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ALACHUA, Fla. - Mavis Tires & Brakes is now open at 16113 NW US Highway 441 bringing affordable vehicle services to the Alachua community at its newest Florida location.  

Local drivers are invited to stop by the new store for a free tire pressure and visual tire check.

“Underinflated tires decrease fuel efficiency,” said Brian Sisson, Senior Vice President of Retail Operations, “while overinflation can lead to irregular tread wear and reduced tread life. Tire pressure increases or decreases by 1 PSI per 10 degrees of temperature fluctuation. A simple tire pressure check can help drivers save money on fuel and extend the life of their tires.” 

Mavis now has 53 retail locations in the Sunshine State of Florida and more than 850 stores nationally.  

“It is a privilege to be part of the Alachua community and provide quality automotive service for our neighbors,” said Sisson. “Mavis offers tires and services at the prices customers want and we are excited to welcome more drivers to our growing family.” 

Alachua Mavis Tires & Brakes 

The new Mavis Tires & Brakes in Alachua offers the following services: 

  • New Tires and Installation
  • Flat Repair Services
  • Brake Repair Services
  • Oil Changes
  • New Wiper Blades and Installation
  • Wheel Alignment
  • Suspension Repair
  • New Shocks and Struts Installation
  • New Battery Replacement
  • Muffler and Exhaust Repair
  • AC Repair 

To make an online reservation for tires or automotive service, visit 

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TALLAHASSEE ‒ The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) invites Florida residents and visitors to go fishing during two license-free weekends: June 3-4 for saltwater and June 10-11 for freshwater.

License-free fishing weekends offer a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and experience the many fishing opportunities the Fishing Capital of the World has to offer. The FWC encourages everyone to take advantage of these weekends to spend time enjoying the beautiful Florida waters.

“Fishing is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and experience Florida’s abundant fishing opportunities,” said Roger Young, FWC’s Executive Director. “License-free fishing weekends allow Floridians and visitors to get outdoors, connect with nature and create lasting memories with family and friends.”

During the license-free weekends, all bag limits, size limits and fishing regulations still apply. Anglers must also follow all other fishing rules, such as gear restrictions, seasons and closures. To help ensure a fun and safe fishing experience, the FWC encourages all anglers to review the regulations before heading out on the water. For current recreational fishing regulations, visit and click on “Rules & Regulations” or download the Fish Rules App to stay up to date on saltwater and freshwater regulations in your area.  

Find a location to go fishing through the pier finder tool or visit a Fish Management Area. Launch your vessel at a local boat ramp or access point. View the quarterly FWC’s Freshwater Fishing Forecasts by region.

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GAINESVILLE ‒ HSNCF, ACAR, and Puppy Hill Farm Animal Rescue team up to offer free pets June 10 and 11. Hundreds of pets from two local animal welfare organizations will be sterilized, vaccinated, microchipped and free to adopt the weekend of June 10 and 11. The 10th Annual North Florida Pet Adoption Days will take place across North Central Florida that weekend.

Founded in 2013 and formerly known as Maddie’s Pet Adoption Days, the two day adopt-a-thon seeks to find forever homes for hundreds of puppies, dogs, cats and kittens. The participating agencies include Humane Society of North Central Florida and Alachua County Animal Resources this year.

Over 200 adoptions were conducted during the 2022 event. “We are so pleased to be part of this life-saving effort and are proud to work alongside so many rescues and municipal shelters across North Central Florida to increase our life-saving abilities and create a region where no healthy or treatable pet is euthanized for lack of space,” said the Humane Society’s Executive Director, Chelsea Bower.

Adoptions will take place at Humane Society of North Central Florida on Northwest 6th Street, Alachua County Animal Resources on Northeast 53rd, Feline Good Cat Cafe on Southeast 2nd Place, and PetSmart on Archer Road from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 10. Adoptions will continue at the Humane Society of North Central Florida from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 11.

Adoptable animals will be available free of charge with the exception of puppies and kittens under 5 months of age. There will also be free adoptions at Feeline Good Cat Cafe in downtown Gainesville. Check out all the available pets at

North Florida Pet Adoption Days Animal welfare organizations are aiming to find homes for hundreds of pets in North Central Florida in just one weekend.

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ALACHUA COUNTY, FL - Alachua County is reminding residents that the Alachua County Climate Fair at the Cuscowilla Nature and Retreat Center (210 S.E. 134th Avenue, Micanopy) begins tomorrow, Friday, June 2, 2023, at 5 p.m. There will be vendors, food, games, and tips for saving money while saving the planet.
Before the 5 p.m. festivities, the County is hosting a workshop to review the results of the County’s Climate Vulnerability Analysis. While attending the 3 p.m. workshop is space-limited, all are welcome to join on the Livestream hosted by the Alachua County Public Schools on their YouTube channel. The final video will be available in the same location over the following days.
Learn more about the Alachua County Climate Fair.
Visit the Climate Fair Facebook event.

