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3 things to know from Tuesday’s Gainesville City Council meeting
First responders from Gainesville Fire Station No. 2 stand with Mayor Danny Dunagan and Fire Chief Jerome Yarbrough while being honored Tuesday. They helped a World War II veteran with yard work on May 26. - photo by Megan Reed

The Gainesville City Council voted on Tuesday to adjust the city’s parks rules to accommodate for Lake Lanier Olympic Park, which officially will become a city park on July 1. July 1 also is the start of the new fiscal year, and the Council held a hearing on the proposed budget before it will be adopted June 18.

Officials also recognized first responders from Gainesville Fire Station No. 2 for helping an elderly veteran with yard work.

Budget hearing

No one spoke at the city’s only hearing about the proposed budget for the next fiscal year on Tuesday. The budget includes a rolled back millage rate of 3.322 mills to accommodate for increased property value assessments.

The $31.9 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 includes plans for capital improvements like a rebuilt fire station and a skate park.

Councilman George Wangemann offered a suggestion Tuesday that the city use some of its surplus funds, usually spent on capital projects, to make it more affordable for city residents to stay in Gainesville.

“I’d like to recommend that we make room in next year’s budget to work some kind of incentive into the budget for the taxpayer, ultimately to keep them here in Gainesville,” Wangemann said. “I don’t want anyone moving away to a place that’s a lot cheaper.”

Rates for Gainesville Water Resources customers will not be increasing. But revenues are slightly up, mostly due to population growth and new construction bringing in more dollars from sales tax, the title ad valorem tax and franchise fees. The city will have about 1.8% more money in the budget compared to the current fiscal year.

The new budget is not official, though — the Council will vote to approve it on June 18. There will not be a public hearing at that meeting.

Parks rules

Alcohol is now allowed in city parks for events organized by the city or events that have gotten a special events permit issued by the city. Previously, someone could only have alcohol in a city park if the parks and recreation board approved it.

The city hopes to use Lake Lanier Olympic Park to host some events, including the Beach Bash in July, as construction takes over some areas of the downtown square. Gainesville already hosted the Spring Chicken Festival at Longwood Park in April.

The updates rules, approved unanimously by the Council Tuesday, also state that people can only swim in designated areas at waterfront parks. Lake Lanier Olympic Park would be the first park with a swimming area.

Another rule change approved Tuesday would allow people to be on the Highlands to Islands Trail at night if it is lighted. Highlands to Islands is a planned trail system that would connect Gainesville and South Hall, and many portions of the trail are already open. Most other parks are closed at night.

First responders honored for helping resident

On May 26, firefighters from Gainesville’s Fire Station No. 2 received a medical call and went to a residence on North Enota Ave. As they were leaving, they noticed the yard could use some maintenance and decided to help out the World War II veteran who lived there.

The first responders returned to the station, got the tools they needed and went back to the residence. They removed limbs and leaves from the roof, trimmed the hedges, edged the driveway and blew leaves from the yard and driveway.

The crew included Todd Summer, Jonathan Benton, Noe Guajardo, Brandon Cobb and medical unit personnel Danny Nguyen and Ashley Mashburn, according to the Gainesville Fire Department’s Facebook page.

Fire Chief Jerome Yarbrough said firefighters often connect with the community through helping out and have been known to fix faucets and help people with other problems they may have.

“We adopt our communities, and we keep it as our home,” he said.

Officials also thanked the firefighters for their service.

“It’s hard to put into words how much we appreciate the service you all do for our citizens,” Mayor Danny Dunagan said.

Gainesville City Council Budget Meeting
Gainesville City Manager Bryan Lackey presents the proposed Fiscal Year 2020 budget to the City Council. - photo by Megan Reed
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