Tower Road, babies, fairgrounds on county’s 2018 agenda

Gainesville Sun

Making Tower Road less bumpy could be key to making 2018 a smooth year for motorists who travel the road that’s been long slated for improvement.

Commission Chairman Lee Pinkoson, who has said after four terms on the board, he won’t run for the post again, met Tuesday for about 30 minutes with recent commission chairman Ken Cornell to talk about what they hope county government can accomplish this year.

Pinkoson said his priorities will be to ensure the fledgling Alachua County Children’s Services Advisory Board — created in 2016 — continues to grow, to create a responsible budget and to see more road improvement projects get started.

“We’ve talked about improving Tower Road for a while now, and I want to show people we are going to get started with improving that road and other roads,” Pinkoson said. “We have done some work on roads out of town in recent years, and now we want to do some work in town.”

The Tower Road project, expected to cost about $4 million, should begin this spring, Pinkoson said.

The project will include resurfacing from Southwest Eighth Avenue to Archer Road, and adding turn lanes at Tower Road Branch Library, Southwest 13thRoad, 18th Boulevard, 19th Place, 42nd Avenue and 45th Place, County Engineer Ramon Gavarrete said.

It will also include building public transportation bus lanes designated for loading and unloading passengers at the library and Veterans Memorial Park, Gavarrete said.

A state transportation grant will fund a multi-use path on the west side of the road from Southwest Eighth Avenue to Southwest 26th Place, and a private developer will build more turn lanes for a future development at Southwest 13th Road, Gavarrete said.
Cornell said he would like funding for road improvement projects to increase by 10 percent next year.

Pinkoson said he hopes the commission can help create more opportunities for children to achieve early success in life, and he said the launch of the NewboRN Home Visiting Program will help. County commissioners Tuesday awarded a $400,000 grant to Healthy Start of North Central Florida to run the program, which is the brainchild of the county’s Children’s Services Advisory Board.

The program will offer home visits by registered nurses to families with newborns in Alachua County. The nurses, within a week of the child and mother being released from the hospital, will visit them at home to examine the health of the child and mother, and connect the families with resources they need.

“If a child has early success in life, that means they will probably have success in school that will result in them getting a high school diploma or possibly a college education that will enable them to get a decent job,” Pinkoson said. “The bottom line is that it is important children and families be prepared to succeed in life because if a person can get a decent job and live a decent life, they are more prone to make positive contributions to the community.”

Investing in early childhood success has a direct tie to improving economic development in the county, Pinkoson said.
When businesses know communities have a workforce equipped with the basic skills they need to do the work required, they are more likely to invest there, he said.

Making development less expensive is also important because as more jobs are created in the county, more people will have the opportunity to rise out of poverty, Pinkoson said.

Breaking ground on the new $29 million Alachua County fairgrounds this year will also be a highlight for county government this year.

The new fairgrounds will be built on part of 100 acres north of the Leveda Brown Environmental Park Transfer Station off Northeast 53rd Avenue and Waldo Road. Most of the cost will be covered by a bond issue funded through 2 cents from every 5 cents collected through the county’s tourism development bed tax over 30 years.

More than 30 years in the making, the new fairgrounds is expected to boost economic development along the Waldo Road corridor and will feature the only indoor track and field facility within a 500-mile radius, according to county officials.

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