Putting Children First Infrastructure Investment Initiative (i3)

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Putting Children First Infrastructure Investment Initiative (i3)

As Alachua County’s infrastructure ages, the need for necessary repairs and upgrades grows. In many cases, the longer we put off needed repairs and maintenance, the more the ultimate cost of conducting them will be. In other words, we can pay now, or we can pay more later. More importantly, the need to begin addressing the variety of infrastructural needs we have is important because they often affect children—at school, on the road and in situations requiring a first responder.

Announced in October 2016, the Putting Children First Infrastructure Investment Initiative (i3) is a citizen-driven process that seeks to gather public input to collectively answer the question of what infrastructure needs matter most to citizens, how they should be prioritized and ultimately, what options we have for funding them.

The 10-member Steering Committee that guides the i3 initiative is led by Brian Scarborough and represents a diverse group of stakeholders including the African American Accountability Alliance, the Alachua County Chapter of the NAACP, the Builders Association of North Central Florida, the Alachua Chamber of Commerce and other entities.

Key Issues to Explore

Alachua County’s current infrastructure needs are significant, affect citizens every day and exceed the resources available to address them. To set an accurate list of infrastructure priorities, we need community involvement. Below are several concerns that point to infrastructural areas of need that warrant exploration.

  • First responders need updated equipment to optimally protect us and themselves. The portable communication system used by police officers, firefighters, GRU linemen and public works field staff is so outdated that radios don’t work in certain buildings—including many public schools—or rural areas. When some of the towers need replacement parts, it is necessary to purchase them on ebay because manufacturers have stopped producing compatible parts.
  • The buildings where Alachua County K-12 students go to learn are in need of repairs and updates. Currently, most Alachua County K-12 students attend schools in need of significant repairs and/or upgrades. For example, the i3 Steering Committee recently toured classrooms that have to be sandbagged when it rains and saw some very antiquated science labs, among other issues. As of February 2017, $18.6 million was needed just for the School Board to catch up on deferred maintenance to roofs, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, painting, and flooring. Even if that funding were available, another $6.5 million would be needed annually just to keep up with regular maintenance on those items. Neither of these figures include the funds needed for hundreds of both minor and major projects involving new construction, renovations or remodeling that need to be done in our district’s schools.
  • We need five times the available funding for road maintenance and improvements to avoid tripling the cost of some projects. The annual $3 million in funding for road resurfacing would need to increase five-fold to ensure we have the option to resurface all roads currently in need of repair. After a certain time period in need of resurfacing, a road begins to degrade to the point where it must be reconstructed. The cost to reconstruct a failed road is three times that of resurfacing it.
  • We are making progress with parks and recreation, but still have much work to do. Despite $50 million going toward parks, recreation and cultural affairs via the Wild Spaces, Public Places surtax, approximately $30 million of projects will remain unfunded.

Want to get involved? Contact Vicki Gervickas at vicki@gainesvillechamber.com.

Get Engaged: Upcoming Public Meetings

One way the Chamber is gathering information from citizens is through a series of public forums designed to give them an opportunity to get educated, engage in dialogue and share feedback on infrastructure issues. Collectively, this feedback will be used as a guide for setting infrastructure priorities the community believes are important and identifying a solution for funding.

K-12 school infrastructure has been identified as an area to explore. The buildings where Alachua County K-12 students go to learn are in need of repairs and updates. Currently, most Alachua County K-12 students attend schools in need of significant repairs and/or upgrades. For example, the i3 Steering Committee recently toured classrooms that have to be sandbagged when it rains and saw some very antiquated science labs, among other issues. As of February 2017, $18.6 million was needed just for the School Board to catch up on deferred maintenance to roofs, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, painting, and flooring. Even if that funding were available, another $6.5 million would be needed annually just to keep up with regular maintenance on those items. Neither of these figures include the funds needed for hundreds of both minor and major projects involving new construction, renovations or remodeling that need to be done in our district’s schools.

At the next i3 Public Forum, Alachua County Public Schools Facilities and Planning Manager Vicki McGrath will provide an overview of the infrastructural needs of Alachua County’s K-12 school facilities. We hope you will RSVP and join us to discuss this important topic on May 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the UF Health Cancer Hospital, South Tower, 1st floor, 1515 SW Archer Rd. Light refreshments will be available. Want more information on what to expect? Check out this recap of the first i3 Public Forum

Parking vouchers will available for the East Garage at UF Health (right across from the Children’s Hospital). 

Questions? Contact Grassroots Engagement Manager Vicki Gervickas at Vicki@gainesvillechamber.com.

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