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City commission hears updates on GNVCares, discusses playing fields and college sports

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

At the beginning of a Gainesville City Commission budget meeting last Thursday, City Manager Lee Feldman gave the commission an update on various issues.

The GNVCares programs were expected to be flooded with applications, but that didn’t happen. Both programs were “undersubscribed.” Feldman also said that some landlords (“about eight properties”) hadn’t been willing to jump through various hoops that were required to receive payments from the City. The GNVCares for Neighbors program makes payments directly to landlords and utilities, not to residents. Checks could start going out at the end of this week.

GNVCares for Business was also undersubscribed, so the City will re-purpose the Community Development Block Grant funds to something else in the future. 

The FeedGNV program will end on June 7. 

The City’s outdoor seating program only ended up closing off one street after some business owners complained about the street closures. “About eight or nine” restaurants are seating customers in their outdoor parking lots. 

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Feldman said there’s been an “uptick” in the use of City playing fields, “so we’re starting to think through that.” They’re also working on a plan to reopen City pools in stages. 

21 homeless individuals have been placed in a hotel “in the southwest,” and the City has provided GRACE with funds to do that for a month. 

Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos wanted to be cautious about playing fields: “We need to be careful having teams and practice, that’s a lot of people. And they’re all going to different homes, and the spread… I think we need to be careful about reopening. I know the governor said let kids do everything; I don’t think we’re at that point yet.”

Commissioner Gigi Simmons was concerned that not enough attention has been paid to multigenerational families: “[Paul Myers’] team is working to put some literature together… so we’ll have some education brochure or something, with photos and grandmother and grandchild, and the effects of if your child goes out onto the playground and comes back home, what that looks like.”

Mayor Lauren Poe was concerned about college sports: “We need to prepare ourselves for live college sports this fall… A final decision hasn’t been made. But, you know, it’s like the Magic 8 Ball: all signs point to ‘probably going to happen.’ Now that doesn’t mean there will be people in the stadium. But it does mean that there will probably be lots of people in Gainesville while it’s happening. And it’s going to just be an incredible challenge for us to, you know, ensure that people are socializing safely. 

“But… we have to start preparing for the worst-case scenario, which is 100,000 people kind of out tailgating and hanging out and trying to, you know, pack bars and things like that… We can’t wait until the decision’s made to start figuring out how we operationalize that, you know, because it can’t be the same as it would any other normal football season.”

He also thanked City employees for their work during the pandemic: “I know we get our share of heat, but more people than I have ever seen in my 12 years of service have reached out and thanked the City—not me, but the City–for what we’re doing, and they felt fortunate to live in a place that puts their health and safety first.”

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