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ALACHUA ‒ The City of Alachua and Alachua County discussed the proposed purchase of the Fellowship Baptist Church at its June 14 joint meeting held at Alachua City Hall. Located in High Springs, the church property had been suggested as a location for a satellite county office to provide resources closer to residents in that area of the county. Proposed uses include office space for the tax collector, property appraiser, Department of Motor Vehicles and social services.

Although the County is interested in creating a satellite office for the Alachua/High Springs area, County Commissioners decided not to purchase the property, which was listed for $3.3 million and appraised at some $2.2 million. In considering other locations, it was suggested that some of the cost could be absorbed by renting out part of the property to other social service organizations.

Several organizations such as The Partnership for Strong Families, Peaceful Paths, Meridian Behavioral Healthcare and the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County have all expressed interest in using part of the space. Currently plans are on hold to see if the church property owner will sell for the appraised value.

In other business, both bodies discussed the creation of an Infrastructure Surtax Ballot Initiative in 2022. The County is suggesting adding a one-half to one-cent tax for general infrastructure such as road repair and construction. No action was taken on the issue Monday night, and the tax will be discussed with other towns in the county before a decision is made to include it on the 2022 ballot.

The County Commission also discussed a renter’s rights initiative to provide funds for repairs and new construction for low-income affordable housing, primarily in Gainesville. The City of Alachua already has received grants to invest in renovations and street repair in neighborhoods within the city and has already invested in multiple projects. City of Alachua Commissioners suggested that the County hold off until Gainesville provides plans in order to reduce duplicate work and expenses, especially since the City of Alachua has already done much of the work in their community.

The final item discussed during the two-hour joint meeting was the status of the Trunked Radio System, which provides a combined radio system to all the county first responder services. The City of Alachua joined the system this year and made monthly payments of $10,000 a month for three months.

Recently, Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU), who provides the system, announced increasing and changing payments to a full year’s cost to be paid now by each municipality. The City of Alachua expressed that the amount was too much at one time and that they had already signed a monthly contract. Additionally, Alachua City Commissioners suggested that the County should pay the extra cost since it covers all municipalities. The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners indicated they would consider the proposal.

“Although the meeting was long and at times spirited, it was productive,” said City of Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper. “It was good to see the Alachua County Commission wanting to work with the outlying cities to address important local issues and establish better communications between the towns.”

Following the combined County-City meeting, the City of Alachua Commission convened to consider several budgetary issues. The Commission approved acceptance of funds for the summer programs to be held at Legacy Park and Santa Fe High School. In March 2021, The Children's Trust of Alachua County approved $100,060 for the summer programs. Additional funding of $29,600 is projected to be received from enrollment fees for a total of $129,660 to cover the programs.

The other budget agenda item involved the transfer of funds from the General Fund Budget to the City Attorney and Facilities Maintenance Budget of $110,000. The City Attorney office will receive $35,000 primarily for anticipated litigation expenses related to the 2020 Alachua County Charter Amendment lawsuit in addition to the current fiscal year contractual increase. The additional $75,000 to Facilities Maintenance will provide for additional current fiscal year costs related to the City Hall buildout and Hal Brady Recreation Center maintenance shed projects.

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