Tuesday, January 31, 2017

TO STORY >> Residents seek city’s help

Leader staff writer

A resident of Jacksonville’s Sunnyside Addition plans to present the city council with a list of the neighborhood’s demands and hopes that other Sunnyside residents will join her in protesting for improvements for the area.

A Facebook event called “Sunny Side Protest” has been created to let residents know of the event. A complete list of demands has been posted on the 969page.

“We just want what’s broken fixed,” Deborah Fulton told The Leader. “We know it’s not going to happen overnight. You’ll have to do a little bit at a time.”

Fulton, a 15-year resident of Sunnyside, spoke about some of her concerns Monday including drainage.

“Water stands in my yard for two weeks on end before it finally evaporates if it doesn’t’ rain,” she said. “It sits, it gets stagnated and then you have mosquitoes. It does it at a lot of places out here. Water just sits on the road. The mosquitoes are bad. They’re not spraying properly,” she said.

But according to Jay Whisker, city engineer for Jacksonville, the drainage system in the area works, and the drainage pipes on the north side of the neighborhood were replaced just a couple years ago through Community Development Block Grant funds.

“We’re aware of a couple drainage issues,” Whisker said. “But there’s no new ones that I’m aware of.”

Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water and drainage issues can lead to a large population of the insects.

“In the summer time, you see the mosquito truck come around two maybe three times during the whole season,” Fulton said. “Whatever they’re using is not killing the mosquitoes. You don’t see a difference. You can’t smell it and the guy goes by real fast, like he wants to hurry up and get out of this area, like we’re the worst neighborhood in the world.

“This area has gotten better,” she continued. “Between the police department being out here more often, everyone out here telling the cops we’ve got this drug dealer, that drug dealer, starting to tell what’s going on in the neighborhood, the neighborhood watch program we’ve started. It’s gotten better. So for him to just speed through is ridiculous.”

Another issue on Fulton’s list is the curbs and sidewalks. Many driveways do not have a slope and residents must drive over the U-dip curb to pull into their driveways. This often scrapes the bottom of vehicles.

In some spots, the sidewalk moves, according to Fulton.

“You’re talking about somebody in a wheelchair having to go off their porch, down their ramp onto a sidewalk that moves. We’re not asking to tear up the whole row, but the parts that need to be fixed, cut those sections out and put some new concrete in. it’s a little bit cheaper and wouldn’t cost near as much,” she said.”

Sunnyside was built in the 1940’s, according to Whisker, and the curbed driveways were built then.

“Where we’ve had money to fix sidewalks, we have fixed those,” he said, including the curbed driveways.

Lot sizes are also an issue. Fulton has been told that there is an ordinance that states the lots in Sunnyside are too small to build homes on.

“All the lots out here that are empty are owned by the city. They’ve got them up for sale,” she said. “No one is going to buy those lots because of the ordinance that says these lots are too small to build. A guy’s house burnt down and the city told him he couldn’t rebuild.

“They say our lot sizes are too small. If they change our lot sizes so people can put some houses out here, we can get some developed out here. We can get better houses out here,” Fulton said.

Whisker said he has never told someone they couldn’t build because of the lot size.

“Sunnyside was done in the 40s,” he said. “The lots that are out there are platted lots. So they’re allowed to have houses, but there are front yard set backs, normally its 25 feet. There are ordinances about set back lines, but Sunnyside was built before that.

“But if anyone wanted to build a house in Sunnyside we’d certainly work with them to do what we need to do,” he said. “I’ve never told anyone they couldn’t build.

You may not be able to build the size house you want because the lots are so small but we’ll certainly work with you.”

Whisker says he has not seen the full list of Sunnyside demands but has heard about it. “If they have problems that we need to come look at, that’s what we’re here to do,” he said. “If there are any specific addresses and she could bring us that list we will go out and look at each and every problem. We might not can fix them all, but we’ll look into it.”

The neighborhood park, Galloway Park, is also an area residents would like to see improved.

There are no restrooms at the park and some children will use the restroom under a piece of playground equipment, according to Fulton. “The mayor says we’re a neighborhood park, we don’t need bathrooms. People can walk to their house. Sunnyside is a big area. When we have events out here people have to leave to go to the bathroom.”

There are no water fountains or spigots in the park. “We can barbecue but we have no water fountain to put out our fires with. Every park has a water fountain or some kind of spigot,” Fulton said. “The mayor said Dupree Park is a city park but if you look at the area, it is a neighborhood park. There’s a bunch of houses right in front of it, beside it. Johnson Park is a neighborhood park and they have a water fountain. They have a bathroom. We don’t.”

The park has also had issues with people using and dealing drugs.

“There used to be grown kids that would sit here and break up their weed and roll it up and smoke, then play basketball with kids around,” she said. “We used to get up and leave, but not anymore. We call on ‘em. It’s called taking back your neighborhood. This is our park. This is where our children play. We don’t want it around our children.”

Fulton said the neighborhood has gotten better. The police department does more patrols in the area. Residents call the police when needed and a neighborhood watch program has been started.

“This neighborhood has gotten better. We’re more of a community inside of a community,” Fulton said.

“Most of us in Sunnyside know each other. We associate with each other. We are like the outcast of this whole town. It’s like that with every poor neighborhood,” she said.

“It’s like we don’t exist to the city. The better neighborhoods get sidewalks and new roads,” Fulton said.