30
Sat, May
173 New Articles

Top Stories

Grid List

ALACHUA – Alachua City Commissioner Dayna Miller has been sworn in for a three-year term after running unopposed for seat 3 on the commission. City Manager Adam Boukari administered the oath of office at the May 18 commission meeting. Miller also served as Vice Mayor during her first term.

Miller completed the Florida League of Cities' Institute for Elected Municipal Officials (IEMO) III "The Leadership Challenge" educational program in March and was presented with certificate of completion by Mayor Gib Coerper. The program is specially designed for elected officials who completed the Advanced Institute for Elected Municipal Officials program. The primary objective of the IEMO is to provide elected municipal officials with an intensive academic program that will assist them in their elected role.

In other business, Commissioner Robert Wilford will assume the duties of Vice Mayor for the coming year. According to the Alachua City Charter, the City Commission elects a new Vice Mayor annually from its members at the first City Commission meeting after the City election. This year Wilford was selected by unanimous vote.

This meeting was the first in-person meeting held in the Alachua City Commissioner Chambers since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down public gatherings. Social isolation state rules required all government offices closed to the public and that most employees work from home. Phase 1 of reopening has allowed for more openings and expanded crowd size. But there were noticeable differences. The meeting was sparsely attended and audience members wore masks and were separated in different rows. The Commission also wore masks, occasionally taking them off when necessary to speak.

Local resident Virginia Johns has been reappointed to the Planning & Zoning Board (P&Z), which serves as the Local Planning Agency and consists of five voting members and a non-voting School Board representative. The P&Z provides recommendations to the City Commission on development issues and makes decisions on certain zoning, building and development applications.

Members of the P&Z must be a City of Alachua resident. Board member Virginia Johns served a three-year term, which expires May 22, 2020 and will now begin an additional three-year term ending May 22, 2023. Local resident Malcolm Dixon also applied for the appointment. During the Commission meeting, applicants for the appointment were invited to speak prior to the vote. Of the two candidates, only Johns was present and she was subsequently voted unanimously for reappointment.

In other news, the City of Alachua Police Department (ADP) will be receiving new computer equipment. On Feb. 24, 2020, the City Commission approved submitting a grant application to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program. The grant application for $20,157 was submitted on behalf of APD for the purchase of tablets and laptops. The department has since received notice of award from FDLE for the grant project and can now purchase the items.

The annual audit of the City's Fiscal Year 2018-2019 financial statements has been completed by Purvis, Gray and Company, the City's independent Certified Public Accountants and the City received an unmodified ("clean") opinion of its the financial statements for the 2018-2019 year. This is the highest audit opinion that can be received and is the 17th consecutive year the City has received this distinction. Once the audit report is accepted by the City Commission, the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) will be submitted to the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) of the United States and Canada for review to receive the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting.

The City of Alachua has received notice that Pressure Technology, Inc. is considering Alachua to expand its operations. The firm focuses on hot isostatic pressing services to industries such as aerospace and medical. If the company locates in Alachua, it is anticipated to create 15 new jobs over three years, beginning in 2021 with an average annual salary of $60,000.

Pressure Technology, Inc. is making application for participation in the state’s Qualified Target Industry (QTI) Tax Refund program. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) offers several incentives to prospective and expanding businesses, including the QTI program. A company may receive refunds on taxes it pays including corporate income tax, sales tax, ad valorem tax following job creation. Pressure Technology, Inc.’s application totals $75,000.

The QTI program requires a 20 percent local government match. The match totals $15,000, which would be divided equally between Alachua County and the City of Alachua. The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners approved its share of the QTI match at its May 12 meeting. The City of Alachua Commission subsequently approved its share of the match at the May 18 meeting.

Should Pressure Technology, Inc. expand in Alachua, it must demonstrate job creation and will only receive a refund for actual jobs created and can only receive refunds on taxes paid.

#     #     #

Email rcarson@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

ALACHUA COUNTY The Class of 2020 will have a fitting venue as they prepare to ‘cross the finish line’ and mark the end of their high school careers.

The district has arranged with the Gainesville Raceway to hold open air graduation ceremonies at the facility June 8-10 for the district’s seven high schools.

