Gainesville city officials said Wednesday that its workers did a good job in 2015 in providing services to citizens, and that they planned to improve on those efforts, as well as on others, to make the city a better place this year.
“It was a very strong year in which city employees from various departments have done an excellent job of providing the core service to each of you,” Anthony Lyons, interim city manager, said during the recent State of the City address. “Additionally, we’ve enjoyed some major accomplishments as well, such as the opening of Sweetwater nature park.”
Another goal is to boost development in economically-strapped East Gainesville, Lyons said. He said that planning and funding are in place to build an industrial park near Hawthorne Road in the Duval Heights area. Additionally, plans to create a “Department of Doing” for business start-ups that could make Gainesville a hub for diverse businesses, is in the works.
Mayor Ed Braddy also announced that a new citywide program, Freedom in Motion, will provide reduced Uber rides for low-income senior citizens. The city also plans to redesign its website and city commission chambers to make it easier for people to participate in government – and to make it the most “citizen-centric,” city in the world.
Officials, however, said Gainesville still has many challenges to confront in 2016 – the main one being high utility rates being charged by Gainesville Regional Utilities.
“It’s self-evident, if when you look around the business activity is picking up,” Braddy said. “But to be truly competitive we have to be able to offer an affordable cost of doing business and rates are a big part of doing that.”
Ed Bielarski, general manager for city utilities, said that his department was looking to fix that problem by first examining its internal operating costs.
“You may be in store for some adjustments down the road,” Bielarski said. He also said that the city is arranging meetings to potentially purchase GRU, although he could not say when.