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GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA (July 16, 2024) – Every July, National Zookeeper Week highlights the hard work, dedication, and passion of zookeepers around the world. These professionals wear many hats, acting as chefs, caretakers, builders, scientists, researchers, conservationists, engineers, architects, and more!
Join us on Saturday, July 20, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo as we celebrate our amazing student zookeepers and their incredible work. Engage in fun activities to see if you have what it takes to be a zookeeper, meet our animal ambassadors, enjoy keeper talks and training demonstrations, and listen to live music. You’ll also have the chance to meet representatives from other zoos and conservation organizations, many of whom are graduates of SF’s Zoo Animal Technology program
Tickets are only available at the gate the day of the event. All credit cards, cash, checks and Apple/Samsung Pay are accepted.
  • $10: adults
  • $6: children ages 4-12, Seniors (60+), Active Military and Veterans, Teachers, Police, Firefighters, First Responders, EMT/EMS, Healthcare Workers (all with valid ID), UF students and staff with current Gator1 ID
  • $3: Electronics Benefits Transfer recipients (up to 4 total tickets with card, any combination of adults/children)
  • Free: Children (3 and under), SF Students, Staff, and Retirees (with current SFID), and Zoo Members
Zookeeper Day at the SF Teaching Zoo is funded in part by Visit Gainesville, Alachua County.

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GAINESVILLE - During his 38-year tenure with UF/IFAS Extension, Fuller’s profound impact ranged from pioneering innovative programs to fostering leadership and citizenship among the state’s youth. Throughout his career, Fuller was instrumental in building one of the largest 4-H camping programs in Florida. His innovative initiatives, such as the marine ecology program engaging Levy County third graders on the “4-H boat” and introducing “I Can We Can” challenge programs to Florida 4-H, have enriched countless young lives. 

Fuller’s legacy epitomizes the core values of 4-H through his extensive leadership in agriculture and youth development spanning over four decades. Beyond his career with Extension, his commitment to community service includes chairing the City of Otter Creek Planning and Zoning Council and leading a community garden in Williston, which reflects an unwavering dedication to fostering positive change. He continues to mentor and educate minority landowners across several counties, emphasizing income generation and landowner assistance programs.  

“My initial impressions of Albert were of a remarkable presence. He possesses unparalleled wisdom and has a remarkable ability to connect with people of all ages and backgrounds,” said Florida 4-H Program Leader Stacey Ellison.  

Florida 4-H Hall of Fame induction will be held Aug. 1 at the University of Florida J. Wayne Reitz Union in Gainesville. For more information or to attend, please see the event website,

Honorees join the host of exceptional individuals inducted into the Florida 4-H Hall of Fame, which was started in 2002 to honor alumni, volunteers, professionals and community leaders. These members exemplify excellence in citizenship, leadership, career and character.

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GAINESVILLE - under an agreement between Alachua County Public Schools and the Alachua County Education Association, which represents most district employees, early release Wednesdays will be limited to the third Wednesday of each month for the 2024-25 school year.

In March 2025, the early release Wednesday will be on the fourth Wednesday, March 26, so that it does not conflict with Spring Break.

The change will apply to all elementary schools in the district, plus all students at High Springs Community School, A. Quinn Jones School and Sidney Lanier School, which also follow the early release schedule. It will also affect the newly-reopened Duval Early Learning Academy for prekindergarten students.

Under the previous schedule, students at the affected schools left school 68 minutes early every Wednesday. That time was set aside for teacher planning, meetings and other activities.

The change will add approximately six days of instructional time to the school year. Teachers will have planning time on regular Wednesdays while their students are in other classes.

“We appreciate ACEA’s willingness to work with us on this change,” said Superintendent Shane Andrew. “It will give our students much more direct instructional time, which is critical to raising their academic achievement.”

A full schedule of start and dismissal times for the upcoming school year, including early release Wednesdays, is available at

Families have been notified through email and phone of the change. They have also received texts if they’ve opted in to the district’s texting notification system.

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TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds boaters and divers to practice safe boating and diving habits by maintaining 360-degree awareness and adhering to all divers-down flag regulations.   

Divers-down flags and buoys are crucial warning devices used by divers and dive vessels to signal the presence of divers in the water. These devices must feature a divers-down symbol — a red rectangle or square with a white diagonal stripe — and must be prominently displayed whenever divers are wholly or partially submerged and using a face mask, snorkel or underwater breathing apparatus.

"When navigating near a divers-down flag, boaters must operate at idle speed within 300 feet in open water or within 100 feet on rivers, inlets or navigational channels," said Maj. Bill Holcomb, FWC Boating and Waterways Section Leader. “And divers need to stay within 300 feet of their properly displayed flags on open water and 100 feet on rivers, inlets or navigational channels.”

The divers-down symbol must measure at least 12 x 12 inches when displayed from the water, and at least 20 x 24 inches when displayed from a vessel, positioned at the highest point to maximize visibility. Flags must be constructed to remain fully unfurled, even in calm conditions, while buoys must display the symbol on each of their flat sides.