To maintain social distancing, students and their families will drive into the Raceway and up to a decorated stage. As the graduates’ names are called out over the loudspeaker, they will get out of their cars, walk across the stage to accept their diplomas and have their photos taken. They will then get back in their cars and drive down a strip that runs next to the racetrack before exiting the facility.

The Gainesville Raceway is providing their facility to the district free of charge.

“We’re happy we can help the Class of 2020 have a graduation ceremony,” said track manager Mike Yurick. “We hope it will be a memorable experience for them.”

“When COVID-19 closed schools, I made it a priority to have some sort of in-person graduation ceremony for our seniors,” said Superintendent Karen Clarke. “This ‘hybrid’ approach gives graduates the opportunity to walk across the stage in their caps and gowns while still keeping everyone as safe as possible.”

The schedule of ceremonies will be as follows:

June 8: Newberry High School, 9-11 a.m.

Hawthorne High School, 2-3:30 p.m.

PAM@Loften High School, 6-7:30 p.m.

June 9: Eastside High School, 9:30-noon

Buchholz High School, 5-7:30 p.m.

June 10: Santa Fe High School, 9:30-noon

Gainesville High School, 5-7:30 p.m.

Each high school will be sending specific instructions for the ceremonies directly to students and families.

#     #     #

Email editor@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

HIGH SPRINGS – For the last several weeks, High Springs City Hall has been attempting to balance the health and safety of city staff while still delivering good customer service. Beginning next week, the first two phases of a three-phase plan will begin.

During Phase 1, for the week of May 26, live operators will be available weekdays from 8 a.m. to noon to answer any questions by phone at 386-454-1416. Calls outside of that time will be answered by voicemail, and a member of staff will return the call.

During Phase 2, beginning the week of June 1 and until such time that City Manager Joel DeCoursey, Jr. authorizes, City Hall will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. by appointment only.  These appointments are for new accounts, closing or transferring an account and tag related transactions only.  To pay a bill, continue using the City drop box or paying on line.

Plans may be subject to change in accordance with further guidance from county, state or federal government.

#     #     #

Email editor@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

ALACHUA COUNTY – Like many states, Florida has begun reopening business and easing social restrictions. As of May 19, there were 46,944 cases and 2,052 deaths in Florida. While numbers have declined somewhat from early April when cases were averaging between 800 to 1,100 daily, infections continue to spike and recede with single day increases varying between 500 and 850 cases per day.

Part of this represents an increase in testing while part of the decline from early April is due to the month-long stay at home requirements, many of which have been lifted in the past week. Any upswing in infections due to reopening will not become apparent for a week or two due to the incubation period of the virus. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and many businesses feel economic pressure building to further ease restrictions. DeSantis has now issued revised rules for reopening in Phase 1 and is now considering Phase 2 of the three-phase plan.

Alachua County has had more stringent requirements on social distancing, regarding what establishments can open and how, and requiring that masks be worn. Alachua County officials issued a revised emergency order May 17 that brings local COVID-19 rules closer to those issued by the state the previous Friday.

New regulations allow certain businesses to operate at up to 50 percent versus the previous local rules that capped businesses at 25 percent. If a restaurant has outdoor seating spaced six feet apart, then that is not included in the 50 percent rule. Local gyms may now open using social distancing.

Individuals considered most vulnerable to infection are still urged to stay home as much as possible and to use care when leaving home. Public places where social distancing is difficult to maintain remain closed, including zoos, playgrounds, bowling alleys, pool halls, movie and other theaters and concert halls and bars, among others. All services and activities must still keep the six-foot distance rules between employees and members of the public, including when customers are standing in line. Churches are now open, but are limited by the same occupancy and social distancing rules as businesses.

Bowing to pressure from some groups, the governor also declared that while masks are suggested he would not make it mandatory. In Alachua County mandatory mask rules were instituted on May 1, but in a 3-2 vote on May 19 the County Commission voted to reverse that ruling and not make masks mandatory. Later in the day, the County Commission reversed that decision and are still requiring that face masks be worn. There will no longer be a criminal penalty for disobeying the county's order, although earlier there were fines up to $500 for not wearing masks. The County also now allows pool halls and bowling alleys to open as long as they don’t serve alcohol.

