February 1st edition of:

Community Update
A Report on the Activities of Alachua County Government


This Issues Features:

Public Defender’s Office Groundbreaking Ceremony
County Emergency Management Featured on Alachua County Talks
Take 5 - Animal Services
02-02-16 Special Meeting
Foster Grandparent Program Seeks Volunteers
World Wetlands Day
February Extension Programs
March 15 Election Information
Commission Highlights

Public Defender’s Office Groundbreaking Ceremony

The Alachua County Commission, the Public Defender for the 8th Judicial Circuit, and the Alachua County Facilities Management Department held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Alachua County Public Defender’s Office on January 25, in the Northwest parking lot.

Speakers at the event included County Commission Chairman Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson, County Manager Dr. Lee A. Niblock, Public Defender Stacy A. Scott, Court Administrator Paul Silverman and County Facilities Director Charlie R. Jackson.

The project budget is $5,289,682 and will include the following features:

No tax payer dollars will be used in the funding of this project. It is being paid for by a $20 fee on traffic citations.

Public Defender Stacy Scott said, “Moving into this modern facility will allow us to better serve the public. My staff and I are thrilled to see the project moving forward.”

The Office of the Public Defender, 8th Judicial Circuit, represents adults and children charged with criminal offenses and clients held in civil commitment under the “Baker Act” and the “Sexually Violent Predator Act.” The 8th Circuit is comprised of Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union counties.  In FY 2014-15, circuit-wide the Public Defender’s Office represented a total of 13,985 clients in a total of 16,541 cases. In Alachua County, the office represented 8,835 clients with 10,387 cases. The office employs 68 people, with 50 of those employees working in the Alachua County headquarters.

For more information, contact the Alachua County Communications Office at 352-374-5204.

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County Emergency Management Featured on Alachua County Talks

The new edition of Alachua County Talks features an interview with Alachua County Emergency Management Director David Donnelly. In the interview, Donnelly discusses the mission of Alachua County Emergency Management, the importance of community and personal disaster preparedness, and the challenges faced in providing emergency shelter, services and information during extreme weather events and other natural or manmade disasters.

In speaking of the program Alachua County Talks host Mark Sexton said, “Alachua County Emergency Management provides a great example of County and other local governments working together to safeguard our community in times of crisis. The County and Director Donnelly are committed to the County Emergency Management mission to develop and sustain a disaster resilient community. ”

View the Interview Online

For more information, visit Alachua County Emergency Management online or call the Alachua County Emergency Management at 352-264-6500.

The latest editions of Alachua County Talks air on Cox Channel 12 at 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. every night except Thursday, and at 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. and 12 a.m. every day. Special or regular County Commission and Gainesville City Commission meetings may preempt any showing.

View the complete Channel 12 Schedule.

Citizens are encouraged to stay engaged by clicking on and signing up for the following products: Facebook Twitter Newsletter/Press Release

For more information, contact the Alachua County Communications Office at 352-374-5204.

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Take 5 - Animal Services

This edition of Alachua County’s “Take 5” highlights County Animal Services. The program was produced in conjunction with the Multimedia and Video Production Technology Bachelor’s program at Santa Fe College, and focuses on the rewards and responsibilities of pet ownership, the challenges facing County Animal Services,  as well as the division’s many accomplishments.

For more information visit www.alachuacounty.us/animalservices

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02-02-16 Special Meeting

The Alachua County Commission will conduct a Special Meeting on Tuesday, February 2, 2016. The meeting begins at 1:30 p.m., in the Grace Knight Conference Room, located on the second floor of the Alachua County Administration Building (12 S.E. 1st Street, downtown Gainesville).

The meeting agenda includes:

1. I-75 Relief Task Force letter

2. Legislative update

3. Update on Storm Water Quality Code development

View agenda and backup.

The public is invited to attend the meeting. Due to scheduled equipment maintenance, this meeting will not be televised or streamed on the County’s Video on Demand website.

Free parking is available for citizens attending the meeting. Please park in the S.W. Parking Garage (220 S.E. 2nd Ave, Gainesville) and bring your parking stub to the Alachua County Manager’s Office, located on the 2nd floor of the County Administration Building, to receive a chaser validation ticket.

For more information, contact the Alachua County Communications Office at 352-374-5204.

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Foster Grandparent Program Seeks Volunteers

The Alachua County Foster Grandparent Program (FGP) is currently seeking volunteers to work one-on-one with children, especially in Head Start classes, elementary schools, and after school programs.

