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 ALACHUA COUNTY – Alachua County is informing residents of two recently enacted orders intended to help and protect the community during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency.

Office of the Governor Executive Order Number 20-94 (Emergency Management - COVID-19 - Mortgage Foreclosure and Eviction Relief)

This order provides a 45-day suspension of eviction actions for mortgage foreclosures and non-payment of rent. From the Order:

WHEREAS, I find that providing targeted, temporary relief to Floridians with residential tenancies is in the best interest of the state and its people; and

WHEREAS, as Governor, I am responsible for meeting the dangers presented to this state and its people by this emergency.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, RON DESANTIS, as Governor of Florida, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Article IV, Section (1)(a) of the Florida Constitution, Chapter 252, Florida Statutes, and all other applicable laws, promulgate the following Executive Order to take immediate effect:

Section 1. I hereby suspend and toll any statute providing for a mortgage foreclosure cause of action under Florida law for 45 days from the date of this Executive Order, including any extensions.

Section 2. I hereby suspend and toll any statute providing for an eviction cause of action under Florida law solely as it relates to non-payment of rent by residential tenants due to the COVID-19 emergency for 45 days from the date of this Executive Order, including any extensions.

Section 3. Nothing in this Executive Order shall be construed as relieving an individual from their obligation to make mortgage payments or rent payments.

Read the full Executive Order

Alachua County Emergency Order protects employees right to wear their own Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

No private employer or owner of a business in Alachua County shall prevent an employee or member of the public from wearing their PPE of choice while on their premises in Alachua County or during the performance of their job duties until commercially manufactured PPE becomes widely available. However, the business owner or their representative is not required to allow the use of any PPE which is obscene or contains a message that is not appropriate.

Click to read the full order.

For more information, contact Alachua County Communications Director Mark Sexton at 352-264-6979 or msexton@alachuacounty.us.

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ALACHUA - For up-to-date information about COVID-19 Testing & Information, Resident Resources, Business Resources, Florida Department of Health, Centers For Disease Control & Prevention, and a message from our Mayor, Gib Coerper, visit www.cityofalachua.com

The City of Alachua continues to monitor and take necessary precautions related to COVID-19, consistent with the recommendations and mandates of Federal and State agencies.

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ALACHUA – Alachua based Ology Bioservices Inc., a biologics contract development and manufacturing organization and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc., have announced that the Department of Defense (DOD) has awarded Ology Bioservices with a contract valued at $11.9 million to work with Inovio on DNA technology transfer to rapidly manufacture DNA vaccines. This work is supported by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs with funding from the Defense Health Agency.

“Given the current global health crisis, prophylaxis/vaccine development is critical to defend against the coronavirus disease 2019”

Under this program, Ology Bioservices will work with Inovio Pharmaceuticals to manufacture Inovio’s DNA vaccine (INO-4800) for prevention of infection with the COVID-19 virus. The aim of the program is to rapidly and efficiently deliver the vaccine to the DoD for upcoming clinical trials.

Peter H. Khoury, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Ology Bioservices, noted, “We are excited to be working with the DOD and Inovio to rapidly respond to this crisis. The Advanced Development and Manufacturing Facility operated by Ology Bioservices was designed to respond to just such emergencies as we are now experiencing, and we are proud to be part of this effort to protect the U.S. warfighter and the nation.”

  1. Joseph Kim, Ph.D., Inovio’s President and CEO, said, “Along with advancing INO-4800 through clinical studies as rapidly as possible, Inovio’s goal is to scale up the manufacturing of this vaccine for future studies and for potential emergency use, if appropriate.

“Powered by the U.S. Department of Defense support, Inovio is pleased to partner with Ology to enable rapid response manufacture of INO-4800 especially for the nation’s warfighters and other military personnel. This DOD-funded partnership is a testament to the importance and strength of public-private partnerships in meeting the challenges the world faces with the COVID-19 outbreak. This partnership increases Inovio’s manufacturing capabilities for our COVID vaccine and establishes an additional DNA vaccine manufacturing facility to protect the U.S. military against current and future disease outbreaks.”

"Given the current global health crisis, prophylaxis/vaccine development is critical to defend against the coronavirus disease 2019,” said Douglas Bryce, Joint Program Executive Officer for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense. “We need several approaches to ensure we have a quick solution, and the medical countermeasures Advanced Development and Manufacturing Facility is poised to contribute to the race for a vaccine in coordination with our interagency partners like Health and Human Services, along with our partners in industry and academia.”

