October 27 , 2006 edition of:

Community Update
A Report on the Activities of Alachua County Government


This Issues Features:

Accurate Budget Information

Flood Insurance Questions

Burn Ban Implemented

Flu Vaccinations Available at the Health Department

Keep Halloween Fun and Safe

Free Gardening Class

An Evening of Remembrance

Commission Meeting Highlights

Get Involved - Alachua County Advisory Boards





Accurate Budget Information - Clearing Up the Confusion and Misleading Information

There has been some confusing and somewhat misleading information circulating recently regarding the increase in Alachua County’s spending over the last few years. Based on the most recent audited financial statements, Alachua County’s governmental expenditures increased 7.2% from FY2002 through FY2005.

The audit for FY2006 is not expected to be completed until early January, but very preliminary figures indicate an increase in governmental expenditures from FY2003 through FY2006 of approximately 18%. It also appears that the majority of this increase is occurring in FY2006 and is related to capital road improvements. We will release updated figures when the FY2006 audit is completed.

Because of the complexities in governmental accounting requirements, it is most accurate and responsible to compare a government’s actual expenditures from year to year rather than comparing budgeted expenditures. For example, county government budgets include all reserves and inter-fund transfers, yet these will never materialize into government expenditures. In Alachua County, the total of these two lines exceeded $50,000,000 in the FY2006 budget.

It goes beyond prudent financial management to maintain adequate operating reserves, but is often a legal requirement as well as an indication of a government’s overall financial condition. It is a legislative mandate that external auditors report annually to the Office of the Auditor General on a government’s overall financial condition, and operating reserves available for emergencies is the overriding indicator.

With the Board’s emphasis on allocating funds for major capital improvements and supporting bonds to be issued, the public should expect to see the County’s expenditures increase over the next few years. In FY2007, the Board has approved a Capital Improvements Program that includes major improvents in public facilities, parks and roads.

For additional information, please contact Alachua County’s Management and Budget Director Suzanne Gable at (352) 374-5262.

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Have Flood Insurance Questions - County's Emergency Management Has Answers

Did you know that flooding is our nation’s #1 natural disaster? In the last decade (1996-2005), annual flood losses in the United States averaged $2.4 billion per year. While nearly 5 million Americans are protected by flood insurance policies, millions more homeowners remain uninsured and are at risk. Many of these uninsured homeowners are unprepared for a flood and do not realize that their homeowners’ insurance does not cover them in the event of a devastating flood.

Navigating the world of flood insurance can be tricky and confusing at times, but websites like www.floodsmart.gov can provide simple, invaluable information for homeowners looking for a place to start and the attached FEMA Homeowner’s Flood Checklist provides a basic tip sheet. Additionally, Alachua County Emergency Management is available to answer other questions homeowners may have.

Below, you will find the topics homeowners wish to have clarified most often:

1) If you own your home (i.e. you do not have a mortgage), you are not required to purchase flood insurance. While not purchasing flood insurance is certainly taking a risk, no one can force you to purchase flood insurance if you own your home outright. If, however, you wish to purchase flood insurance and, based on the previous FIRMs (Flood Insurance Rate Map), your home was not in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), you are eligible for a non-SFHA policy. This is also called an X-Zone policy. Typically, this type of policy costs significantly less than the same policy on a home located inside the SFHA. Please note that if you sell your home, the buyer will be required to purchase a policy based on the home’s location on the current FIRMs.

2) If you have a mortgage and, based on previous FIRMs, your house was not in the SFHA, but now, based on the new FIRMs, is located inside the SFHA, your mortgage company will most likely require you to purchase a flood insurance policy. However, you also are eligible for an X-Zone policy. It is suggested that a homeowner not allow the mortgage lender to assign a policy unless the homeowner has personally verified that it is the appropriate policy for the home. Insurance companies that do not write flood insurance will go through the federal government for coverage; and these policies are more expensive than using a Write Your Own (WYO) company. Bear in mind that most major flood insurance providers are WYO companies.

3) If concerned residents whose homes were not located in the previous SFHA, and are not located in an SFHA on the current FIRM, still wish to purchase flood insurance, they should purchase a Preferred Risk Policy (PRP). These policies are only available on structures that were not in the previous SFHA, are not on the current (SFHA) FIRMs and have never suffered flood damage. Although PRPs have only limited coverage, they will provide some protection. These policies generally run $100 to $125 dollars per year.