“In the summertime there is a lot going on out there and these regulations are important for divers to remember whether they are diving for scallops in north Florida, lobster in south Florida or recreationally throughout the state,” said Col. Brian Smith, Director of the FWC Division of Law Enforcement. “Vessel operators should be aware of what is going on around them at all times and be on the lookout for divers-down flags nearby. It’s also good to remember to take the dive flag down and wear a life jacket while underway. This is not just responsible boating and ensuring the safety of divers and the boating public - it’s also the law.”

Every year, the FWC responds to incidents where a diver was struck, injured or killed by a vessel. Working together, vessel operators and divers can each play a part in preventing tragedy on the water this summer.

For more information, visit, click on “Boating Regulations,” and select “Divers-down Warning Devices.”

Boating violations may be reported anonymously to the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (888-404-3922) or text 847411 (Tip411) with keyword "FWC" and information about the location and violation.

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GAINESVILLE - Alachua County children and their families are invited to attend the annual Stop the Violence/Back to School Rally on Saturday, July 27, 2024 from 10 a.m. to noon. Doors will open at 9 a.m.

The event will be held in the gym of Santa Fe College’s northwest campus at 3000 NW 83rd Street. The event is once again being organized by People Against Violence Enterprises (PAVE) and is supported by a wide variety of local sponsors.

This year will mark the 25th year the Rally has been held.

The rally’s keynote speaker will be Patrick Earl Houston, a rapper known as Project Pat who was previously affiliated with Three 6 Mafia, a ‘gangsta’ rap group. After spending time in prison for robbery and other charges, Project Pat founded Go Foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on prison ministry. He has spent years touring the country to speak to people in and out of prison, particularly young people, about overcoming adversity and making good decisions.

The Stop the Violence event will feature entertainment and other speakers, as well as information provided by community organizations about safety, counseling and other topics. Free vaccinations will also be available from the Alachua County Health Department. Representatives from Alachua County Public Schools will also be at the event to provide back to school information on topics including free school meals, free mental health services and parent coaching, calendars, enrollment and more.

The first 5000 school-aged children in attendance will receive a free backpack filled with school supplies, provided by Meridian Behavioral Healthcare. Children must be present to receive the backpacks. There are no limits to how many children may attend.

More information about the rally is available at 352-505-6839 or at

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ALACHUA ‒ The skies around Alachua were once again bursting with flashes of dazzling lights and displays of patriotism as the city’s annual Fourth of July celebration returned Thursday evening. From spectacular fireworks to food, live music and fun for the entire family, Alachua had it covered. It was a star-spangled extravaganza as live music, food trucks, and kids’ activities set the stage for the dazzling fireworks show that wrapped up the day’s events.

For over 20 years the City of Alachua has hosted an annual July 4th celebration billed as the “Largest Small Town Fireworks Display in America.” The event is so popular that it attracts thousands of spectators each year from surrounding cities, and oftentimes doubles the size of the town’s nearly 12,000 population.

In a welcome message to the patriotic revelers, Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper stated, “Thank you for celebrating the Fourth of July with Alachua, and we hope the event becomes an annual tradition for your family.”

The annual extravaganza is made possible by support of community businesses and organizations as well as volunteers from the City of Alachua. This year’s Diamond Sponsors were Alachua County Today Newspaper and Dollar General. Gold Sponsors were Alachua Chamber of Commerce, Alachua Lion’s Club, Douglas Adel, DDS, P.A., Rush and Frisco Law and Sunstop Stores. Platinum Sponsors were Hitchcock’s Markets and Waste Pro. Silver Sponsors were the Alachua Business League and Campus USA Credit Union. City volunteers included City Manager Mike DaRoza, Damon Messina, Stephanie McDonald, Jack Hansen, Wes Barrett, Kyler Burk, Lynn Hayes, Steven Holton, Tony Love, Tara Malone, Sgt. Carl Newsome, Pam Philman, Police Chief Jesse Sandusky, Donna Smith, Ofc. Thomas Stanfield, Linnelle Stewart, Rodolfo Valladares and David Wisener.

The fun filled event took place at the Legacy Park Amphitheater. Gates opened at 5 p.m. with events starting at 6 p.m. The evening’s entertainment featured “Whiskey Jones,” a local band that performs an assortment of well-known classic rock, blues and country rock songs. The band has been entertaining audiences in North Florida since 2018. Caitlyn Phillips delivered a patriotic tribute song to America and the National Anthem

As the musical entertainment died down, the skies exploded in a display of multi-colored fireworks and the show began.

For the next half hour, a continuous display of fireworks lit the night sky over Legacy Park as thousands celebrated the Fourth of July.

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TALLAHASSEE – On July 11, 2024, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson announced enforcement actions against Just Brands, LLC and High Roller Private Label, LLC for selling and manufacturing hundreds of thousands of hemp products attractive to children in violation of s. 581.217(7), F.S. The enforcement actions include a five-year ban on the sale of any food products, including hemp products, in Florida for Just Brands, LLC; and a two-year ban on the manufacture of hemp gummies in Florida for High Roller Private Label, LLC.