Matthew Hepburn, M.D., Joint Project Lead CBRN Defense Enabling Biotechnologies, stated, “We are sincerely optimistic about the partnership between Inovio and Ology Bioservices, in order to make doses of a vaccine that could potentially protect our military personnel. It is urgently needed.”

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NEWBERRY – The City of Newberry is moving the scheduled April election to August. During the March 23 City Commission meeting, commissioners grappled with the best way to proceed with the scheduled April 14 municipal election in light of the Covid-19 virus.

Although the City has urged people to request vote by mail ballots this year, City Clerk Judy Rice said that only 25 people have chosen to vote in that manner so far.

Safety measures identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) regarding slowing the spread of the Corona Virus focused the City’s attention on how to adequately protect citizens who show up to vote at the polls. Options to move the polling location to a larger facility and to establish six-foot wide separations between voters waiting in line were discussed, but not pursued.

In addition, he Alachua County Stay-at-Home Order issued on Monday, March 23 significantly limits candidates’ ability to meet with voters. Mayor Jordan Marlowe said he had asked candidates not to go door-to-door to visit with voters at this time.

After careful deliberation and discussion on possible alternative dates in June or August, as well as consideration of proceeding with the April 14 election date, commissioners voted to move the election to the second Tuesday in August. Incumbent Commissioner Monty Farnsworth abstained from voting on the election date to avoid a possible conflict of interest.

Mark Clark and Walt Boyer, both of whom have already qualified, as well as the sitting commissioners, said they believed the Aug. 11 date would be less costly to the City in terms of financial expense and public safety.

Normally, the County Supervisor of Elections trains volunteers to act as poll workers. Many who have served in that capacity in the past are retired citizens, some of whom would be at high risk. With the threat of the Corona Virus many who normally volunteer to serve have decided to stay at home. Due to the lack of normal County-provided poll workers, the City would be required to provide their own people.

A suggestion that City employees could be asked if they might want to volunteer to serve in that capacity was raised. The City Attorney suggested that employees might feel obligated to volunteer. This option would also cost the City more as they would have employees out for an eight-hour training session one day and would also be required to be at the polling location for 10-12 hours on April 14, which would mean overtime.

Although Alachua County may well still be in the grip of Covid-19 in August, the extension of time will allow the City to develop additional action plans. Another benefit of extending the election to August is that the County Supervisor of Elections will be training their own poll workers for the August election date, which alleviates the need for the City to address that issue.

Commissioner Rocky McKinley originally agreed to serve until the April election. Mayor Marlowe said he had asked McKinley if he would stay on to serve if Commissioners decided to change the election date. He said he would remain in his position until a new commissioner is elected.

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ALACHUA – The Department of Defense (DOD) has awarded a contract valued at $14 million with Alachua based Ology Bioservices Inc., a biologics contract development and manufacturing organization, to develop and manufacture a monoclonal antibody for treatment and prevention of infection with the COVID-19 virus.

“It gives DOD and interagency partners like Health and Human Services, along with our partners in industry and academia, the ability to respond quickly and develop the treatments our warfighters need to fight COVID-19 so they can continue protecting the nation.”

This work is supported by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs with funding from the Defense Health Agency.

Under this program, Ology Bioservices will work with Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) in Nashville, Tennessee to develop and manufacture the monoclonal antibody. The aim of the program is to rapidly and efficiently deliver the antibody to the Department of Defense.

Peter H. Khoury, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Ology Bioservices, noted, “We are tremendously honored to be working with the Department of Defense and Vanderbilt University Medical Center to rapidly respond to this crisis. The Advanced Development and Manufacturing Facility operated by Ology Bioservices stands ready to meet the needs of the U.S. warfighter and the nation at large.”

"The global health crisis we're seeing unfold right now with the coronavirus disease 2019 is exactly the kind of scenario the medical countermeasures Advanced Development and Manufacturing Facility was built for,” said Douglas Bryce, Joint Program Executive Officer for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Defense. “It gives DOD and interagency partners like Health and Human Services, along with our partners in industry and academia, the ability to respond quickly and develop the treatments our warfighters need to fight COVID-19 so they can continue protecting the nation."

