The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) discussed road maintenance at a special meeting on Tuesday and also postponed its second meeting of the day to the disappointment of public commenters.
The BOCC schedule for Tuesday included two special meetings at 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to cover road funding and three items on the Alachua County Jail, respectively.
However, at the start of the first meeting, Commissioner Ken Cornell said he wanted to cancel the second meeting until Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr. could attend and give his opinion.
The BOCC received a letter from Watson, and Cornell said the sheriff expressed concerns with the meeting on the jail and his ability to provide input. Cornell said the county needed Watson to be at the meeting.
Chair Anna Prizzia disagreed. She expressed her frustration at how long the items on the meeting agenda had taken to return and the content of the items. The items covered reducing or eliminating the cost for inmates to make phone calls, lowering jail fees and creating a re-entry hub.
“It is frustrating and it is embarrassing to me—and I believe to us—that we are in this situation to begin with,” Prizzia said, pointing to concerns she had heard about the agenda items.
She said the commission asked staff to move forward with these items more than two years ago. Prizzia said the BOCC’s goals had failed to translate into action on the ground.
Cornell said the BOCC needs Watson to attend a meeting about policy since the sheriff oversees the jail. However, Prizzia said no jail policies would change if the commission discussed eliminating the cost for phone calls—a county budget item. She said the item only had to do with BOCC financials.
Commissioner Mary Alford sided with Prizzia and wanted to continue the meeting. She said she was disappointed with the communication level between the county and the sheriff.
“I feel like he hasn’t been responsive, and I’m concerned about that,” Alford said. “I think us having a conversation about what we would like to see is a starting point.”
But commissioners Chuck Chestnut and Marihelen Wheeler joined Cornell’s motion to cancel the evening meeting in a 3-2 vote.
Public commenters at the end of the afternoon meeting said they were surprised the BOCC would cancel the meeting with less than three hours of notice.
Danielle Chanzes, a local community organizer, said she had met with her brother in jail earlier in the day, telling him the county would discuss the items and asking him to spread the word. She said the BOCC should be ashamed of the cancelation because of the impact on those planning to attend.
After voting to cancel the county jail special meeting, the commission discussed parameters for road projects using new funding sources.
The BOCC pushed for an additional half-cent surtax at the ballot in November 2023 and focused on road projects as a primary beneficiary of those funds.
Ramon Gavarrete, director of public works, said he estimated $17.5 million as the county spending for the next fiscal year, reaching the county’s $15 million goal and increasing from less than $5 million to in previous years. The county will continue spending more than $15 million a year for the next decade.
But even with the tripled budget, roads owned and maintained by Alachua County will get worse on average by 2032.
“I would like to see the [pavement condition index] be more like 60 or 70, but that’s going to take a lot of money for that,” Gavarrete said at the meeting. “But we are slowing down the deterioration on our road network.”
In 2021, Gavarrete said the average road condition for the entire county system, known as pavement condition index (PCI), stood at 60. The PCI runs from 100, a brand-new road, to 0, a road in extremely poor condition.
With the $17.5 million per year average, the county road network will drop to around 50 PCI. The exact number depends on how the BOCC divides the funds between residential roadways and larger collector roads.
Using a pavement management system, Gavarrete and a consultant explained different scenarios for the BOCC. The scenarios allocated different portions of the money to residential versus collector roads along with prioritizing areas with inequities.
At BOCC direction, county staff created a map from U.S. Census tracts and other data that showed the areas with inequity. The map used area median incomes, federal poverty guidelines and housing value data. Around a third of Alachua County residents live in the final map created by staff.
Giving more weight to the roads within the inequity areas and setting aside $200,000 for residential roads, the PCI fell to 48.8 by 2032.
The commission asked to run the program again with a $500,000 residential road set aside. The average PCI increased. Gavarrete said the residential roads have a lower PCI to begin with than the collector roads. He also warned against just looking at PCI.
“You might improve your overall PCI, but we also need to see what that does to your major collector roads,” Gavarrete told the commissioners.
In the end, the BOCC directed staff to run more analyses using the weighted criteria for inequity areas and various residential road dollar amounts, up to $1 million. The commissioners said they wanted to find the sweet spot where the collector roads’ PCI stays steady from 2022 to 2032 but the residential road PCI increases as much as possible.
Alachua County has already approved projects for 2023, and Gavarrete said running more projections won’t slow down the work for 2024 when the county will switch to the new road management system.
In 2023, the county has set aside just over $500,000 for the extension of Parker Road north of Newberry Road.
The following projects will also move forward this year:
NW 23rd Avenue: Major rehabilitation with turn lanes and multi-use path
- Location: From NW 58th Boulevard to I-75
- Cost: $7.8 total
SW 170th Street (CR 241): Major rehabilitation and widening
- Location: From Levy County to SW 134th Avenue
- Cost: $4.7 total
NE and NW 53rd Avenue: Initial improvements
- Location: At Animal Services driveway
- Cost: $759,849
NE 27th Avenue: Major rehabilitation
- Location: From NE 39th Boulevard to Newberry Road
- Cost: $1.2 million total
After reading this article on county roads needing repairs as usual no mention of using some funds to repair roads in the SE portion of the county As a homeowner in the county WE PAY TAXES and are ALWAYS OVER LOOKED ! I live out near the Sheriff’s department on SE 21st Ave There is a RTS Bus route on this roadway and the road is deplorable full of pot holes the edges of the road has decingrated not only is it tearing up our vehicles but it’s destroying the bus Commissioners take a ride out here sometimes and see for yourself what we deal with daily It’s really Disgusting and Disgraceful to pay taxes and can’t get any services Always the Westside repairs We not asking for much just for what’s right and fair Filing in potholes with asphalt a few times a year is old I’m surprised your RTS drivers haven’t reported this situation HELP!!! And you all have the adasity to talk about RAISING TAXES Shame on you all
And once again, they overlook County Road 235A, where all the tractor-trailers go to and from the Distribution Centers. It’s so bad everyone rides straddling the shoulder of the road! County rd 235 is also crumbling from the huge gravel trucks that go up and down it all day long.
Make no mistake: Cornell is in charge, along with support from Career Local Politician Chestnut and Grandma Mari (she had to swear fealty to Cornell for his support in her property tax evasion case)!
No significant road repair, additional capacity, will be added to AC under this group! They serve another master and it is NOT the taxpayer!