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HAWTHORNE – Communities are preparing for the economic backlash in October when a local factory closes, leaving 400 people unemployed.

Georgia Pacific, a plywood factory located in Putnam County and in the city limits of Hawthorne, announced Friday that the factory’s indefinite curtailment of production will begin Oct. 14. Described as hopefully a temporary situation, the factory will cease operations, but the equipment will be left at the plant pending possible future resumption of production.

Hawthorne Mayor Larry Guidi said the city is being proactive by trying to establish political and legislative communications with the groups that could help the city’s situation.

“We are trying to encourage the leaders to know how much our city will be impacted by this loss,” he said. “We hope to open doors and get people together to pool resources.”

The closing will not only affect the 400 unemployed workers and their families, but local establishments such as restaurants, clothing stores and gas stations, will also suffer because people will spend less money in the community, according to Guidi.

He said Georgia Pacific’s temporary closing has brought reality to the economic situation across the country.

“A large, nationally known company such as Georgia Pacific in the little town of Hawthorne gave us a sense of place in the country,” he said.

Trish Bowles, the public affairs manager for Georgia Pacific’s Palatka operation, said she blames the market conditions for the housing industry’s decline in plywood purchases.

“We really thought the housing market would change this year, and that is why we left the facility open,” she said. “It continued to be unprofitable and the factory’s situation got worse.”

Bowles said there is a chance for the factory to reopen once market conditions are favorable again. Until then, the company is attempting to assist employees in finding new jobs.

Workers are encouraged to apply to other Georgia Pacific facilities around the state. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) guarantees the workers pay for 60 days or until Nov. 7, according to Bowles.

Georgia Pacific is working with the Council for Economic Outreach to connect employees with new job opportunities and Florida Workforce One-Stop Career Centers to help build the resumes and skills of those who were laid off.

Ellen Vause, Hawthorne’s city manager, said she is encouraging people to be positive in this challenging time.

“One of the things everyone needs to do is figure out where their assets and abilities are,” she said. “Think outside the box. Rethink traditional opportunities.”

Associated industries that work in tandem with Georgia Pacific, such as logging businesses and contractors, will also suffer a loss, according to Vause.

Georgia Pacific was an important part of Hawthorne, and the company sponsored schools, churches and even select families in the community, she said.

For example, Georgia Pacific was the primary sponsor of the Chamber of Commerce’s community bowling tournament. Proceeds from the event benefited a scholarship program that was awarded to two students each year.

“They are our corporate partners and have been generous to the community as a whole,” Vause said.

The city of Hawthorne is used to the factory idling down its production for months at a time, she said.

Still, Vause said she is hoping that the indefinite curtailment will end quickly so that the community can get back on track.

“As a small community, we are used to our challenges. Now, we have to know that every challenge can give us a new opportunity.”

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HS_-_Judith_Jankosky_HeadShot01HIGH SPRINGS – The search for a new city manager in High Springs has come down to one candidate.

Judith Jankosky, current assistant city manager in Arcadia, Fla., was interviewed Sept.15 at a special meeting of the High Springs city commission. She answered questions about her plans and qualifications, explaining her interest in small towns.

“I’d rather be in a small-town setting than Miami or Orlando,” she said. “I understand the politics.”

The city started off with five candidates for the position, eventually narrowing the applicants down to Jankosky and Terry Leary at a meeting on Aug. 25. Leary took a job elsewhere after that meeting, leaving Jankosky as the final candidate.

With a bachelor’s degree in growth management and a doctorate in law, Jankosky is extremely qualified for the position, Commissioner Eric May said. However, he questioned her ability to take on her first city manager job in a city undergoing difficult times.

She said she understands the infrastructure of small towns. Prior to working in Arcadia, she did consulting for Lady Lake, Fla.

There she worked on expansion, explaining that the area experienced $200 million worth of development in three years. She called that situation luck.

“Arcadia is a different story,” she said. “It’s probably more like High Springs, just all of a sudden, everything suddenly dropped off. It has been a struggle.”

However, she said that her financial management style has proven effective, leading to her departments in Arcadia being under budget.

Jankosky said she plans to bring her hands-off management style to High Springs, allowing heads to run their own departments without micromanagement.