“One of my top responsibilities as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture is ensuring the safety of our food and protecting Florida’s consumers, especially our children. These historic enforcement actions mark a significant step in our ongoing efforts to protect kids over profits and rein in the hemp industry in Florida,” said Commissioner Wilton Simpson. “Prior to the changes made to Florida law in 2023, Florida’s hemp industry was out of control and products were being sold without restrictions, including allowing sales to children with marketing and packaging specifically targeting them. While I believe Florida’s laws need to be strengthened, make no mistake, we will use every inch of our current authority to protect Florida’s children from these products and go after those who violate the law.”

On October 31, 2023, FDACS conducted a food inspection at a Just Brands, LLC facility and found violations, including the sale of hemp products attractive to children in violation of s. 581.217(7), F.S. As a result, FDACS issued Stop Sale Orders for 215,154 hemp products. During a reinspection on January 22, 2024, FDACS discovered that Just Brands, LLC had violated these orders by relocating the products, with shipments tracked to Chicago, Illinois. Subsequent inspections on January 29 and February 5, 2024, confirmed the removal of all 215,154 packages from the facility without permission by FDACS. Between December 6, 2023, and February 5, 2024, Just Brands moved, sold, or used all the packages subject to the Stop Sale Orders without the FDACS’s knowledge.

On April 2, 2024, FDACS conducted a food inspection at a High Roller Private Label, LLC facility and found over 186,000 packages of hemp products attractive to children in violation of s. 581.217(7), F.S. To prevent potential harm, FDACS issued stop-sale orders for 186,377 packages of hemp products and 644 packages containing synthetic cannabinoids, specifically "THC-O" and "HHCO."

Settlement Terms:

 Just Brands, LLC has agreed to the following terms:

  • Permit Revocation: Just Brands will accept a five-year revocation of its Food Permit, prohibiting the company from owning or operating any food establishment in Florida requiring a permit from FDACS, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, or the Department of Health.
  • Payment of Enforcement Costs: Just Brands will reimburse FDACS a total of $60,500.00 for attorney's fees and enforcement costs.
  • Dismissal of Pending Actions: Just Brands will file appropriate documents to dismiss the proceedings pending before the Southern District of Florida in Case Number 23-cv-62081.

High Roller Private Label, LLC has agreed to the following terms:

  • Restriction on Manufacture of Hemp Gummies: High Roller will cease the manufacture, distribution, and sale of gummy hemp extract products in Florida for two years.
  • Payment of Enforcement Costs: High Roller will reimburse FDACS $5,000.00 for attorney's fees and enforcement costs incurred during the dispute.

During the 2023 legislative session, Commissioner Wilton Simpson worked with the Florida Legislature to reform Florida’s hemp laws to better protect consumers and children. SB 1676 added age requirements for the purchase of hemp products intended for human consumption, protected Florida’s minors by prohibiting the sale of hemp products that are attractive to children, protects consumers by mandating that products sold in Florida be packaged in a safe container, and holds hemp products that are intended for human consumption to the same health and safety standards as other food products.

To enforce the law, the department conducted the largest ever inspection sweep of businesses selling products that contain hemp extracts in July and August of 2023. The statewide inspection sweeps specifically targeted the sale of hemp products that are attractive to children, which is prohibited by Florida law. The sweep included inspections of more than 700 businesses in all 67 Florida counties and uncovered over 83,000 packages of hemp products, including euphoric, high-potency THC products, attractive to children. Since July 1, 2023, the department has uncovered over 668,000 packages of hemp products attractive to children.

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TALALAHASSEE - The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Division of Law Enforcement along with other law enforcement partners participated in Operation Dry Water’s heightened enforcement weekend July 4-6. With the Fourth of July falling on a Thursday this year the heightened patrol efforts extended through Sunday, July 7.

ODW is a year-round national effort to educate recreational boaters about the dangers of Boating Under the Influence of alcohol or drugs and their mission is to reduce the number of alcohol- and drug0related incidents and fatalities on the water.

The Northeast Region of the FWC DLE consists of 12 counties including St. Johns County on the north end, down to Indian River County on the east coast, and west over to Sumter County. The region’s officers and staff were proactive in getting boating safety messaging out to the public prior to the holiday and they continued educating the public while remaining on the lookout for reckless or impaired operators during the popular Fourth of July boating weekend.

Between July 4-7, FWC officers in the Northeast Region cited 157 vessel operators for boating safety violations, issued 778 boating safety warnings and removed 11 vessel operators from the water for BUI. The highest Blood Alcohol Content reported was .11. In Florida, it is illegal to operate a vessel with a BAC of .08 or higher, the same as in a vehicle. Operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal on all bodies of water and the use of both legal and illegal drugs impairs judgement and reaction time, whichcan lead to serious injuries and consequences. Statewide, over 50 vessel operators were removed from the waterways of Florida for BUI during the heightened enforcement and holiday weekend.

“Our message over the Operation Dry Water weekend was the same as it is all year long,” said Maj. Jay Russel, Northeast Regional Commander. “Never boat under the influence. The Fourth of July holiday has been known for increased boating activity as well as increased alcohol consumption, every hour our officers spent on the water was aimed at educating and safeguarding everyone out enjoying our waterways. We know the potential our presence has to save lives and we take that very seriously.”

