Gainesville seeking $130 million worth of projects
Published: Thursday, January 13, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 at 11:56 p.m.
Gainesville project requests
City commissioners Monday approved plans to ask the state and federal governments for about $130 million in projects in the coming year. The requests include:
Additional money for the Depot Regional Stormwater Project, which has already received a significant amount in federal funds. The newly requested money will be used primarily for the recreational aspects of the project, while previously allocated funds will pay for the restoration of the brownfield on the site and construction of the stormwater facility.
PRICE TAG: $19.5 million
PRICE TAG: $38.1 million
PRICE TAG: $750,000
A wish list.
City commissioners Monday approved an extensive list of projects for which Gainesville is seeking federal assistance. And the city's not just asking for a few dollars here or there; the requests made by the city to state and federal governments total more than $130 million dollars.
In Tallahassee, a new state lobbyist will help bring the city's concerns to the ears of legislators. On Monday, the city authorized Interim City Manager Barbara Lipscomb to negotiate a contract with Doug Bruce & Associates in the state capital. It's the first time in nearly 10 years the city has hired a state lobbyist.
Doug Bruce, the firm's owner, comes highly recommended by a number of state legislators, including State Sen. Rod Smith, D-Gainesville, State Rep. Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, and State Rep. Ed Jennings, D-Gainesville, said Mary Broske, city grants coordinator.
Bruce, who has worked in or lobbied the Florida Legislature for about 34 years, said he sees his role as assisting city officials by being an extra set of eyes and ears in Tallahassee.
City Commissioner Tony Domenech said that though contracting with a lobbyist costs the city up-front, he will likely be worth the expenditure.
"In the big scheme of things it could be 30,000 very well spent dollars," Domenech said.
"I would guess that since Mr. Bruce has been there so long, and comes so highly recommended, we'll be seeing results immediately," Domenech said.
Requests for transportation funding, which makes up more than half of the total amount requested, wouldwill largely be spent on the Regional Transit System. The bus service wants more money to expand its maintenance and administrative facilities, build a new multi-purpose transportation center and buy new buses.
"We are asking for a lot of money, but we think our program defines success in the transit field," RTS Director Jeff Logan said.
Expanding RTS' maintenance facilities is crucial for the transit service because until these renovations are made, the Federal Transit Administration has restricted federal dollars to replacing buses, rather than expanding the service's fleet, Logan said. Increasing the number of buses operated by RTS will allow the service to expand its route system and provide more service to areas where it is requested, particularly east Gainesville, he said.
Renovating the facilities also is necessary to deal with the increased size of RTS' operation; about 220 RTS employees now work in a building originally built for 80 workers.
RTS aims for enough of an allocation to buy eight to 12 buses a year to replace older vehicles, Logan said.
The city as a whole makes extensive use of outside funding.
The city spent almost $11 million in state or federal money in 2003, the last year for which data are available, Broske said. At about $91.89 per resident, this compares favorably with other Florida cities such as Clearwater, which brought in $91 a person in 2003, and Tampa, which brought in $96 a person in 2002.
Millions of dollars also are being requested for the Depot Regional Stormwater Project, a large city project to provide offsite stormwater retention for downtown development.
The new requests focus heavily on recreation at the site, said Teresa Scott, the city's director of public works and interim city manager.
Various funding requests for the site this year are valued at a total of $19.5 million.
Not all of the city's legislative items are financial, however.
On behalf of Gainesville Regional Utilities, the city's agenda includes a request that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency help reach a resolution at the Cabot-Koppers Superfund Site. GRU officials believe that although the property does not pose an immediate threat to Gainesville's water supply, toxins from the former wood treatment site could eventually leech into the Murphree Wellfields, which provide all of the city's drinking water, said David Richardson, GRU's interim assistant general manager for water and wastewater systems.
To ensure the safety of the well fields, GRU is requesting $750,000 to build a "groundwater monitoring network," Richardson said.
The utility also is seeking funds to expand water and wastewater services to low- and moderate-income residences now using well water and to address any utility conflicts regarding the redevelopment of the Five Points properties near the intersection of E. University Avenue, Hawthorne Road and Waldo Road. Each of these projects is priced at $1 million.
Recreation projects also made a strong showing in the requests: the city is asking for $700,000 each for improvements to Morningside Nature Center and Eastside Community Park. Another $375,000 is requested for recreation improvements at Phoenix Apartments.
"Metaphorically, the fact is that the folks that live in the Phoenix area live on an island," Domenech said. "If they live on an island we need to put the resources on that island to raise their quality of life."
Projects for which the city is seeking funding run the gamut of city services, such as public safety, community development and recreation.
The wide range of projects could, in fact, benefit Gainesville, Broske said. A "diversified" set of funding requests can increase the amount of money a city receives because different requests will play to the strengths and committee assignments of different legislators, she said.
Jeff Adelson can be reached at (352) 374-5095 or adelsoj@ gvillesun.com.
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