March 16, 2018 12:00 a.m.
While following some news from my former Connecticut community, it was indicated that a local bank branch that had vacated its building (due to consolidation with another branch) had offered the building and land to the town as a donation. The Board of Selectmen (the equivalent of the City Commission) voted to accept the donation, thereby relieving the bank of its tax obligation and providing the town with a nice downtown parcel.
The official transfer of the property, however, seems to be somewhat entangling, leading my successor (whom I knew quite well) who transitioned into the Town Manager role from the private sector to make the following comment: “We’d like it done so we can get in there and assess exactly what we have,” Geiger replied. “We’re close but it seems like everything I touch is (difficult) … nothing seems to be clean and easy. Perseverance becomes, I’ve noticed, a key quality for this job.” Welcome to local government, Mr. Geiger.
The landscape of local government is typically more reactive to political pressures than either state or federal government. At those other levels, the plodding inertia is incredibly difficult to redirect: look how long several issues at the federal level have lingered through a variety of Presidents and Congresses, led by both Democrats and Republicans, with little or no action. At the local level, similar inaction is more due changing political landscapes and the ability to start or stop projects more quickly. At all levels, as recognized by Mr. Geiger, perseverance is necessary.
Our community continues to move forward on our “decades” plan, addressing issues that have stymied the city for a long time.
The newspaper box ordinance is scheduled for its fourth reading at Tuesday evening’s City Commission meeting. The style and color of newspaper boxes has apparently vexed the City for a long time. Sizes, shapes, colors, and locations have been the subject of extensive discussions. When queried by other managers and officials as to what the current issues before the City Commission are and I share the newspaper box saga with them, they are fascinated that the issue has consumed so much effort for so long. Perhaps this journey will end next week.
Another component of the City’s “decades” plan is the Alachua Street rail crossing. Why it was closed about thirty years ago is an urban legend. Simply put, it was closed for some reason and never restored. Studies have been done, surveys completed, plans prepared, and even permits issued for re-opening the crossing, but those efforts have continually floundered, due to political winds, estimated costs, or simple inaction.
The City Commission has embarked upon a renewed effort to explore the various facets of the crossing: the relationship of safety equipment upon both Alachua Street and N. Front Street; the circulation of traffic in that area; the impact of tidal flooding, storm surge, and sea level rise; the potential development of property in the vicinity of Alachua Street and N. Front Street. The State Department of Transportation, while generally supportive of the Alachua Street crossing, has indicated that safety diagnostics related to the existing crossings at both Centre and Ash Streets will have to occur. The Department has indicated a willingness to provide funding for safety improvements at those locations in conjunction with the Alachua Street opening. It is possible that this project can be transferred to the “months” plan from the “decades” plan, but additional review is still required before the City Commission determines the direction.
Another component of the “decades” plan is the reconfiguration of the Marina. Plans were developed in the 1990s to re-orient several of the docks in an effort to minimize the effects of river siltation. Those conceptual plans were never implemented. While the struggles continue with federal agencies (FEMA, Corps of Engineers) regarding the repair and restoration of the southern attenuator (breakwater), the City has received the permit for the realignment of the southern docks and been informed of a sizeable grant award to extend the northern docks. Due to the costs involved, while it may be possible to move the Marina realignment and extension from the “decades” plan, it’s probably likely to move only to the “years” plan.
Perseverance is a key quality for this job.