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Two seats up for grabs

Four candidates have qualified to compete for two open seats on the High Springs City Commission.

Among the qualified candidates are current Mayor Larry Travis and Vice-Mayor Byran Williams.  Bob Barnas and Linda Gestrin Clark have also qualified to run in the 2011 election cycle.  Barnas and Clark both sought seats on the commission during the 2010 election cycle but came up short.

The election will be held Nov. 8.

The two open seats, currently occupied by Travis and Williams, have three-year terms.  Williams was elected last year to fill the remainder of a vacancy, which was left when Commissioner Diane Shupe resigned.

The top two vote winners will fill the openings.

Qualifying began Monday, Aug. 1 at 8 a.m. and closed Friday, Aug. 5 at 4:30 p.m.

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Members of United State Senator Marco Rubio’s office will be visiting Newberry next week.

The senator’s office will be holding mobile office hours at Newberry City Hall Tuesday, Aug. 16 from 2:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.

Rubio’s staff will be available to meet and assist the general public with federal issues, his office said in a release Monday.

Newberry City Hall is located at 25440 West Newberry Road, Newberry, Fla. 32669.  Rubio’s regional office in Jacksonville may be reached at 904-398-8586.

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Families can get their kids off to a great start to the school year at the 2011 Stop the Violence/Back to School Rally set for Saturday, Aug. 13 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Santa Fe College Gymnasium.

For the 12th straight year the community group People Against Violence Enterprises (PAVE) will be hosting the event, which is expected to draw more than 2,000 people. The event, sponsored by a variety of businesses and community organizations, including primary sponsor Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, Inc., offers musical entertainment, guest speakers with anti-violence messages, a bounce house, an art table and other activities for kids. Meridian will also provide the first 1,200 children attending the fair with free backpacks filled with school supplies.

The purpose of the rally is to give parents and students important tips on preventing violence in their neighborhoods, homes and schools, and to help them prepare for the upcoming school year. This year’s theme is “Who U Reppin’? PEACE!” and the focus will be on preventing gangs and gang-related violence.

Alachua County Public Schools will again be partnering with PAVE this year to hold the district’s annual Back to School Fair in conjunction with the Stop the Violence Rally. District staff will be on hand to provide families attending the event with school bus schedules, calendars, school supply lists and other important back-to-school information.

As part of the Stop the Violence/Back to School Rally, the Leadership Gainesville Alumni Association (LGAA) will be providing backpacks, supplies and clothing to eligible students who have graduated from the local Head Start program. This is the 16th year the LGAA has sponsored the program for Head Start graduates.

Other local agencies will also be on hand to provide vital services and information. For example, the Alachua County Health Department will be offering free school immunizations and information on signing up for low-cost health insurance. Health Department staff members will also be sharing information about the upcoming Flu Mist vaccination program, a community-wide effort to immunize all students against the flu for free while they’re at school.

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 Local businesses team up for Pump Perks Program

Today more than ever, consumers are searching for ways to save money.  And shoppers at the Hitchcock’s Market in Alachua are discovering there is more to saving money at the store than using coupons and shopping sales.

In partnership with Bob’s Mobil gas station, the grocery store has launched the Pump Perks fuel reward program.  With qualified purchases, customers can earn discounts on fuel that may result in paying as low as 10.9 cents per gallon on up to 15 gallons.

The Pump Perks program is in full swing at the Hitchcock’s Markets Alachua location at 15560 NW US Hwy 441, and the fuel rewards are redeemable at Bob’s Mobil, 16091 NW US Hwy 441 in Alachua.

“Hitchcock’s Markets is very excited to offer our Alachua customers an opportunity to earn discounts on fuel with their everyday grocery purchases,” said Hitchcock’s Wayne Josleyn. “This is an excellent partnership with Mobil that will really benefit our community.”

To participate in the program, shoppers at Hitchcock’s Markets pick up their free Pump Perks rewards card at the service desk, purchase specially marked items throughout the store and have their card scanned while checking out to earn cents off a gallon of gas. Eligible products are identified with the Pump Perks symbol throughout the store, and customers receive the per gallon savings shown on the shelf tag.  There are 1,500 rotating items that are currently part of the program.

The fuel discount is redeemed locally at Bob’s Mobil and applies for up to 15 gallons of gas in a single fill up. The Pump Perks card may be scanned at the pump for the discount, or inside with the cashier. Other participating gas stations are located in Jasper and Interlachen.

For more information on the Pump Perks program and the requirements to participate, visit Hitchcock’s Alachua location.

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ROBBERYSurveillance photograph of the suspect

The High Springs CVS located at 110 North Santa Fe Boulevard was robbed Saturday afternoon at around 5:25 p.m. The High Springs Police Department (HSPD) is currently investigating the armed robbery.  A clerk employed by the High Springs CVS called 9-1-1 to report that she was the victim of a robbery.

