Alachua County votes on Hawthorne codes, expanded language access 

Alachua County Administrative Building
Alachua County Administrative Building
Seth Johnson

The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted Tuesday to accept an interlocal agreement with the city of Hawthorne for code enforcement services and approved phase 2 of its language access policy.  

The agreement with Hawthorne finalizes how the county will provide, and the city will pay for, code enforcement services. The issue has been discussed at several past Hawthorne meetings along with a joint meeting in April.  

The city of Hawthorne still needs to adopt the portions of the Alachua County codes that it wants enforced.  

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Presented by Gracia Fernandez, the county’s new immigrant and language access coordinator, the BOCC adopted phase 2 of the language access plan. Phase 2 will officially start the county’s process for translating vital documents, launch a language access site, expand over-the-phone interpretation services and create language access working groups. 

“This language access policy seeks to recognize and address linguistic barriers and foster an environment where all Alachua County residents, regardless of English proficiency, can access vital resources and engage meaningfully with their community,” Fernandez said. 

Anyone from the public or staff members can use the webpage to request the translation of official documents. County staff have already started translating many of the main documents into Spanish, with Haitian Creole, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese and Vietnamese to follow.  

The county currently can bring live interpreters onto calls with non-English residents seeking information. And a new contract should allow the service to work better, Fernandez said.  

Fernandez’s role will especially help the county during emergency situations like hurricanes when the county needs to send information releases without the time to send documents to third parties for translation.  

The BOCC also discussed opening opportunities for employees who want to learn Spanish to have pathways. Besides the potential to learn the language, Commissioner Ken Cornell said the frustrations of learning a new language can help expand empathy for speakers who struggle with English.  

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When all my ancestors came here as immigrants, they had to learn to speak English. Period.