With the reopening, things are beginning to have a semblance of normalcy as local businesses and restaurants partially reopen. Traffic has increased and more people are out on the street. Many still wear a mask both for their own safety and out of respect for others’ safety as well. Other places, especially outdoor recreation locations are overwhelmed with people who have been stuck at home for a month. Unfortunately, some people are not concerned about the safety rules or crowds. On Saturday, May 16, the popular Ginnie Springs Recreation area was so overwhelmed by crowds, that they had to close entrance to the park by 11 am.

For local businesses and entrepreneurs, the reopening is a financial relief, especially for the self-employed or service workers. For many there has been no income for at least a month. Massage therapist Carrie Lynn had set up a massage chair outside a farmer’s market at Bambi’s Cafe in High Springs. She was offering massages for a donation. “I just need to get out and work my profession. I have been in self quarantine since February and no income due to the COVID,” Lynn said.

“Massage therapists were not considered essential medically so we had to stop all business. Massage therapists have always been concerned about transmission of disease and conditions; we use disinfectants and clean materials between each client. Now the only change is an increased use of gloves and masks by therapist. If there is something good that comes out of this maybe it will be an increased awareness of the importance of hygiene,” Lynn said.

The Great Outdoor Restaurant closed when restaurants were only allowed to do take-out orders as they didn't think it was practical for their menu. That left many of the restaurant employees facing the possibility of being laid off with no income. Instead, they used the closed time to renovate, repair and clean the restaurant and patio using the staff instead of contractors, which kept the staff employed.

As Florida progresses through Phast 1,all eyes are on when and what to expect when Florida enters Phase 2 of reopening, although there is no timeline for when that will happen.

#     #     #

Email rcarson@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

HIGH SPRINGS – With 36.5 million Americans suddenly unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many families have seen both their income and savings disappear. It becomes a challenge to decide what bills or necessities can be done without. Mortgage or rent, utilities, food or medical all are important, but food is essential.

Many individuals and organizations have stepped in to donate or volunteer for food giveaways and deliveries. The Alachua County school system has provided over a million meals to school kids during the pandemic. Farm Share and other charity food distribution organizations travel the state bringing semi-trucks of food to communities.

Locally, many churches or community organizations have donated food or money, distributing the food to people in cars lined up in parking lots, masked and never coming in direct contact with the drivers. Most of these organizations hold these drives weekly or bi-weekly, but one small ministry in High Springs is making an effort daily to provide for those in need.

Every day, Pastor Sammy Nelson has overseen the distribution of donated food to families in need with children. He usually ran the distribution in his small downtown ministry, Witness of Christ (WOC), on Main Street in High Springs. But the Covid-19 has brought a bigger challenge. “I have seen a huge rise in families in need. People coming to the food distribution has increased 100 percent or more, but you have to meet the challenge to help them,” Nelson said.

The pastor is a big man with a powerful build but a soft, calm voice. He was born in Archer and spent 23 years in the Army as a Military Policeman. During his service he participated in Desert Storm and retired as a First Sergeant.

During his time in the Army he also had other duties as a father and a pastor. He and his wife of 35 years raised 10 children and have seven grandchildren. They share both a strong religious belief and a love for children as well. While raising 10 of their own, they also founded a ministry for children. Nelson made use of the Army's education benefits and received a degree in law enforcement and a Bachelor’s Degree in sociology. Once he retired, he became a full-time student and received a Master’s in Divinity and a Doctorate in Ministry.

Ten years ago, Nelson and his wife opened a storefront where they could offer after-school services to struggling parents. The ministry also collects food for the children and struggling families. Most of it comes from donations by individuals, farms and food stores such as Hitchcock’s and Publix. The biggest provider is Bread of the Mighty Food Bank in Gainesville. Three days a week, Nelson would go to each location, as well as some farms, to gather the food donations.

With the increasing need caused by the pandemic, Nelson searched for more sources and sponsors to meet the skyrocketing demand. He also needed a bigger place to distribute and worked with the City of High Springs to distribute from a parking lot behind Main Street with police to direct the traffic.

