January 25, 2008 edition of:

Community Update
A Report on the Activities of Alachua County Government


This Issues Features:

Chairman Rodney J. Long: thoughts on Amendment 1
ACCESS: Your behind the scenes look at Alachua County government is now enrolling
Children’s Medical Services Legislative Day will educate legislators on children’s health issues
Environmental Protection’s new newsletter The Wader informs citizens about the County’s water resources
Mixed office paper and junk mail can now be recycled in curbside bins
What’s on Alachua County Talks?
Foster Grandparents are recognized for 95,321 hours of service last year to children in Alachua County
Alachua County expands weather station network
County Update TV on Community 12
Animal Services vies for makeover in online contest
County Event and Meeting Reminder
Micanopy Friendship 4-H Club receives Community Pride Grant for butterfly garden
Commission Meeting Highlights
Alachua County Advisory Boards


Chairman Rodney J. Long: thoughts on Amendment 1

On Jan. 29, you the voters will decide on Amendment 1. It is a complicated issue. Part of what elected officials in Tallahassee are counting on is that the average citizen will not have the time to research the issue. I encourage all citizens to learn about Amendment 1. If you do, you will discover that Amendment 1 is not true tax reform. You will learn that Amendment 1 gives the group that is already sheltered from high property taxes—longtime homesteaders—even more shelter and leaves non-homesteaded taxpayers, such as commercial property owners, second homeowners, and renters, out in the cold.

Let’s examine Amendment 1 point by point:

1. Double the $25,000 homestead exemption (skipping $25K-$50K): The homestead exemption does not “double” because the school board tax, which is about one third of your property tax bill, is exempt from this second $25,000. This item does nothing for non-homesteaded taxpayers.

2. Allow portability of Save Our Homes tax savings: Save Our Homes has created inequities: Non-homesteaders pay more taxes for the same services than homesteaders. In fact, depending on their Save Our Homes equity, they could pay next to nothing. For example, a person who has a $500,000 portability savings could purchase a home for $450,000 in Alachua County, and pay no taxes for services. Is that fair?

3. Tangible Personal Property exemption of $25K for businesses: Commercial property owners for years have seen their property assessments rise with no caps, while homesteaded properties were capped at 3%. Businesses are given “tax relief” that comes out to only about $20 per month.

4. Assessment Value cap on Non-Homesteaders 10%: This component best demonstrates how our tax system is broken. We are telling homesteaded property owners that they are capped at 3% and non-homesteaded property owners that they are capped at 10%. We are continuing to support a system that is clearly unfair and arbitrary.

At a recent meeting, the County Commission approved the following language articulating their concerns about Amendment 1:

For a $240 average savings (about $20 per month), an estimated $10 million dollars in revenue will be lost. This revenue pays for public safety, criminal justice programs, public infrastructure, social services, cultural programs, and most services provided by local government.

Erosion of Home Rule: Legislators in Tallahassee, instead of local city and county commissioners, are making decisions affecting the destiny of Alachua County. This is an improper shift of local decision making to State government. The quality of life enjoyed in Alachua County will be determined in Tallahassee rather than by local leaders who are directly accountable to tax payers and voters.

The inequities in Save Our Homes are actually widened. Needed tax relief to non-Save Our Homes taxpayers is minimal.

The Alachua County Commission supports true tax reform. Amendment 1 does not provide true tax reform.

True tax reform would include an overhaul of how property is valuated by property appraisers throughout the state of Florida. There needs to be a uniform method of valuating properties. An example of an inequity in the system is:

When you have a working waterfront property like a marina that is currently in operation, that property is not valued on the current use, but the highest and best use. The highest and best use may be condos valued between $250k and $500k a unit. The property is assessed at this value; Amendment 1 doesn’t address this inequity.

If we are to have true property tax reform, then all the stakeholders should be at the table and all the items should be placed on the table for consideration, including the billions of dollars in tax exemptions for businesses in this state. Former Senate President John McKay of the tax budget reform commission has proposed a constitutional amendment that would eliminate over 8 billion dollars in tax exemptions.

