Last updateTue, 24 Nov 2015 12am


Letters to the Editor

Housing program, not job creation

Since Mr. Helle indicated in a follow-up letter to the Alachua County Today in last week's edition that he still did not understand my reasoning in regard to supporting Rebuilding Together North Central Florida (RTNCF) in bringing an all volunteer home rehabilitation program to Alachua in the summer of 2011, I offer the following additional comments for clarification.

First off, I encourage Mr. Helle and other Alachua citizens to review the RTNCF website at  or contact Ms. Melisa Miller, RTNCF Executive Director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or 352-692-4973, to learn about the volunteer home rehabilitation mission of this very fine organization offered mostly for low-income families and seniors.

 The aforementioned RTNCF 2011 summer home rehabilitation program would have brought “non-paid” teenage volunteers from Alabama, Florida and Georgia, and several sponsors, to Alachua to work on several homes of low-income and/or senior citizens of Alachua who would otherwise probably not be able to afford having their homes weatherized/rehabilitated. There is no charge for qualified recipients of the services provided by RTNCF.

As I stated in my Oct. 14 letter to the editor, this volunteer work would not keep local residents from job opportunities since this initiative would only last approximately two months and is not even remotely a jobs creation effort. It is more of a humanitarian initiative for those in need and in teaching our youth, America's next generation of leaders, the value of volunteerism.

Concerning the “non-critical” budget line item aspect of my proposal... had my recommendation been approved during the FY 10/11 budget discussion, I was going to recommend $10,000 be moved from the July 4, 2011, fireworks budget line item to support the RTNCF program and the other $10,000 be garnered in a joint city and RTNCF fundraising effort. A total of $20,000 would have remained in the fireworks budget line item which brings thousands of visitors to Alachua each year for this one day celebration of America's freedom.

Although not totally quantifiable as Mr. Helle indicated, the “additional revenue” that would have been generated in Alachua during this weatherization/rehabilitation program next summer would have resulted from the teenage volunteers and their sponsors spending money at local restaurants, grocery stores, and other retail outlets. In addition, and as I understand it, a portion of the $20,000 would have been spent in the purchase of building supplies from local Alachua vendors which is the normal practice of RTNCF.

The "Return on Investment" realized from this summer program in terms of financial and social capital would certainly have exceeded the $20,000 investment due to the previously mentioned spending during the two months the program would have been provided as well as the reduced utility bills of the homes weatherized/rehabilitated resulting in more disposal income for these families and seniors in purchasing medicines, food, and other items for months and years to come.

I welcome the citizens of Alachua to “keep me on my toes” regarding any of my opinions and actions. Therefore, thank you again, Mr. Helle, for your concern for the “Good Life Community.”

Robert W. Wilford

Alachua City Commissioner