The ministry still does smaller distributions from the building three times a week, but the other is a bigger operation with trailers full of food pallets. On May 16 the WOC held its largest distribution with 14 pallets supplying multiple boxes of food to the long line of cars winding through the parking lot. Nelson, along with volunteers from his ministry, all wearing masks and gloves, loaded each car's trunk with boxes holding a variety of food including fresh vegetables, cheese, milk, snacks and chips. “We will be here and providing for those who go hungry as long as the need exists,” Nelson said as he loaded another box in a car.

#     #     #

Email rcarson@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

ALACHUA COUNTY - On Monday, June 1, 2020, Alachua County operations will be open to the public by appointment only. Those wanting to enter County buildings should contact the needed department and schedule an appointment. Before entering County buildings, citizens will be required to wear a mask (unless they qualify for an exemption), successfully pass a temperature check. (If a person's temperature exceeds 100.0 degrees, they will not be granted access to County buildings, but alternate services may be available), and answer several screening questions (when making their appointment and when reporting to their appointment).
The screening questions include:
  • Have you traveled to the following places in the last 14 days? a. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Louisiana? b. Outside of the country?
  • Are you experiencing any unexplained persistent coughing (e.g. not related to seasonal allergies, or of an unknown origin)?
  • Are you experiencing any respiratory issues (e.g. heaviness in your chest or trouble breathing)?
Enhanced cleaning services are on-going to protect County citizens and staff. These protocols will continue until further notice.
For more information, call 352-374-5204.
Si usted prefiere leer esta información en español u otros idiomas, puede copiar y pegar el texto en el Traductor de Google (Google Translate) y elegir el idioma que prefiera utilizando el menú de este sitio web.
#     #     #
Email editor@
alachuatoday.com
Add a comment

ALACHUA COUNTY - Highlights of the Second Amendment to Emergency Order No. 2020-25 include three new categories of establishments that are opened in Chapter 3 f. (Social Clubs, Country Clubs, and Fraternal Organizations). Further clarification is given that failure to wear a mask is not a criminal offense and does not authorize search or arrest, in chapter 15. Chapter 7 acknowledges the Governor's Executive Order 20-31, removing any state restrictions on summer camps and sports activities for youth. It clarifies that the Commission is taking input from stakeholders on best practices to keep kids and their families safe.
Read the entire Emergency Order.
For more information, contact Alachua County Communications Director Mark Sexton at 352-264-6979 or msexton@alachuacounty.us.
Si usted prefiere leer esta información en español u otros idiomas, puede copiar y pegar el texto en el Traductor de Google (Google Translate) y elegir el idioma que prefiera utilizando el menú de este sitio web.

#     #     #

Email editor@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

ALACHUA COUNTY - Pursuant to Executive Order 20-123, Alachua County's request to re-open vacation rental operations was approved by Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears today. In his acceptance of the County's re-opening request and safety plan, Mr. Beshears stated that, "Based on the Department's review of the safety plan for vacation rental operations that accompanied your request, Alachua County has established the necessary plans for operation of vacation rentals at this time. Accordingly, I approve the operation of vacation rentals in Alachua County pursuant to the plans as submitted."
"We are deeply appreciative of the careful consideration Secretary Beshears has placed in his decision to approve the County's request to re-open vacation rentals," said Alachua County Tourism Manager Jessica Hurov. "The Alachua County plan was developed in alignment with Department of Business and Professional Regulation and Centers for Disease Control recommended safety measures to ensure that our vacation rental lodging providers are offering safe and clean rental properties for our visitors. The re-opening of vacation rentals provides expanded options for visitors as we welcome them back to Alachua County, and will assist vacation lodging operators and managers in their COVID-19 business recovery plans."
Reservations and stays will be allowed from U.S. states with a COVID-19 Case Rate less than 700cases/1OOK. Reservations from areas identified by Florida's Governor as COVID-19 hot spots through Executive Orders are to be avoided for the next 45 days. In the event the Governor issues subsequent Orders addressing vacation rentals and/or "hot spots" in the U.S., those restrictions shall be incorporated into the plan. Reservations from international travelers will not be accepted. Vacation rental operators can access information on COVID case rates online.
In addition to the recommended best practices and safety measures in the re-opening plan, Alachua County vacation rental owners and operators shall follow the guidelines developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for cleaning and disinfecting facilities; all Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation requirements and safety measures related to vacation rentals;  and all Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) sanitation guidelines.
For more information, contact Jessica Hurov at 352-363-8619 or jhurov@alachuacounty.us.
Si usted prefiere leer esta información en español u otros idiomas, puede copiar y pegar el texto en el Traductor de Google (Google Translate) y elegir el idioma que prefiera utilizando el menú de este sitio web.
#     #     #
Email editor@
alachuatoday.com
Add a comment