Matthew Hepburn, M.D., Joint Project Lead CBRN Defense Enabling Biotechnologies, added, “This contract represents the realization of the prior investment in the DOD Advanced Development and Manufacturing Facility, in order to respond to biological threats and pandemics. The Ology Bioservices team will now endeavor to make a product to keep DOD personnel safe.”

Under the proposed terms of a pending agreement with VUMC, researchers in the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center (VVC) will be tasked in this program with rapid antibody discovery efforts as a performance site for the Pandemic Prevention Platform (P3) network of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

“Our team has been pushing 24/7 to isolate human monoclonal antibodies for SARS-CoV-2, and we are gratified to have the partnership of Ology Bioservices and the support of the U.S. DOD to prepare clinical grade antibody materials for rapid testing in clinical trials,” said James Crowe, M.D., director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center.

“This collaborative effort with the U.S. DOD Enabling Biotechnologies Office is a natural extension of our current effort to rapidly discover and deploy protective monoclonal antibodies for SARS-CoV-2 through the DARPA Pandemic Prevention Program (P3),” added VVC Associate Director Robert H. Carnahan, Ph.D. “Partnering with Ology Bioservices will allow these antibodies to quickly move towards human clinical trials in the coming months.”

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FLORIDA - Florida's COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard; Florida Department of Health, Division of Disease Control and Health Protection

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TALLAHASSEE -- Florida's investigation into a domestic-violence nonprofit and its alleged misappropriation of millions in state funds ramped up this week with a lawsuit against the group's executive leadership.

It says Tiffany Carr, who led the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, was paid $761,000 a year at the time of her resignation and, with paid time off, received $7 million in compensation over three years - even as the shelters under her group's management were short on funding.

Ben Wilcox, research director with the watchdog nonprofit Integrity Florida, says the state probe is long overdue.

"I think it's corruption, yeah," says Wilcox. "I think potentially, you know, criminal corruption. We'll have to see how it plays out. It may be more of a kind of legal corruption."

The Department of Children and Families, which has contracted with the coalition since 2003, filed a lawsuit Wednesday targeting Carr, the coalition's board of directors and executive officers. Yesterday, the Florida House also approved a motion to serve Carr with a subpoena "by any means necessary," after the department accused her of stonewalling oversight attempts.

According to the lawsuit, the coalition received $42 million from the Department of Children and Families in fiscal year 2017 to manage 42 domestic-violence centers that provide victims with an array of services.

Wilcox says department officials should also hold themselves accountable.

"The Department of Children and Families also failed to keep tabs on this situation," he says. "And there should be someone looking at compensation packages for these nonprofit associations that are doing business with the state."

The governor's lawyers are asking the court for more than $30,000 in damages for each of the 51 counts in the complaint against the coalition, Carr and 11 other defendants.

State Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin, R-Miami, and Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, sponsored legislation that the governor has signed, repealing a guaranteed state partnership with the coalition.

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More than $20,000 in scholarships will be up for grabs for students participating in the 12th Annual National Archery in the Schools Program Florida State Tournament. The tournament, hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), will be held Feb. 29 in Bartow. Admission is free for tournament spectators.

“Thanks to generous contributions from the National Archery in the Schools Program and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, we’re able to award $20,000 in scholarships to the three top scoring male and female archers at the 2020 Florida NASP State Championship,” said Bill Cline, FWC’s section leader for Hunter Safety and Public Shooting Ranges.

The National Archery in the Schools Program is a cooperative effort between the FWC and the Florida Department of Education that teaches international style target archery in 4th-12th grade physical education classes. The NASP curriculum covers archery history, safety, technique, equipment, mental concentration and self-improvement. 

“Archery is a very inclusive activity. Boys and girls from a wide range of ages, skill levels and physical abilities can participate and succeed,” Cline said. “Plus, archery provides several benefits such as building muscle endurance, flexibility, hand-eye coordination, and grip and body strength. It also teaches discipline, respect and self-control.”

The 12th annual NASP Florida State Tournament is conducted as a multi-site competition with the tournament ending Saturday, Feb 29 at the Carver Recreation Center in Bartow.

Winners will be announced in three divisions: elementary, middle and high school. Trophies will be awarded to the top three schools in each division and the top boy and girl shooter in each division. National tournament bids to the 2020 NASP National Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, will be awarded to the top male and female archers, as well as first-place teams by age division and additional teams who meet the minimum qualifying score.