At the meeting, she put an emphasis on her open-door policy for staff and citizens alike. She said she is committed to keeping citizens engaged and informed about politics.

“I know they are so busy. It’s hard,” she said.

Jankosky suggested a new approach, perhaps even allowing citizens to attend meetings via Skype. In that way, citizens can take care of responsibilities at home and still go to meetings.

In order to maintain a strong relationship with the public, she said she will have a presence in local groups. This is a practice she follows in her current position, staying involved with groups like the Mural Society and Together Everyone Achieves More.

She and her employees must always be available “to speak, to talk, to listen and to really hear what the people are saying, not just brush them off,” she said. “You have to listen to them.”

Jankosky has lived in small towns her entire life, she explained.

Originally from upstate New York, she was born and raised on a farm. She then lived in Lady Lake for 25 years, holding jobs ranging from 911 dispatcher to engineering firm consultant.

Opening an environmental planning and consulting company led her to seek a law degree to better serve her clients, she said. However, after earning her doctorate, she decided she was too old for the courtroom.

At that point, she got involved in planning for the government in Lady Lake. Last year, she took her current position in Arcadia.

After the meeting, Jankosky attended a meet-and-greet with High Springs residents to hear their concerns.

The city commission will vote Sept. 22 at 6:30 p.m. to decide whether to negotiate a contract with Jankosky or to continue the search for additional city manager candidates.

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Collision recorded by deputy’s dash cam

Alachua_Accident_20110911A four-car pileup on U.S. Highway 441 Sunday afternoon sent two people to the hospital, including 21-year-old Fernando Carlo who was transported via helicopter.

A Sunday evening accident sent at least two people to the hospital, one via helicopter.

The accident occurred at the intersection of U.S. Highway 441 and County Road 235A around 5:37 p.m. Sunday.

A black Saturn sports utility vehicle (SUV) being driven by 21-year-old Fernando Carlo was traveling in the southbound lane of U.S. 441 at speeds estimated to be well above the limit of 45 miles per hour.  Carlo may have been traveling at speeds closer to 60 or more m.p.h., police said.

The accident was caught on the dash camera of an Alachua County Sheriff’s Office deputy who was parked along the roadside.

Police say video footage shows that brakes were never applied before the Saturn struck the rear end of a Lincoln Town Car being driven by John Brown.  Brown was stopped at a red light, a police report indicates.

Brown’s Lincoln was then forced into a white BMW, which subsequently struck a silver Hyundai.

The Saturn SUV being driven by Carlo flipped and came to rest on its roof.

Carlo was transported to an area hospital via ShandsCare helicopter.

Brown was also taken to an area hospital, and later released.

Police aren’t sure how many people were transported for medical treatment as they described the scene as chaotic.  They are awaiting additional information from fire rescue services who triaged the injured and transported them.

Carlo and the other five passengers of the SUV appeared to have been returning from area springs.

Alachua Police Department (APD) Spokesman Jesse Sandusky said police believe the accident may have been alcohol related.

Blood was drawn from Carlo to determine the possible presence of any intoxicating substances, and authorities are awaiting toxicology reports, which can take weeks to months.

Both the Lincoln and the Saturn SUV were total losses, sustaining substantial damage.

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HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs City Commission approved the city’s Fiscal Year 2011-2012 budget at $9 million in a 4-1 vote Monday night. The ad valorem tax rate of 6.15 mills was passed at the meeting with a 5-0 vote. Both the budget and tax rate will take effect Oct. 1.

The budget was amended to provide for the restoration of the fire chief position that had been eliminated following the resignation of Chief Verne Riggall.

Interim City Manager Jenny Parham reported at Monday’s meeting that the difference in the salary between the fire chief and fire captain positions was $3,300. The commissioners moved to make up the difference by taking the amount from the proposed city manager salary of $50,000 to $75,000.

Commissioner Eric May said he did not think the difference would change the quality of the candidates for the position.

“I think we’re still going to get the same pool of candidates,” he said. “I don’t think that $5,000 is going to make a difference. That’s an easy switch.”

