High Springs takes step on ARPA projects

The High Springs Commission will move forward a handful of projects funded through the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds at a special meeting on Tuesday evening.

The commissioners action will allow city staff to analyze the costs, discuss the necessary parts and return to the commission for final approval.

Commissioner Ross Ambrose started the list, saying it would help if the commission could move forward with items of consensus.

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Those projects include police body cameras, addressing the city hall and fire department roof, cardiac monitors, paging system, city hall elevator, generator and spare pumps for lift station and software for finance, human resources and the city clerk.

High Springs received $3 million in ARPA funds and at its Feb. 24 meeting, city manager Ashley Stathatos presented $7 million worth of potential projects the money could finance.

She said the list had already been shortened to not include projects that would single-handedly use up all the city ARPA funds.

The federal government distributed the money by population. Alachua County and the City of Gainesville received $52 million and $32 million, respectively. Newberry got just over $3 million while Alachua received just under $5 million.

City staff and commissioners ranked the projects, and at Tuesday’s meeting, department heads explained details for the project.

One of the highest ranked projects is acquiring police body cameras.

High Springs Police Chief Antoine Sheppard said studies have shown that body cameras reduce complaints and assaults on officers.

“Most people act differently when they know they’re being recorded,” Sheppard said to the commission. “It’s not my word against your word. It’s the video.”

Sheppard also spoke about the potential of purchasing a drone and a remote surveillance unit, but those items weren’t waved through.

Within the fire department, the commission approved cardiac monitors and a paging system.

Fire Chief Andy Burkhalter said the paging system will allow the department to respond quicker to calls. He said it’s the same system used by Gainesville Fire Rescue.

As for the cardiac monitors, Burkhalter said the department uses equipment that the county phased out in 2012 and the manufacturing company no longer services.

“We have far exceeded their useful life,” Burkhalter said to the commission.

The fire department’s current roof is around 24 years old, and Burkhalter said the city has gotten its money out of it.

At the end of the meeting, Stathatos asked the commission to add the software project, another top ranked item.

“It’s an issue and it’s affecting all departments,” Stathatos said, adding that staff would bring back all projects for final approval.

Once the commission gets a grand total on the current projects, Commissioner Katherine Weitz said they can plan to move forward with other projects.

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