True property tax reform would address the many unfunded mandates that have been shifted to local governments from the state legislature, such as additional Medicaid cost, cost of paying for juveniles in the state’s detention center, and the cost of adding physical education as a requirement by the school board. Our legislators can boast about reducing our property taxes, but we never hear about how they are asking our local taxpayers to pay for their state programs.

True property tax reform does not take local decision making from those representatives who are closest to the people. Our citizens can attend our meetings, participate in our budget process and can always show their displeasure at the ballot box.

For these and other reasons, the Board of County Commissioners is asking the voters of Alachua County to vote no on Amendment 1 on January 29th.

Amendment 1 Info Links

Informational Amendment 1 website:

Commision Chairman Rodney J. Long’s Amendment 1 presentation during the January 22 Commission Meeting (scroll down to #6 11:00 a.m. Presentation) :

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ACCESS: Your behind the scenes look at Alachua County government is now enrolling

Join us for the Alachua County Civic Education SerieS (ACCESS), your ticket to a behind-the-scenes look at Alachua County Government.

You will learn about local government issues, meet the employees serving the County and have access to County operations that most citizens never see. Each graduating class will produce a group of citizens equipped to engage in ways that help Alachua County become more representative of its citizenry’s needs.

ACCESS begins March 17 and runs for seven sessions. ACCESS is free but space is limited. To reserve your seat or for more information, call (352) 374-5219.

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Children’s Medical Services Legislative Day will educate legislators on children’s health issues

The Children’s Medical Services (CMS) Gainesville area office will host the first Annual Legislative Day on February 1, 2008 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Gerold L. Schiebler Children’s Medical Services Center located at 1701 SW 16th Avenue Gainesville, Florida 32608. The purpose of the event is to educate area legislators on issues related to children with special health care needs and the role CMS plays in providing health care services locally and around the state.

“This is an important opportunity for local elected officials to learn about and personally meet the children and families in their area who are served by the CMS Network,” said Deputy Secretary of Health for CMS, Joseph J. Chiaro, M.D.

Alachua County’s Legislative Day will include presentations on CMS, a clinic tour, and the opportunity for parents of children with special health care needs to share their experiences with their legislator. This is the first time CMS has hosted an event like this in Alachua County. Children’s Medical Services is dedicated to providing care to children with special health care needs. For more information, visit the DOH web site at www.doh.state.fl.us and select Children’s Medical Services from the drop down menu or visit www.cms-kids.com .

State and Local CMS Representatives will be available to address the media at 11:30 a.m.

For additional information contact Event Coordinator Maggie Bednar, RN Nursing Director Children’s Medical Services, at (352) 334-1379.

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Environmental Protection’s new newsletter The Wader informs citizens about the County’s water resources

Curious about the Springs Protection Area signs that have sprung up on local roads? You can read about these signs, springs protection, new water restrictions, and more in Alachua County Environmental Protection Department’s (ACEPD) electronic newsletter, “The Wader.” The Wader is a quarterly newsletter published to inform citizens of ACEPD’s water related programs, with an emphasis on public outreach efforts of ACEPD and partnering organizations. The Wader includes a calendar of upcoming environmental events and links to some great websites. Check it out here:

The Wader

To receive this quarterly newsletter, subscribe at the following site. It is free, simple, and messages will only be sent when a new edition is hot off the press:


For even more information on the County’s water resources, navigate to the new Water Resources Protection website:

Water Resources Protection website

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Mixed office paper and junk mail can now be recycled in curbside bins

Alachua County and the City of Gainesville are pleased to announce that the residential curbside recycling program has been expanded to include mixed office paper and junk mail. These items should be placed in the Orange Bin along with newspaper, magazines, catalogs, brown paper bags and corrugated cardboard. Residents are reminded to place their Blue Bin on top of their Orange Bin to prevent paper from being blown into the street or other yards.

The City and County would like to thank SP Recycling Corp. and Waste Management, Inc. for their assistance in expanding the curbside recycling program. Their cooperation made this expansion possible at no additional cost to residents.

