Alachua County decided on Tuesday to provide up to $6.6 million in matching grant opportunities for the city of Gainesville with up to $666,666 for the eight other county municipalities.
In total, the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) set aside $12 million from the new one-cent infrastructure surtax to open the grant program for all the municipalities. The county ran a similar program after Wild Spaces Public Places (WSPP) was approved by voters in 2016.
The city of Gainesville would receive $6 million automatically, with half available for WSPP projects and half available for other infrastructure projects. The county commission then tasked the nine cities to figure out how to divide the other $6 million, ending with an even split.
The county will have final approval over whether a city project fits the criteria for the matching grant. Commissioner Ken Cornell said the projects need to demonstrate county-wide significance.
“The key, for me at least, is that the project that they're proposing has county-wide significance,” Cornell said.
Commissioner Mary Alford said almost any project would have some county-wide impact, even if a new park just increases property values. Cornell agreed and said he wants to see the cities’ ideas on what has county-wide significance.
The cities can use any funds to provide their half of the matching grant, and BOCC staff said the county will reimburse the funds after the project moves forward—not beforehand or progress payments. Each municipality will receive financing from the surtax as well that can be used for the matching grant.
Annual revenue estimate from one-cent infrastructure surtax:
- Alachua County: $32,048,975
- Alachua: $1,525,311
- Archer: $162,940
- Gainesville: $20,310,490
- Hawthorne: $208,177
- High Springs: $921,625
- La Crosse: $44,528
- Micanopy: $92,744
- Newberry: $1,090,946
- Waldo: $122,099
The WSPP can be used for parks, active recreation and conservation lands. The other half of the surtax, which Gainesville is branding Streets, Stations and Strong Foundations, can be used for roads, fire stations and other traditional infrastructure.
The nine municipalities agreed to evenly distribute the $6 million between them, but the cities didn’t reach that choice right away. The Gainesville City Commission discussed funds in March and said a split based on population would be their preference.
Earlier in May, the Gainesville commissioners agreed unanimously to move forward with the even split as a way to work with the smaller cities, though with some reluctance.
"I want to boo and hiss cause I don't think it's still fair,” Gainesville Commissioner Casey Willits said.
Willits said at the March meeting that Gainesville can use the money more efficiently than other cities, producing more impact. But he said the even split is more palatable if the BOCC is looking for county-wide significant projects.
BOCC Chair Anna Prizzia asked if smaller cities will have the funding to complete a project like a new playground or road resurfacing before receiving the reimbursement.
Gina Peebles, assistant county manager, said the county has been willing to reimburse expenses as small as $100 in the past. Cities could also seek other financing options like loans to pay for the project and then receive a grant of up to $333,333 for WSPP and $333,333 for infrastructure.
The cities will need to fill out an application by the county to gain approval before moving forward with an interlocal agreement on the project.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the BOCC also approved a list of roads that will see improvements in the next decade from the surtax.
The City Mayor and Commission simply just can't get out of "Pigs at the trough " mode. They must not care , it is more than obvious.
"Can be used for roads"? The big push for the extra 1/2 cent was FOR road repair. Now it will fade into the background, just like previous promises., Right now, Public Works doesn't have the equipment, manpower or budget to maintain the right of ways properly.
FIX THE COUNTY ROADS!! The roads in Alachua county are hazzardous with the potholes and broken pavement. I seems like there's plenty of county money for Gainesville, so where's ours?