Gainesville says BOCC is holding relief funds hostage

The City of Gainesville says the county is withholding its allocated share of federal Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) and the subject will be the topic of a conflict resolution meeting on Monday.

According to a Feb. 8 letter from Gainesville City Manager Lee Feldman addressed to Alachua County Manager Michele Lieberman, the city passed a resolution on Feb. 4 to initiate the governmental conflict resolution procedure.

“The City of Gainesville City Commission finds that a conflict exists between the City and Alachua County, Florida as it relates to the distribution of Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) that the county received from the State of Florida under Title V of the CARES Act,” the letter states.

“The City will suffer material injury as a result of the County denying the distribution of CRF funds that were to be allocated to the City because of an unrelated matter,” the letter continues.

That matter, according to the City, is a bill issued to the county for GRUCom services in the amount of $1,638,415.23 for the shared cost of its subscription fee for the Gainesville public safety radio system.

In a letter from Feldman to the acting inspector general of the U.S. Department of the Treasury (USDT) dated Feb. 8, Feldman reported that earlier in the year, Alachua County agreed to allocate $8,690,787.54 for “Public Safety Presumption Funds” that are related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Feldman included a table presented by the county that represents the recommended distribution amounts for Gainesville as $2,611,581.66, High Springs as $106,896.69 and City of Alachua as $85,169.72.

In a Jan. 26, report of the CARES Act Final Amended Plan, the Gainesville allocation line is no longer included as a line item on the allocation of presumptive public safety funds, but the High Springs and City of Alachua public safety amounts remain on the allocation list at the same amounts.

Feldman states in his letter that Lieberman, in a text responding to an inquiry about the removal of the City of Gainesville line item, wrote, “The board decided to set aside $8.5 million for future needs primarily because we do not know the outcome of the trunk radio system issue with GRU and they wanted to have the capital available and not have to raise taxes in the worst case scenario. “The $2.6 mil (million) is included in the $8.5 (million) set aside.”

In response, Feldman wrote that the Gainesville City Commission voted on Jan. 28, that he brought the matter to the attention of the Acting Inspector General Richard Delmar for the USDT.

Feldman claims the allocation amendment is an act of retaliation.

“The City further believes that holding hostage Federal CRF dollars that were to be allocated to the City because of an unrelated matter violates the very intent of the CARES Act which is to provide emergency support to communities with the unforeseen cost of navigating the impact of COVID-19 outbreak,” he wrote.

A joint meeting will be held at 5 p.m. March 22 to discuss the matter. Click here to view supporting documents.

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