March 17, 2006 edition of:

Community Update
A Report on the Activities of Alachua County Government

This Issues Features:

More CHOICES for Alachua County's Uninsured Workers
Medicare Part D Town Hall Meeting
Alachua County Welcomes New Impact Fee Administrator
Coyote Found In Alachua County
‘Bag and Tie So Trash Won’t Fly!’
Florida Stormwater, Erosion and Sedimentation Control Inspector Training and Certification Program
Alachua County Assists in Creating a New Chapter of NIGP
Help Save a National Treasure
Commission Meeting Highlights
Get Involved - Alachua County Advisory Boards

 

More CHOICES for Alachua County’s Uninsured Workers

This week, the Alachua County Commission approved changes to the eligibility requirements for participating in the new health care program, CHOICES (Community Health Offering Innovative Care & Educational Services). CHOICES is the County’s first foray into providing health care services for thousands of low-income, working residents.

After hearing from the CHOICES Advisory Board and citizens, commissioners voted to approve the recommended changes. The new changes will allow more citizens to qualify for the innovative County program.

“It is our collective responsibility to ensure that CHOICES works,” said Commissioner Rodney Long at the March 13th meeting. “We know the need is out there, so we must tweak the program to make sure it fits our community.”

The new changes include:
• Increase maximum annual household income. For example:
o For a single adult, the income limitations have been raised from $14,355 to $19,600.
o For a family of three, the income limitations have been raised from $24,135 to $33,200.
• Decrease weekly work hours from 32 hours per week to 25 hours per week.
• Allow otherwise eligible citizens to enroll even if they are offered health insurance at work, yet cannot afford the premiums.

“We are listening carefully to our citizen’s inquiries about CHOICES,” said Candice King, program director. “It became clear that several of the program’s eligibility criteria were overly restrictive.”

CHOICES, funded by a quarter-cent sales tax approved by voter referendum, began operations in October 2005. The program will continue to provide a broad range of health services for eligible residents through numerous health providers located throughout the County. Services include:
• Doctor and nurse visits
• Dental care
• Prescription assistance
• Disease management
• Health education

For more info, call (352) 264-6772, or go to www.acCHOICES.com

 

 

Medicare Part D Town Hall Meeting

U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who represents Florida’s third congressional district, will hold a Town Hall Meeting where an assembly of experts will explain the new federal Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program to seniors and assist them in choosing a plan. The Town Hall Meeting will take place Monday, March 20 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon at the Martin Luther King Jr. Multi-Purpose Center, 1028 NE 14th St., Gainesville.

Since it was enacted last year, the new Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program is reputed to have confused and frustrated many seniors. In response to this issue, Congresswoman Brown has assembled some experts on the program who will help to simplify the options and assist seniors in choosing a drug plan that works for them. The deadline for Medicare recipients to sign up for a plan before significant late enrollment penalties apply is May 15, 2006, so it is imperative that seniors seek assistance before then if they are having trouble choosing a new plan or understanding how to keep their current plan.

This Town Hall Meeting will also be helpful for seniors having problems getting their prescriptions or seniors who have been told by pharmacies that they are not in the “system.” Representatives from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Social Security Administration, local support agencies and healthcare plan providers, will all be at the Town Hall Meeting to answer questions.

All seniors are invited to attend the meeting and find out if they are one of the 8 million low-income seniors eligible for coverage that costs just a few dollars per prescription.

Citizens unable to attend can obtain additional information by contacting Congresswoman Brown’s local office at (352) 376-6476, or any of the following agencies; Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (633-4227), the Florida Elder Helpline at 1-800-963-5337, or for low income prescription assistance contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.

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Alachua County Welcomes New Impact Fee Administrator

Alachua County welcomes Jonathan Paul as the new Impact Fee Administrator for the County. He originally comes from Massachusetts, but has lived in Florida for 20 years now, the last 4 of which he spent working for Hillsborough County as their Principal Planner/Transportation Reviewer.