FLORIDA - The Florida National Guard (FLNG), under the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis, is responding to the needs of the state alongside our interagency partners, helping to protect citizens and guests throughout this crisis.

As of May 27, 2020, the Florida National Guard has 2,383 Guardsmen on duty in support of Florida's COVID-19 response, and are operating 24 Community Based Testing Sites (CBTS).  Those drive-through and walk-up sites have helped administer almost 279,450 sample collections to date.

The FLNG is supporting airport screening operations in support of the Florida Department of Health at seven airports:  Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), Miami International Airport (MIA), Orlando International Airport (MCO), Jacksonville International Airport (JAX), Tampa International Airport (TPA), Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) and Palm Beach International Airport (PBI). 

The FLNG Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen are also mobilized in support of the State Logistics Readiness Center (SLRC) in central Florida, ensuring needed supplies are getting to the right place at the right time across the state. Additionally, FLNG members are working in the State Emergency Operations Center and local emergency management offices across the state, serving as liaisons, ensuring local authorities understand the capabilities and equipment of the FLNG.

As this crisis continues, the Florida National Guard will maintain a ready force across the state for a variety of missions to include medical support and distribution of necessary commodities.

It is important that everyone follow the guidance put out by the Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information about COVID-19 and the State of Florida's response, visit http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/COVID-19/covid19-toolkit.html.

#     #     #

Email editor@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

TALLAHASSEE, FL — Florida retail stores are stocked up and staffed up to help Florida families load up on supplies for hurricane season during Florida’s Disaster Preparedness Tax-Free Holiday, which begins this Friday, May 29, and runs through Thursday, June 4. 

“Forecasts indicate it’s going to be an active hurricane season, and we’re here to help make sure Florida families have all the supplies they need to weather any storm,” said Scott Shalley, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. “Take advantage of the tax savings and the sales this weekend at your local retail store. When you support Florida businesses, you’re supporting Florida jobs and Florida families.” 

Beginning Friday, May 29, Florida families can save on the purchase of eligible disaster preparedness items, including: 

  • Portable self-powered light source selling for $20 or less;
  • Certain portable radios selling for $50 or less;
  • Tarps selling for $50 or less;
  • Ground anchor systems or tie-down kits selling for $50 or less;
  • A gas or diesel fuel tank selling for $25 or less;
  • Packages of certain battery types, selling for $30 or less;
  • A nonelectric food storage cooler selling for $30 or less;
  • Portable generators for use in a power outage selling for $750 or less; and
  • Reusable ice selling for $10 or less.

As the state continues to safely and slowly re-open after safer-at-home orders were lifted, there are a number of ways consumers can take advantage of the tax-free holiday at Florida retail stores. Options include: 

  • Visit: Visit your local retailer to shop all the options available. 
  • Online: Find your favorite Florida retailer online to select what you need. 
  • Curbside or Delivery: Call your local retailer to place an order for curbside pick-up or delivery, where available. 

“We are grateful to Governor Ron DeSantis for supporting this measure that saves Florida families money as they stock up on supplies,” said Shalley. “Thanks also go to the Florida Senate and Florida House for pushing this important legislation through this year.”

This year’s Disaster Preparedness Tax-Free Holiday was established when Governor DeSantis signed HB 7097 into law on April 8. The legislation was championed by Budget Chairs Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings, and the tax-free holiday was a priority of Sen. Joe Gruters, Sen. Keith Perry, Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Bryan Avila. 

