Update: City cancels meeting due to threats

Update (6:53 p.m.): The Gainesville City Commission canceled its regular Thursday meeting on Wednesday afternoon after threats of violence aimed at members of the commission.

The city will reschedule the agenda items to a future meeting but has yet to release a specific date. The commission is approaching a fall recess from Oct. 1-10 and its Oct. 21 regular meeting will be the only one for the month. 

Here is the full text of the city’s release: 

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“The City Commission Meeting previously scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021 has been cancelled and agenda items from that meeting will be scheduled for a future date. The emotionally charged events of the last several days have left tensions running high, and have culminated in threats of violence against our elected officials. We take these threats seriously, and the decision was made to cancel out of an abundance of caution.”

Our original story (2 p.m.)

The Gainesville City Commission will convene for its regular meeting Thursday amid a big shakeup at city hall.

Here’s a rundown of some of the agenda items. You can find the full agenda at the City of Gainesville’s website.

Mayor pro-tem appointment and special election

Thursday’s meeting will be one of the last regular meetings with Commissioner Gail Johnson before her last day on Oct. 2. Johnson has served as the mayor pro-tem since she was sworn in for a second term in May.

Since she is resigning, the commission must appoint a new mayor pro-tem and assign another commissioner to Johnson’s position on the Library Governing Board.

The city commission also is expected to proclaim Nov. 16 as the date for the special election to fill Johnson’s at-large chair. The qualifying dates are Sept. 20 to 24 and early voting starts Nov. 12.

Most of the details for the election, including its $200,000 price tag, were discussed at a previous meeting.

Discussion about interim charter officers

Half of Gainesville’s charter officers have announced resignations in the past week. City Clerk Omichele Gainey’s last day will be Oct. 8, and City Attorney Nicolle Shalley will officially leave Nov. 12.

City Manager Lee Feldman resigned on Monday and will stay on until mid-November.

No current appointments are on the agenda, but commissioners will discuss the issue and may take action.

University Avenue and 13th Street study

The commission will hear a presentation by HDR Engineering Inc. of its months-long study of University Avenue, between NW 22nd Street and NE 3rd Avenue, as well as 13th Street, between NW 5th and SW 9th Ave.

HDR was hired in the spring to study potential changes to the West University and 13th Street areas around the university. The city is interested in a potential redesign of the roads to a “Complete Streets” model to make them more pedestrian, public transport and bicycle friendly.

West University, which is State Route 26, and 13th Street, which is U.S. 441, are maintained and controlled by the Florida Department of Transportation. HDR’s study, which included getting community input into the redesign, will help the city and the FDOT decide how to move forward with changes to the roads.

The staff recommendation is to authorize a search for funds that will cover the design changes that the city chooses to adopt and also hire a design consultant to proceed with the design plan.

Construction design plans, the next step for the project, are estimated to cost approximately $500,000, with total costs for the project mounting to $20 million.

Maintenance agreements with Florida Department of Transportation

The commission also will consider a maintenance agreement with the FDOT for additional safety measures on West University.

The agreement would let the state coat all new and existing poles and mast arms, pedestrian poles and heads with a colored epoxy coating.

The estimated maintenance cost to the state would be $8,000 to $12,000 per signalized intersection every 8 to 10 years.

New park additions added to registry

The city commission will decide whether or not to add additional city land to its registry of protected public places. For a property to gain registry status, its use must be conservation, recreation or cultural purposes and be deemed worthy of the highest level of protection.

Properties added to the registry cannot be used for other purposes unless stricken from the registry by a future commission. And additions to and subtraction from the registry need a 5/7th vote to pass, not a simple majority.

The property that might be added at the meeting are additions to lands already on the registry and total 270.48 acres―over half of the acreage coming from the Morningside Nature Center addition.

The other additions are at 29th Road Nature Park, Colclough Pond Nature Park, Forest Park Conservation Area and Loblolly Woods Nature Park.

Boulware Springs Nature Park will also be voted for inclusion into the registry.

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