Gainesville approves five emergency response projects 

Gainesville photos show the exposed floor at Fire Station 9.
Gainesville photos show the exposed floor at Fire Station 9.
Courtesy city of Gainesville

The Gainesville City Commission approved the start of five facilities and land projects—totaling $100 million in cost—for emergency services during a General Policy Committee meeting on Thursday. 

The motion passed unanimously, and the city manager’s office will begin the work, with projected costs in the millions. However, millions more in maintenance and building projects remain and need to be addressed, city staff said. 

The projects were included in a public works presentation that covered a facilities overview, conditions, budget and needs. 

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The presentation focused on the emergency services facilities, and Brian Singleton, Gainesville’s public works director, said his staff has made the most of its resources while dealing with high inflation.  

“We are going to be looking under the hood at the condition of our facilities,” Singleton said to the commission. “The state of them are not where I would want them to be as a public works director, but we do have resource constraints.”   

The city has $366 million in facility assets, from HVAC units to roofs, painting and flooring. Gainesville’s roadways are evaluated at $2 billion, Singleton said, and a May 23rd meeting will cover the roadway in detail. 

He said the five-year needs for facility restoration and expansion total $176 million, with funds coming from the new one-cent surtax, grants and legislative appropriations.  

For operations and maintenance, Singleton said the public works department has been funded at about half the industry target. 

“That’s an indicator that the conditions of our buildings are going to continue to decline,” Singleton said. 

Singleton said those funding sources will also need to cover repairs to historic buildings like the Thomas Center, the Hippodrome Theatre and Boulware Springs. 

Thursday’s motion concerned new facilities to replace outdated buildings. 

One project is a Public Safety Center for southwest Gainesville, expected to cost $30 million. The vote directed staff to negotiate a purchase agreement with HCA Florida for land, proceed with the design and permitting of the center and apply for a $1 million Wild Spaces Public Places grant from Alachua County for the project.  

The center would have a GPD station, public works office and community space. 

Gainesville Fire Chief Joe Dixon said the center would house Fire Station 9, currently in a temporary facility at Butler Plaza. The building, a temporary module, was intended for two years when built in 2019. The space has plumbing and flooring needs. 

“We’ll make do with what we have, but it does come to a point where it is concerning,” Dixon said. 

Another project is a fire station at the Eastside Health and Economic Development Initiative (EHEADI) site off Hawthorne Road. The vote directed staff to negotiate with UF Health for the land rights to a lot within EHEADI, and proceed with design and permitting if negotiations are successful.  

If negotiations with UF Health fail, the city plans to start designing and permitting on another EHEADI lot.  

The new fire station, to cost $15 million, will replace Station 3, built in 1960, at Citizens Field. Dixon said the station was constructed for a crew of three but holds eight firefighters.  

At 60 years old, he said the building has given all its useful life. 

Thursday’s motion also directs staff to begin design and permitting for a new GPD Property and Evidence building and Public Works Operations building—estimated at $17 million and $26 million respectively. 

Gainesville staff would return to the City Commission with construction agreements at a later date for all four projects—SW Public Safety Center, fire station at EHEADI and GPD building and public works building. 

The final project would be an Emergency Operations Center (EOC), and the commissioners directed staff to negotiate with Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) for land rights at the Catalyst site for the EOC. This project is listed at $8 million. 

The motion also directs staff to seek out any funding grants and legislative aid to pay for the projects.  

Commissioner Reina Saco said she supported the direction for Gainesville Fire Rescue. She noted that City Hall is occupied during normal working hours, but stations run 24/7 every day of the year.  

She said the photos from the temporary Station 9 look rough, and the city needs to make decisions and leverage other projects, like EHEADI.  

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