Parham also explained that she would post the fire chief job opening in-house for five days, allowing employees to apply for the position first. The commissioners had expressed concern at the first public budget hearing on Sept. 8 that reinstating the position would put Captain Bruce Gillingham’s job in jeopardy.

As long as the captain applied and received the job, there would be no need to open it up for general application. Parham said this is a common practice she has followed multiple times this year alone.

Debate over the issue led to Commissioner Sue Weller voting against the proposal at the first hearing.

At Monday’s meeting, Commissioner Dean Davis voted against the final budget as proposed because of his opposition to the promotion of a part-time employee to full-time Parks and Recreation Director.

The new budget allots $41,000 for the employee to mow grass, do janitorial work and oversee the city’s parks and recreation facilities. The city is currently paying the individual $12,000 to mow grass.

Davis was in favor of hiring a contractual employee to do the job, explaining that it would cost $24,000 while relieving High Springs of having to pay for the upkeep of the mower and weed eaters.

“I know recreation is close to some of you-all’s heart, but we could have time in the spring to re-address this,” he said. “Spending this $30,000 is not going to improve it.”

However, Commissioner Eric May pointed out that taking this route would force the city to hire a janitor for the Civic Center. Hiring a full-time director is a $50 difference per year from using contractual employees, May said.

“Any way we slice this- from a financial standpoint, even just a mathematic standpoint- it doesn’t make sense, what you’re proposing,” he said.

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Seeking injunction to allow store

A company that runs a chain of adult novelty stores filed a lawsuit Friday in federal court against the City of Alachua challenging Ordinance 11-06 passed earlier this year which prevents the store from opening in a building that had been home to The Western Teepee several years ago.

The ordinance restricts the types of businesses allowed to operate within an area labeled the “Gateway Activity Center,” a 2,000-foot zone surrounding the intersection of Interstate 75 and U.S. Highway 441.

Alachua Retail 51, L.L.C., operating under the name of The Lions Den Adult Boutique is also seeking immediate injunctive relief from Ordinance 11-06 citing claims that not allowing the adult novelty to open would result in “irreparable injury.”

Representing The Lions Den is Attorney Gary Edinger, the same Gainesville attorney who represented owners of Adult World, another sexually-oriented business, which sued the City after it was not permitted to open in 2003.

City of Alachua Attorney Marian Rush said she received a telephone call from Edigner’s office asking if the City would agree not to enforce the ordinance which prevents the store’s opening.  Rush said she was presenting the matter to the commission for consideration.

Vice-Mayor Ben Boukari, Jr. said, “It would be laughable to think that we wouldn’t enforce an ordinance we passed and something that’s been in the works for several years and not just something that happened in the last six months.”

In February, The Lions Den submitted a partial application to the City to open its shop in the vacant building which front U.S. Highway 441.  Meanwhile, the City was in the throes of drafting an ordinance detailing the permitted types of businesses in the Gateway Activity Center area.  The City adopted a moratorium preventing any new businesses from opening in the 2,000-foot zone until the final ordinance could be completed.

Commissioners approved the Gateway Activity Center ordinance on May 23.  Sexually-oriented businesses were among those uses not allowed.

Monday, commissioners voted unanimously to continue enforcement of Ordinance 11-06.

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HS_HomicideMug-HoggASOPhoto 1:  A mother and her son were gunned down Sunday afternoon in the front yard of this High Springs home.   Russell Hogg has been arrested, and has been charged with two counts of premeditated capital murder for the deaths of his wife and son. Photo 2: Russell Hogg has been charged with two counts of premeditated captial murder for the deaths of his wife and son.

 

 

 

A family dispute, believed to be over a pickup truck, left a woman and her son dead Sunday afternoon, shaking the High Springs community.  The alleged shooter, a family member, was arrested a short time later.

Russell Dewayne Hogg, 58, has been arrested in the shooting death of his wife, Trenda Hogg, 48 and their 22 year old son, Anthony Wayne Hogg.

According to an arrest report, just before 1 p.m. Sunday, Russell Hogg, last known to be employed as a welder, pulled into the driveway of the family home at 240 Poe Springs Road in High Springs.  He allegedly exited his vehicle, pulling out an AK-47 rifle and pointed it at his son stating, “I told you I was going to kill you,” to which Anthony Hogg replied, “shoot me then.”