Alachua County residents age 55 and over who live on a limited income are encouraged to apply. In return for their service, volunteers receive an hourly stipend, a daily meal, mileage reimbursement, and supplemental insurance. Applicants must enjoy working with children, pass a Level II background screening, meet federal income guidelines and be in good health. FGP was established in Alachua County in 1973. It is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service and is sponsored locally by the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners.

Visit the FGP website to find out more about the program.

For more information and an application, contact the Foster Grandparent Program Office at 352-264-6731.


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World Wetlands Day

The Alachua County Environmental Protection Department (EPD) invites the public to celebrate World Wetlands Day on Tuesday, February 2, 2016, and encourages residents to get involved in water resource issues facing our community. 

“Wetlands have been dubbed ‘nature’s kidneys’ because of the important work they do in cleaning up our waters,” states Alachua County EPD Director Chris Bird. “In Alachua County, the quality of the water that flows from our faucets is directly related to the quality of the water in our springs, rivers, and wetland ecosystems. It is important to recognize this link and protect these valuable resources.”

Wetlands provide many environmental, social, and economic benefits, including: flood water storage, pollution control, drinking water recharge, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, and tourism.  They also create a sense of place. Some experts believe the name “Alachua” comes from a Native American term for “jug” and refers to a large chasm (Alachua Sink) in Paynes Prairie. Alachua County contains at least 26 lakes totaling over 46,429 acres, and has around 100 square miles of wetlands, about 10% of the County’s land area. Through a combination of land acquisition of sensitive habitats and strong wetland protection regulations, wetland impacts in unincorporated Alachua County have been largely avoided. Wetlands are considered a conservation resource and are protected along with a 50 to 150 foot natural upland buffer. 

Facts about wetlands:

One way to gain an appreciation for these conservation resources is to get outdoors and visit one of the many preserves in Alachua County that protect wetland habitat. Two in particular will demonstrate the beauty and importance of protecting wetlands. The 6.5-mile Barr Hammock Loop Trail circles a restored marsh. Walking the entire loop takes 3.5 to 4 hours at a leisurely pace. A leisurely bike ride takes about 2 hours. Under wet conditions the trail surface can be muddy and uneven.

Learn more about Barr Hammock Loop Trail.

At Phifer Flatwoods Preserve, the 0.5-mile Overlook Trail starts at the main trail head on the Gainesville-Hawthorne Rail Trail, located about 0.5-mile west of the parking area on CR 325, south of SR 20. The Trail loops through pine flatwoods and hardwood hammock with an elevated overlook in a magnificent cypress swamp. The trail contains muddy patches during the rainy season.

Learn more about the Phifer Flatwoods Preserve.

Learn more about World Wetlands Day.

For more information about wetlands protection in Alachua County, visit the Alachua County EPD website or contact Chris Bird at 352-264-6800.

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February Extension Programs

Family and Consumer Sciences Programs

These programs are being offered by Brenda C. Williams, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, at the UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County Office (2800 NE 39 Avenue, Gainesville).

Food Safety and Quality Program (ServSafe®) – February 2, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

This program is dedicated to providing training which enables food managers and staff to offer Florida consumer’s food that is prepared in a clean and safe environment. For further information and to register, please call toll-free at 1-888-232-8723 or visit the program registration page.

First Time Home Buyers Education Program – February 8, 15, and 22, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

This 3-part series offers resources that can help with buying, maintaining and keeping a home. Upon completion of this program, participants will receive a certificate of attendance. The classes are on three consecutive Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m. and will cover the following:

Session 1 – Monday, February 8

Information on getting budgets and credit worthiness in line, determining how much house can be afforded and understanding the responsibilities and costs of being a responsible homeowner.

Session 2 – Monday, February 15

Understanding the sales contract, home inspections, and mortgage process, selecting homeowners’ insurance, warranties and the closing process.

Session 3 – Monday, February 22

Question and answer time and an opportunity to get valuable tips from those involved in the process of buying a home.

The cost for the entire series is $10.00 per individual and/or couple.

View/download the program flyer (PDF).

Please pre-register by February 1, by calling 352-337-6209 (voice mail). This course is subject to cancellation if less than 6 people registered.

Environmental & Community Horticulture Programs

These programs are being offered by Dr. Denise DeBusk, Environmental & Community Horticulture Agent, at the UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County Office (2800 NE 39 Avenue, Gainesville).

Grow Potatoes with Success – February 18, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Potatoes are easy to grow in the garden. Soil preparation and variety selection will be covered in the class. Also covered are cultural techniques and how to harvest and cure potatoes.