4) Please note that should a homeowner purchase a required flood insurance policy but fail to renew it in a timely manner and the home is subsequently flooded while uninsured, FEMA will only reimburse the homeowner with a set amount minus the flood insurance premiums that would have been paid had the policy been renewed; and, FEMA will not honor the terms of the policy as the premiums were not paid to keep it in force.

For more information regarding flood insurance homeowners are encouraged to log on to http://growth-management.alachua.fl.us/mapper. City of Gainesville residents can call the City of Gainesville’s flood information line at 352-334-5069 and residents living outside the City’s limits may call the Alachua County flood information line at 352-337-6140.

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Burn Ban Implemented - Area's Condition is Unusually Dry

After reviewing Alachua County’s current wildland fire conditions and the area weather forecast, a mandatory countywide burn ban has been implemented, effective 1 pm today, October 23. The ban will be in effect until formally terminated by a majority of the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners.

Conditions in our area are unusually dry. Alachua County’s Keetch Byrum Drought Index (KDBI) was at 616 on Sunday, October 22.

The mandatory burn ban affects all of Alachua County, including rural and municipal areas.

The countywide mandatory burn ban prohibits all of the following:
• All outdoor burning that has not been specifically permitted by the Florida Division of Forestry is prohibited.
• The use of any fireworks, sparklers, flares, or other pyrotechnic devices except as provided by law for public displays requiring a permit is prohibited.
* Please note that the ban does not affect agricultural burning permitted by the Florida Division of Forestry for land clearing or prescribed burning purposes.

Although the use of LPG/LNG grills and charcoal grills is permitted, the public is encouraged to keep a constant watch for any stray sparks or embers while cooking outdoors. Additionally, due to the potential for accidental ignitions, the use of motorized equipment such as ATVs and dirt bikes is not suggested during times of high wildfire risk. Please bear in mind that lawnmowers, both push and riding, also pose accidental ignition risks. Citizens are asked to exercise extreme caution during the burn ban. Any burning within the County will be in violation of Alachua County ordinance 86-1, sections 10.08 and 10.09 and section 252.50 of Florida Statutes. It will be considered a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a 60-day imprisonment and up to a $500.00 fine.

For more information, please contact Alachua County Fire Rescue Public Information Officer Megan Crandall at (352)494-8600.

“Working together, Alachua County’s citizens and local fire suppression agencies may avoid a repeat of the 1998 wildfires which scorched 7,100 acres locally,” said Alachua County Fire Chief Will May.

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2006-2007 Flu Season - Health Department to Begin Flu Vaccinations

The Alachua County Health Department has received its initial allocation of injectable influenza vaccine for the 2006-2007 season. County Health Department medical staff began vaccinating high risk individuals through all of their clinical sites on October 24.

Vaccinations are by appointment and will be offered at all Health Department sites:
Gainesville (224 SE 24th St.) - 352-334-7950
Alachua (Hitchcock Plaza US 441) - 386-462-2542
High Springs (245 NW 2nd St.) - 386-454-2421
Newberry (25435 W. Newberry Road) - 352-472-1160
Hawthorne (22000 SE 65th Ave.) -352-481-2388

The central site in Gainesville will also accept walk-ins. Cost of the vaccination is $20.00. The Health Department will bill Medicare for eligible patients as well as private insurance, if applicable.

County Health Department Director Tom Belcuore stated, “Every year, as many as 36,000 US citizens die from complications of influenza. Yearly vaccination of the population at highest risk prevents needless hospitalization and death.”

Individuals at greatest risk for complications of influenza are: persons older than 50, persons with chronic medical conditions, children age 6 months to 5 years, pregnant women, and persons living in nursing homes or other long term care facilities. In addition, household caregivers of the above groups and health care workers should also be vaccinated.

For further press information, please contact Tom Belcuore at (352) 334-8892. Citizen inquiries should be directed to Sherry Windham, Immunization Coordinator at (352) 334-7951.

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Keep Halloween Fun and Safe - Tips and Tricks from Alachua County Fire Rescue

Sometimes it is hard to believe that the year is almost over, but Halloween is a sure sign that the holiday season is not too far away. With that in mind, here are a handful of hints to keep this year’s Halloween activities safe and fun.

• Plan simple costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping or entanglement.
• Use only costumes, wigs and accessories made of flame resistant materials and consider adding reflective tape or striping to both costumes and trick or treat bags.
• Masks can limit or block your child’s eyesight.
• Try to avoid using simulated knives, guns or swords as props, but if such items must be used, be sure that they do not appear authentic and are soft and flexible to prevent injury.