This is not Jonathan Paul’s first time living in Gainesville though. He received his Masters Degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Florida before moving to the Tampa area to get his second Masters Degree in Public Administration from the University of South Florida. However, Paul says, “A lot of my education was hands on in development review of Hillsborough County.”

Jonathan Paul says he loves Gainesville. His wife is pregnant with their first child and he came back to Gainesville because it is a nicer community to live in.
As the new Impact Fee Administrator for Alachua County, Jonathan Paul plans to do a lot of outreach to County citizens and the building community to educate them on Impact Fees. He has started by producing fliers and a County webpage about Impact Fees. He will also be working with various County departments in production of their capital improvement programs. And at the beginning of April his department will make the first public presentation about how Impact Fees have faired since they were adopted a year ago. The presentation will take place during a regular meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, though the date and time has yet to be finalized.

Impact Fees are one-time charges imposed upon new development to pay for a proportionate share of the cost of improvements to the County’s infrastructure that’s necessary to serve the new growth and development. The enactment of an Impact Fee is one of the means that Alachua County is using to expand the capacity of its transportation, park, and fire systems in order to maintain its current levels of service to accommodate new development. The maintenance of current levels of service is needed in order to promote and protect the health, safety and welfare of both existing and new residents and businesses.

Any person who, after March 28, 2005, seeks to develop land within the unincorporated area of Alachua County by applying for a building permit or the extension of a building permit, to make an improvement to land which will generate additional impact, is required to pay an Impact Fee per the adopted Impact Fee Ordinances.

Please join us for the next few issues of Community Update as we discuss different aspects of County Impact Fees.

For immediate information about Impact Fees, citizens can visit the Alachua County Department of Growth Management’s website at http://growth-management.alachua.fl.us/ or call them at (352) 374-5249.

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Coyote Found In Alachua County

During the week of February 26 Alachua County Animal Services captured an injured coyote from the southeast area of Alachua County off of County Road 234. The resident called Animal Services for assistance thinking that the animal was a dog that had killed one of her chickens.
Coyotes, once strictly a western species, now occur throughout the eastern United States. Most of Florida, with the possible exception of the densely populated cities and the expansive saw grass marshes of the Everglades, is suitable coyote habitat. Coyotes are active day or night, but usually most active at sunset and sunrise.

The coyote is a member of the dog family and is similar in appearance to a small to medium sized shepherd. Coyotes generally weigh between 20-30 pounds, have pointed ears, a long narrow muzzle, and a bushy tail. Their coats are usually grayish-brown in appearance, but occasionally black.

As a predator, coyotes will kill domestic dogs and house cats. Pet owners should never allow their companion animals to roam freely through their neighborhoods. Allowing pets to freely roam is a violation of Alachua County Animal Ordinances and may subject the owner to citations and fines, but also places their pets in jeopardy of being injured by other animals, predators (such as the coyote or fox), and automobiles.

Coyotes are generally not a threat to human safety. There are a few reports from the western United States of coyotes biting humans, but this behavior is very unusual. Coyotes are normally timid towards people.

The coyote is subject to rabies. Because coyotes and various other wild animals can transmit rabies to pets if pets are bitten, it is imperative that citizens make sure that companion pets are properly vaccinated for rabies. Pet owners should consult with their veterinarian or the Alachua County Animal Services veterinarian regarding this vaccination.

If citizens are concerned about, or feel that coyotes may be in their area, they should call Alachua County Animal Services at (352) 264-6870 for assistance.

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Santa Fe Springs Working Group to Hold Open House

The public is invited to a free open house hosted by members of the Santa Fe Springs Working Group at the High Springs Civic Center on March 21 from 6 until 8:30 p.m. Member groups, including Alachua County’s Environmental Protection Department, will be displaying exhibits and distributing materials of interest to residents and businesses. At 7 p.m. there will be a series of presentations that focus on recent research about cave systems and connections between two Alachua County “sinking streams,” Mill Creek and Cellon Creek, and the Santa Fe River miles away.