Florida-Friendly Landscaping™: Getting Ready for Spring – February 23, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Springtime in north Florida is a great time to garden and attend to “spring cleaning” in landscapes. This class will focus on pruning, mulching, irrigation, and other spring cleaning chores.

Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening – February 25, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Learn what crops to grow in spring gardens and about the efficient technique of growing vegetables in raised beds.

There is no cost to attend these classes, space is limited; pre-register at least 3 days prior to class by calling 352-337-6209 (voice mail).

For more information about these programs call 352-955-2402. Visit the Extension Office Calendar for additional programs offered by the Extension Office.


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March 15 Election Information

Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Pam Carpenter would like to remind all voters in Alachua County and voters residing in the City of Gainesville to be prepared for the March 15, 2016 Presidential Preference Primary and the City of Gainesville Election.

Get Ready

Be sure to get registered to vote by the February 16th deadline. All party changes for the Presidential Preference Primary must also be submitted by the February 16th deadline. You may go online at www.VoteAlachua.com, download the application, and return the completed signed form to our office. You may also register to vote or change your party affiliation in person at the Supervisor of Elections Office, by mail, or at any of our outreach events. For a list of other facilities in the county where voter registration application forms may be obtained or to view our outreach calendar, please visit our website or call the Supervisor of Elections Office at 352-374-5252. To vote in the Presidential Preference Primary and City of Gainesville Election, mail-in applications must be postmarked no later than the February 16th deadline.

Voters should verify their voter registration status online at www.VoteAlachua.com by clicking on the link, “My Registration Status.” Don’t delay; make sure your voter information is current.  Florida Law requires that you vote the ballot assigned to your legal residence address. If you have moved and have not notified the Supervisor of Elections Office of your new address, please go online at www.VoteAlachua.com to make a change of address or contact our office at 352-374-5252. A new voter information card will be mailed based on the updated information.

To vote by mail, request your ballot now online at www.VoteAlachua.com or call our office at 352-374-5252. Please be sure your signature on file is current. If you sign a petition or vote by mail, your signature will be compared to your signature on file. Your petition or mail ballot may not count if the signature does not match the signature on record. You may update your signature by filling out a voter registration application form in person or by going online to www.VoteAlachua.com. You will need to print the application, sign it, and drop it off or mail it to the Supervisor of Elections Office. All signature updates for use in verifying absentee ballots must be received in the Supervisor of Elections Office no later than the start of Canvassing on March 7, 2016. You can also track your absentee ballot status online. If mailing your ballot, be aware it could take 5 days for our office to receive your ballot under the new postal delivery standards. All ballots must be received in the Supervisor of Elections Office by 7 p.m. on Election Day, March 15, 2016.

Get Set

View sample ballots for the March 15th Presidential Preference Primary and the City of Gainesville Election online at www.VoteAlachua.com on our home page by clicking on “Elections & Records” from the menu on the left side of the page then “Sample Ballots,” or you may view your individual ballot by clicking on “My Registration Status” in the upper right hand corner.


Remember, Florida is a closed primary state. In any Primary Election, you may only vote for candidates of the political party in which you are registered to vote. All registered voters living within the Gainesville city limits are eligible to vote in the Mayor race. Only eligible City of Gainesville voters living in Gainesville District 4 may vote in the District 4 race.

Early Voting for the March 15th Presidential Preference Primary and the City of Gainesville Election will be available starting Friday, March 4th through Saturday, March 12th every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Thursday when voting is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the following 3 locations:

Supervisor of Elections Office at 515 N. Main Street (new location)

Millhopper Branch Library at 3145 NW 43rd Street

Tower Road Branch Library at 3020 SW 75th Street

If you need to locate your precinct, go to www.VoteAlachua.com or call the Supervisor of Elections Office at 352-374-5252.

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Commission Highlights

School Crossing Guard Day
The Board proclaimed February 5, 2016 as “School Crossing Guard Day”

Read to Me Program
The Board heard a presentation by Sheriff Sadie Darnell on the Department of the Jail Veterans Pod and the new DOJ “Read to Me Program”

Claudia Tuck, Director of Community Support Services
The Board approved the hiring of Claudia Tuck as Director of Community Support Services effective January 29, 2016 at an annual salary of $105,000.00.  The motion carried 5-0.