Please call Alachua County at (352) 338-3233 or the City of Gainesville at (352) 334-2330 for additional information.

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What’s on Alachua County Talks?

On the latest editions of Alachua County Talks, Jeff Bielling, Alachua County Fire Rescue’s Wildfire Mitigation Officer, discusses the County’s Wildfire Mitigation program.

Also, Alachua County Commission Chair Rodney J. Long is interviewed on the State of the County.

You can view the videos by clicking on the images to the right. Alachua County Talks is also shown on Community 12, Your Local Government Channel. Normally, we would direct you to the Community 12 online schedule, but due to damage sustained to equipment due to a water leak, the Channel 12 schedule will be temporarily unavailable.

Alachua County Talks Video Archive

Wildfire Mitigation Officer Jeff Bielling - Click to view video

Commission Chair Rodney J. Long delivers his State of the County Address - Click to view video

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Foster Grandparents are recognized for 95,321 hours of service last year to children in Alachua County

Foster grandparents provide thousands of hours of love and support to children in Alachua County. To say thanks, the Alachua County Foster Grandparent Program laid out the red carpet at the 34th annual Recognition Ceremony themed “Foster Grandparents are Gems,’’ held December 7 at the Best Western Gateway Grand Hotel.

Storm Roberts of WKTK 98.5 FM served as master of ceremony. He recognized each foster grandparent for their length of service. Foster grandparents who have been in the program for 5 and 15 years received gifts. Ten and twenty-year veterans received plaques of appreciation.

Joy Banks and Michael Miller of “Victorious” delighted the nearly 200 grandparents, friends, and special guests with old favorites and holiday songs.

Alachua County Commissioner Lee Pinkoson recognized program sponsors including, The Village, Cox Communications, Shands Senior Advantage, Cracker Barrel, and WKTK-WSKY.

Dorothy Field, chair of the Foster Grandparent Advisory Council, recognized essay contest winners, including kindergartner Jordan Whitfield of Archer Community School, who received $20 for first place in the Pre-school through Kindergarten category. “My foster grandmother (Mabel Crawford) helps me write,” said Jordan. In the elementary school category, Cornelius Davis of Archer Community School, received $30 for first place, while Jessica Cooke of Glen Springs Elementary School received $15 for second place. Deborah Alessi’s kindergarten class at Archer Community School received an award for “Best Class Participation.”

This past year, 115 foster grandparents provided 95,321 hours of service to children in Alachua County. Their dedication resulted in marked improvement in the children’s academic performance. Of the children assigned to foster grandparents in the Head Start program or in kindergarten through third-grade, 87 percent improved in reading skills, 91 percent improved in math skills, 86 percent improved their behavior and 81 percent will go on to the next grade. Of the children assigned to foster grandparents in child-care settings, 100 percent of the children improved in at least two targeted areas, such as self-care skills, emotional development and social interaction. Of the children assigned to foster grandparents in after-school settings and other settings, 100 percent improved in some targeted areas, including leadership, social skills and life skills.

For more information on the Foster Grandparent Program, or to learn how to join, please call (352) 264-6732.

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Alachua County expands weather station network

Alachua County Emergency Management recently expanded its weather monitoring network with the purchase and installation of two more WeatherBug stations. The two stations are located at the following County Fire Rescue facilities: Rescue 20 just south of Highs Springs on US 441 and at Rescue 8 in the Orange Heights area just off of US 301.

Each station is capable of collecting and displaying rainfall, wind speed, temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure. Live weather data from these stations is broadcasted via the internet at Emergency Management’s homepage. Historical weather data is maintained at the WeatherBug website.

This network will allow first responders to access live weather data during severe weather, chemical spills and wildfires. Additionally, residents in these areas can monitor the weather conditions in real time. WeatherBug provides a free software download in which users can select their nearest station and will alert them to severe weather as it happens.

The weather data can be accessed at: http://www.alachuacounty.us/government/depts/fr/em/weathertools/currentweather.aspx .

For more information, contact Alachua County Emergency Management at (352) 264-6500.

