Alachua County votes on major issues in “banner day”

Alachua County Manager Michele Lieberman presents her initial budget to the Board of County Commissioners on June 11.
Alachua County Manager Michele Lieberman presents her initial budget to the Board of County Commissioners on June 11.
Courtesy Alachua County

Alachua County on Tuesday received the manager’s initial budget, changed its investment policy, authorized the use of $1 million for an upcoming athletics tournament, directed staff to move forward with two building projects and approved a November ballot initiative. 

The votes came during a packed regular meeting. 

“This is a banner day,” Chair Mary Alford said. “We are getting some seriously good work done today.” 

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The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved the consent agenda, including an item that hires an outside law firm to monitor the Celebration Pointe bankruptcies. The BOCC also voted to invest $60,000 to help set up an Heirs Property and Estate Planning Clinic, and approved a contract with Sunshine Organics & Compost to lease space at the EcoLoop. 

County Manager Michele Lieberman presented an overview of the 2025 proposed budget, which commissioners will evaluate and change in the coming months.  

Highlights from that budget include a lower millage rate and efforts at employee retention—with a 6% cost of living adjustment to salaries and increase in the minimum wage for county employees from $17 to $18 an hour. 

Lieberman also noted more than $40 million to maintain and repair the road system, $128 million for law enforcement and $81 million for fire rescue. 

She presented the commissioners with red pens to begin their editing work on a budget with an estimated $245 million in general fund revenue. 

Early in the meeting, the BOCC discussed plans for the 2025 World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships. 

Alachua County will finalize its purchase of West End Golf Course in the coming weeks, and Lieberman said the county has already scheduled people to start working on the site the week of closing.  

Stephen Rodriguez, senior vice president of RADDSports, said the local organizing committee (LOC) responsible for hosting the event will construct a cross country course and throwing areas for javelin, discus and hammer throw events. The property will also have water fountains, restrooms and shade structures, he said. 

Rodriguez also serves as executive director of the LOC. 

Commissioner Ken Cornell said he’s most interested in the investments made to county facilities that citizens will enjoy once the athletics tournament ends.  

Besides the improvements at West End, planned to turn into a county park, Lieberman added that improvements will happen to the Alachua County Sports and Event Center at Celebration Pointe.  

She said warmup lanes will be added at the center beside the indoor track. Lieberman said those warmup lanes will be permanent and available for future tournaments—something other tournament attendees have already requested.  

Community members enter the main arena during the grand opening of the Alachua County Sports & Events Center in 2023.
Photo by Tim Rodriquez Community members enter the main arena during the grand opening of the Alachua County Sports & Events Center in 2023.

Commissioner Anna Prizzia said she worried about the LOC creating a preliminary site plan and then starting construction without involving the public or getting BOCC approval. Since West End will be a county park after the World Masters event, she said the public should have input.  

“I think that the public deserves to see the design plans for this park before they get approved, and they get moved on,” Prizzia said. “The last thing we need is for the public to be mad about where we’re putting things when we have such great support for this amazing park.” 

Lieberman said staff will work with the LOC along the way and pointed out ways the county has already amended the LOC’s plans.  

Cornell agreed with Prizzia and, in a motion he brought forward, required that the site plan return to the BOCC. The other parts of the motion allow the LOC to operate at West End from September through the end of the event and set aside $645,000 for West End expenses and another $355,000 for other operations.  

The motion passed unanimously.  

The LOC anticipates receiving funds from the state to assist. State Rep. Chuck Clemons filed an appropriations request for $2.75 million for the World Masters event. That money cleared the Florida Legislature but still needs Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature for final approval.  

Lieberman said the site plans will come quickly after the sale is finalized because construction needs to get started to finish in time.  

Rodriguez told Mainstreet in February that Alachua County and the LOC is condensing a typical four-year process into just over a year because of timing constraints with the World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships organization. 

In other business, the November ballot initiative will ask Alachua County voters whether they want county commissioners elected on an at-large or single-member basis.  

The issue stretches back to 2021 when state legislators decided to pose the question to voters on a ballot. After a contentious runup to the election, that ballot passed in 2022. The BOCC decided earlier this year to put the question back on the ballot. 

The BOCC also approved final site placements for a new Rural Collection Center and Hazardous Waste Collection Facility. In 2023, the county considered locating both at the Newberry Environmental Park under development in Newberry.  

However, staff reevaluated the plans and recommended placing the Rural Collection Center in Newberry while building the Hazardous Waste Collection Facility at property next to the Leveda Brown Environmental Park just north of Gainesville Regional Airport.  

The county’s current facilities lack capacity, prompting the new projects, which will cost $770,000 and $3 million, respectively. 

The BOCC also unanimously directed staff to create an ordinance that will change its investment policy to exclude corporations. According to staff, Alachua County has around $34 million in corporate investments—around 7.5% of its overall investment portfolio. 

The ordinance to move away from corporations and to government investments will likely return in July. The conversation concerning corporate investments started earlier this year

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MaryAnn Plance

The LOC facilities do not seem to be the right fit for West End. I would never use anything planned for this new park.


Full Employment Act for the county attorney and county manager’s buddies in the legal community passes, again. Check!


The five members of the BOCC should not have the authority to try to change any issue already voted on just because it did not go their way. Had it gone their way there would be zero chance of a re-vote. I remember so well Cornell saying over and over that the citizens had already had their vote and no reason to put on the ballot. It would fail for sure. Well it didn’t fail. Dictators never give up.


They are getting some serious personal agenda work done.