Business helped in road request

Published: Sunday, January 30, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 30, 2005 at 1:36 a.m.
A form that was the initial request for $2 million in state money for the paving of SW 24th Avenue was partially filled out by the development director for Butler Enterprises, the company that wants to build a shopping plaza on the road.
Sen. Rod Smith said Bob Reller was asked for information for the request because the deadline for submitting it was minutes away and Reller was the most easily available person with the necessary background information. The form lists Alachua County Manager Randy Reid as the contact person.
Developer Clark Butler has proposed to Alachua County that the $2 million be used as part of the $4.7 million the county wants from him as the cost difference between widening the road from the planned two lanes to the four lanes Butler maintains is necessary for the shopping center.
"We had a half-hour to get the request in. I said to call (Reller) to get the information because he is easily accessible and reachable," Smith said. "I knew I wouldn't be able to get it that fast from Alachua County. I think it made (the deadline) by 15 minutes."
Reller said he filled out a rough draft but left some lines blank for Smith's office to fill in.
Questions have been raised about the requested $2 million because of the negotiations now going on between Butler and the county.
Commissioners last summer voted to pave SW 24th as a two-lane road. That is consistent with the recommendation of residents who joined in a planning process called a charette for that area.
But in November the county learned it got a $3 million federal appropriation for four-laning SW 24th Avenue to 43rd Street and building a connector road to SW 62nd Boulevard. Butler had discussed the funding with Alachua County's congressional delegation.
Commissioners then voted 3-2 to negotiate with Butler for four-laning. The cost difference is $4.7 million.
The county wants Butler to pay that. Butler has proposed using the potential $2 million as part of the $4.7 million.
About 20 residents berated the decision to pursue four-laning at a later commission meeting. They said the decision subverted the democratic process and created more cynicism about county government.
Smith has said he did not know that Butler was proposing to include the state money in his negotiations with the commission. Smith said he is not involved in the negotiations between the county and Butler, adding the county will be the recipient of the money if it is approved by the Legislature and governor.
The $2 million was not in the county's list of requests for the 2005 legislative session, which begins in early March.
Cindy Swirko can be reached at (352) 374-5024 or

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