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Gainesville, Fla. - The Alachua County Library District is kicking-off Summer at the Library with Reader Palooza! Join in the fun Saturday, June 3, from 10 a.m. until noon at Depot Park.

Get the summer started off right with fun activities and informative vendors. Support literacy in our community and encourage summer reading. Patrons can sign up for the Summer Reading Challenge for chances to win a free tablet from PDQ restaurant. The ACLD will have a free goodie bag for kids, teens, and adults who sign up for summer reading.

More the 20 vendors will be on hand at Reader Palooza, including Fun 4 Gator Kids, Escapology, UF CARD, Florida Museum of Natural History, REI, Matheson Museum, Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, Children’s Home Society, United Way, and many more.

Enjoy roaming performances from Gainesville magician Magic Mike, the Gainesville Circus Center and Bubble Man. Marc Radio and Classic Hits 100.9 will be broadcasting live from the event.

Our popular kids’ reading program, Read with a Dog, will have a station at Reader Palooza this year. Sit and stay a while to read with a very good dog.

Come out and support community reading and kick off Summer at the Library during Reader Palooza.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Dance Alive National Ballet hopes to purchase a 5.5-acre parcel of land in northwest Gainesville that will eventually be the home of a new building with three dance studios, three music studios, an art gallery, a black box theater for rehearsals and rentals, and all the other miscellaneous spaces needed by a performing arts group.

Dance Alive, which makes its home in Gainesville, is the only professional ballet company in North Central Florida and has been a fixture in the world of performing arts for over 50 years. The Company has been sharing space with Pofahl Studios but has outgrown the space, and they will soon be raising money and applying for grants to build a 22,000-square-foot facility that will add to the cultural landscape of North Central Florida.

Dance Alive comprises an international roster of award-winning professional dancers who have full-time contracts and live in the local community; these dancers perform locally, nationally, and internationally and also teach at the resident school. The Company has toured 17 states, Costa Rica, Brazil, Cuba, and Russia, and it is the only arts organization in Florida to be on the State Touring Roster for 40 consecutive years. Dance Alive presents four annual mainstage productions at the Curtis M. Phillips Center, including The Nutcracker. The Company also has an outreach program for students in Alachua and Marion counties and programs to benefit veterans and persons with disabilities.

The proposed new building will include spaces for dance instruction, music instruction, rehearsals, and performances; it will also feature a physical therapy room, a kitchen, a laundry room, storage rooms, dressing rooms, and administrative offices. A large green space behind the building will be available for plein air painting, yoga and meditation classes, and other outdoor events.


Dance Alive National Ballet co-founders Kim Tuttle and Judy Skinner will continue to serve as Artistic and Administrative Directors during the transition to the new facility. Tuttle told Alachua Chronicle, “The arts are in us from childhood and as we grow, they make us better people, filled with humanity. A home for the arts celebrates this, with strength and love.”

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 Governor DeSantis also announced his intent to appoint J. Alex Kelly to lead the newly created Florida Department of Commerce

Source: From the Office of Governor Rob DeSantis \ May 31, 2023

TALLAHASSEE —  Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on May 31, 2023 signed House Bill 5, creating a singular Department of Commerce in Florida to streamline and modernize Florida’s economic development agencies to meet the needs of today’s businesses. The bill:


  • Consolidates the responsibilities and resources of Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) into the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), which the bill also renames as the Department of Commerce;
  • Creates a new direct-support organization (DSO) responsible for international economic development within the Department of Commerce;
  • Reconstitutes VISIT FLORIDA and the Florida Sports Foundation also as DSOs of the Department of Commerce; and
  • Repeals several underutilized and duplicative economic incentive programs that often create more confusion than answers for business and industry.

 To lead the newly created Department of Commerce, Governor DeSantis has announced his intent to appoint J. Alex Kelly, who currently serves as Deputy Chief of Staff for the Governor.

 “Florida continues to be the nation’s top destination for new businesses, workforce development, and tourism, and streamlining our economic development programs in the Florida Department of Commerce will further support Florida’s thriving economy,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.

 “Floridians deserve a level playing field that empowers local entrepreneurs to thrive,” said House Speaker Paul Renner. “Governor DeSantis is championing good stewardship of taxpayer’s hard-earned money by eliminating wasteful entities like Enterprise Florida. By establishing the new Department of Commerce, we will embark on a revitalized mission to strategically pave the way towards an even brighter future.”

