Alachua County to talk bus shelters, code change

The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) will hold its regular meeting Tuesday starting at 11:30 a.m. to discuss issues from its central receiving facility to RTS bus stops. 

Flagpole code change: 

The commissioners will decide to keep its current code that limits flagpoles to 30 feet or allow a 20-foot extension in certain cases. 

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The discussion started in December when the Alachua County Veterans Memorial Committee asked to install a 50-foot pole at Veterans Memorial Park off of Tower Road instead of its 35-foot flagpole, placed before the current code requirements. 

The BOCC discussed the item again in April. As part of the sign ordinance, commissioners wanted to grant a use for the memorial park while preventing others from large scale advertising. 

The board motioned for staff to move forward with a code change that allowed one flagpole per non-residential property to reach up to 50 feet if it is more than 100 feet from the property line. The new code would also add flag dimension standards not previously included—limiting flags on a pole of more than 30 feet to 8 feet by 12 feet or 4 feet by 6 feet on a 30-foot pole or shorter.

Central receiving system:

The commission will face three options on Tuesday for proceeding with a central receiving system to divert citizens with behavioral health issues from hospital emergency rooms or jails. 

The BOCC motioned to organize funding and a plan for the system on Aug. 12, and staff’s backup shows the county has yet to identify enough funds to completely finance its recommended option—locating a brick and mortar facility on the campus of a partner hospital or crisis stabilization unit. 

The other two options are to build a new standalone facility ($4.6 million capital with double the operational costs) or to use a virtual triage system (up to $100,000 annually).

The staff recommends partnering with a hospital or crisis stabilization unit for the location. The initial cost would be around $1.5 million with $2.5 million in annual operating costs—reduced to $1.7 million through insurance, Medicaid and low income pool.  

According to the backup information, the county has identified two-thirds of the funds for the initial capital—with much coming from its partnership with the City of Gainesville. 

RTS bus stops in unincorporated areas:

The staff recommend the BOCC approve funding for 25 shelters at bus stops in unincorporated county areas just outside the Gainesville boundary, mostly just west of the city limits, bringing a 2019 motion to head. 

The move is expected to increase ridership and lower transportation impacts, according to the backup, and the new shelters will cost around $344,000. If the deal goes through, RTS will pay for shelter materials at $157,040 while Alachua County covers the rest. 

With commission approval, county staff will put the project out to bid. 

Lawsuit representation: 

Alachua County’s attorney will ask for permission to represent the county in a wrongful death lawsuit filed on April 19 concerning the 2020 death of Kayla Nicole Bing Jackson, 36. 

Jackson was killed on March 6 in a county-owned parking garage on University Avenue after a stray bullet hit her. 

Demetrius Hardy was arrested and indicted for the first degree murder of Jackson along with two other attempted murders in October 2020 with no chance for bond, according to WCJB.

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