BOCC to talk vaccination incentives, energy grants

The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) will meet Tuesday to discuss COVID-19 vaccination programs, incentivizing energy efficiency in rental housing, and litigation concerning a solar farm planned for Archer.

The daytime portion will start at 11:30 a.m. and the public may attend in person or watch online.

The BOCC will vote to repeal two ordinances that prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine to those under the age of 21. The state of Florida passed its own legislation (SB 1080) in May that does the same thing.

Because the state legislation preempts the county’s ordinances, the county will vote to repeal ordinances 2013-7 and 2019-04.

The board will also discuss its vaccination programs for both citizens and employees as one of the first items, but no vote is planned. The board will hear an update from the Department of Health and review its emergency order from last week.

The proposed plan for citizen vaccinations runs from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30 and will provide $50 to each Alachua County citizen that receives the vaccine.

The maximum cost for the program stands at $4.5 million—the price to reach a 100 percent vaccination rate. However, the county’s realistic goal is for an additional 45,000 citizens to get vaccinated, sending the county total to 81 percent of those eligible for vaccination.

The cost for an additional 45,000 citizens at $50 per person is $2.25 million.

For the county employee program, the county would offer a $500 incentive for being fully vaccinated (or $250 per shot). This applies to all employees of the BOCC and its constitutional officers.

Earlier in August, county manager Michele Lieberman considered a $100 incentive.

The deadline for the employee program lasts is Oct. 1. To achieve a 100 percent vaccination rate among employees, the board would spend $1,200,000.

The county plans to work with five commercial chains during the program. When citizens are vaccinated at the partner locations, they will receive a gift card from that partner. The county will then reimburse these commercial partners based on the number of vaccinations administered.

The board will also hear a presentation to encourage energy efficiency in rental housing. The presentation outline a grant program to landlords of low-income tenants for weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades

The presentation states that rental homes use 15 percent more energy and have 30 percent higher energy costs than other homes on a per-square-foot basis.

The program hopes to lower utility costs for low-income renters and would provide a maximum of $15,000 to landlords.

Litigation concerning a proposed solar panel farm in Archer will come before the board for discussion.

After a 3-2 vote on July 6, the BOCC denied an application from Origis Energy to use a tract of land in Archer for a solar farm.

Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) contracted Origis to find a location and build a solar farm, and after the BOCC denied the application, the Gainesville City Commissioners heard from GRU that the ball was in Origis’ court.

During the meeting, Mayor Lauren Poe said the commission can’t overrule the county.

“We not only aren’t trying to do that; we can’t do that,” Poe said at the meeting. “The property that y’all are talking about, that’s not an option.”

But on Tuesday, the BOCC will vote to approve the county attorney’s authority to defend the county’s interest in a special magistrate proceeding.

FL Solar 6, LLC served Alachua County with a petition for §70.51 Florida Statutes Relief for a hearing before a special magistrate to appeal the July 6 denial.

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