Florida’s hurricane season begins June 1. Floridians can visit FloridaDisaster.org to learn more about how to prepare and what supplies are needed.

#     #     #

Email editor@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

 TALLAHASSEE — Today, May 22, 2020, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) announced Florida’s April 2020 Employment Data. This month, Florida saw considerable changes in employment data due to COVID-19.
 Florida Economic Indicators for April 2020 include:
  • Unemployment rate was 12.9 percent.
  • Labor force was down 893,000, 8.6 percent, over the month.
  • Florida businesses lost 989,600 private-sector jobs over the year.
  • Florida’s private-sector over-the-year rate of decline of 12.7 percent was less than the national over-the-year decline of 14.6 percent.
  • Consumer Sentiment Index is 75.9 in April 2020, 11.2 points lower than the March revised figure of 87.1.
 Governor DeSantis’ Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan for Florida’s Recovery Full Phase 1 Plan is providing the opportunity for many of Florida’s businesses to reopen their doors and reemploy many Floridians. Governor DeSantis and DEO continue to encourage Florida businesses impacted by COVID-19 to utilize state and federal resources currently available. For a list of federal and state resources available to businesses impacted by COVID-19, please visit Floridajobs.org/COVID-19.
 
To view the April 2020 jobs report by region, please see below:
 
  

#     #     #

Email editor@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

TALLAHASSEE — Following the direction of the Florida Legislature, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) established a partnership with the Florida 211 Network to provide support and post-release resources to inmates and offenders. Services such as crisis counseling, health and human services and employment assistance will fill gaps between incarceration or probation and enable a successful re-entry back into Florida communities.

“Following release from prison, returning citizens often discover a world much different than the one they previously knew. We hope to prepare them with the skills, education and counseling they need to succeed, but we know it takes the community to welcome them with support when they leave our supervision,” said FDC Secretary Mark Inch. “By integrating our resources with 211, we’re able to provide released inmates and offenders a number to call and an avenue to learn about resources and support in their community.”

FDC established a partnership with the Florida 211 Network to build upon an existing and well-known community resource service. Their services, combined with FDC Re-Entry Resource data, will strengthen the referral services available to the previously incarcerated.

“211 offers around-the-clock support and connects individuals and their families with local resources to help ease the re-entry period and ensure a successful transition. We believe that this important partnership between the Florida Department of Corrections and the Florida 211 Network is a best practice model that will ultimately enhance individual success and reduce recidivism,” said Sheila J. Smith, President/CEO of Florida Alliance of Information and Referral Services.

The hotline is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week, and is offered in more than 180 different languages. All communication is confidential and those wishing to remain anonymous may do so. Trained professionals are standing by for those in need. For more information, visit www.211.org.

#     #     #

Email editor@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

Editor’s Note: High Springs Fire Chief Bruce Gillingham is also the Emergency Management Coordinator in High Springs, a position he has held for nine years, and he is the key contact between the City and other agencies regarding the Coronavirus. He meets remotely with Alachua County Department of Health three times per week, the Department of Health EMS twice weekly and the Florida Fire Chief’s Association weekly. He is knowledgeable about the Coronavirus pandemic, and periodically he will be writing about the pandemic and updates on best practices.

“Uncharted territory.” “Unprecedented times.” “Flatten the curve.” All phrases we have heard way too often. COVID-19 has changed life as we know it. Businesses have closed. There are now lines at grocery stores and millions out of work. To a certain extent, a modern day Pearl Harbor: “A [time] which will live in infamy.” (President Franklin Roosevelt)

As we continue to learn about this deadly virus, I encourage us all to do our part. The Stay-At-Home order is in place to protect your family and mine. Unless you need to travel for essential purposes, such as grocery shopping or going to an essential job, try to stay home. The only way to prevent the spread of this virus is to wash our hands often, wear a mask when in public and maintain social distancing.

As a department, we are taking extra steps to ensure our firefighters remain healthy and safe. Our lobby remains closed and new cleaning procedures, both for equipment and our personal gear, are in place.