The FWC reminds all boaters to enjoy time with friends and family but do so safely and don’t forget to designate a sober operator before departing from the dock. More information about boating and boating regulations in Florida can be found by visiting and boaters can learn more about boating under the influence and the Operation Dry Water campaign by visiting

To report dangerous boating activity the public can submit anonymous tips by texting 847411 (Tip411) with keyword “FWC” followed by the location and any information about the violation or call 888-404-FWCC (3922). Additionally, there is an easy-to-use downloadable iPhone or Android app: “FWC Wildlife Alert.”

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GAINESVILLE ‒ Although plenty of Florida’s craft brewers advertise their libations as brewed with state-grown ingredients, a vital ingredient – hops – is not readily available within the Sunshine State. A University of Florida study currently underway, however, may help pave the way for a robust crop of Florida-grown hops.

Beer HopsAromaTesting0006Researchers with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) believe they have identified a method for making hop-growing viable despite Florida’s incompatible climate: greenhouses.

“This has never been done in Florida,” said Katherine Thompson-Witrick, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition department and the leader of the study.

In 2021, the Florida craft brewing industry generated $4.1 billion for the state, the fourth-largest amount in the country, according to the Brewers Association, a Colorado-based organization that monitors the industry.

Since January 2023, when the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services awarded Thompson-Witrick and her team a grant, they have harvested two crops of hops from a greenhouse at the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka. In June, they hope to harvest again. Their objective is to develop cultivation practices that maximize aromatic and flavor characteristics comparable to those associated with traditional craft beer-brewing regions like Yakima Valley in Washington.

Thompson-Witrick’s team planted 20, 2-inch-tall seedlings of Cascade and Chinook varieties in April 2023. By July 2023, the plants had reached 20 feet tall, and the vines had to be manually separated to prevent them from becoming tangled.

“We saw a substantial amount of growth in the first nine months of this project, which is really outstanding and amazing for us,” Thompson-Witrick said.

The key was supplemental lighting installed within the greenhouse. Hops grow best when afforded at least 16 hours of sunlight, which is available at latitudes of 35 degrees and above; Florida’s uppermost latitude reaches just 31 degrees. The UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm has conducted breeding studies to develop Florida-compatible hops capable of adapting to the state’s shorter days.

Based on Thompson-Witrick’s preliminary research, the growth and flowering rates of the Apopka plants suggest her method could obtain the same yield of hops – per plant – as Yakima Valley.

But is the product as appealing to the senses?

Thompson-Witrick uses a gas chromatography mass spectrometer to detect the chemical compounds contained within the hops, the alpha and beta assets that quantify how bitter a beer brewed from them would be. For a more subjective analysis, she recruited human volunteers.

Throughout UF’s spring semester, 14 students met regularly to pry open the lids of condiment containers and carefully stick their noses inside.

The contents, resembling shredded alfalfa, were heady, but layered beneath the strong earthy odor were hints of citrus, spice and floral notes. Students took deep sniffs and recorded the strength of the various scents they detected. They smelled both the Apopka hops as well as commercial ones, but they did not know which hops were which.

The repeated sensory trainings will eventually lead to official blind testing and comparison between commercial varieties and Thompson-Witrick’s product.

“We want to disseminate our findings to growers to help with diversifying the state’s agricultural crops and to provide information that would be critical to further cultivating hops,” she said.

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TALLAHASSEE - Today, Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Executive Director Dave Kerner issued the following statement regarding an early morning crash in Marion County between an International Bus transporting 53 people and a Ford Ranger truck:

The Florida Highway Patrol is currently investigating a traffic crash which occurred at approximately 6:35 am, on State Road 40, approximately 500 feet west of SW 148 Court. The collision involved a 2010 International Bus, transporting approximately 53 employees of a farming company, and a 2001 Ford Ranger private truck.

Initial investigation reveals that the two vehicles made contact in a sideswipe type collision. Post collision, the bus traveled off the roadway, through a fence, and then overturned. Currently, eight people have been confirmed deceased and approximately 40 people have been transported to local medical facilities.

At 1:47 PM today, State Troopers assigned to the FHP Northern Region Specialized Investigations and Reconstruction Team (SIRT) arrested Bryan Maclean Howard, the driver of the private Ford Ranger truck, on the following criminal charges – Eight (8) counts of Driving Under the Influence – Manslaughter.    

Identities of the deceased will be released pending next of kin notification. Our sympathies and prayers are with the families of the deceased. Consistent with our duties, the Florida Highway Patrol will conduct both a thorough and exhaustive traffic crash and criminal investigation.

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TALLAHASSEE, FL - Looking for a way to show your support of Florida panther conservation? Consider getting the newly designed Protect the Panther license plate whether you are renewing your Florida plates or licensing your car in the state for the first time.

Staff with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) worked with photographer Carlton Ward and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida to design the new plate. The latest design features a stunning photograph taken by Carlton in 2018 depicting a well-known panther — the first female documented north of the Caloosahatchee River since 1973 and also the first female documented to have had kittens north of the river in over 40 years. The Caloosahatchee River has long appeared to be an obstacle to the natural expansion of the population, including the northward movement of female panthers.

