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ALACHUA ‒ The Alachua City Commission met Aug. 10 to consider a grant application to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, school resource officers and an increase in water rates.

A matter not on the agenda was discussed when several citizens voiced their concerns about the condition of 138th Avenue in Alachua and requested that the City pave the 2 ½ mile stretch of graded roadway, which is one of the last unpaved large roads in the city.

According to some citizens, the road was not maintained until a few years ago and has received no regular maintenance since. While they acknowledged that the city had improved the grading and maintenance in the past few years, they said that was only temporarily effective and large potholes and water drainage quickly negated what maintenance was done. Another resident complained that as a dirt road, visibility was an issue in dry months and created a danger when crossing traffic upon exiting the road.

City Manager Adam Boukari said he understood their issues and would work with the City’s Public Works Department and the residents to try and improve maintenance on the road. Boukari explained that the City would like to pave the road, but the hundreds of thousands of dollars required was not in the 2020 or 2021 budget and paving was not feasible for at least two years.

In other business, the City is considering applying to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) for a 2019 Small Cities Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). The City is eligible for up to $700,000 for either Neighborhood Revitalization or Housing Rehabilitation funding. These grants are designed to improve either community infrastructure or individual housing in low-income neighborhoods.

Several citizens argued in favor of the individual housing awards saying that would have a direct effect on families by assisting them with affordable housing. Other citizens voiced support for the neighborhood grant, saying it would allow infrastructure improvements that would benefit entire neighborhoods while the individual housing grant would help possibly 10 families at most and require significant time evaluating each house to determine who most needed the improvements.

The Commission directed staff to apply for the grant but to also seek other grants or programs that might directly help families in need of better housing. A final decision on how to spend the grant will be made after it is awarded.

The Commission also approved a rate hike for water use and wastewater reclamation. The City charges for usage to cover its operating cost for water utilities. Due to increased costs, the City recommended an increase of 6 -10 cents per 1,000 gallons for residential usage and a similar range for non-residential and agricultural use. A second and final hearing will be held at the Aug. 24 Commission meeting.

The Commission approved the renewal of the School Resource Officer program in the amount of $300,000 with the funds provided by the School Board of Alachua County. The Commission also approved an update to the City’s phone system to improve internal communication capabilities for City departments. The system will cost $ 80,207 with the money coming from the General Fund.

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