HSPD officers arrived on scene and learned that a man, described as a white male, mid to late twenties, 5’10,” between 165 and 185 lbs. He was last seen wearing a grey Nike ball cap, a dark colored Harry Potter tee shirt, long blue jean shorts (past his knee) and running shoes. He had a moustache and goatee. 

The suspect entered the store at approximately 5:11 p.m. and walked around the store for several minutes before he approached the check-out counter and paid for a small item. After his transaction was completed, the man handed the clerk a note which instructed her not to scream and that he had a gun. The man demanded cash from the drawer and after receiving an undisclosed amount; he took his note back and fled the store on foot. No one was physically injured during this robbery.

HSPD, ACSO and APD officers searched the area with negative results. Although a weapon was not seen, the man implied by note and via his actions that he was armed.

Anyone with information about this robbery is asked to contact the HSPD at 386-454-1415, or remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 352-372-7867 (STOP). Callers are eligible to receive a reward up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest.

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With the start of school less than a month away for Alachua County Public School students, district and school staff are urging parents who have not yet registered their children to do so as soon as possible.

Classes begin Monday, Aug. 22, and it’s expected that hundreds of families will wait until that day or even later to register their students.  That means long lines in school front offices across the county.

“By waiting until the last minute, parents will almost certainly face big crowds and very long waits,” said public information officer Jackie Johnson.  “Middle and high school students may also miss out on getting the courses they want because they’re already full.”

Complicating the situation is Florida’s class size law, which went into full effect during the last school year.  Under the law, core academic classes in grades K-3 are limited to no more than 18 students, grades 4-8 are limited to 22 students and in high school the limit is 25 students.  Districts will be fined for every student over the limit in each classroom.

“The law definitely limits the principals’ scheduling flexibility, which makes having an accurate student count before school starts that much more critical,” said Karen Clarke, the district’s director of secondary curriculum.

Even without the class size requirements, late arrivals create a major headache for schools, teachers and their fellow students.

“If principals don’t know how many students are coming, they won’t know how many teachers they’ll need or how many class sections to schedule,” said Clarke.  “When students register late, teachers and students often have to be moved around to accommodate them, and that can be very disruptive.”

Parents need to register if their child will be entering an Alachua County public school for the first time (including students entering kindergarten) or if they have moved to a different school zone within the county.  Families new to the district should go to the child’s zoned school with documents including the child’s birth certificate, Social Security card, proof of a recent physical, proof of immunizations and two proofs of primary residence.  Records from previous schools are useful, but not required.  Those who’ve moved within the district will need to take just the two proofs of residence to the new school.

Local schools are open Monday through Thursday during the summer.  Typically the best time to register a child is between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Parents who aren’t sure which school their child is zoned for or who need more information can contact the district’s zoning office at 352-955-7700.

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DrummThe city’s two newly elected commissioners are not opposed to the idea of bringing back former City Manager Jim Drumm, making it a possibility that he could be rehired.

High Springs Commissioner-elect Sue Weller said there’s a lot to discuss before she could decide whether she wants him to return to the position.

“I don’t know yet,” she said, “But I’m not ruling anything out at this point.”

Possible scenarios under which Drumm might return include a majority vote by the commission to reinstate him, or if the position was openly advertised according to the city’s usual hiring process, he could apply for the job and be considered like any other applicant.

Weller is sure the issue will come up one way or another, but she doesn’t yet know what she’ll do.

There needs to be open, public discussion among the commissioners before any decisions are made, Weller said.

Fellow commissioner-elect Byran Williams said he hadn’t really thought about Drumm’s return as a possibility.

But he agreed that it would need to be discussed, but was noncommittal whether he would support it.

“I’m not in favor, but I’m not opposed.”

Vice Mayor Eric May suspects there are those who intend to rehire Drumm, although he didn’t specify which commissioners, but did say it would be “a huge mistake.”

May said if a majority votes to hire the former manager again, he will be more than willing to work with Drumm, and he will respect that decision, but he wouldn’t vote in favor of it.

May said that as long as the commission follows the proper process of advertising the manager position fairly for all who are qualified to apply, then Drumm has the right to apply – but he shouldn’t be brought back carte blanche.  “We need to find a manager we all mutually agree on,” May said.  “There’s too much animosity surrounding Drumm.”

Facing termination, Drumm resigned on Oct. 21.  At that time, the city commission gave unanimous approval to accept a severance agreement which included $66,433.80 in severance pay, retention of city health insurance including family coverage for the next six months, and a neutral reference letter for future employers. 

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