August 29th edition of:

Community Update
A Report on the Activities of Alachua County Government


This Issues Features:

Alachua County Commission Sets Budget Priorities
County Crisis Center Seeks Volunteer Crisis Line Counselors
Alachua County Tax Collector’s Office has Relocated
Empowerment Center Oversight Advisory Board
Upcoming CERT Classes
Florida Health Promotes Breastfeeding During World Breastfeeding Month
September 4-H Information
N.W. 32nd Ave. Road Closure
Take 5 - Tom Coward Auditorium Dedication
September Extension Programs
Get Ready – Get Set – Vote! Countdown to Elections
Commission Highlights

Alachua County Commission Sets Budget Priorities

At a special meeting on August 16, 2016, the County Commission made the final decisions necessary to bring the FY17 Tentative Budget to the September Public Hearings for finalization. The Public Hearings will take place on September 13th and September 27th. Both meetings begin at 5 p.m. in the Jack Durrance Auditorium in the County Administration Building located at 12 S.E. 1st Street, Gainesville.

The budget adoption is the Board’s most powerful tool for articulating their priorities for the upcoming fiscal year. Board decisions on new items in the FY17 budget clearly demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of our community’s children, public safety, roads and transportation needs, and the diversity and future of the County’s workforce.

“My staff and I look forward to implementing the Board’s priorities as spelled out in the FY17 Budget,” commented County Manager Lee A. Niblock, “The Board has assembled a budget that has, at its center, serving the citizens of Alachua County by spending their tax dollars efficiently.”

Budget Highlights:

The General Fund Millage Rate Decrease
Paid by all county citizens, the countywide millage rate was decreased from 8.9545 mills to 8.9290 mills for a .0255 reduction. This decrease was possible because, at the conclusion of the special meeting, unallocated funds were available. 

Municipal Services Taxing Units (MSTUs) Millage Rate Increase
Paid by unincorporated residents, the three MSTUs millage rates (Law Enforcement, Fire, and Unincorporated services) increased by a combined total of .3354 mills going from a total of 4.5011 mills to 4.8372 mills. The vast majority of this increase was to pay for crucial public safety services including law enforcement and fire/rescue needs.

Children’s Services Council (CSC)
Continuing their longtime commitment to our children, the Board budgeted $1.25 million for the creation of the Children’s Services Council. Through the advice and recommendation of the Council, the Board will explore the creation of innovative programs to address the needs of children ranging from prenatal to age five.

Funding for Roads
Building on last year’s General Fund increase, the Board again demonstrated their commitment to tackling the issue of the County’s deteriorating roadways. In addition to Gas Tax funding, the Board increased General Fund contributions to roads by over 27% (from $2,577,760 to $3,285,536). The Board committed to three road-resurfacing projects in the coming year: CR 236, Tower Road, and N.W. 43rd Street.

Sheriff’s Budget
Demonstrating their continued commitment to the safety of our citizens, the Board increased the Sheriff’s budget by $2.5 million, to a total of $73.6 million (a 3.5% increase).

Increase in Employee Minimum Wage
In a concerted effort to continue the movement towards a Living Wage for all employees, the Board raised the minimum wage for County employees from $12 per hour to $12.50. This change will also affect certain employees of some vendors doing business with the County.

Three Person Staffing at Rural Fire Stations
The Board was convinced that three person staffing would improve the safety of our citizens, Fire Rescue personnel, and protect the continued insurability of our resident’s homes. The cost of this staffing is $658,000.

One Additional Peak Load Ambulance Staffing
The Board allocated $313,487 for additional staffing during peak load call times. It is estimated that the revenue from this addition will be about $365,000, making this a profitable decision for the County. This staffing will provide faster response times to County citizens when they are in need of critical ambulance services. 

Regional Transit Service (RTS)
To better serve the citizens that rely on bus service, the Board increased RTS funding by $111,000 to bus routes going into the unincorporated area of the County. This increase will provide improved service on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. 

Diversity and Millennial Recruiting
Recognizing the need for a more diverse work force in our Fire Rescue Department, the Board approved a Diversity Recruiting position. The Board also approved the Millennial Recruitment program to attract the next generation of public servants. A total of $248,552 was budgeted for these efforts.

For more information, contact Communications and Legislative Affairs Director Mark Sexton at 352-374-5204 or

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County Crisis Center Seeks Volunteer Crisis Line Counselors

The Alachua County Crisis Center is seeking volunteers to become Crisis Line Counselors. This is an opportunity to impact the lives of fellow community members and to gain life-enhancing communication skills. 

The next training class begins Saturday, September 10, 2016. After the initial all day session, training is Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for six weeks. Sixty hours of in-depth training are provided. There is no fee for the training. Volunteer candidates will learn active listening, crisis intervention, suicide prevention, community disaster response and more.

