Happy rescue dog at Squirrel Ridge Park Dog Park in Gainesville, Florida

Rescue dog at Squirrel Ridge Park Dog Park in Gainesville.

The director of Alachua County Animal Services and the manager of Alachua County parks and open space will present budget needs to the Alachua Board of County Commissioners at a Tuesday meeting.

The special budget meeting for the fiscal year 2022 begins at 1:30 p.m. and is open to the public—both in person and online. 

Jason Maurer will report about parks and open spaces. The mission of the department is "to provide safe, well maintained parks and open spaces to create fun, memorable experiences that enhance the quality of life, as well as healthy minds and bodies, for all people.

According to Maurer's report, the comprehensive plan policy goal is to provide integrated recreation and open space systems for Alachua County. The formula is one half acre of activity-based recreation sites per 1,000 persons and 5 acres of improved resource-based recreation sites per 1,000 persons in the county's unincorporated areas.

The 2020 actual revenue from the program was $331,572 and the expenses for 2021 are expected to be just over $11 million with 70 percent of the expenses made up of Wild Spaces Public Places (WSPP) projects.

Completed WSPP projects totaling $265,925 include:

  • Kanapaha Botanical Gardens Sidewalks $13,232
  • Monteocha Park Basketball Improvements $18,513
  • Jonesville Park water fountains/bottle fillers $22,285
  • Grove Park Basketball Improvements $12,184
  • Copeland Park Basketball Improvements $18,942
  • Mark Hopkins Park (SWAG) $171,769

And WSOO projects in progress add up to $7,071,314:

  • Chestnut Park $770,300
  • Cuscowilla Operating $489,500
  • Cuscowilla Restoration $2,700,000
  • Jonesville Park $525,838
  • Lake Alto Park $131,185
  • Parks Master Plan $20,000
  • Poe Springs $619,642
  • Santa Fe Lake Park $195,000
  • Squirrel Ridge Park $539,849
  • Veterans Memorial Park $1,080,000

Topics that the Alachua Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) will discuss are the unfunded WSPP projects that currently add up to $3.5 million, the department's future recreational needs, and any potential revenue opportunities.

Both presentations can be viewed by accessing the meeting agenda.

Ed Williams, director of Alachua County Animal Services (ACAS), said the community stepped up to help coming out of the pandemic.

"More animals were in foster care than we had in the shelter," Williams said. "We are really appreciative of the way the community came out and supported the services by stepping up and volunteering to bring animals into their home."

Williams said fewer strays have been entering the facility, which may be a result of people working from home, but it's hard to pinpoint the reason.

The shelter has capacity to hold about 150-180 cats and dogs, Williams said.

ACAS went from $2,033,157 in 2011 to $2,484,930 in 2020 which translates to a 2.5 percent average annual increase over the past 10 years.

Intakes of pets added up to 213 in January, 230 in February and 229 in April according to the statistics included in the Animal Services Budget Review presentation. Approximately 10,000 citizen calls and reports of animal related incidents are fielded by the ACAS annually.

According to the data from 2017 to 2019 that shows the three-year average revenue for animal services sources, 80 percent of the income for the agency comes from county licenses. And 79 percent of the expenses come from that same time range in personnel costs.

The report states that the three-year average revenue adds up to $319,714, while expenses averaged $2,232,694, creating a three-year average deficit of $1,912,980.

In 2017, the Alachua Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved ordinance changes that took effect in 2018. Those changes included a provision that requires permanent pet identification in the form of microchipping for "all dogs and cats four months of age or older sold, transferred, exchanged, adopted, returned to their owner from a shelter, or given away," according to the animal services website.

The animal services budget review report states that 77 percent of animals coming into the shelter are considered strays, lending further reason for microchipping. Of those animals taken in by animal services, 40 percent are adopted, 25 percent are transferred to placement partners and 10 percent are humanely euthanized.

Currently in Alachua County there are two kinds of licenses. Animals that are sterilized and microchipped cost $10 a year and animals that are not sterilized or microshipped cost $40 for an annual license. Animals that are just sterilized without a microchip are also $40 a year.

Budgeted improvement for the fiscal year 2021 included the addition of a walking trail around the shelter and an animal arts program.

The mission of ACAS is "to promote public safety for the welfare of citizens and animals. We accomplish this through education, adoption, sheltering, enforcement, and the rescue of animals that may be stray, injured, unwanted, neglected, or abused."

The public may attend the meeting virtually through Cox Channel 12, Facebook, and the county's Video on Demand website. The BOCC takes public comment in person or by calling 1-800-876-7516. Attendees must wear a facial covering at all times if they attend the meeting in person at the county. And the public may submit comments, written or photographic documents to the BOCC through email (bocc@alachuacounty.us) before the meeting or by participating when prompted by the chair of the board. Virtual participation is available through the public comment message line.

Mainstreet Daily News Reporter

Suzette Cook is a Mainstreet Daily News reporter who has been a community journalist for more than 30 years.

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