While we manage a new normal, we are also trying to focus on a certain area of our community that is impacted the most by COVID-19—our seniors. Those are the people who may live alone, and who now find themselves in near total isolation with the cancellation of countless services and programs once available to them.

We recently launched the Caring Card Drive. With the help of members of our own community who are creating thoughtful and encouraging “caring cards,” we plan to deliver these cards to those in need in an effort to bring a moment of joy, and to remind them they have not been forgotten. This is the perfect activity to do with the kids. Cards can be big or small, simple or elaborate. Cards can include a saying, positive words, a poem or whatever card creators think fits best. A bin has been positioned outside of the main High Springs Fire Station lobby as a drop off location for cards. The address is 18586 N.W. 238th Street, High Springs.

In closing, let us remember to all do our part. We are in this together and we will persevere.

#     #     #

Email editor@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

During this time of crisis, America’s courageous patriots in uniform still deserve our utmost respect and admiration for keeping us free and safe from the bad guys of this world.

They are fulfilling an undying and faithful commitment to ‘'duty, honor, country” for every American no matter how they look or what they believe.

Today, these military heroes are joining countless millions of other American heroes in the brutal war against an adversary we call “Coronavirus or COVID-19.

The list of these patriotic heroes is long and consists of American warriors from every walk of life. They include:

  • Doctors, nurses, and other medical workers and support personnel,
  • Hospitals, nursing homes, and pharmacies,
  • Law enforcement and first responders,
  • Truckers and warehouse stockers,
  • Supermarkets and local grocery/convenience stores,
  • Restaurants and fast food chains who are finding creative ways to feed us and provide some degree of normalcy in our lives,
  • School systems for developing creative methods to teach our children,
  • Volunteers who are courageously putting others above self,
  • Corporations and small business who are “retooling” operations to make respirators, masks, and other personal protective equipment,
  • City, county, state, and national government bodies,
  • Broadcast and print media outlets, and
  • The millions of Americans who are faithfully committing to “social distancing” to combat the spread of this insidious and deadly disease.

Got the picture? We are all in this battle together. Sadly, just like every other war: “Some are giving some while others are giving all.”

Let us continue together as “One Nation Under God” in faithful commitment to “duty, honor, country” in fighting this war against humanity.

I am confident we will defeat this brutal enemy and come out stronger with renewed respect for one another. I know we can do it; I have to believe; I can do no other.

God Bless America!

Robert W. Wilford

City of Alachua

Add a comment

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

Add a comment

 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

Add a comment

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

Add a comment

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

Add a comment

FloridaPublicNoticesSite

FlaPublicNotices

Search Florida Public Notices

 

 

National News

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

#     #     #

Email editor@

alachuatoday.com.

Add a comment

 TALLAHASSEE – At the direction of Governor Ron DeSantis, the Department of Education released the proposed Florida B.E.S.T. (Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking) Standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics, and announced that Common Core has been officially eradicated from Florida classrooms. The Commissioner is recommending that the State Board of Education formally adopt these standards February 12.

“Florida has officially eliminated Common Core. I truly think this is a great next step for students, teachers, and parents,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “We’ve developed clear and concise expectations for students at every grade level and allow teachers the opportunity to do what they love most – inspire young Floridians to achieve their greatest potential. These standards create pathways for students that lead to great college and professional outcomes and parents will now be able to reinforce what their children are learn in the classroom every day. Florida’s B.E.S.T. Standards were made by Florida teachers for Florida students, and I know they will be a model for the rest of the nation.”

“Governor DeSantis made it very clear that we had to reimagine the pathway to young Floridians becoming great citizens, and we’ve done exactly that with the B.E.S.T. Standards,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “Florida will be the first state in the nation with an ELA booklist that spans grades K-12, the first state in the nation with a civics booklist embedded in its ELA standards, and a state that has dropped the crazy math. Florida has completely removed ourselves from the confines of Common Core.”

The Florida B.E.S.T. Standards are posted at http://www.fldoe.org/standardsreview.

#     #     #

Email editor@

alachuatoday.com

 

 

Add a comment

HOMOSASSA, Fla. – Today, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is celebrating the historic 60th birthday of Lucifer (Lu), the resident hippopotamus.