The new license plate can be purchased at the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles or by checking with your local tax collector office for availability. When renewing vehicles, Florida motorists can exchange their old plates for the new Protect the Panther plate by going in person to your local tax collector office or the FLHSMV. At this time, the new plates are not available through online renewals but can be purchased in person.

Fees from the Protect the Panther license plate go directly into the Florida Panther Research and Management Trust Fund, which is a critical source of funding for the state’s panther-related research, monitoring and conservation efforts. The long-term public support of this fund has had a direct positive impact on the FWC’s management and research efforts, resulting in timely, science-based information needed to guide current and future conservation actions for Florida panthers. The FWC and conservation partners have made significant progress with panther recovery and the FWC’s panther program relies upon sales of the license plate to continue these conservation efforts.

Florida panthers are native to the state, with the majority of panthers found south of Lake Okeechobee. Florida panthers are listed as an Endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act. There are approximately 120-230 adult panthers in the population.

Purchasing a Protect the Panther license plate isn’t the only way you can help panthers. Drivers can also help by following all posted speed limits, particularly in panther zones, which are in place in several counties across south Florida to coincide with areas where panthers are known to cross. Panther speed zones help protect both Florida panthers and motorists from vehicle collisions and potential injury. You can also donate directly to the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida’s Florida Panther Fund to support the rehabilitation and release of injured panthers and help FWC staff and partners locate and protect panthers, including their dens and kittens.

To learn more about Florida panthers and the FWC’s work to conserve the species, visit

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~Suspect crashed ambulance and fled on foot after his photo was taken by in car camera ~

TAMPA, Fla.- Early this morning at approximately 2:00 a.m., a supervisor with American Medical Rescue (AMR), a private ambulance service, observed a vehicle that appeared to be involved in a crash located on the Interstate 75 (I-75) Southbound exit ramp to Interstate 4 (I-4) Westbound in Hillsborough County.

The supervisor, who was driving a Chevy Tahoe marked as a rescue vehicle, decided to check the welfare of the individual involved.

Rolling down his window, he asked if everything was ok. The driver of the crashed vehicle approached the ambulance and began throwing himself at the window, gaining access to the ambulance. Once inside, the subject started fighting with the ambulance driver and took control of the vehicle. The ambulance driver, fearing for his life, exited the vehicle and called 9-1-1.

FHP 3 22 2024 Ambulance Carjack SuspectWhile attempting to flee in the stolen ambulance, the suspect collided with a Nissan Altima on the ramp for Interstate 75 Southbound to Interstate 4 Westbound. As Deputies with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) responded, the suspect fled in the marked ambulance. The HCSO pursued the ambulance but lost contact with it and terminated the pursuit.

The ambulance's in-car camera system reported a vehicle crash at 2:09 a.m. and took a photo of the suspect inside the vehicle. The suspect fled the scene of the crash, and the ambulance was later recovered. 

The suspect is described as a white male who appeared to be under the influence of unknown drugs. To view video of the incident click here.


 Anyone with information regarding this incident or the identity of the carjacking suspect is asked to call *FHP (*347) or Crime Stoppers at **TIPS.

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Medication reconciliation is a term used in healthcare that describes the process of comparing a patient’s medication orders in a healthcare institution (hospital or nursing home) to what the patient has been prescribed and taking at home.

The purpose of this short column is to point out that many times patients are admitted to an institution, sometimes in an emergency, and it is difficult to determine what medications have been taken at home. Often when asked about their medicWilliam-Garst-HS.jpgations the response is “I take a blood pressure drug, a blood thinner, something for cholesterol, and something occasionally for arthritis pain.”

Just those four categories of medications probably describe several dozen, if not more, potential medications. What is needed is an exact listing of the medications with their dose (strength), how often they are taken, and when they are taken.


The perfect list of medications would be an official one from the patient’s primary care physician or provider. However, often what is presented at the institution is a handwritten list with the barest of information.

I am suggesting in this short column that a person, each time they see their primary care physician, request a current list of their medications with doses and instructions, to be printed for them or even emailed to them for reference in case of an emergency.

This list would also be helpful to take to their pharmacist for comparison to what the pharmacy has on file in their computer profile. In this way, the pharmacist could request a prescription to be there at the pharmacy before it is needed, if there have been changes to the drug, dose, or how often the medication is taken. In addition, the pharmacist may want to notify the primary care physician of other medications that have been prescribed that are not on the primary care physician's record.

This brings up another important aspect: sometimes other physicians (specialists or emergency department physicians) have prescribed medication for a patient and the primary care physician is unaware and would need to know this addition, even if temporary, for a complete listing of medications.

It is vital that medication regimens be accurate as patients transition between healthcare environments as a matter of safety and proper medication administration. Keep the list handy or scan it into your computer for ready reference.

I hope this column was informative; prosper and be in health.

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William Garst is a consultant pharmacist who lives in Alachua, Florida. He is semi-retired and works part time at Lake Butler Hospital in Lake Butler, Florida. William received his pharmacy degree at Auburn University and a Doctor of Pharmacy from Colorado University. The Pharmacy Newsletter is a blog where you can find other informative columns. He may be contacted at

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The Editorial Board of Alachua County Today has rarely taken to endorsing candidates in local political races; however, there are times when it becomes necessary. Such is the case in the City of High Springs commission races scheduled for Nov. 7, 2023. Up for consideration are four candidates in two races. In Seat 1, electors in High Springs will have the opportunity to select between the incumbent, Ross Ambrose, and Andrew Miller. In Seat 2, voters will consider incumbent, Gloria James, and Steven Tapanes.