 Florida’s economy continues to thrive under the leadership of Governor DeSantis. Earlier this month, Governor DeSantis announced that Florida has the lowest unemployment rate of the nation's 10 largest states, experienced record tourism in the first quarter of 2023, and outpaced nationwide job growth for the 25th consecutive month.

 The Department of Commerce will continue to support Florida’s robust economic development and growth through performance-driven job creation and capital investment grant programs, infrastructure grants, rural county and small city grants, broadband grants, small business and rural loan programs, and other small business programs.

 Moreover, the Department of Commerce will continue to support and collaborate with Florida’s family of economic development and workforce development partners, including Space Florida, CareerSource, Florida Housing Finance Corporation, VISIT FLORIDA, the Florida Sports Foundation, the Florida Defense Support Task Force, the REACH Office, the Florida Department of Education, and the State University System Board of Governors.

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TALLAHASSEE — In a May 31, 2023 press release from the Office of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, it was announced that the governor signed the following bills:

CS/CS/HB 5 – Economic Programs

CS/CS/HB 657 – Enforcement of School Zone Speed Limits

CS/CS/CS/HB 799 – Property Insurance

CS/HB 881 – My Safe Florida Home Program

HB 1169 – Hamilton County

SB 662 – Student Online Personal Information Protection

CS/CS/SB 766 – Enforcement of School Bus Passing Infractions

CS/SB 7052 – Insurer Accountability

To view the transmittal letters, click here and here.

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Nearly two years after a father killed his young sons, burned the family's vacation home and fatally shot himself, Florida's Legislature is nearing passage of a new law that would shield details of autopsies of children.  Sponsored in the House by Rep. Charles “Chuck” Clemons, R-Newberry, and Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, the effort in Tallahassee is on behalf of the boys' surviving mother, 44-year-old Minde O'Sullivan of Gainesville. She said she never wanted to learn details of her sons' murders that were described in media coverage in the case that drew public interest across Florida. The bills would also ban release of photographs, audio or video in all cases when a minor is killed by anyone, not just in domestic violence crimes. The Senate has already passed a version of the bill. The House is expected to vote on the bill Thursday.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Nearly two years after both her sons were killed by her estranged husband, a surviving mother is picking up the pieces of her life to move forward as untold storylines about the murders are just emerging.

Minde O'Sullivan, 44, of Gainesville said her new marriage to the University of Florida baseball coach, Kevin O’Sullivan, and a non-profit foundation she created in honor of her boys, Rex Reinhart, 14, and Brody Reinhart, 11, have given her a new purpose in life. 

Meanwhile, her sons’ legacy may be legislation – “The Rex and Brody Act” – that is so far sailing through the state Legislature. One bill passed the Senate 39-0 earlier this month, and the House is expected to vote Thursday on another, after it passed unanimously through three committee votes. Similar efforts failed in Tallahassee last year.

The bills would ban the public release of autopsy reports for minors killed by domestic violence – and also ban release of photographs, audio or video, such as police body camera recordings or in reports by child abuse investigators, in cases when a minor is killed, no matter the circumstances.

Minde O’Sullivan’s estranged husband, Paul Otto Reinhart, 46, fatally shot the couple’s sons in May 2021 at the family’s waterfront vacation home in western Florida then set the house on fire and killed himself. The family, which ran a lucrative medical device sales company, was prominent in the region’s social and political circles.

The boys’ autopsies, which were released publicly, revealed that their father had shot both sons before he shot himself and set the fire – even though Minde O’Sullivan had initially assured a 911 dispatcher that her husband did not own any guns during the frantic hours when authorities were still searching for her missing family. Sheriff’s investigators also believed Paul Reinhart didn’t have a gun, based on their review of recent firearms transactions. But detectives later found two 9mm Glock pistols in the burned home in Suwannee.

“I was unaware he bought one two weeks prior,” she said in a recent interview. “I had no idea that he was capable of doing anything like this, or else I never would have left my children with him.”

Court and investigative records showed that the murders happened after Reinhart learned about an extramarital affair, the two traded angry texts about her wishing her husband dead and he made moves to withhold the family’s millions of dollars from her.

“You changed your life insurance policies so I don’t get any f***ing money,” Minde O’Sullivan told Reinhart in a conversation that Reinhart apparently recorded, according to a sheriff’s office report. She later said during a deposition in a related court dispute with Reinhart’s family that she had been unaware of Reinhart’s efforts to change his $4 million in life insurance policies.

