with grant compliance, although city officials are reviewing that contract before paying the invoice.