Russell Hogg reportedly fired two rounds at his son, striking him in the torso.  The report states, “[Russell Hogg] then walked up to him and shot one round to his face.”

Upon realizing Anthony Hogg had been shot, Trenda Hogg ran outside where “Russell [Hogg] pointed the gun at her and fired several rounds at her,” the arrest record states.

Russell Hogg then threw the gun down and an eyewitness grabbed the gun and threw it under the house to prevent further access to it.  Russell Hogg then got into his car and left, officials report.

When deputies arrived at the scene, both victims were lying in the front yard and pronounced dead, according to Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) Spokesman Sergeant Todd Kelly.  He said there are some reports that Russell Hogg may have stopped in the Winn Dixie shopping plaza after the shooting.  Kelly was uncertain as to whether or not Russell Hogg had been residing at the family’s residence.

Two witnesses told investigators that Hogg stated his intentions to commit the crime beforehand.  “Russell was at their home and made the statement he “was going over to kill them.”  After the shooting, Russell Hogg allegedly returned to the witnesses’ home where he stated, “I told you I was gonna’ kill them,” the report states.

Columbia County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Russell Hogg on U.S. Highway 441 a short time after the shooting.

After being read his Miranda rights, Russell Hogg made several statements acknowledging that he killed his wife and son, according to ACSO Detective Sandra Myers.

Among his statements to investigators was that, “Tony [Anthony Russell] had gotten too big for his britches,” and that if he could have whipped his son, he would have, “rather than having to kill him.”

Myers wrote, “Russell [Hogg] also stated that it hurt him to see his wife laying there barely breathing because he did not want her to die.”

“I just killed my family and the bread winner of the home,” Russell Hogg allegedly said.

Kelly did not know if Russell Hogg was intoxicated in any way.

Russell Hogg was transferred to the ACSO Department of the Jail Monday.  Tuesday morning, he made a first appearance, Kelly said.

Russell Hogg is being held without bail on two charges of premeditated capital murder.

State Attorney Bill Cervone said the case will be presented to a grand jury within 21 days.  Grand jury presentations are required in first degree murder cases.

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The High Springs City Commission chose not to renew City Attorney Thomas Depeter’s contract at Thursday’s meeting.

The city has no plans to remove the attorney. Instead, the commission will continue the relationship on a month-to-month basis.

Mayor Larry Travis said, “I think he’s done a great job. We’re getting a pretty good bang for our buck.”

Commissioner Dean Davis feels that continuing Depeter’s employment on a non-contract basis is the best path to take given High Spring’s current economic situation.

Retaining Depeter on a non-contractual basis relieves the city of buying out his contract should the city decide at some point to let him go. “I think the buy-out is one of the problems we’ve had with our budget this year,” Davis said. “We’ve had to spend so much money in the past two years on buy-outs.”

The City paid severance to former city manager Jim Drumm when he was terminated last year prior to his contract expiration date.  Just weeks ago, former police chief Jim Troiano was let go prior to his contract expiration, and he will be receiving severance pay as well.

Depeter said that severance pay allows the commission to not have to explain why it is releasing an employee, thus preventing legal action.

“It provides a certain level of security, but it doesn’t guarantee anything,” he said.

Charter officers like the city attorney exist at the discretion of the city commission. They can be terminated at any time if the commission deems it appropriate.

“A contract doesn’t make the appointment of someone as your city attorney; the city commission voted to appoint me as the city attorney,” Depeter said. “Just because the contract expires doesn’t mean the appointment expires.”

He explained that the only ways of terminating a city attorney’s employment are the attorney resigning or the commission following the appropriate procedure.

Depeter agreed to continue on without a contract, stating that his rates would remain the same as they had been.

“I enjoy working for the city, and I hope to continue to be your city attorney,” he said.

High Springs hired the city attorney in 2007 with a two-year contract. The contract was renewed in 2009 for another two years.

The changes proposed in a new contract were a reduction of early termination pay from three months to two and the removal of budgeting for training conferences.

Depeter’s contract expired on Saturday.

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