For many years, the City of High Springs experienced considerable political tumult, so much so that it created harsh divisions within the community. Over the last few election cycles, voters have managed to regain control of their commission, placing on the dais community-minded, non-partisan commissioners who have been focused on moving High Springs forward, into a more fiscally sound and responsible direction.

Tax increases are rarely, if ever, welcomed by the taxpayers, but tax increases are sometimes necessary. The City of High Springs, like every other small town, is feeling the financial pinch of inflation. We all feel the financial pinch of inflation. Without an increase in taxes this year, the City of High Springs would be setting itself up for financial straits in the years to come. Simply put, the City has to pay someone to fix water pipes, respond to emergencies, put out fires, and maintain the City’s infrastructure. That is to say nothing of the business of running the City. There is no doubt that there are some, including former commissioners, who want to sow divisions, but these efforts are not productive for the citizens.

Some candidates, and one commissioner, who is not up for election this cycle, have criticized the incumbent commissioners for approval of the FY 2023-24 budget, which did include an increase in the millage rate. It’s easy for one commissioner to sit by and criticize, without solution, a budget which she knows will pass while she avoids the political hit by voting against it.

To be sure, there is always work to be done on tightening the belt on government, reducing waste, and finding new and innovative ways to deliver governance and the services the citizens have come to appreciate and expect. The City of High Springs does not exist in a vacuum however, and for that reason, there are simply some economic conditions the City cannot avoid.

It is because of the work done by commissioners like Ross Ambrose and Gloria James that the City has reached a state of stability, a posture that is allowing the City to get its legs underneath it. After years of political disarray and infighting, the City is finally beginning to make headway on projects that hold great promise for the City of High Springs and its residents.

This is not the time to pull the rug out from underneath the commission and management. Instead, voters should reelect Gloria James and Ross Ambrose while encouraging them to seek common ground on budget issues, attempt to increase efficiency, and hold themselves and management accountable.

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I am writing in support of Ross Ambrose for High Springs City Commission. First let me say that I have nothing negative to say about his opponent, and I’m grateful that we have wonderful people willing to serve our great little town. That said, I have plenty of positive reasons to support Ross in this election.

I have known Ross for at 15 years as a neighbor and friend in town. Ross showed his commitment to this town for years by serving on city boards before he ever ran for office. He has always taken anything he does seriously and professionally and that goes for the City Commission as well.

Ross makes it his business to understand every issue and the effects of city, county and state law on the issue, and how everything works together. When he makes a decision one way or the other on anything, I expect that he has researched it thoroughly. I feel like I don’t have to understand everything little thing that comes before the city, because he literally does that hard job for us. He has run a successful business for 10 years and he understands fiscal responsibility as well as investment and looking at the big picture to prepare us for the future. 

Perhaps the biggest reason I support Mr. Ambrose is that he is truthful, even when the truth is not what I want to hear. My example is that I emailed him about the proposed Bridlewood subdivision, coming out strongly against it. Like many in High Springs, I love our small town, and the surrounding open spaces. I don’t want the town to be swamped with traffic and see the beauty around us turn into South Florida-style crowding and sprawl. I want to protect the springs at all costs. I would be very happy to see zero new large-scale subdivisions here.

Ross took the time to email me back and carefully explain how the property that was Tillman Acres/proposed Bridlewood was zoned for crazy-dense zoning many years ago, and that the City can’t undo that and could be subject to a lawsuit if we tried. He was hoping to get the most palatable deal out of a bad situation.

He also told me about several other subdivisions: one along U.S.441, one adjacent to Bailey Estates, where the City had refused to allow an up-zoning to higher density for all the same reasons I state above.

I believe Mr. Ambrose wants to preserve the unique character of High Springs, but is also realistic in knowing you have to play the hand you were dealt.

I went to a candidate forum and one of the other candidates said High Springs needs better infrastructure before any new development is allowed. That sounds great but isn’t always possible, for reasons like the one above and the need to find funding for said infrastructure. I know that Ross Ambrose leaves no stone unturned in looking for funding sources aside from local tax revenue. The effort he puts into this job is Herculean.

Frankly I think we are extremely lucky to have such a dedicated, knowledgeable and hard-working commissioner. 

Stacey Breheny

High Springs, Florida

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An election will be held in High Springs on Nov. 7. There are two seats up for election. Since this is an odd-numbered year, the turnout will be poor. Every registered voter in the city needs to read up on the candidates; do the research to see what each is for, and vote.

Things have been running smoothly in the city for some time. Voting for someone merely because they are new is not a good idea.

Ross Ambrose and Gloria James do their homework, are knowledgeable and make decisions for all of High Springs. They are not driven by politics but by what they think is best for the city. For the good of the city, let’s keep them doing what they’ve done so well. Just remember that you need to vote.

