Commission to talk East GNV clinic, fire station

The Gainesville City Commission will meet for its bi-monthly General Policy Committee on Thursday at 1 p.m. and discuss items from the Station 1 Fire House to American Rescue Plan Funds and the joint East Gainesville clinic project.

Old Fire Station 1 project:

Gainesville has worked to move forward on this project since August 2019 when it decided to keep and find a new use for the building .

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Since then, the city has sent an invitation to negotiate, bringing in UF as a partner and contracted with Brame Heck Architects, Inc. to provide a building study.

The study showed the fire station needs $4.4 million in order to meet building code and start use. The commission has yet to find funds for the project and will discuss how to move forward on Thursday.

The backup documents offer six options:

  • Leave the building vacant.
  • Issue a general obligation bond to pay for the building upgrades. Staff note that this would be limited to the city’s bonding capacity and impact future budgets as it pays off the debt.
  • Add the Old Fire Station 1 project to the Wild Spaces, Public Places program if it passes the next ballot initiative.
  • Add the project to the Infrastructure Surtax list. This is also contingent on the surtax passing on the ballot.
  • Sell the property and use money for similar project or facility upgrades.
  • Sell the property and use money for critical infrastructure needs in city facilities.

American Rescue Plan Act update:

The commission will receive an update on the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The city received $32 million in federal funds through the program to assist with COVID-related impacts.

City staff estimate that the administrative cost of dispersing the ARPA funds will be $2,440,377 or 7.5 percent of the funds.

The federal guidelines allow up to 10 percent of the money to finance administrative costs. In the item documents, staff notes that leaves room for the city to add further support as needed.

Currently, the costs to administer the ARPA program come from three sources.

First, the city hired the Community Foundation of North Central Florida to oversee the $7 million it dedicated to nonprofits. The foundation price tagged its service at $30,080 for one round of applications and an additional $22,380 if a second round is needed.

Second, the city hired Government Services Group, LLC to manage city compliance on the ARPA program. This service will cost $1,215,300.

Third, the estimated cost of the time city staff have spent on managing ARPA will get reimbursed to the city. City staff estimate that cost at $1,172,586 for the duration of the program.

City staff asks the commission to approve $2,440,377 in ARPA funds to cover the administrative costs.

Vision Zero Pedestrian Safety:

The city commission will discuss any additional steps to take concerning pedestrian safety. In January, the commission decided to lower all city speed limits to 30 mph and neighborhood speed limits to 20 mph.

Mayor Lauren Poe sent a letter to the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners and the Florida Department of Transportation asking them to follow suit on county and state roads within Gainesville city limits.

In a Feb. 14 city email, Interim City Attorney Daniel Nee responded to questions by the commission asking if the city had power to alter speed limits on county roads within city limits.

Nee responded and said the commission could change speed limits to 30 mph on roads maintained by the county as long as they run through the city residential or business district.

In addition to lowering speed limits, the commission asked staff to bring back analysis on eliminating a driver’s ability to turn right on red and center turn lanes.

Staff have not included a recommendation action, and the item is currently scheduled for discussion.

Charter amendment to hire temporary staff:

The commission asked the city attorney’s office in December to return with a charter amendment that would allow commissioners to directly “appoint independent staff to assist them in carrying out their individual functions as members of the Commission.”

Currently, the commission only has the power to hire or fire charter officers who then manage the rest of city staff.

The commission needs six of the seven commissioners to approve moving forward with the charter amendment, and then the amendment would go before the public on a ballot.

The financial impact of new staff members, offices and office equipment is unknown, according to backup items.

East side Urgent Care Clinic:

A joint UF Health, Alachua County and City of Gainesville project, city staff recommends approving the project description and the city’s portion of the funds—$2,250,000 taken from ARPA.

The plan first came before the city and county commissions at a joint meeting in September. Alachua County approved its portion of the funds in January.

After the joint $5 million in city and county funding, UF would cover the rest of the cost while owning and operating the facility.

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