Looking ahead at 2010: GPD, Haleigh, traffic signals
The police department will begin to put more officers on the streets beginning Monday.
Published: Friday, January 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 1, 2010 at 5:21 p.m.
More police on the streets, remodeled parks, repaved roads and other changes are in store for 2010.
The transformation of the Gainesville Police Department under new Chief Tony Jones, who has spent his career with the department, will begin Monday with a reorganization that will move more officers from desks to the streets.
"The way the public will see a difference in the Gainesville Police Department is there will be more sworn personnel on the road. Our No. 1 goal is reduction of ... crime in 2010 - rape, robbery, burglary, theft," Capt. Ed Book said.
Jones, who did not apply for the job but was a popular community choice for chief, was appointed in September by City Manager Russ Blackburn after a national search failed to produce a candidate whom Blackburn wanted.
But the new year is starting off the same as 2009 in at least one regard - Putnam County authorities continue to investigate the February disappearance of Haleigh Cummings. They also have reported more incidents involving her father and his former wife, who was baby-sitting the 5-year-old when she disappeared.
"I really don't think we are going to change the way we have been conducting the investigation. We're still working this as an active case. We are using all of the resources we have available," Putnam County Sheriff's Lt. Johnny Greenwood said. "As tips come in, we follow them. Tips have slowed down drastically over time. When we have the opportunity of re-interviewing the players involved, we are making contact with them."
Two key players are Haleigh's father, Ronald Cummings, and Misty Croslin. She was his girlfriend at the time and was home with Haleigh when she disappeared.
The two married and then divorced within months. Various members of Croslin's family have since been arrested on drug and other charges.
On Thursday, the Putnam County Sheriff's Office reported that Ronald Cummings and Croslin were driving in Cummings' truck. On the same road was an acquaintance, Charles Jones III, who claimed Cummings tried to run him off the road and threatened him with a gun. Croslin later filed a report stating that she had received threatening and harassing phone calls from Jones after the incident.
Several road projects that disrupted travel in 2009 will continue in 2010, including the reconstruction and narrowing of Main Street from Depot Avenue to Northwest 23rd Avenue.
The Main Street project has been hotly debated because it will narrow the travel lanes from four to two with a center turn lane.
Sections already have been completed, and the total project is expected to be done in 2011.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Transportation is milling and resurfacing University Avenue from Gale Lemerand Drive on the University of Florida campus near Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to Waldo Road. The cost of the project is about $2.8 million.
The section in front of UF is set to be completed this summer.
Lynch Park on South Main Street at Fifth Avenue soon will get a new look. The northern two-thirds of the park will be fenced for an off-leash dog area, while the southern third will be turned into a plaza and garden, said Kelly Huard Fisher of the city's Community Redevelopment Agency.
"It is actually going to be the first city park to have 100 percent plantings in it," she said. "It is also going to have LED lighting as a pilot project. We want to get an idea for how much energy savings we will see if we try something like that."
Huard Fisher said the redesign of the park is oriented toward new activity on South Main Street, including the ongoing work at Depot Park, and a nearby building is being renovated into a restaurant. The park work should be done by March.
The park is one of two areas frequented by homeless people that will be the focus of redevelopment efforts. The other is the old Bethel Station on the Bo Diddley Community Plaza. The small brick building on the south end of the plaza is being turned into a cafe.
One prominent locale that is likely to remain vacant is the lot at West University Avenue and 13th Street - the site of the once-planned University Corners complex of apartments and shops.
The block was cleared several years ago of shops to make way for the development, but the project stalled because of the struggling economy and a court ruling.
City Community Redevelopment Agency Manager Anthony Lyons said it is unlikely any major activity will occur there in 2010.
"My guess is we won't see anything for a long, long time," Lyons said.
Zipping along streets will continue to get smoother as Gainesville moves toward completion of the synchronization of its traffic signals.
The synchronization project will allow engineers to monitor traffic and provide real-time signal timing modifications in response to travel conditions.
City official Gina Hawkins said 133 of the city's 229 signals are now online. Of those 133, 70 now have cameras that enable the city to monitor traffic and adjust the timing of the signals accordingly.
"We can tweak the system," Hawkins said. "It will ease congestion, and fuel efficiency is a high priority. We will get cleaner air because of less idling time and lower stress levels."
Full synchronization is set for December 2012, Hawkins said.
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