Thomas R. Weller

High Springs, Florida

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This letter is to express my support for Steve Tapanes and Andrew Miller for City of High Springs Commissioner.

I have watched several of the commissioner’s meetings on line and have noticed on several occasions that although the audience is jammed with people who are concerned about certain issues, that their concerns seldom make a difference in the decisions made because the decisions appear to have been made prior to the meetings.

I would like to see new blood on the board of commissioners as I feel the incumbents get in a rut and although they claim to have the best interests of the citizens in mind some of them don’t seem to be listening. The newer members seem to be the ones listening.

Steve and Andrew both have businesses in High Springs and I feel their freshness would more closely represent the majority of citizens’ current views.

It’s time for a change, time for the younger generation to have a say in what happens for High Springs’ future. Vote Steve Tapanes and Andrew Miller.

Leah Currier

High Springs, Florida

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The High Springs Chamber of Commerce would like to send a special thank you to all our volunteers and local businesses who gave their time, talents, and treasures to bring our community together for the annual Fall Festival.

Please support these businesses and tell them thank you the next time you see them. Decades on Main & Renee;

Oliver & Dahlman; Thompson Flower Shop; The Birds Nest; High Springs Church of God; LifeSpring Church; Plantation Oaks Assisted Living & Memory Care; Dawn Cross, Photography; McDonald's in Alachua; Ronald McDonald House; Hardee's in High Springs; Hillary Cowart the Magic Man; Line Dancing Debbie; Bryan's Ace Hardware in High Springs; Winn-Dixie in High Springs; Fort White Garden & Produce; Jennifer Lee & Caleb Henderson, The Perfect Home; Troop 69, Boy Scouts; Willard's Restaurant & Lounge; BlueStar Grill; Nancy's Bake Shop; Chantels' Cakery; Station Bakery & Café; Tom & Sue Weller, Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe; High Springs Police Department; Aunt Lydia Springs, Cake; Louanne Rigano, Cake; Vella Miller, Ballon; Don Decker, Trains; Museum for being open during the Fall Festival hours

There are so many who came together to make this year's Fall Festival one our community will cherish for years to come.

I love our quaint little town with all its southern charm.

Sharon Decker

High Springs Chamber of Commerce

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TALLAHASSEE ‒ Scientists in Florida have developed and tested a new kind of fishhook designed to improve fish survival and support sustainable recreational fishing.

Researchers with the University of Florida, U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have published their findings in the journal “Fisheries,” where they show that a modified version of a standard fishing hook allows anglers to catch and release fish successfully and without any direct contact with the angler.

Handling fish and exposing them to air can cause “discard mortality,” which is when fish die after they are caught and released, said Holden Harris, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station.

“Catch and release can help conserve fish populations, but it doesn’t ensure fish will survive after you let them go,” Harris said. “Handling a fish and exposing it to air can injure an already exhausted animal. That makes them more vulnerable to predators after they are released. Handling the fish with nets and hands also disrupts the mucus membrane covering their bodies, which exposes fish to infection.”

In their study, the researchers tested a “bite-shortened” hook, a standard barbless fishing hook modified to have a shorter point or “bite.” The bite-shortened hooks can be made easily with simple tools.

Earlier field trials with bonefish on Palmyra Atoll conducted by one of the study’s co-authors, Andrew Gude, manager of the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, found fish would “spit out” bite-shortened hooks once they were reeled in toward the angler and the angler gave slack in the fishing line.

The idea appeared promising and prompted the researchers at the UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station to begin more rigorous testing.

“In this study, we wanted to test the hooks systematically to see how they performed compared to other hook types for their ability to successfully stay hooked in the fish during the reel-in and then self-release from the fish once it was landed boatside,” Harris said.

Working off the coast of Cedar Key, Florida, the researchers tested three kinds of hooks: barbless, barbed, and bite-shortened. For the purposes of the study, they targeted spotted seatrout, a popular coastal sport fish.

They found that compared to the other hooks, bite-shortened hooks were just as successful at landing fish. However, bite-shortened hooks made it significantly easier for anglers to release fish without directly handling them. This video shows how an angler releases a fish in this way.

“We look at this as a new kind of fishing that might hold appeal for conservation-minded anglers who are concerned about discard mortality,” said Mike Allen, senior author of the study and the director of the UF/IFAS NCBS. A hook like this could ultimately allow fishing in areas where minimizing impacts to fish stocks is a high priority, he said.

While it is still too early to say what the environmental impact of these new hooks might be, Harris said he hopes this first study will inspire other researchers to keep testing the hook design and gather more data.  

“It would be great to know how these hooks perform with different fish species, different fishing techniques and in the hands of different anglers,” Harris said.

In the meantime, curious anglers can make their own bite-shortened hooks and try them out on th

water. Harris and his co-authors have produced a video demonstrating how to turn a standard barbless hook into a bite-shorted hook using tools found at the hardware store.

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TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Housing Finance Corporation (Florida Housing) announced the winners of their statewide art contest, inviting kids and teens age 5-18 to submit their visions on the theme: What does home mean to you? The contest aimed to increase awareness on the importance of having a safe and affordable place to call home, particularly leading up to National Homeownership Month in June. Florida Housing received more than 200 submissions from kids across the state who used their imaginations to illustrate beautiful designs showcasing what they notice most about their home life. An internal review committee has now selected the top 40 to be printed and prominently displayed in the Florida Housing Finance Corporation building in Tallahassee.