In addition to the competition, there will be activities for competitors and spectators attending this event, including an outdoor aerial archery game.  For competing student shooters who wish to participate, there is an additional 3-D archery range competition with prizes, including bows provided by Bear Archery.

For more information about Florida’s National Archery in the Schools Program, visit MyFWC.com/NASP.

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MARIANNA, Fla. – Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested Eddie Earnest, 51, and Encarnacion Burch, 39, both of Marianna, for theft of copper from a utility or communications service provider.  The case was investigated by FDLE and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.  Holmes County Sheriff’s Office and Marianna Police Department also assisted. 

The investigation shows Earnest and Burch stole copper telephone communication wire strung between telephone poles, causing outages for numerous customers in Jackson, Holmes and Walton counties.  After stealing the wire, the suspects removed the copper, selling it to a second-hand metal dealer.

Known damages are around $5,000, but that number is expected to increase.  If you have additional information or believe you were a victim, please contact FDLE at (850) 595-2100.

Agents arrested Earnest and Burch Feb. 13, at Earnest’s residence on Mellow Trail in Marianna.  The pair was booked into the Jackson County Jail. 

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Fernandina Beach - The St Marys Tall Ships Alliance in cooperation with the City of Fernandina Beach is excited to announce the arrival and visit of the world-Famous Columbus Foundation Tall Ships " Nina and Pinta " into Fernandina Beach, Fla.   Tall Ships Nina and Pinta will be sailing into Fernandina Harbor Marina on April 23rd.   The Captain and crew have invited  the City official, media and the public to come welcome them into Fernandina Harbor Marina at 3 S. Front Street in Downtown Fernandina Beach, Florida. Arrival time is sometime between 1pm-4pm. ( Arrival time will be update on the 22nd at www.smtsa.org )  For additional information and question you can contact St Marys Tall Ship Alliance at info@smtsa.org or at 912-254-0110

 

The world's famous Columbus Foundation tall ships Nina and Pinta are the most historically accurate replicas of Christopher Columbus ships that have ever been built and are the only Nina and Pinta replicas that are in existence today. Both ships sail together in the western hemisphere as a sailing and floating museum with the purpose of educating the public and schools about the history of a Caravel Style sailing ship that were used by Columbus and other explorers during the 15th century. The Public can step aboard and be whisked back in time as they are surrounded by the design and material that was used for a historic Caravel style 15th century sailing ship.  You are able to step in time as you enjoy the exhibits aboard both ships that highlight the history of the age of discovery, navigation of that era, how the ships were build and will see what life was like aboard the Nina and Pinta over 500 years ago. The ships Guest are encouraged to take their time and experiences the history that  these amazing tall ships have to offer and to talk or ask any question with the ship’s crew members that will be available on deck.

 

Tall Ships Nina and Pinta will be open to the public for deck tours April 24th through May 3rd.  Public deck tours are available daily 9am until 6pm.  They will be offering self-guided deck tours and guided tours.  Self-guided are for individuals that arrive during open hours, pay to go aboard and take their time experiencing both ships.  Deck tours tickets are general admission (one price allows you to tour both ships) prices are $8.50 (for adults) $7.50 (for seniors) $6.50 (for ages 5-16) ages 4 and under are free.  Guided Deck tours are for groups of 15 or more paying guest. and a great educational event that is ideal for schools and organizations. For addition information please go to www.smtsa.org or contact St Marys Tall Ship Alliance at info@smtsa.org or at 912-254-0110

 

Groups will be assigned a tour guide to them. The tour will last an average of 30-45 minutes with time split between ships. Once the tours has ended guest are welcome to stay and take as much time as they would like to go back and review the exhibits that were discussed during the tour and are welcome to ask question to any of the crew members that is available on the ships deck.  Maximum number of people allowed in a 30-minute time slot is 100.  Groups with over 100 people will need to request an additional time slot.  Group need to reserve their visit prior to the ships visit at www.thenina.com , ninapintatour@gmail.com or call (787) 672-2152.  Groups receive a reduce ticket price of $ 5 per person.   Tall Ship Pinta will be available to be chartered for Dockside Corporate, or group events. Limits dates are available (April 24 - April 30). Reservations are required three weeks before prior to Nina and Pinta Fernandina Beach visit.  For addition information please go to www.smtsa.org or contact St Marys Tall Ship Alliance at info@smtsa.org or at 912-254-0110

 

St Marys Tall Ship Alliance's primary mission and purpose is to promote the world's historical tall ships along with promoting and organizing public tall ship events for the southern Georgia and Northern Florida coast.  The Alliance is a Georgia 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that celebrates the rich maritime history of tall ship that are still sailing today.  St Marys Tall Ship Alliance is an all-volunteer educational non-profit.