Applicants do not need to possess any specific degrees or certifications. The center’s volunteers are diverse members of our community. Training is held at the Crisis Center, off of East University Avenue. After the successful completion of training, volunteers must commit to twenty-four four hour shifts (which includes three night watches).

Visit the Crisis Center’s website to apply online.

For more information, contact Alachua County Crisis Center Training Coordinator Jan Greene at 352-264-6782.

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Alachua County Tax Collector’s Office has Relocated

The Alachua County Tax Collector’s Office has relocated its Southwest Butler Plaza Service Center from 3207 S.W. 35th Blvd., Gainesville, to 3837 Windmeadows Blvd., Gainesville. The new service center is located on the north side of the Best Buy building and across from Lowe’s, still within Butler Plaza. All email addresses and phone numbers for the Southwest Office will remain the same. 

View a map showing the relocated Tax Collector office.

The Tax Collector’s Office has two other locations:

Northwest Branch – 5801 N.W. 34th Blvd., Gainesville
Downtown – 12 S.E. 1st St., Gainesville (County Administration Building)

Service hours at all locations remain 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with many Tax Collector services are available online, 24 hours a day/7 days a week on their website

For more information, contact the Tax Collector’s Public Information Specialist Brittany McQuaig at 352-264-6914.

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Empowerment Center Oversight Advisory Board

The Gainesville City Commission and the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners have partnered to create the Empowerment Center Oversight Advisory Board. Applications are being solicited for one member of the Oversight Board, who must be a resident of Alachua County. This resident will be appointed by the four Board member commissioners. Applications must be received by 8 a.m., on Monday, August 29, 2016, to be considered for appointment at the September 7, 2016 meeting.

The Oversight Board will develop a long-term vision for the success of the Empowerment Center and the broad range of homeless and social/community services that are or may be provided at the Empowerment Center. The Oversight Board will review the performance of the providers (including the existing provider) that utilize the Empowerment Center. However, the Oversight Board will not direct the day-to-day operations of the providers or the Empowerment Center.

The Oversight Board is advisory to the Gainesville City Commission and the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners. The Oversight Board consists of five members including two City of Gainesville commissioners, two Alachua County commissioners, and one resident of Alachua County.

Interested persons can apply online at the Alachua County Advisory Board website.

Applications and additional information is also available from the Office of the Clerk of the Commission, Gainesville City Hall, 200 E. University Ave., 1st Floor, or call 352-334-5015.

For more information, contact Alachua County Community Support Services Assistant Director Tom Tonkavich at 352-264-6738 or


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Upcoming CERT Classes

Alachua County Emergency Management is enrolling citizens for its Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program. The program’s seven classes are on Wednesday evenings, from September 7, through October 19, 2016. Each class is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Classes are held at the Alachua County Emergency Operations Center (1100 S.E. 27th Street, Gainesville). The classes are free, and the registration deadline is September 6. 

Alachua County Emergency Management Coordinator Ebbin Spellman said, “Our community is vulnerable to a disaster such as hurricanes, wildfires, extreme weather, man-made and technological hazards to name a few.” He continued, “The CERT program is designed to prepare you to help yourself and to help others in the event of a catastrophic disaster. It teaches you how to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters, so you can make a difference by using your CERT training to save lives and protect property.”

Class topics include:

Click to register.

For more information, call Alachua County Emergency Management at 352-264-6500.

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Florida Health Promotes Breastfeeding During World Breastfeeding Month

The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County is highlighting the importance of breastfeeding during National Breastfeeding Month. Breastfeeding plays a critical role in healthy development from the very beginning of a child’s life.

Community Program Manager of the Alachua Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) Program Diana Duque stated, “Breastfeeding not only promotes a unique, beautiful and necessary bond between a mom and her baby but it helps mom’s body recover after birth, and it provides nutrition and antibodies to help her baby avoid illness and allergies.”

Breast milk contains antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses. To reach the goal of exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months, mothers need supportive maternity leave policies, flexible work hours, infant and child-care at or near the workplace, and private facilities for expressing and storing breastmilk. It takes time and practice to learn how to breastfeed, both for mother and baby, and to establish a good milk supply.

Earlier this year, the department launched the Florida Healthy Babies initiative and has invested nearly two million dollars in helping hospitals around the state promote “Baby Steps to Baby Friendly” in order to support mothers in practicing exclusive breastfeeding for their infants. 

The Florida Healthy Babies initiative in Alachua County hosted a Town Hall Meeting in May and a follow-up community meeting is scheduled for September 7, 2016, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. To attend, send an RSVP to

For more information about the Florida WIC program call 1-800-342-3556 or visit the Florida WIC Program website. To learn more about the benefits of breastfeeding visit the La Leche League website or the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition website.

