Last fall, the Gainesville Area Chamber convened a diverse group of citizens to form the Putting Children First Infrastructure Investment Initiative (i3), and tasked them with leading a process to identify the most pressing infrastructure needs in our community, and—importantly—then identifying a viable option to fund those needs.
Since then, the Committee has conducted research, meetings, presentations and other dialogues to identify Alachua County’s greatest infrastructure needs. The information they have gathered validates that Alachua County’s current infrastructure needs are significant, affect citizens every day and exceed the resources available to address them. Among those significant needs are repairs and upgrades to Alachua County K-12 schools.
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.
On Tuesday, May 23, the Chamber is hosting the second i3 public meeting at the Shands Auxiliary Conference Center (UF Health Cancer Hospital, South Tower, 1st Floor, 1515 SW Archer Road, Gainesville) from 6 to 8 p.m. Attendees will receive an overview of the infrastructural needs of the Alachua County’s K-12 facilities from Vicki McGrath, Facilities and Planning Manager for Alachua County Public Schools. They also will have an opportunity to participate in breakout sessions to generate dialogue and feedback.
i3 is a citizen-driven initiative. For it to work as intended, we need the public to get educated about the needs the Steering Committee has learned about, hear from the leaders who oversee these areas and share their ideas about how they think Alachua County should balance and prioritize these competing needs.
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. Or contact to Vicki Gervickas, the Chamber’s Grassroots Engagement Manager to learn more.
We urge you to be part of this process. Let’s work together and find the common ground needed to improve our community today and for generations to come.