Summer Heatwave Program for At-Risk Teens
The Board approved the request for financial support for the Summer Heatwave Program for At-Risk Teens.
Amount: $5,000.00
Heat Wave Program 122215.pdf
15 01 Financial Support of Special Event or Program 100915.pdf
Heat Wave Program Attendance.pdf
GAP Foundation Inc. IRS Determination Letter 111015.pdf

Municipal Service Benefit Unit
The Board adopted the policy to establish a Municipal Service Benefit Unit (MSBU) for private infrastructures. They also:

Authorized an advertisement for a Resolution and Notice of Intent to Establish a Special Assessment District for roadway and drainage improvements to N.E. 96th Avenue, N.E. 100th Avenue, and N.E. 108th Avenue.

Authorized staff to move forward with the preliminary work necessary to determine the costs of the repairing or replacing and the drainage structure on N.E. 96th Avenue, N.E. 100th Avenue, and N.E. 108th Avenue as well as other options for access.

Attachment: Board Policy MSBU Private Infrastructure.pdf

I-75 Relief
Regarding the Florida Department of Transportation I-75 Relief and Future Corridors Planning Processes the Board:

Directed staff to continue to participate in the agency/staff working group for the FDOT I-75 Relief and Future Corridors projects.

Directed staff to prepare a letter for the board to consider at its February 2, 2016 Policy Meeting which presents a position statement for Alachua County in this process that Commissioner Chestnut can use in his discussions. The letter should incorporate the maximization of the use of rail and take in to consideration current conservation areas as well as future conservation target areas when placing new facilities. After exhausting all other alternatives of avoiding expanding capacity request the FDOT to focus on the use of existing facilities before they create new corridors.

Directed staff to analyze the 1988 plan and determine why the FDOT stopped work on the plan.

Determine the process by which the Task Force Members were chosen and by whom for the Feb. 2 meeting.

Directed staff to research potential meeting venues in the Gainesville area and discuss the options with DOT to change the location of the meeting. The Board also directed staff to videotape the meeting for broadcast regardless of location. 

Ask staff to begin work on alternative proposal for routes to present a scope of the work and resources needed at the February 2, 2016 meeting also with recommendations with how to proceed.

Attachment: I75Relief_1262016.pptx

Children’s Services Council
Regarding the continued creation of a Children’s Services Council, the Board referred it to the County Manager.   The referral included the subjects of a Children’s Services Manager and suggestions for instituting an Advisory Board and the composition of that Board as well as an attendant budget with approximately .16 mills to be used for those services.
Back-up information

“Where Nature and Culture Meet” Signage
The Board accepted the liability for the installation of “Where Nature and Culture Meet” signage within the Florida Department of Transportation right-of-way and authorized the Chair to execute the permit for the installation of Where Nature and Culture Meet signage, collocated with “Entering Alachua County” signage.
Amount: $2,500.00
FDOT General use Permit.pdf
Resolution 2015_109.pdf

The Board authorized the continuation of 12 of the 22 SAFER Grant positions to maintain 3-Person staffing in the Rural Fire Stations and approved the budget amendment.
Amount: $355,899.00 FY16 (6 1/2 months)
Alachua Flow Data Summary 01262016.pdf
SAFER Grant Agenda Item 01142014.pdf
Public Protection Class Report 01262016.pdf
budget amendment staffing 01262015.pdf
BoCC Minutes 01142014.pdf

Homeless Outreach Team
The Board discussed the attached Homeless Outreach Team Proposal including other promising programs as well as the proposed budget and provided staff with direction including the possible use of general fund reserves.
Amount: $77,938.00
Homless Outreach Team Proposal Final Version 12232015.pdf

Comprehensive Plan Amendment for Rural Event Centers
Concerning CPA 05-15: County-initiated Comprehensive Plan Amendment for Rural Event Centers, the Board adopted the amendment with the basis as noted in the staff report.
Attachment: AgritourismCAOmemo113015.pdf
CPA0515 Agency Comments.pdf
CPA0515 Staff Report.pdf
Ordinance for CPA0515.pdf

Accessory Dwelling Units in the Rural Area
Regarding Accessory Dwelling Units in the Rural Area, the Board approved CPA 06-15 for transmittal to the State Land Planning Agency and other agencies for review and comment.
Attachment: CPA0615presentation.pdf
CPA0615 Staff Report.pdf

Lugano TND
The Board approved the Preliminary Development Plan for Lugano TND, Resolution DR-16-01 and issuance of a Preliminary Certificate of Level of Service Compliance (CLSC)
DR_16_01_Lugano TND.pdf
Lugano TND.pdf
Staff Report.pdf


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