Newcomers to the area are especially urged to attend so that they can enhance their understanding of the uniqueness and sensitivity of the Santa Fe Springs region.

The goal of the Working Group is to create a forum in which professionals, government entities, and the public can learn about and resolve issues regarding the quality and quantity of water in springs of the lower Santa Fe River and their contributing areas in Alachua and Gilchrist Counties. The Working Group’s activities are currently funded by the Florida Springs Initiative. The area that affects the Santa Fe springs includes portions of the municipalities of High Springs, Alachua and Newberry.

Geologists estimate that there are over 600 springs (33 first-magnitude) in the State of Florida, mostly located in north Florida. This may represent the largest concentration of freshwater springs on Earth. North Florida’s springs are important natural and recreational areas for residents, and continue to draw visitors from other states. Florida’s twelve state parks that are named for springs attracted over two million visitors in 2001, creating $7 million in annual revenue in these 12 state parks alone.

For information contact Fay Baird, Pandion Systems, (352) 372-4747.

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Florida Stormwater, Erosion and Sedimentation Control Inspector Training and Certification Program

Alachua County Environmental Protection Department is having a FREE two day stormwater, erosion and sedimentation control class on April 4 and 5 at the Thomas Center, 302 NE 6th Ave, Gainesville, in its Long Gallery. Class will begin at 9:00 a.m. and end at 5:00 p.m. both days.

Instructors from Alachua County Environmental Protection, Alachua County Public Works, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and Jones Edmunds Associates will discuss the importance of and the specifications of Best Management Practices used to reduce erosion and sedimentation. All participants will receive an inspector’s manual, which is a great resource. There will be a proctored exam on the second day, and all passing participants will become certified inspectors! The class is free, but advance registration is required and limited. Please bring your own note taking materials. Lunch will not be provided.

The program is sponsored by Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Alachua County Environmental Protection Department and Gainesville Clean Water Partnership.

To register, you can contact Stacie Greco of the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department at (352) 264-6829 or email sgreco@alachua.fl.us.

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‘Bag and Tie So Trash Won’t Fly!’

A new initiative from the Alachua County Office of Waste Collection encourages residents to “Bag and Tie So Trash Won’t Fly!” to help reduce litter in Alachua County.

Before placing household garbage in their official garbage carts, Alachua County residents should be sure garbage is in a bag and the bag is tied securely to prevent litter. In addition, plastic shopping bags can be reused as garbage bags by using the handles as ties.

“We are encouraging Alachua County residents to bag and tie all garbage before placing it in their official carts to prevent litter and additional waste during pick-up,” said Milton Towns, Alachua County Waste Collection Manager. “Residents can help reduce litter in their neighborhoods by remembering to ‘Bag and Tie So Trash Won’t Fly!’”

For more information, please visit www.bigblue.alachua.fl.us or call Alachua County Office of Waste Collection at (352) 338-3233.

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Alachua County Assists in Creating a New Chapter of NIGP

It all began with a casual conversation during a Meet and Greet Small Business Week Meeting in Gainesville at the end of March 2005. Shaad Rehman (City of Gainesville), Darryl R. Kight (Alachua County), Faylene Welcome (University of FL) and Renee Harp (Gainesville Regional Utilities) started talking about the possibility of starting a local National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP) chapter.

Over the next several months this small group began gathering information on the hows and where-fores of starting a new NIGP Chapter. Then at the North Central FL Purchasing Co-Ops annual Reverse Trade Show, in July, they started talking it up with other agency purchasing professionals. A large group met for a late lunch following the show, and a serious discussion began about everyone’s interest in forming a local NIGP chapter that would serve Gainesville, Ocala and all surrounding North Central Florida locations. Everyone was interested and enthusiastic so the decision was made to go forward.
As a member of the NIGP, a membership-based non-profit organization, Alachua County can now benefit from the support, services, education, research, and technical assistance of a national group of government purchasing agents.

