Traffic safety returns to Gainesville agenda

As the Gainesville community mourns the most recent UF student killed in a motorist-pedestrian collision, Vision Zero and traffic safety returns to the agenda of the City Commission.

The Vision Zero project aims at reducing fatalities and serious injuries for pedestrians and cyclists, and has been one of the projects the city has considered for federal relief funds.

The agenda for Thursday’s 10 a.m. regular commission meeting still doesn’t include much about the item except a title, but Commissioner Harvey Ward said the discussion would be a broader look at Vision Zero and “what our mobility department has in the works, what we’ve done so far, what we can expect to do and what more funding would accomplish.”

Approximately $1.25 million in funding for Vision Zero was part of the city’s discussion of how to spend federal money allocated from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

Ward also said that he also wanted to have a discussion about Northwest 8th Avenue in particular, which is where recent Florida graduate Sabrina Obando was killed walking to work on Jan. 4.

Unlike other Gainesville streets where pedestrians have been hit, the city controls 8th Avenue and can make changes without involving the Florida Department of Transportation. The FDOT, for example, controls what happens on University Avenue, which is also a state road.

Chart showing pedestrian deaths per 100,000 in Florida cities. From City of Gainesville..png

Of Gainesville’s 4,787 traffic accidents last year, 116 of them involved pedestrians, according to statistics provided by GPD as part of a public records request. Five of the 116 pedestrian-involved accidents were on the West University corridor between 13th and 34th streets during the period from Jan. 1, 2021 to Jan. 4, 2022.

An affordable housing agreement and a recent state audit are also on the morning meeting agenda.

The commission will discuss a draft agreement between the city and the Gainesville Housing Authority. The agreement would name GHA as the city’s official housing partner and the partnership would aim to help the housing authority reach its goal of an 500 additional affordable housing unit.

As part of the partnership, the city is looking to turn vacant city-owned properties over to non-profit partners to build affordable housing.

The Florida Auditor General’s recent report will also be on the agenda for the commission. The audit report, which was presented to the audit committee last week, had 18 findings, including three related to Gainesville Regional Utilities and five related to the Reichert House Youth Academy (RHYA) and a former non-profit that supported the RHYA financially.

During the evening meeting, the commission is expected to have the second reading on changes to the city’s election ordinance, and a correction to its parking fees ordinance. The two items on first reading are a voluntary annexation of property off of Southwest 13th Street and a state-required amendment to the city’s comprehensive plan.

The changes to the election ordinance align the city’s elections with the statewide primary calendar and increase the campaign contribution limits from $250 to the $1,000 allowed under state election rules.

Changes in state law are prompting a change to the city’s comprehensive plan. The city is required to add language to its comprehensive plan that lays out basic property rights for landowners.

Among the rights being specified in the amended plan: property owners have the right to control easements, leases and mineral rights and the right to improve and maintain their property and to exclude others from their property.

In addition to items that are planned for discussion at Thursday’s meeting, several items have been placed on the consent agenda. The commission doesn’t discuss consent agenda items unless a commissioner requests an item be pulled from the consent agenda and placed on the regular meeting agenda.

Under new rules that went into effect this month, the items on the consent agenda will be approved when the commission adopts the agenda for the meeting.

Currently on the consent agenda:

  • The commission is set to approve the Regional Transit System’s application for federal funds under the American Rescue Plan Act. Under a grant formula, the RTS would be eligible to receive $14.4 million from the Federal Transit Administration. Approximately, $10 million would be used for operations to pay salaries and fuel costs while the remainder would be used to pay for capital projects, including the purchase of six replacement buses.
  • Gainesville will ratify an amendment to its three-year union agreement with the International Association of Firefighters Local 2157. The amendment allows the Fire Chief to authorize prepayment of eligible costs to firefighters attending paramedic school. Paramedic school costs are reimbursable under the existing agreement but the amendment allows them to be paid in advance.

    Firefighters must pay back paramedic school costs if they fail to get certified within a year of completing the training program or if they leave Gainesville Fire and Rescue before serving two additional years after certification.

  • Juneteenth, which is on June 19, will be added as an official paid holiday for the city. Although it has been celebrated since the late 1800s, Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021. It commemorates the emancipation of slaves in the U.S. following the Civil War.
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