Bulldozers working in background, emotional groundbreaking ceremony held for water plant

By Gary Scott on November 4, 2015 at 7:21am

Anybody who had a shovel in their hand most likely had some level of involvement during today’s groundbreaking ceremony at the new Jacksonville Water Treatment Plant.

Mayor Andy Ezard spent time recognizing everyone ranging from past and current aldermen to engineers to water clerk Jack Cosner before the golden shovels picked up dirt that has already been moved, since construction got underway several weeks ago at the site on Hardin Avenue.

Standing in the distance from where the current water treatment plant exists, Ezard bemoaned the June 2011 flooding in Jacksonville that knocked that plant off for almost a full month, resulting in weeks-long boil orders.

“We have to do this project, and we want to do this project, because definitely for economic development, and it’s an investment in the future for Jacksonville, so that is really a key to all of us working together, and really hitting a home run [with this], Ezard said.

“I think in two years from now, we’ll be cutting a ribbon and dedicating a new water treatment plant, and I think all the phone calls we’ve gotten in the last couple weeks [from neighbors about] the dirt and things, they’ll forget about that,” he joked.

Ezard got very emotional when recognizing John Calise, a former principal at Benton and Associates Engineering who had been working on the project prior to his death in 2013.

“The sun came out because our late, great friend, John Calise, is looking down… he would love this day. John, he was just super. Jamie [Headen of Benton and Associates], you’ve really done a great job picking up the slack,” Ezard said, tearing up.

“We wouldn’t be here today if [John Calise] hadn’t made the contributions that he did early on, the coordinations with the  EPA and everybody else,” said Benton and Associates current principal Reggie Benton.

Those in the crowd also included county commissioners, state and federal legislators, and state EPA officials.

Ezard said the new plant would continue the trend of safe drinking water that the city enjoys with the current plant.