City Officials Unhappy With Derecho Clean Up on JDC Grounds

By Benjamin Cox on July 28, 2023 at 3:09pm

The City of Jacksonville is nearing its clean up deadline from the June 29th derecho.

One alderman isn’t satisfied with the clean-up efforts, or lack thereof, at the Jacksonville Developmental Center grounds. Several large trees are still down on the property. Ward 2 Alderwoman Lori Large-Oldenettel asked Mayor Andy Ezard on Monday night if he had heard any plan from the state to clean up the grounds. Oldenettel says a fair number of downed trees are on the JDC Grounds and citizens have complained about the look of the property.

Oldenettel is currently looking at ways to replace the tree canopy throughout Jacksonville, especially in Community Park and Nichols Park. Both parks’ tree population has been devastated in recent years by storms that have thinned numbers significantly. Oldenettel is working with Parks Superintendent Adam Fletcher to seek some money to purchase new trees for both parks.

Ezard, in speaking about the downed trees at JDC, says he is often referred to the contracted property manager for any grounds concerns at JDC, rather than dealing directly with the state’s Central Management Services. He says he’s just as frustrated as everyone else about the eyesore the property has become on the city. Ezard says the property manager knows it’s a common agitation for the city: “He senses our frustration and he knows that it’s a frustration. I think after this storm, now that we have new legislators that are covering Jacksonville and JDC. It’s time to have a conversation with them. They are aware of it through me and the challenges that they face. We just need to kind of bring everyone to the table like we’ve done in the past with Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer and Senator Steve McClure and have kind of a talk. Probably after this event, we need to bring that conversation back and try to get an even better dialogue going.”

Ezard says it’s just another thing in a long list of possible negligence on the state’s part on maintaining basic upkeep on the property: “It’s gotten frustrating – not just on how the whole closure was handled but then you piggyback on the property’s maintenance situation, the fires that have occurred out there, and the letting of the grass grow up, and now the debris from these storms that we’ve had since it’s closed, and the state not being as prompt at getting things done. I think for them it’s out of sight, out of mind. It’s frustrating for us because we see it everyday, but not as frustrating for them.”

Ezard indicated on Monday that as federal and state partners meet this week on continued action on the June 29th derecho that the JDC Grounds would be brought up in discussions to get cleaned up. He says for now that the city will continue to apply for a Brown Fields grant from the federal government. He hopes that a similar grant awarded to the City of Springfield recently for the old Pillsbury Mill site in order to get that property into remediation and put back into use can happen for Jacksonville in the near future.