The Gainesville City Commission considered and approved several projects at its General Policy Committee meeting on Thursday that look to utilize American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
The Gainesville Police Department (GPD) presented four separate funding categories that it would like supplied through ARPA with three of those zeroing in on community violence.
GPD first requested $240,000 to increase community oriented policing. The effort has “officers work specific details to deter the engagement of violent crime in hot spot neighborhoods.”
The initiative would include building relationships with neighbors and focus on repeat offenders and areas of repeat violence.
The second supply of money would go to community education efforts with a price tag of $41,350. The funds would be used to buy a Community Education Mobile Unit, visual production equipment, a projector and publication material.
The third supply, totaling $271,500, would go to the one-time purchase of forensic equipment. One piece of this category would be a program called Brasstracks that allows GPD to plug into a nationwide network of ballistics that aids in identification during police investigations. The other funding would go to Forensic Crime Unit Equipment that would better allow GPD to respond to violent crime.
The last piece would hire a public safety coordinator at $68,633 that would work in the Police Activities League, a joint venture with Gainesville Fire Rescue (GFR).
Commissioner Reina Saco asked whether or not all of the categories would fit under the U.S. Department of Treasury guidelines.
Interim City Manager Cynthia Curry said the projects most likely would. She added that once the city hires its ARPA consultant, they will leaf through and verify each project to ensure obedience to treasury standards.
Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos asked which of the programs needed continual funding opposed to one-time ARPA money.
Assistant Chief Terry Pierce said all the projects, except for the new coordinator position, would need one-time funding, and GPD is hopeful that federal grants would cover the coordinator position moving forward.
Commissioner David Arreola expressed concern about funding the forensic segment of the request. He wanted the commission to focus on working with the community partners to address the font end of the violence.
“When we’re having conversations about ballistic software, that is way past the point that we’re trying to intervene and stop this violence,” Arreola said.
He also asked the commission not to view GPD’s plan and funding provided as city’s final measure to end violence.
“This issue is bigger than just the Gainesville Police Department,” Arreola said. “It is. I don't want us to think that this is it and that this is all we’re going to pass and that this is the commission's address to crime increase in Gainesville because that will not be effective.”
The commission approved unanimously the entire funding request.
The next item discussed was the creation of a cultural arts center to help work with youth and prevent youth violence. Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker headed up this process and the commission voted for city staff to begin working through the details and funding needs.
Duncan-Walker said her ask is for $3 million in ARPA funds. The plan would also include Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) and the SPARC352 project.
With the commission’s assent, the city manager’s office will look at the proposal before bringing it back for final approval.
One more project brought before the commission is another collaborative effort that Gainesville will lead with community partners.
The request, approved by the commission, would have the city submit an application to join the League of Cities’ One Nation/One Project. If the Gainesville application is accepted by the League of Cities, work can move forward between Gainesville, SPARC352 and ACPS
The funding request sat at 2 percent of Gainesville’s total ARPA funds—or $640,000.
The applications for One Nation/One Project are due Feb. 4. Saco asked whether the city could create a proposal within that time frame, but SPARC352 staff said the League of Cities was gauging interest and what community partners would be involved for the first application.
Dionne Champion, SPARC351 director, said there was also conversation about extending the deadline.
The commission moved to apply to the League of Cities to join the program and set aside the funding requested.
The last funding request—for $1 million—came from the GFR to expand its Community Resource Paramedicine (CRP) program. The money would expand the CRP’s capacity by providing additional ambulances, radios and other medical equipment.
The expansion would take CRP from one ambulance to three, allowing the program to treat more individuals and also expand capacity for health fairs and other community events.
The commission approved the funding request.
For the whole meeting, the commission doled out $2,261,483 of the remaining ARPA funds—not including Duncan-Walker’s asks of $3 million that will go through city staff before final funding.
The city still has more than $15 million left to finalize, though much of the money is already associated with certain projects, like broadband.