“As the state’s housing finance agency, we recognize the significance of having a place to call home and our goal has always been to provide every Floridian with that opportunity,” said Trey Price, Executive Director of Florida Housing Finance Corporation. “We hope this fun initiative emphasizes the continued need for quality, affordable housing in Florida and the significant role that this can play in a child’s life. On behalf of our entire team at Florida Housing, I want to thank all of the kids who participated in this contest for helping us share that important message.”
The winning artwork showcased a variety of heartwarming scenes: children spending quality time with their family, engaging in fun activities, or simply a picture of what their actual home looks like. A full slideshow
featuring all of the winners has been published on Florida Housing’s website. Each design will also be hung throughout the Florida Housing Finance Corporation building in honor of National Homeownership Month in June.
For more information about Florida Housing and to view the winners of this statewide art contest, please visit
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TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is holding Tag Your Reptile Day events throughout the state to offer pet owners an opportunity to have their pet green iguanas or tegus microchipped for free to help people come into compliance with new rules.

The FWC is partnering with zoos and veterinarians across the state to host Tag Your Reptile Day events at multiple locations. The regional event will be held June 5 at the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne. All tagging event locations will have PIT tagging services available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. No appointments are required. PIT tags are available on a first-come, first-serve basis while supplies last. FWC staff will provide information to complete the permit application process. View additional event dates and locations at

Tagging or microchipping your pet is one if the simplest and most effective ways to keep them safe and protect Florida’s native wildlife. Owners may bring up to five pet tegus or green iguanas to any of the single day events. Pets must be in a secured carrier, wearing a leash or harness to prevent escape. Veterinary staff will microchip these animals while you wait. Thanks to the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida and other partners hosting events, this service is free to any pet owners who have these species as pets.

The rule changes to Chapter 68-5, F.A.C., took effect April 29 and specifically address 16 high-risk invasive reptiles including pythons, tegus and green iguanas that pose a threat to Florida’s ecology, economy, and human health and safety.

The new rules also include reporting requirements for permittees, biosecurity requirements to limit escape of these high-risk species, and additional language to clarify limited exceptions for possession of green iguanas and tegus for commercial sales or as pets.

People in possession of these animals have 90 days to come into compliance. The 90-day grace period ends July 28, 2021 and by that time all pet green iguanas and tegus must be permanently microchipped and owners must have applied for a permit. All other entities must come into compliance with the new rules by July 28 as well, including entities possessing the regulated species for research, educational exhibition, eradication and control, or limited commercial sale. Additionally, entities with these species will have 180 days to come into compliance with the new outdoor caging requirements. The 180-day grace period for upgrading outdoor caging ends Oct. 26, 2021.

More than 500 nonnative species have been reported in Florida. Approximately 80% of these species have been introduced via the live animal trade with more than 130 established in Florida, meaning they are reproducing in the wild. Since most nonnative fish and wildlife find their way into Florida's habitats through escape or release from the live animal trade, it is important to create regulations to prevent high-risk nonnative wildlife from becoming introduced or further established in Florida’s environment.

For detailed information on how these new rules will impact pet owners, commercial sellers, exhibitors, trappers and other groups, or to learn more about upcoming Tag Your Reptile Day events, visit

Additional information about nonnative species in Florida can be found at

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TALLAHASSEE ‒ Representative Geraldine F. Thompson (D-Windemere), and members of the Gator Caucus of the Florida House of Representatives, initiated the presentation of a resolution to honor George H. Starke, Jr. who was the first African American student to attend the University of Florida when he enrolled in 1958. 

He was born in Orlando in 1931 and graduated from Orange County Public Schools before enrolling in Morehouse College in 1949. Starke left Morehouse when he was called into the United States Air Force during the Korean War. He later returned to Morehouse where he joined Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and completed his bachelor’s degree in 1957. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Morehouse alumnus, delivered the commencement address during Starke’s graduation exercise.

In 1958, when he was admitted to the University of Florida Law School, Starke became the first African American student accepted to the University of Florida in its 105-year history. Members of the Florida Highway Patrol escorted him to class as a precaution that was later proved warranted when James Meredith, who became the first African American student admitted to the University of Mississippi, was shot by a sniper. During his classes, Starke was separated from his classmates by an empty row of seats. He learned that his name was mentioned at a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan and he was warned by university officials to not travel through the Ocala National Forest due to Klan activity.

Following many challenges, Starke withdrew from the University of Florida before completing his juris doctorate. He moved to New York where he began a career in investment banking with Wall Street firms. He returned to Orlando in 2015 and has been honored by the University of Florida by presenting him its Distinguished Alumnus Award, the honorary Doctorate of Laws and induction into the Florida Blue Key honor society. The Florida House and Senate honored him on April 15 for the important role he played in the desegregation of institutions of higher education in Florida. Mr. Starke, who is approaching his 90th birthday, observed the House session remotely while members of his family were recognized in the Capitol in the House Gallery.

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