Commissioners engage in point, counter-point

Published: Sunday, January 16, 2011 at 9:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 16, 2011 at 9:57 p.m.

Out campaigning for a seat on the Alachua County Commission, Susan Baird frequently voiced opposition to the county's funding of nonprofit agencies and also argued that fees levied by the county were stifling business development.

Now, in office as the first commissioner elected as a Republican since 1988, her opposition has not diminished and it makes for some interesting point, counter-point with other board members. Last Tuesday, votes to disburse money to nonprofit agencies through the Community Agency Partnership Program, which were primarily procedural decisions because the funding is already in this fiscal year's budget, were removed from the County Commission consent agenda so Baird could vote no.

"I don't think taxpayer money is the way to raise money for these particular groups," she said, adding government already afforded the organizations the benefit of tax-exempt status.

The planned one-stop center for the homeless, which the city of Gainesville is building, also has been a source of consternation for Baird. She felt the 13,000-square-foot floor plan and projected $4 million construction cost were both too much and wondered if the facility was designed to help people get back on their feet or provide them with a place to stay permanently. She described it as a "monster of a project" and wondered if the intent was to provide a "safety net or a hammock."

Commissioner Rodney Long countered that he too believed that individuals should pull themselves up by their bootstraps, but "certain people don't even have boots on their feet so they don't have straps to pull themselves up."

Then, there was the subject of impact fees charged to new development to fund new infrastructure. Baird noticed that the planned community center at Kanapaha Park was to receive $350,000 in impact fees and said she thought impact fees were to fund road projects. She then learned the county had impact fees for roads, parks and fire stations.

"How many impact fees does a poor developer have to pay?" she asked.

That got Commissioner Mike Byerly talking.

"Just feel like I have to provide the counter-point now because the reason the poor developer pays the impact fees is so the poor taxpayer doesn't have to," he said.

Commission-Student Senate meeting: The Gainesville City Commission will hold a joint meeting with the University of Florida's Student Senate on Tuesday to discuss student-related issues in the city.

Commissioner Jeanna Mastrodicasa, who is an assistant vice president for student affairs at the university, met with Senate President Ben Meyers on Wednesday at City Hall to talk about the agenda.

Voter registration, off-campus housing concerns, taxi prices and more will be discussed, and various city departments — such as code enforcement, police and Gainesville Regional Utilities — will give presentations.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and will be held in the Reitz Union on Museum Road.

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