Legislators hear area requests
Published: Friday, January 21, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 20, 2005 at 11:08 p.m.
The dire warnings about lack of money were missing this year, but Alachua County's legislators made no promises of funding to the agencies that paraded before them Thursday with requests for water towers, stormwater parks, schools and clinics.
In addition to money, local officials want legislation to restrict alcohol sales that promote outrageous drinking, to protect springs, to allow the use of cameras to catch red-light runners and other initiatives.State Rep. Ed Jennings, D-Gainesville, indicated that last year's hurricanes are having a slight silver lining.
"There has been a lot of construction, which brings sales tax revenue. That will be up, but it still does not equate with the rate in the rise in expenses," Jennings said during a break. "It still does not take care of the needs of citizens."
The delegation gathering is an opportunity for representatives from local governments and agencies to explain what they would like in the 2005 legislative session. Attending were state Rep. Ed Jennings, D-Gainesville; state Rep. Larry Cretul, R-Ocala; and state Sen. Rod Smith, D-Alachua; state Rep. Dwight Stansel, D-Wellborn; and state Rep. Will Kendrick, D-Carrabelle.
University of Florida President Bernie Machen highlighted an agenda that includes money for specific programs as well as more flexibility in spending to allow for greater faculty and staff pay. "My priority remains that we should have raises. We are looking for any funds we can get for faculty and staff," Machen said. "Bonuses are nice, but it is the base that people build their budgets off of."
UF wants money for participation in a joint technology research initiative with the universities of Central Florida and South Florida and for programs at the colleges of dentistry, medicine, nursing, public health professions, veterinary medicine and the McKnight Brain Institute.
Alachua County and several cities made budget and legislative requests. County Commission Chairwoman Cynthia Chestnut sought continued funding of the Archer Clinic, which is run by UF and was also included in UF's legislative agenda.
Also wanted by the county is money for neighborhood preservation and enhancement, the creation of a 3-1-1 telephone system for nonemergency phone calls, homeless programs and other proposals.
Gainesville, meanwhile, wants money for the Reichert House for at-risk children, a centralized downtown stormwater park, a park next to the Phoenix subdivision and other programs.
Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan lobbied for legislation that would allow restrictions on drink specials that go beyond the typical two-for-one or ladies' night enticements.
"We are requesting you take what we know will be a very difficult step and look at addressing the issues of excessive drink specials. We're talking about things like 'belly busters' or 'drink till you drop' . . ." she said.
A new UF survey shows that student use of alcohol is increasing.
State Sen. Rod Smith such legistation would be a "sticky wicket" because of the need to protect legitimate activities. "If you have some language, I'd like to look at it. I'm not committed to doing it, but I'm also open to it," Smith said. "I don't want to throw the net too wide, but there are certain circumstances were people are being encouraged to drink too much."f-z
Several cities asked legislators for money for various projects involving water or sewer systems.
Alachua County School Board members said more money is needed for new campuses, salaries and programs.
Cretul said he favors sprinking any revenue increases into education and health care.
Cindy Swirko can be reached at 374-5024 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.
Comments are currently unavailable on this article