GAINESVILLE – The Alachua County Legislative Delegation met at Santa Fe College on Monday, Sept. 27, to consider local bills and give local residents and officials an opportunity to request legislation or state funding and express opinions on issues to be considered by the Florida Legislature during the 2022 session.
Delegation Chair State Representative Chuck Clemons, Senator Keith Perry, and Representatives Chuck Brannan and Yvonne Hinson were on hand for the meeting.
In addition to the City of Gainesville, three rural cities in the outlying Alachua County area responded with requests for support for their cities.
Although the City of Newberry had a lengthy list of items to present to the Legislative Delegation, the list was pared down to four main items, which they presented for consideration.
Mayor Jordan Marlowe asked for $5 million in funding for expansion of Newberry’s Wastewater Treatment Facility, which is expected to cost $25 million. Currently the City is under an Administrative Order by the state to enhance its treatment capability.
In addition, Marlowe said Newberry is partnering with High Springs, Archer and Trenton to construct a regional wastewater treatment facility that will provide enhanced treatment to serve all of western Alachua County and eastern Gilchrist County.
He also requested an allocation of construction funding for the FDOT State Road 26 widening/one-way pairs project, which is now in the design and right-of-way acquisition phase. Construction funding is estimated at $35 million.
Marlowe also asked for support for funding a Jobs Growth Grant Application being submitted by the City. He said a meat processing facility, which is still in a conceptual stage, is being championed by a county Commissioner and project manager. It could be a perfect addition to the Ag Park and fits with the City’s agricultural focus as it may benefit cattle ranchers in the region.
Alachua Interim City Manager Mike DaRoza and Mayor Gib Coerper did not request financial support for a specific project. Instead, DaRoza asked that the legislature support the growth of biotechnology and life sciences in any way possible, particularly in this region. He referenced launching the Alachua Bio Partnership later this fall. They also asked for continued support of the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, for which the City benefitted in 2017 by receiving a $6.7 million grant to allow construction of the San Felasco Parkway.
“We also asked for continued support of Enterprise Florida,” DaRoza said, which aids companies looking to locate their businesses in Florida. “They partner with area chambers of commerce and municipalities to try to locate areas for relocation.”
Coerper referenced the 285 acres in Alachua that is being developed by Concept Construction and thanked the University of Florida for working with them. He said the City is moving forward with that project, which he believes will be “something special, not only for the City of Alachua but way beyond that, as far as jobs.” The mayor also asked that the legislature preempt bills that are going through the legislature that negatively impact home rule. “I hope you’ll fight for us,” he said.
Waldo City Manager Kim Worley asked for approval of their applications for Round 2 of the Rebuild Florida General Infrastructure Program, one for sewer manhole rehabilitation and replacements and one upgrades to their potable water system. She also requested funds for the FDOT Complete Streets program to make their streets safer for pedestrians. She also said her City would like to see the bike path extended from the Gainesville Airport to other existing bike paths.
The two senior members of the Delegation introduced two possible proposals for local bills in the upcoming session. Local bills affect a specific geographic location and are not statewide laws.
Senator Perry explained a possible proposal for the Alachua County Commission to be reorganized into single member districts while Representative Clemons said there may be a case for consolidation of county and city services similar to the consolidation of Duval County and Jacksonville in 1968.
Clemons said that should momentum build for either of these measures, there would be a public hearing for discussion with the Delegation to determine if further action by the Legislature is warranted. If the Legislature passes one or both bills, the electorate will have the final say as each bill would go on the 2022 ballot for a vote by local residents to determine if they approve or disapprove of the measures.
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