Trick or Treating
• If you are planning on going door-to-door, following a few simple precautions will help keep trick or treating fun and safe for everyone.
• Accompany your children as they trick or treat - even in your own neighborhood.
• Use flashlights with fresh batteries for all kids and yourself while trick or treating. Let your children know not to cut through back alleys and fields. Make sure they stay in populated, well lit areas and don’t go off the beaten track.
• Teach your children to accept candy only at the door and never to enter anyone’s home or car while trick or treating.
• Avoid trick or treating at homes with the lights off.

• All of your kids’ candy must be checked over thoroughly before any of it is eaten. Remind your children not to eat any of their treats until they you have had a chance to examine them.
• All candy should be individually wrapped and the wrappers should be tight and sealed properly. Be wary of candy that looks like it has been re-wrapped.
• Don’t forget that all of those candy wrappers and even many of the candies themselves pose a choking hazard to children under six. Ultimately, if the candy falls through a paper towel holder, it is a choking hazard for very young kids.

A Few Final Tips
• You can avoid the simple dangers of pumpkin carving by using paints or markers for a truly artistic approach to pumpkin decoration.
• However, if Halloween just isn’t the same in your house without roasted seeds and a ghoulish carved pumpkin on the front step, try letting your kids clean out the pumpkin and drawing the face themselves with a marker. You can then do the carving safely yourself.

This Halloween, be safe and have a wonderful holiday. For more information on Halloween safety or any other public safety topic, please contact Megan Crandall, Public Information Officer, at 494-8600 or Shirley Copeland, Public Education Coordinator, at 338-3101.

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Free Gardening Class - Florida Yards and Neighbrhoods Training Series

The Alachua County Extension Office is offering a gardening class in November. The Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Training class is for those interested in learning how to create a Florida friendly yard. Participants will learn how to make correct plant choices for low maintenance landscapes and save water.

The class is scheduled for Wednesday, November 29, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the Alachua County Extension Office, located at 2800 NE 39th Ave.

The program is free and participants will receive a free book and a free plant list.

Please call (352) 955-2402 to register or for more information.

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An Evening of Remembrance - Hosted by Community Bereavement Coalition

The Community Bereavement Coalition of North Central Florida is holding its 3rd annual “An Evening of Remembrance,” Tuesday, November 7 at 6:30 p.m. at E.T. York Hospice Care Center, 4200 NW 90th Blvd., Gainesville.

This event is for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. The holidays can be a difficult time for those who have suffered a loss. This program offers a special time of reflection, honoring and healing as they prepare for the weeks ahead. Materials and information will be provided about grieving, coping with the holidays and support groups available in the North Central Florida area. Children are welcome to attend.

Refreshments will be served. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, please contact Laura Kalt of Alachua County Victim Services & Rape Crisis Center at (352) 264-6763 or 1-866-252-5439.

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Commission Meeting Highlights

Recognitions, Proclamations and Presentations

Appointments to Advisory Boards and Committees

Cultural & Environmental Funding Advisory Board

Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee

County Attorney

Community Planning Group

County Manager Reports

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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:

• Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Board: One citizen-at-large

• Citizen Disability Advisory Committee: Three citizens-at-large

• Community Agency Partnership Program: One citizen-at-large

• Community Development Block Grant Advisory Board: Three citizens-at-large, one alternate

• Cultural and Environmental Funding Advisory Board: Heritage organization member, Alachua County resident alternate

• Economic Development Advisory Board: One representative of UF

• Environmental Protection Advisory Board: Four citizens-at-large, one alternate

• Fair Housing Human Rights Board: One lending institution representative, one alternate

• Gainesville/Alachua County Cultural Affairs Board: Two citizens-at-large

• Health Facilities Authority: One citizen-at-large, one alternate

• Health Care Board: One low income consumer, one Alachua County Dental Association representative, one Shands representative

• Poverty Reduction Advisory Board: One representative of Alachua/Bradford Workforce Board, one citizen-at-large with a disability, two low income citizen, one citizen at least 55 years old

• Recreation and Open Space Advisory Committee: Four citizens-at-large, one alternate

• RTS Advisory Board: One senior citizen

• Rural Concerns Advisory Committee: One member from an unincorporated town

• Tourist Development Council: One owner/operator

• Veterans Service Advisory Board: One citizen who is a Veteran

• Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center Advisory Board: Eleven voting citizens, one alternate

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.