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ALACHUA COUNTY - Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the appointment of five members to the Children's Trust of Alachua County (CTAC): Dr. Patricia Snyder, Nancy Hardt, Dr. Margarita Labarta, Dr. Karen Cole-Smith, and Charles "Lee" Pinkoson. These members were appointed by the Governor from a list of 15 candidates submitted by Alachua County's Board of County Commissioners.
In speaking of the appointments, Alachua County Commission Ken Cornell, Chair of the Children's Trust, said, "The Governor has appointed five excellent CTAC members. I am very glad to now have a full slate of highly qualified and devoted individuals who are ready to roll up their sleeves and make a difference in the lives of our children." He continued saying, "I want to thank all of those who were willing to serve and I encourage everyone to attend our meetings and stay engaged."
Governor DeSantis' CTAC appointments:
Dr. Patricia Snyder
Dr. Snyder, of Gainesville, is the director of the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies at the University of Florida. She earned her bachelor's degree in speech pathology and audiology from the State University of New York, her master's degree in special education from Millersville University and her doctorate degree in early childhood special education from the University of New Orleans. Dr. Snyder is appointed to a four-year term.
Nancy Hardt
Hardt, of Micanopy, served as a professor at the University of Florida's College of Medicine with specialties in obstetrics, gynecology and pathology from 1981 until her retirement in 2014. She earned her bachelor's degree from Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Virginia and her master's degree in gynecology and pathology from Loyola University Chicago. Hardt is appointed to a four-year term.
Dr. Margarita Labarta
Dr. Labarta, of Gainesville, recently retired as the president and chief executive officer of Meridian Behavioral Healthcare. Currently, she serves as chair for the Florida Council for Community Mental Health and as a member of Mental Health Corporations of America and the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology and mathematics from Barry University and her master's degree and doctorate degree in clinical and community psychology from the University of Maryland. Dr. Labarta is appointed to a four-year term.
Dr. Karen Cole-Smith
Dr. Cole-Smith, of Gainesville, is the executive director of community outreach at Santa Fe College. She earned her bachelor's degree in criminology and sociology from Bethune-Cookman University, her master's degree in sociology and criminology from Ohio State University and her doctorate degree in sociology and criminology from the University of Florida. Dr. Cole-Smith is appointed to a two-year term.
Charles "Lee" Pinkoson
Pinkoson, of Gainesville, served as an Alachua County Commissioner from 2002 until 2018. He served on the Florida Association of Counties' Board of Directors from 2002 until 2019. He earned his bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Florida. Pinkoson is appointed to a three-year term.
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Florida News Connection

January 31, 2020  

 

TALLAHASSEE - This week, Florida's Capitol was jam-packed with the sticky hands of children to force policymakers to take note of their needs.


The annual "Children's Week" kicked off last Sunday, with an event known as the "hanging of the hands" in the Capitol Rotunda. Tens of thousands of pieces of colorful "hand art" decorated by children and their teachers became the center of attention.

Speaking on The Rotunda Podcast, Alan Abramowitz - executive director of Florida's Guardian ad Litem program - says the artwork and having kids barnstorm the Capitol is an effective strategy.

"Every legislator, every policymaker will see those and know that our priority are children," says Abramowitz. "And it just so happens that this week is budget week, the budgets are coming out."

The Florida Senate released its initial budget of almost $93 billion yesterday. It includes across-the-board pay raises for state employees and more money for teacher salaries. The House is expected to release its full budget, as Abramowitz advocates for full funding for the state's children's programs.

To cap off Children's Week, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced the formation of a "Children's Corner" in the library of the governor's mansion on Thursday. Abramowitz says he sees a coordinated effort by the governor and the Florida Department of Children and Families' secretary to keep kids out of the foster-care system.

"The governor and Secretary Poppell have put together a package that doesn't just focus on foster care," says Abramowitz. "Because if a child enters foster care, they've already been abused, abandoned and neglected. They're looking at prevention. How do we keep families together?"