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County Update TV on Community 12

This month’s County Update include features on the first Battle of Hogtown Civil War Reenactment, a tour of Paynes Prairie, fire safety tips for children, recognition of Foster Grandparents, and the Stand Down for Veterans.

The episode will premire on Community 12 this week. Normally, we would direct you to the Community 12 online schedule, but to damage sustained to equipment due to a water leak, the Channel 12 schedule may be temporarily unavailable. Click below to go to the Video on Demand Archive, where the episode will be posted.

County Update Video Archive

Featured in this month’s County Update is a tour of Payne’s Prairie where rangers take you up close to the prairie’s wildlife. Click to view video.

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Animal Services vies for makeover in online contest

Alachua County Animal Services has entered a contest sponsored by Zootoo.com to win a makeover of their facilities valued at up to $1 million. From now until March 31, 2008, citizens can support Animal Services by logging on to www.zootoo.com and registering as a “Community Member.”

Registering earns points for Animal Services, and as Community Members citizens can perform other actions to earn additional points for Animal Services. The more points each Community Member earns for the shelter, the higher the shelter will be ranked in the contest.

After March 31, 2008, a panel of judges will evaluate the 20 shelters with the most points and determine eligibility for the top prize, which could be a $1 million makeover of the shelter. The designated runner-up will receive a $10,000 prize, and the other 18 finalists receive $5,000. The winners will be announced May 1, 2008.

For more information or to register, please visit www.zootoo.com.

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County Event and Meeting Reminder

Extension Premarital Class

Children’s Medical Services Legislative Day

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Micanopy Friendship 4-H Club receives Community Pride Grant for butterfly garden

The Micanopy Friendship 4-H club of Alachua County has received a Community Pride grant in the amount of $450.00.

The 4-H Community Pride program involves helping the members of the group learn about their community and encourage them to improve the quality of their environment while completing projects that will make a difference to others. Community Pride grants are sponsored through Chevron Texaco Corporation and are distributed by the Florida 4-H Foundation.

The Micanopy Club’s project is to design, implement and plant a Florida Native Butterfly garden to compliment the Town of Micanopy renovation of the community park next to the Micanopy Fire Station. The butterfly garden will be a large, interactive garden that will flank one entire side of the community park. Micanopy 4-H plans to work hand in hand in cooperation with the town, classes and teachers at Micanopy Area Cooperative School, local Master Gardeners and other community agencies such as the Boy Scouts, Farm Bureau and UF Butterfly Research/Exhibit Center to develop a sustainable and truly community based/supported project that is both educational, relaxing and beautiful for all of the citizens of Micanopy.

The Micanopy Club would like to thank you for your consideration of funding this project and allowing the Micanopy Friendship 4-H Club to make a lasting and educational impact on our community and our 4-H’ers lives. According to Alachua County 4-H Agent Ernie Terry, “The total needs of the project are approximately $2,000 and the award from the state grant puts a jump start into this new effort.” Terry further notes that a similar project by the Micanopy 4-H Club over 20 years ago resulted in spearheading the existing playground at the same community park. Terry added “It’s wonderful to see some of the children of those same former 4-H members continuing a legacy of community development, in the same way their parents had all those years ago.”

By participating in Community pride, youth are able to learn more about their community and the impact it has on their lives. They will know how to work effectively in community activities, programs and organizations and develop skills and knowledge in community leadership. Youth also develop an interest for their community as well as gain the experience to improve their environment.

After the completion of the Community Pride project, reports can be submitted to receive recognition at the Florida 4-H Congress Community Pride Luncheon with a plaque in July.

Founded in 1902, 4-H works with more than 223,000 rural, suburban and urban youth ages 5-18 in Florida and is active in all 67 counties, and with the Seminole tribe. All programs are open to all persons regardless of race, color, age, sex, handicap or national origin. For more information on joining a 4-H group in your area, contact your local UF/IFAS Alachua County Extension Office at 352-955-2402 or visit the Alachua 4-H website at http://alachua.ifas.ufl.edu. If you have additional questions, please contact Ernie Terry at (352)955-2402 or email eterry@ufl.edu.