Lu is a longtime resident of Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, with fans around the world. For his special day, a celebration was held this morning where visitors, staff and volunteers joined together to sing Lu Happy Birthday as he enjoys his specially-made birthday cake. 

“We’re proud that Lu calls Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park home,” said Florida Park Service Director Eric Draper. “He is an impressive sight and a valuable partner who helps engage visitors in learning about wildlife.”

"Lu is an iconic part of our park and all of Citrus County. He is loved by all and has been an inspiration to generation after generation," said Park Manager Tricia Fowler. "We could not be prouder to celebrate 60 years with Lu and the happiness that he has brought to the community and countless visitors."

In the afternoon, another celebration took place during the park’s alligator and hippopotamus program, providing park visitors another opportunity to join the birthday celebration of Florida’s only resident hippopotamus. A giant birthday card was available for visitors to sign to wish Lu a happy birthday, and the card was presented to Lu during the second ceremony. Lu's fans can also send him a birthday greeting on his Facebook page.

Lu, an African hippopotamus, was born at the San Diego Zoo on Jan. 26, 1960. Like all hippos, Lu is a vegetarian and his diet consists of alfalfa hay and assorted vegetables and fruit. Hippos typically live from 40 to 50 years old. At 59, Lu is the oldest hippo in North America.

A fixture at Homosassa Springs since 1964, Lu was a movie and television star with the Ivan Tors Animal Actors troupe, which wintered at the park while it was in private ownership. His credits include the 1960s movies "Daktari" and "Cowboy in Africa," and television specials such as the "Art Linkletter Show" and "Herb Alpert Special." 

For more than five decades, Lu has been a mainstay among the animals at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. When the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service purchased the attraction in 1989, the state planned to shift the emphasis of the park to native Florida wildlife and find homes for all of the exotic species, including Lu. Public support, however, led the state to grant Lu special Florida citizenship in 1991. Since then, he has become an icon at the park, attracting visitors from around the globe.

For more information about Homosassa Springs State Park, visit the park's webpage

Add a comment

 Soldier2

Sgt. 1st Class Corey Walker (left) and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Hosford fold a Florida flag that was presented to the 1153rd Finance Management Company to fly in Iraq. The unit will be headed to Fort McCoy, Wis., this week for additional training prior to deploying to Iraq.

Approximately 25 Soldiers from the Florida National Guard's 1153rd Finance Management Detachment were honored during a ceremony in St. Augustine, Nov. 10, 2010, prior to departing for their deployment to Iraq. The unit will provide financial assistance for Soldiers at forward operating bases near Baghdad, Iraq. For most of the Soldiers, this will be their first deployment overseas "We have a real young unit," said Sgt. 1st Class Corey Walker, the senior enlisted member of the detachment. "For a lot of people, this will be their first time going, but we're leaning on our veterans to push us through."  To prepare for the deployment, the Soldiers spent months conducting additional pre-mobilization training. The Soldiers will leave at the end of the week for additional training at Fort McCoy, Wis., prior to arriving in Iraq.

"We've gone through months of rigorous basic Soldiering training," said Walker. "We also went through extensive finance training to hone our finance skills at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin."  Family support was emphasized throughout the ceremony, with leaders at each level reassuring the families present that the Florida National Guard is committed to helping them while their Soldier is away.

"What I want you to remember is, the Florida National Guard is a family," said Lt. Col. Paul Chauncey, the commander of the 927th Combat Service Support Battalion. "We understand that it takes the strength of each and every one of you sitting out in this audience for these Soldiers to do their job."

"We recognize your sacrifice," Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw, The Adjutant General of Florida said to the families. "You are so much a part of what we do. We are there for you while your Soldier is gone. Please remember, we are only a phone call away."

At the unit level, a family support group is in place to provide support to families throughout the deployment. The group has held numerous events prior to the deployment to ensure that the families know each other and they know how to get in contact with each other if they have any issues.  The unit leadership expressed confidence in their Soldiers' training and their ability to accomplish the mission safely and effectively.

"We're real confident," said Walker. "We're sure we're going to go over there and do a good job and come back safe."

Add a comment
Page 4 of 5