The governor's proposed budget provides more than $1.2 billion dollars in funding, an increase of just over $132 million over Fiscal Year 2018-19 for early childhood education. The budget plan released Thursday is a first step. Senate and House negotiators will hammer out a final budget before the session ends March 13

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There is no legitimate argument for making this change now and sending government further into a black hole and out of the light.

If you haven’t heard, the Florida Legislature is attempting to abolish the requirement that governmental agencies publish legal notices in newspapers, which would push government further into the shadows and make it harder for Floridians to learn about public policy issues, make their voices heard and hold their leaders accountable. This bill, HB 7 is scheduled to be heard by the full House on Tuesday. 

First off, this bill flips public notice on its head by reducing government transparency. Simply put, putting legal notices on government websites means very few Florida citizens will ever read them.  Public notice along with public meetings and public records have been part of our nation’s commitment to open government since the founding of the Republic. Our Founders placed public notices in newspapers to be noticed.

Secondly, from the perspective of efficient use of technology, I believe the bill takes a step backwards by placing these notices on government websites. 

The Florida Press Association has a comprehensive website which aggregates and places all of the notices under one umbrella – it’s called floridapublicnotices.com.  We have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars building this website to serve Florida’s state government as well as its towns, municipalities, businesses and taxpayers. To date, we have over 32,000 registered users and over 70,000 monthly page views in addition to the notices in the newspapers and their websites. And, it’s free for the public to use. Why re-invent the wheel now? 

If this bill is passed, city and county governments will be required to recreate the same infrastructure currently in place to make notices easily searchable, mobile friendly, and provide email notification upon request of a specific notice (which newspapers do today), that recreation will not be cheap. In fact, the promised savings may not be there.  Nor will the audience, without a major investment in marketing to direct our citizens to what would be hundreds of government websites.

Further, the bill has the impact of significantly reducing notice. 

Despite what you read and hear, newspapers or should I say, media companies are alive and well. Our weekly newspapers are growing, and our dailies are growing digital subscriptions and page views. In some cases, double-digit online growth.  

Newspapers in Florida alone are reaching 7.5 million readers in any given week, and our websites typically will reach more audience than most city or county websites. Our websites draw a minimum of 58 million unique online users in any given month.

By moving notices to less-frequently visited government websites, not only will you reduce the reach to the Florida public, you also lose the active and well-informed citizen. These are people who read often and find notices while they’re staying current with other community news. 

Finally, while this bill claims to save cities and counties money, the unintended consequence is that notices will lose both readership and the legally important third-party verification. 

With notices in newspapers -- in print and online -- it provides a verifiable public record through sworn required affidavits of publication.   Does the government really want to take on this responsibility of residents not being properly notified? 

In closing, 250 years ago our founders decided to place these public notices in a public forum -- newspapers – an open space where The People were most likely to see them… not on hundreds of different government sites hoping folks will find them.

Let’s keep Florida transparent and informed.  Please feel free to call your local legislator to share your voice before it’s too late.

Jim Fogler is the President & CEO Florida Press Service

336 E. College Ave. Suite 304, Tallahassee, FL  32301

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 This Valentine’s Day, many Veterans who fought to preserve our freedoms will be hospitalized, receiving the medical care they earned, but separated from the homes and communities they defended.  No one should be alone on Valentine’s Day, and with the help of our grateful community, no Veteran has to be.

I would like to personally invite every one of your readers to show their love and appreciation to Veterans by visiting the Malcom Randall or Lake City Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers as part of the National Salute to Veteran Patients Feb. 9-15.

During the National Salute, VA invites individuals, Veterans groups, military personnel, civic organizations, businesses, schools, local media, celebrities and sports stars to participate in a variety of activities at the VA medical centers.

During the week we are excited to host many various organizations, groups, schools and others that are taking the time out of their busy schedules and visit our some of our facilities.

The love doesn’t have to end on Valentine’s Day.  Many of our Veterans are coming to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with special needs and challenges that require the hearts and hands of a new generation of VA volunteers. North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System invites citizens, young and old, to join us in honoring our Veterans year-round by learning more about VA’s volunteer program as well.

Every citizen can make a positive difference in the life of a Veteran patient.  Visits from community groups do so much to lift the spirits of our patients.  I invite every member of our community to participate.