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Commission Meeting Highlights

Presentations, Proclamations and Recognitions

The Alachua County Board of Commissioners proclaimed Tuesday, January 22, 2008 as "WCJB TV-20 Excellence in Compassion Day" in Alachua County, Florida.

Excellence in Compassion.pdf

The Board proclaimed Friday, February 1, 2008 as "School Crossing Guard Appreciation Day" in Alachua County, Florida.

School Crossing Guards 2008.pdf

The Board heard an Amendment #1 Presentation by Board of County Commission Chairman Rodney J. Long.

The Board heard a presentation by Federal Legislative consultants. They discussed and adopted the 2009 Federal projects, and directed staff to prepare a final 2009 Federal legislative program for submission.

FINAL 2008 FED PROGRAM Text Only.pdf

The Board heard the City of Alachua Transit System (CATS) plan. They approved a $13,425 contribution to the system from the County.

The Board authorized a City of High Springs Settlement counter proposal in the Cat Sanctuary Zoning Lawsuit and requested a joint public meeting with the City of High Springs;


The Board decided not to initiate a lawsuit challenging the City of Alachua Annexation of McGinley Property (Amended)


The Board adopted the resolution and authorizes staff to proceed with issuance of the Gas Tax Revenue Bonds, Series 2008.

POS - Series 2008 _00199729-7_.pdf
Final Continuing Disclosure Certificate _002099273_12208.pdf
Series_2008_NOS_Final 12208.pdf
Final Supplemental Resolution4EX12208.pdf

The Board approved Cellular Telephone Policy A which adds an allowance as a benefit for usage of cellular telephones by employees conducting Alachua County business.


The Board approved the revised 2006-2008 State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) Local Housing Assistance Plan (LHAP)

SHIP 2006-08 LHAP Amendment Final.pdf


Public Hearings

The Board accepted the draft report, and authorize advertisement of public hearings for Comprehensive Plan amendments to implement the Eastside Activity Center Master Plan.

EACMP for Jan22.ppt
APP F Eval Forms Community Mtg2.pdf
EACMP Draft Report.pdf
APP A Res0699.pdf
APP D Community Mtg1 Summary.pdf
APP E RPG Report Feb2007.pdf
APP G RPG Report July2007.pdf
EACMP PowerPoint.pdf
APP H Eval Forms Community Mtg3.pdf
APP I Current Plan Policies.pdf
APP J Participant List.pdf
APP B RPG Site Profile.pdf
APP C Focus Group Summary.pdf

The Board accepted and exercised the Assignment of Option to purchase the Lochloosa Connector - River Styx Tract and authorize staff to execute documents as necessary to close the transaction.

Amount: Acquisition: $2,358,943. Stewardship: $500/yr.

Exhibit 3 River Styx Map_small.pdf
Presentation BoCC080122 RStyx contract.pdf
Exhibit 1 Assignment and Option River Styx Final.pdf
Exhibit 2 River Styx Evaluation.pdf
Exhibit 4 Participation Agreement.pdf
Exhibit 5 RStyx costs.pdf

The Board heard the Waterways Master Plan Report Presentation


The Board denied CPA-01-08 (Tower Rd/24th Ave. Activity Center - NW Quadrant)

CPA 01 08 Traffic Study.pdf
CPA 01 08 Citizen Comments.pdf
CPA 01 08 Application.pdf
CPA 01 08 Env Checklist.pdf
CPA 01 08 Presentation.ppt
CPA 01 08 Market Study.pdf
CPA 01 08 Citizen Petition.pdf
CPA 01 08 Survey.pdf
CPA0108 Staff Report.pdf


Advisory Board Appointments

Board of Adjustment Advisory Board

Tourist Development Committee

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Alachua County Advisory Boards

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

Get Involved - Click here for an application: http://www.alachuacounty.us/government/bocc/advisoryboard.aspx

Applications are also available at the County Manager’s Office on the Second Floor of the County Administration Building, 12 SE 1st St., Gainesville. For more information, call (352) 264-6904.

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Thank you for your continued interest in County Government!

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