Organized in 1944, NIGP is an international not-for-profit educational and technical organization of public purchasing agencies. The Institute is composed of 70 affiliate chapters and more than 2,100 agency members representing federal, state, provincial and local government levels throughout the United States and Canada. These agencies represent over 12,000 individuals serving the public procurement community. NIGP is dedicated to helping governments manage tax dollars wisely.

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Help Save a National Treasure

Conservation Trust for Florida, Inc. (CTF) is working to protect the Wood & Swink Old Store and Post Office, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building was Florida’s first Federal Post Office and is the oldest post office still in operation, a genuine general store and post office where you can buy produce grown out back by Fredadie Wood, buy stamps from Postmaster Wilma Sue Wood, and chat with neighbors around the pot-bellied wood stove. Without some required upgrades the Postal Service will close down this treasure.

The preservation effort includes obtaining a historic preservation easement for the building and the surrounding property, upgrading the store with some modern amenities, and making provisions to rebuild the structure if there was ever any damage. The easement would protect the store and a one acre commercially zoned lot from inappropriate development. With Alachua County as the sponsor, CTF submitted an application for a Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Transportation Enhancement Project grant in 2005. FDOT reviewed the application and the project was deemed eligible for some funding under the program guidelines.

In April, the small historic towns of Cross Creek and Evinston will also host over 50 of Florida’s finest landscape painters to assist in raising funds for the Wood & Swink Old Store and Post Office in Evinston. Painting Days are April 7 - 12, with free admission to all events. The painters will be on site on CR 325 and on CR 225 in Evinston. The event culminates with the ART COLLECTOR’S GALA AND SALE on Friday, April 14 from 7 to 10 p.m., with the sale continuing Saturday, April 15 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. at the historic Thomas Center, 306 NE 6 Ave, Gainesville, FL.

The Evinston to Cross Creek Paint Out was conceived by former County Commissioner and artist Kate Barnes. Profits from the sale of art produced at the event will go to the preservation fund for the Post Office. The event includes painters, artisans, locally grown and prepared Southern cooking, children’s activities, book table, and living history including portrayal of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings herself. The event is produced by the Artists Alliance of North Florida and the Conservation Trust for Florida. Sponsors include the City of Gainesville, the Florida Humanities Council, Shands Healthcare, Florida’s Eden, and Heart of Florida. More info is available at: www.FloridasEden.org

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Commission Meeting Highlights
03-14-06

Proclamations, Presentations and Recognitions

• Proclamation declaring the week of March 20, 2006 as “March of Dimes Week” in Alachua County.
• Proclamation declaring March 21, 2006 as “Suicide Prevention Day” in Alachua County.
• Proclamation declaring March 25, 2006 as “Prison Awareness Day” in Alachua County.
• The Board heard a presentation on a landscape characterization and evaluation model for Alachua County.

Advisory Board Appointments

Emergency Medical Services Advisory Board:
Thomas Benton was appointed as a phisician to a term ending in May 2009.
Kathy Donovan was appointed as a citizen-at-large to a term ending in February 2009.
Leslie Hendeles was appointed as a citizen-at-large to a term ending in November 2007.
Stephen Lyons was appointed as a citizen-at-large to a term ending in November 2007.

Gainesville/Alachua County Cultural Affairs Board:
Mia Hobdywas appointed as a citizen-at-large to a term ending in September 2007.
Darlene Ryon was appointed as a citizen-at-large to a term ending in September 2007.

Tourist Development Council:
John Parker was appointed as a representative of UF Physicians to a term ending in November 2007.

County Manager

Commission Comments

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Get Involved - Alachua County Advisory Boards

The Alachua County Commission is committed to citizen involvement on its 33 advisory boards
and is soliciting applications for the following vacancies:

Applications are available in the County Manager's Office on the second floor of the County Administration Building, 12 SE First St., Gainesville, or on the Web at: http://boards.alachua.fl.us/app/application.aspx

 

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Thank you for your continued interest in County Government!

Community Update is produced by the County Manager's Communications Office.