Alachua County has joined the city of Gainesville in banning plastic straws.
The County Commission unanimously voted Tuesday to ban the sale or distribution of plastic straws and stirrers at restaurants in unincorporated areas of the county. The new law will go into effect immediately.
The ban is intended to curb single-use straws from polluting the ocean.
Hospitals, dentists, nursing homes and people with disabilities are exempt from complying with the ban. Some residents have raised concerns to commissioners that an outright prohibition on plastic straws is a challenge for people with disabilities.
Violators could face a $250 fine, though Commissioner Mike Byerly questioned how the county could enforce a policy. Officials from the county attorney’s office said that enforcers are not allowed to ask for proof of disability.
The law applies to bars, coffee shops, restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations.
In other action Tuesday, the commission agreed to postpone signing a letter of intent to proceed with donating the former fairgrounds property to the U.S. Army Reserve after local organizations complained that the process was rushed.
Members of the African American Accountability Alliance (4As) told the commission Tuesday that they felt blindsided that the commission was prepared to donate the property off Northeast 39th Avenue, and asked that commissioners consider other options that might bring more of an economic boost to east Gainesville.
“It’s about future discussions about development in east Gainesville,” said Rodney Long, president emeritus of the 4As. “We still have more questions than we have answers.”
County Manager Michele Lieberman said a letter of intent is not a commitment to sell the land, but a signal to the Army of the county’s intent to donate the property to the 81st Readiness Division.
Commissioner Ken Cornell said he regrets that anyone feels as if they were left out of the process, and asked that the panel delay signing the letter until April.
The board unanimously agreed to the delay and to ask whether properties adjacent to the Gainesville Airport Authority could hold the retail, restaurants and hotels that the 4As and Plan East Gainesville leaders desire.
And a possible solution to the state’s woes over CareerSource of North Central Florida’s administration model was approved by the commission Tuesday.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity documented numerous errors with the workforce board last month, saying the board did not properly oversee the outside company it used to handle state and federal funds.
The county agreed to look into setting up the organization as a nonprofit that would continue to serve Alachua and Bradford counties. Grant money to support the nonprofit would be reviewed by at least some of the elected commissioners from both counties.
Tommy Crosby, an Alachua County assistant county manager, said the model would ease state officials’ concerns about the board’s relationship with the outside company, called an administrative entity.