Call our Voluntary Service office at 352-548-6068 for the Malcom Randall VAMC or 386-755- 3016, ext. 392032 for the Lake City VAMC to schedule a visit and learn how to join the VA’s National Salute to Veteran Patients.

Thomas Wisnieski, MPA, FACHE

Director

North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System

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When I started graduate school at Florida State University, I had never seen a sawfish in the wild but I was excited to be part of the recovery of a species I had been so awestruck by in aquariums.

The smalltooth sawfish, the only sawfish found in Florida, has been protected in Florida since 1992 and became federally listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2003. Little was known about the species when it became listed but since that time, scientists have learned a lot about its biology and ecology.

As sawfish recovery efforts continue, we expect there to be more sawfish sightings, especially in Florida. This includes anglers who may accidentally catch one on hook-and-line while fishing for other species.

Sawfish encounters

Sawfish can be encountered when participating in a number of activities including boating, diving and fishing. Further, the species may be encountered by waterfront homeowners and beach goers in the southern half of the state where juvenile sawfish rely on shallow, nearshore environments as nursery habitats. When fishing, targeting sawfish is prohibited under the ESA, though incidental captures do occur while fishing for other species. Knowing how to properly handle a hooked sawfish is imperative as sawfish can be potentially hazardous to you. One of the first things that stood out to me while conducting permitted research was the speed at which a sawfish can swing its rostrum (commonly referred to as the saw). For creatures that glide along the bottom so slowly and gracefully, they sure can make quick movements when they want to. It’s best to keep a safe distance between you and the saw.

If you happen to catch a sawfish while fishing, do not pull it out of the water and do not try to handle it. Refrain from using ropes or restraining the animal in any way, and never remove the saw. It is important that you untangle it if necessary and release the sawfish as quickly as possible by cutting the line as close to the hook as you can. Proper release techniques ensure a high post-release survival of sawfish. Scientific studies show us that following these guidelines will limit the amount of stress a sawfish experiences as a result of capture. Note that a recent change in shark fishing rules requires use of circle hooks, which results in better hook sets, minimizes gut hooking, and also maximizes post-release survival. 

In addition to capture on hook-and-line, sawfish can easily become entangled in lost fishing gear or nets. If you observe an injured or entangled sawfish, be sure to report it immediately but do not approach the sawfish. Seeing a sawfish up close can be an exciting experience but you must remember that it is an endangered species with strict protections.

If you are diving and see a sawfish, observe at a distance. Do not approach or harass them. This is illegal and this guidance is for your safety as well as theirs.

An important component of any sawfish encounter is sharing that information with scientists. Your encounter reports help managers track the population status of this species. If you encounter a sawfish while diving, fishing or boating, please report the encounter. Take a quick photo if possible (with the sawfish still in the water and from a safe distance), estimate its length including the saw and note the location of the encounter. The more details you can give scientists, the better we can understand how sawfish are using Florida waters and the better we can understand the recovery of the population. Submit reports at SawfishRecovery.org, email sawfish@MyFWC.com or phone at 1-844-4SAWFISH.

Sawfish background

Sawfishes, of which there are five species in the world, are named for their long, toothed “saw” or rostrum, which they use for hunting prey and defense. In the U.S., the smalltooth sawfish was once found regularly from North Carolina to Texas but its range is now mostly limited to Florida waters.

In general, sawfish populations declined for a variety of reasons. The primary reason for decline is that they were frequently caught accidentally in commercial fisheries that used gill nets and trawls. Additional contributing factors include recreational fisheries and habitat loss. As industrialization and urbanization changed coastlines, the mangroves that most sawfishes used as nursery habitat also became less accessible. For a species that grows slowly and has a low reproductive rate, the combination of these threats proved to be too much.

Engaging in sawfish recovery

During my thesis research, which focuses on tracking the movements of large juvenile and adult smalltooth sawfish, each tagging encounter is a surreal experience.

The first sawfish I saw was an adult, and what struck me the most was just how big it was. I also remember being enamored by its mouth. Like all other rays, its mouth is on the underside of its body. The mouth looks like a shy smile and I found it almost humorous how different the top of the sawfish was compared to the bottom. After seeing my first baby sawfish, the contrast seemed even greater. It’s hard to believe upon seeing a 2 to 3 foot sawfish that it could one day be 16 feet long! No matter the size, anyone who has encountered a sawfish will tell you it’s an experience like no other.