For more information about Baby Steps to Baby Friendly visit the Florida Healthiest Weight website. 

For resources on breastfeeding and print outs for working moms, visit this activity website.

For more information, contact Diana Duque at 352-225-4355.


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September 4-H Information

4-H online enrollment begins September 1, 2016. Those wishing to enroll in 4-H for the year can visit the 4-H enrollment page. All youth members and volunteers are required to enroll or re-enroll. For help registering or more information call 352-955-2402 or visit the Alachua County 4-H website.

The Gator Ticket Office announced a special ticket offer for all 4-H members for the Gator football game on Saturday, September, 3rd against the UMASS. 4-H members can purchase game tickets at a special rate of $20 per ticket. Visit the Florida 4-H website to purchase tickets.

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

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N.W. 32nd Ave. Road Closure

Beginning Tuesday, September 6, 2016, N.W. 32nd Ave. will be closed immediately west of CR 241 (N.W. 143rd St.). A northbound detour route will be posted via N.W. 78th Ave., then to CR 235, then to N.W. 46th Ave, then to N.W. 186th St., and back to N.W. 32nd Ave. A southbound detour route will be posted via Newberry Rd., then to N.W. 170th Ave., and back to N.W. 32nd Ave.

View the detour map.

The roadway is scheduled to be opened no later than October 31, 2016; the contractor will expedite their work in this area to minimize the duration of the closure.

The closure is required to complete roadway undercut and reconstruction related to the N.W. 143rd St. at N.W. 32nd Ave. Signalization and Turn Lane project.

Find out information about the project (this link is updated on the first week of each month).

For more information, contact Tom Strom with Alachua County Public Works at 352-548-1223 or

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Take 5 - Tom Coward Auditorium Dedication

This edition of Alachua County’s “Take 5” highlights the recent dedication of the County’s Community Support Services Auditorium in the honor of former Alachua County Commissioner Thomas Coward. Coward served on the Alachua County Commission from 1974-1992, and was the first elected black County Commissioner in the state of Florida since the era of Reconstruction.

While serving on the County Commission, he established Alachua County’s first Equal Opportunity Office, supported numerous capital projects of county-wide significance, passed a sales tax to support the Alachua County Library District, championed recreational improvements in the Monteocha area, and formed economic partnerships for East Gainesville improvements.

Mr. Coward is a United States Navy Veteran. After his military service, he returned to Gainesville, where he served 31 years in the Alachua County School System, finishing his tenure as an administrator at the School Board Office.

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September Extension Programs

Commercial Horticulture Program

This program is being offered by Dr. Tatiana Sanchez, Commercial Horticulture Agent.

Worker Protection Standards Updates –Train the Trainer – September 6, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at the UF/IFAS Plant Science Research & Education Unit (2556 W Hwy 318, Citra)

This workshop is designed to prepare agricultural producers to train their agriculture workers and pesticide handlers in the Worker Protection Standard (WPS). WPS training is required for all workers on farms, forests, commercial nurseries, and commercial greenhouses. An official from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will be present to answer questions on WPS compliance.

A total of four CEUs will be available: Aerial application - Ag, Ornamental & Turf Pest Control, Soil & Greenhouse Fumigation, Forest Pest Control, Ag Tree Crop Pest Control, Ag Row Crop Pest Control, Private Applicator Ag Pest Control.

View/download the workshop flyer (PDF).

Please register by August 30. The registration fee $12.00 in advance or $15.00 at the door. Register online (with an additional fee), or call 352-337-6209 (voicemail). Light refreshments will be served.

Environmental Horticulture Programs

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

Gardening for Seniors – September 7, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. (with Laurie Sheldon, Master Gardener)

This class focuses on making gardening easier. It will describe and demonstrate tools, methods, and tips that can help reduce aches and pains while enjoying the outdoors. 

Make Cheap and Easy Self-watering Tomato Containers – September 13, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

This workshop teaches how to build self-watering tomato containers with supplies that can be found locally. Additional information on how to use the containers and what grows in them will be presented. A self-watering container is also provided as well as a tomato transplant with everything needed to grow healthy, tasty tomatoes. 

Registration is $20.00 for class and container; $5.00 for class only. Register online (with an additional fee) or call 352-337-6209 (voicemail). Class is limited to 20 participants.

Turn your Backyard into an Edible, Sustainable Landscape – September 17, from 8:30 a.m. to noon (with Russ Rice, Master Gardener)

This workshop is for the beginner to intermediate gardener that wants to create an edible landscape, utilizing organic principles. Topics include setting up garden spaces, fertilization, micro irrigation, pest and disease control, and an introduction to hydroponics. It includes hands-on activities and a manual. Light refreshments will be provided.

