Good in Gainesville: Public safety infrastructure grows

Alachua County Sheriff Emery Gainey and Deborah Butler cut the ribbon on the new substation.
Alachua County Sheriff Emery Gainey and Deborah Butler cut the ribbon on the new substation at Butler Plaza.
Photo by Glory Reitz

We are very fortunate to live in a caring, supportive community, one where so many are devoted to making every resident’s life better. This year our exceptional public safety organizations have really raised the bar, with new police precincts and fire stations going up around our county.

Since returning to the area last October, Alachua County Sheriff Emery Gainey has worked diligently to increase his department’s presence in our municipalities. Three new precincts have already been established, with more on the way.

In December, the sheriff’s office and city officials celebrated the opening of the first of the new precincts in Hawthorne. Located in what was empty office space, the Hawthorne precinct is right next to city hall and will not require any additional funding to operate—the city is covering the office’s operational costs and no new deputies are needed for staffing.

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In January, the second new precinct opened in Butler Plaza, located just around the corner from The Cheesecake Factory. Sheriff Gainey reports this precinct will also operate at no additional cost to the taxpayers, as the space itself is being provided by Butler Plaza.

And most recently, our third new precinct opened in March in Newberry. Having police presence right in town allows the officers to engage with the community on a daily basis, solidifying an already strong relationship.

Sheriff Gainey has said he intends to place precincts in all our local towns, with Waldo next up.

Similarly, Alachua County Fire Chief Harold Theus has shepherded the expansion of his department into high-growth areas, with one new fire station opened, one underway and two more planned, in addition to a second firefighter training facility that came online this spring.

The first of the new stations, Fire Station 80, was unveiled in March and is strategically located on SW 24th Avenue. This station has been long-planned—as far back as 2004, the fire services master plan identified the area as one of significant need.

Designed to be 50-year facilities, all the new stations adhere to the updated ACFR prototype, which puts the emphasis on sustainability, functionality and firefighter safety and comfort. Exterior features include metal roofs and stone and metal panel finishes to help the stations blend in better with nearby residential neighborhoods.

For the interiors, reducing stress on first responders is paramount, with a large day room, separate dining and sleeping areas and alarms designed to reduce the shock of a sudden siren. Unlocked lobbies will provide a safe haven for infant drop-offs.

Next up is Station 21 in Alachua. The groundbreaking was also held in March and construction is expected to be completed within a year.

We applaud the efforts of these dedicated leaders to strengthen public safety all around our rapidly growing county.

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of business columns sponsored by Pavlov Media.

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