Gainesville OKs security upgrades, uses dwindling ConnectFree funds 

Commissioner Casey Willits speaks at a joint meeting with the GRU Authority.
Commissioner Casey Willits speaks at a joint meeting with the GRU Authority.
Photo by Seth Johnson

The Gainesville City Commission approved City Hall security upgrades and $452,000 in ConnectFree funds for affordable housing at its Thursday meeting.  

The security upgrades have been in the works for months, and the city used a Gainesville Police Department consultant for a study. The motion allows up to $328,000 for the project. 

The upgrades will enhance lighting on the north and east sides of City Hall along with fencing improvements. The lobby and chambers will also get changes, including a circular flow of traffic and metal detectors.  

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Mayor Harvey Ward said the goal is to make staff and citizens feel safe when attending meetings or going to work. Ward added that citizens already pass through metal detectors when attending School Board of Alachua County meetings or visiting the courthouse. 

Commissioner Casey Willits, who asked to discuss the item, emphasized that the plans had been in place for months, not a reaction to recent vandalism.  

“This is not a quick knee-jerk reaction about one rock or, unfortunately, two or three,” Willits said. 

City staff said other recommendations will come later in April when the commission discusses its plan to revamp the City Hall Plaza, removing the current fountains. Funded by the Wild Spaces Public Places surtax, the project will also include security changes to the area. 

The City Commission also approved $452,000 in ConnectFree funding for four affordable housing developments—Royal Park Apartments, Hawthorne Heights, East University Avenue Cottages and Jessie’s Village. The funds cover the costs required to connect to utility services.  

The city has a limited pot of money remaining as the new Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority (GRU Authority) has decided to discontinue the program. Staff said around $1.2 million will be left after Thursday’s motion, plus additional funds deposited through the end of the fiscal year. 

The city of Gainesville has funded the program by charging new developments outside the city a 25% additional surcharge to connect to sewer and water. That money is passed through GRU to the city government.  

In February, the GRU Authority voted to stop collecting the additional surcharge.  

The City Commission also approved $154,000 for a zero-emission transition plan on Thursday. The plan will be created by a third-party consultant, and a federal government grant will cover the cost. 

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Did they admit their own irony in making the city unsafe for citizens, after years of lax anti-GPD policies, by any chance?


“the goal is to make staff and citizens feel safe”

Feeling safe is great, but actually BEING safe is probably better.
Let’s hope. smh