Registration is $50.00 for workshop. Register online (with an additional fee) or call 352-337-6209 (voicemail). Class is limited to 15 participants.

Planting Your Yard for Wildlife – September 22, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Learn about planting yards to attract birds, butterflies, and pollinators. This class identifies various birds and butterflies, as well as the plants that attract them. It includes a tour around the demonstration gardens, informational handouts, and “seed bombs” of native wildflowers.

Registration is $5.00 for class. Register online (with an additional fee) or call 352-337-6209 (voicemail).

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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Get Ready – Get Set – Vote! Countdown to Elections

Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Pam Carpenter would like to encourage citizens who plan to vote in the August 30th Primary Election to remember the following information to make Election Day go smoothly:

If you have any questions, please contact the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office at (352) 374-5252 or visit our website at

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Commission Highlights

Suicide Prevention Day
The Board proclaimed September 10th as “Suicide Prevention Day” in Alachua County, FL
Suicide Prevention Day 2016.pdf

Meridian Behavioral Healthcare Annual Report
The Board heard the annual presentation of Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, Inc.’s Annual Report

Labor Daze Fest Day
The Board proclaimed August 23, 2016, as “Labor Daze Fest Day” in Alachua County FL
Labor Daze Fest Day 2016.pdf

NeXtGen Biologics
The Board approved the Resolution supporting NeXtGen Biologics, Inc. participation in the QTI program and authorized the Chair’s signature.
Amount: $24,500.00
NeXtGen Biologics Evaluation Matrix.pdf
NeXtGen Biologics Inc QTI Resolution.pdf
NeXtGen Biologics Inc GPO Attachment.pdf

Investment Inducements Incentives for Economically Underperforming Areas
Concerning “Investment Inducements Incentives for Economically Underperforming Areas” the Board directed staff to:

Come back with a revised map to identify pockets of poverty and refer to the Economic Development Advisory Committee for recommendations, and return to the Board with ideas to reduce development plan, land use and zoning fees in these areas.

Provide additional policy direction on home based business issues

Is the MSTU unincorporated an allowable source to supplant reductions in business fees

Attachment: Incentives Inducements August 2016.pdf

Sustainability Council Quarterly Update
The Board accepted the Sustainability Council Quarterly Update
Sustainability Council Presentation082316.pdf
Sustainability Council Quarterly Report Aug 23 2016final.pdf

Water Conservation Projects Update
The Board accepted the Water Conservation Projects Update
Water Conservation Initiative Update_160823.pdf

Homeowner Association Florida Friendly Landscaping Code
The Board directed staff to develop a Homeowner Association Florida Friendly Landscaping Code that allows residents to come up with landscaping that they wish to have rather than what is dictated by the homeowners association.
Local Florida Friendly Landscaping Code Presentation.pdf
FFL Ordinance Draft 3.pdf

Newnans Lake Improvement Initiative
The Board recognized the unanticipated Revenue and approved the agreement for the Newnans Lake Improvement Initiative from the State of Florida. 
Amount: $456,000.00
Newnans Lake BA.pdf
Newnans Lake Improvement Initiative Resolution.pdf
August 23 2016, BoCC Newnans Lake Improvement Initiative.pptx
Newnans Lake Improvement Initiative DEP Agreement LP01010.pdf
August 23, 2016, BoCC Newnans Lake Improvement Initiative.pdf

CJMHSAG Reinvestment Program
The Board approved the request from Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, Inc. to serve as the applicant agency for the CJMHSAG Reinvestment Program’s Request for Applications Process.

Safer Grant
The Board authorized staff to accept the Safer Grant, which provides for four-person staffing at the rural fire stations, authorized 12.0 additional Firefighter FTEs for grant period, and approved an Inter-fund loan in amount not to exceed $165,000.00
Amount: $1,299,168.00 Grant Revenue
2015 SAFER Grant Application.pdf
FEMA SAFER Grant Award.pdf

Remote Parking
Concerning the First Public Hearing to Amend the Unified Land Development Code to Permit Remote Parking, the Board approved staff recommendation with stipulations proposed and discussed for landscaping and physical deterrent This will return to the Board for a second public hearing.

Tower Hill Office Park
The Board approved ZOM-03-16: A Request to Amend an Existing Planned Development District (Tower Hill Office Park) to Allow Educational Facilities as a Permitted Use and to Allow Incidental Food Sales as an Accessory Use.
ZOM0316 Resolution.pdf
ZOM0316 Powerpoint Presentation.pdf
ZOM0316 Staff Report.pdf
Tower Hill PD Application.pdf

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Thank you for your continued interest in County Government!

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