The hope is that one day the sawfish population will be thriving once again, and more people will be able to experience safe and memorable encounters with these incredible animals. Hopefully, we can coexist with sawfish in a sustainable and positive way in the future.

For more information on sawfish, including FWC’s sawfish research visit:
MyFWC.com/research, click on “Saltwater” then “Sawfish.”

For more information on smalltooth sawfish and their recovery watch:
YouTube.com/watch?v=NSRWUjVU3e8&t=3s

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Sadly, 10 law enforcement officers have already died in the line of duty this month in the United States.

In addition to two dying in vehicular crashes related to crime, three were mercilessly killed as a result of gunfire by cowards who had no respect for human life or the rule of law.

Please let us never forget the bravery our men and  women in blue display each day for EVERY American as they don their uniform and leave for duty. Unfortunately, they do not know if they will return home to loved ones at the end of their shift.

As Americans, we take for granted:

- When turning on the faucet, without thinking, we expect clean water to pour out.

- When flipping a switch, without thinking, we expect the room will be illuminated.

- When purchasing something to eat from a grocery store, restaurant, or fast food establishment, without thinking, we expect these edible products will not be contaminated.

- When sending our children off to school each day, without thinking, we expect they will be educated by qualified and dedicated teachers.

- When resting our heads on the pillow at night, without thinking, we expect our faithful members of the armed forces will protect us from the bad guys of this world.

- When venturing out into the community, without thinking, we expect our highly trained and brave police officers will keep us safe from harm.

It is acceptable to expect these things we take for granted because our forefathers believed each American was special and declared every citizen had certain unalienable rights.

Let us remain steadfast in never forgetting, and do think about and honor, the tremendous sacrifices America’s men and women in blue make by courageously: “putting others above self.”

Robert Wilford

Alachua, Florida

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 The GFWC High Springs New Century Woman’s Club Members would like to thank the residents of the community, visitors as well as the merchants for their wonderful support throughout the year.

Through your generous donations of money and time, the Club was able to support more than 70 local, state and national organizations to help people in need.

Thank you to Barbara Llewellyn from the “Observer,” Bryan Boukari and Carol Walker from “Alachua County Today” and the “Suwannee Valley Times” for posting our information in their newspapers and for everyone sharing it on Facebook. You all helped to make 2019 a very successful fundraising year for the Club. 

Carole Tate, President

GFWC High Springs New Century Woman’s Club

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I get asked all the time, "Why don't you live in Gainesville?"

It's a valid question; I'll give you that. I go to UF and work in Gainesville. I have to get out of bed 30 minutes earlier to leave for school than I would if I lived in Gainesville. If I want to go home before I go to work, I spend like $12 in gas just to make the back-and-forth trip.

Driving home to change before going out on the weekends takes so much time that I often just end up staying home most of the time. All these things may seem like deal breakers to most, but they're only minor sacrifices to me.

I love living in High Springs. I grew up here on a dirt road with nothing to do but get in trouble. I climbed trees, stared at the stars, stole my momma's cigarettes and spent so much time outdoors that the five-minute walk home felt like an eternity in the infinite darkness of night.

I love the trees, the smell in the air and the kind people.

In Gainesville, you struggle to find a parking spot that won't get you towed. In High Springs, you can double park and not feel guilty.

In Gainesville, you're constantly stuck in traffic. In High Springs, the only traffic you worry about is foot traffic at the Farmer's market.

In High Springs, you don't worry about car washes because you prefer dirt roads. Rain washes your car.

It's just so peaceful here. I know Alachua's starting to get bigger with new restaurants and franchises opening up left and right, but there's still this serenity about the area. A small town atmosphere that makes you wish your grandparents’ house was right around the corner so that you can pick up some freshly baked cookies before you start your day.

I live five minutes from my parents’ house and I raid their house whenever my roommates and I are low on groceries. They don't care; they just enjoy having me around. In all honesty, I don't visit as much as I should. My dogs about have a heart attack every time I stop by. I just know that it would be much worse if I lived in Gainesville.

That's High Springs, though. It's close to home. It's close to my family. It's close to my heart.

No matter where I go, I'll never forget my time here. This is where I grew up. This is where I became who I am today. 

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Email tschuyler@

alachuatoday.com

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