By Dale Martin
October 1, 2021
Happy New Year to everyone as the City’s 2021/2022 fiscal year begins today. The budget process has been completed. The total millage levied by the City was reduced by over five percent (from 5.6236 mills to 5.3330 mills). That millage rate will generate approximately $15.4 million of property taxes for the City.
In general, the City’s expenditures can be categorized into three nearly equal allocations. Both capital and personnel expenditures are approximately one third of expenditures. Operating expenses consume nearly the remaining one-third (27%), but fall short of that mark with the City’s debt service costs consuming the final six percent.
The most significant projects for the new fiscal year are continuing the resiliency effort along the Amelia River waterfront. The first phase of that project has begun at the southern end of the City’s waterfront property: the boardwalk has been removed and sheet pilings are on site in preparation of installation beginning shortly. A new “boardwalk” (it will be concrete, not wood) will be constructed, extending from the boat ramp to the southern end of the City property, curving around what will be newly constructed petanque courts and inland toward the railroad tracks. The project will take a brief pause so the November petanque tournament can return after last year’s pandemic postponement. The project is currently anticipated to be completed by the end of March, 2022.
Other projects in the vicinity of the waterfront include railroad crossing improvements at both Ash and Centre Streets and the long-awaited re-opening of the Alachua Street crossing. The Ash and Centre Street projects will require reconfiguration of the intersection of those streets at Front Street to accommodate the installation of new signals. The Alachua Street crossing is a more complex project: as part of the effort, the City will be constructing stormwater infrastructure improvements, most of which will be under the improved portion of Alachua Street (from N. 2nd Street to N. Front Street). Although the stormwater portion of the project has been bid by the City and awarded to a contractor, the acquisition of necessary equipment and material will take over six months (due to current market conditions).
When Alachua Street is re-opened, streetscape amenities, such as sidewalks, streetlamps, and trees will be included. The design and style of each of those components will become the new standard for eventual improvements throughout downtown. City staff and Main Street officials are reviewing several options for all of those components.
The Peck Center, an iconic facility with a rich heritage for the City’s African-American residents, will continue to be renovated. The replacement of the hundreds of windows is nearly completion, the exterior doors have been replaced, and some roof repairs are necessary (more associated with the adjoining gymnasium rather than the actual Peck Center structure). The City applied for and successfully received substantial funding to “re-point” (repair the mortar holding the bricks of the structure) the facility. This project is estimated to be nearly $3 million. Half of the funding for the project was awarded by the State last year and the City is currently soliciting bids for this highly technical and specialized effort (bids due on Oct 26). Earlier this week, City staff made a presentation to State officials seeking additional funding for the project.
In the new fiscal year, the City is planning to begin construction of a new fire station. This facility will be located at the City Airport, just off of Amelia Parkway. The personnel and equipment currently positioned at Fire Station 2 (near Seaside Park at Sadler Road and S. Fletcher Avenue) will be re-located to the new facility. The City had previously bid the construction of the fire station, but several inconsistencies arose during the review of the bids, so City staff has rejected the four original bids and re-published the Invitation to Bid.
With the anticipated cost of approximately $5 million, the City will also solicit proposals to finance the construction of the new fire station (and at the same time, but separately, solicit financing proposals for the Alachua Street project). The City had completed the financing requests, but, with the need to re-bid the fire station and the instability of the finance markets, the financing proposals will have to be similarly re-bid. Both of those solicitation efforts should be completed this month.
The City will also be assessing the condition of several significant City facilities (commonly referred to as Tier One due to their use and value to City operations). A proposal to award the assessment to a qualified architectural and engineering firm will be considered at Tuesday evening’s City Commission meeting.
Other significant projects in the new budget include the replacement of a fuel tank at the City’s maintenance yard to support vehicle operations, extensive street repairs and maintenance, software upgrades to enhance the City’s computer operations, and repairs at the City’s police station. It will likely be one of the busiest construction seasons the City has experienced.
City staff is excited to bring these projects forward to completion.