Hawthorne talks parks, code enforcement with Alachua County 

Hawthorne Mayor Jacquelyn Randall speaks at the joint meeting with Alachua County on April 30, 2024.
Hawthorne Mayor Jacquelyn Randall speaks at the joint meeting with Alachua County on Tuesday.
Photo by Seth Johnson

The Hawthorne City Commission and Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) discussed parks, economic development, infrastructure and code enforcement at a joint meeting on Tuesday.  

The commissioners settled on a path forward to have Alachua County begin code enforcement with Hawthorne’s city limits and also discussed plans for a city multipurpose center and a more than 20-acre county park in the area. 

Hawthorne has lacked its own code enforcement for around three years and began talks with the county to use its department for the job. The BOCC approved the plan in January, but the city commission had more questions after the draft proposal was returned in March.  

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The Hawthorne commissioners worried that a flood of code violations would cause budget issues since the city would need to pay $70 per visit by code enforcement. Each case requires at least two visits, to inform citizens of the violation and to check that the issue has been resolved.  

If citizens resolve the code issue, then Hawthorne would need to pay Alachua County the visit fee to cover county costs. But if issues don’t get resolved, the county would take the case to the special magistrate and costs would fall on the property owner.  

On Tuesday, BOCC commissioners Anna Prizzia and Ken Cornell said they’d prefer the city enforce its own code. Prizzia said the county department is already busy handling its own work and would need to recoup any costs for the service. 

Mayor Jacquelyn  Randall said the city wants to partner and cover the costs needed but said the city worries about the backlog that has been created. She said once the first year is over, complaint-based code enforcement shouldn’t generate more calls than the city can handle.  

Randall said the city may need to reprioritize its budget for the first year to tackle the backlog.  

City Commissioner Raymond Cue suggested having a county official visit the city and ride around with city personnel. Touring the city, the group could compile a rough list of how many properties are currently out of compliance.  

Hawthorne also plans to give property owners in violation a warning before asking for county assistance, but City Manager John Martin said he didn’t want to begin addressing code issues without the enforcement of Alachua County ready to step in.  

A motion by Cornell directed county staff to finalize the interlocal agreement, to consider a cost reimbursement plan so that Hawthorne doesn’t pay more than what the county spends to enforce code violations and to prioritize violations from the city-generated complaint list. 

The motion passed unanimously, with BOCC Chair Mary Alford absent from the meeting. Hawthorne will wait for staff to revise the interlocal agreement with BOCC approval before voting on the item again.  

Randall told the BOCC on Tuesday that the city planned to use Wild Spaces Public Places funds for a multipurpose center and would ask Alachua County to designate its $333,333 matching grant for the project.  

The BOCC set aside $333,333 in Wild Spaces Public Places (WSPP) funding to collaborate on a joint project with each municipality. The commissioners approved the funding for three WSPP projects in Waldo on April 23. 

County commissioners voiced support for the project and said they would approve the funding as soon as Hawthorne sent the request.  

County staff also discussed its plan to build two community parks in the Hawthorne area. A county parks masterplan identified the need for more recreation in east Alachua County, and the new parks will be outside city limits and fill the gap.  

Because of Alachua County’s emphasis on conservation land, only half of the funding for the parks master plan has been identified. Prizzia said the county doesn’t want to overpromise, but between the two parks anticipated, one should get the green light on funding.  

At a joint meeting with the School Board of Alachua County on Monday, the BOCC also discussed improving the Shell Elementary School playground to create a pocket park within the city.  

Hawthorne asked for county support on a wastewater project that it has tried to fund. For the past two years, Hawthorne has made a state appropriations request, asking the local legislative delegation to push the project.  

While the appropriations request was made this year, it wasn’t included in the appropriations plan passed by the Florida Legislature and presented to Gov. Ron DeSantis.  

Randall asked Alachua County to include the wastewater project in its appropriations application.  

County commissioners said they weren’t sure an Alachua County request would get further. But a motion passed for county staff to assist in creating the state request and having the county’s lobbyist push for the funding.  

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