When the boys’ autopsies were made public under Florida’s public records law, in August 2021, investigators had not yet released any details about how the boys had died three months earlier. Most media coverage then focused on the disclosure that Reinhart had shot the boys, without graphic descriptions. A local television station went further, detailing in a brief news article published on its website how many times and where on their bodies each boy was shot. Photographs and videos taken during autopsies are already blocked from public view under existing Florida law.

Minde O’Sullivan made clear to lawmakers she did not want to learn details of her sons’ tragic deaths – in a case that generated public interest across Florida – because it would be too upsetting.

The proposed law would have kept details secret. A surviving parent or spouse who was not involved in their child’s death could review an autopsy report. The legislation said such reports contain “highly sensitive descriptions of the deceased” and “could result in trauma, sorrow, humiliation, or emotional injury to the immediate family and minor friends of the deceased, as well as injury to the memory of the deceased.”

The bills would also ban release of photographs, audio or video in all cases when a minor is killed by anyone, not just in domestic violence crimes. The ban would cover accidents, such as car or boat crashes or cases when a child falls off an amusement park ride. It would cover killings even by police or sheriff’s deputies and even if there were questions about whether they acted lawfully in such cases. It would also cover evidence of deaths of children in cases that may have been handled or mishandled by government regulators, such as Florida's Department of Children and Families. 

That provision – which was not in the version of the bill that failed last year – was added last month by the House Judiciary Committee, saying it worried that release of recordings of killings may encourage others.

The bills were sponsored by two Alachua County lawmakers: Rep. Charles “Chuck” Clemons, R-Newberry, and Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville.

Clemons said he supports Florida’s public records law, sometimes known as the Sunshine Law, because it shines a light on government programs and activities. “What I’m asking you to do today, with this bill, is to put into the shade the gory photographs, the descriptions, the videos, etc…of minors who have been murdered,” he told lawmakers on the judiciary committee last month. 

Minde O’Sullivan pleaded with lawmakers to draft a bill so no surviving parent has to undergo the same hurt ever again, Clemons said. This year, the Senate version passed on April 11, Minde O’Sullivan’s birthday. When the Senate voted, she broke into tears in the Capitol as her mother, Tammy Prince, put her arm around her to comfort her.

“This was just the biggest birthday gift that I could ever imagine,” Minde O’Sullivan said. “It was so emotional.”

Clemons said he looks forward to Gov. Ron DeSantis signing the law once it passes the full Legislature, as is expected on Thursday. He said it would have prevented young friends of Rex and Brody learning graphic details online about the deaths of the boys. DeSantis is widely expected to sign the measures into law.

“Think about the psychological impact and the hurt it has not only for those young boys but for the surviving parents, the grandparents, the friends, the close-knit community – it's all out there and it's out there forever,” Clemons said.

Under the bill, a judge who finds good cause could disclose autopsy reports in certain cases. The court would have to evaluate the intrusion into the family’s right to privacy and consider whether there is similar information available in other public records.

While Minde O’Sullivan attended legislative hearings in Tallahassee, she also founded and focused her efforts on the Rex & Brody Foundation. The charity honors her sons, who were avid baseball players, to support youth and school baseball teams. Brody regularly served as the unofficial batboy for the University of Florida baseball team. She married baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan on Sept. 24. The two were friends for years and began dating after the murders.

Some details about Reinhart’s actions – and interactions with Minde O’Sullivan – ahead of the murders have not been previously reported.

Eight days before the murders, Reinhart filed paperwork to change two life insurance policies to keep his wife from collecting money after his death. At the time, the couple was separated and intended to divorce. The policies were worth $2 million each and permitted full payouts even in a case of suicide.

The changes by Reinhart named his sons as primary beneficiaries and one of his brothers, Konrad Reinhart of Gainesville, a secondary beneficiary if the boys died. After the murders, Minde O’Sullivan settled a federal lawsuit with Konrad Reinhart last summer over the $4 million. Court records did not specify how the money was divided.

Separately, Paul Reinhart also updated his will 15 days before the murders to prevent his wife from receiving any assets after their 19 years of marriage. He named his brother, in place of his wife, the beneficiary of a retirement account worth more than $600,000.

Two days before the murders, Paul Reinhart began moving large sums of money from the family’s bank accounts: He transferred $299,000 from his business account to a personal account controlled by himself and Konrad Reinhart. He moved $100,000 out of Brody’s account and $100,000 from Rex’s and transferred it to the same account controlled by him and his brother, according to court records. 

The same day, Paul Reinhart used his phone to search: “selfish and having an affair” and “how to break someone psychologically, mentally and emotionally,” according to the final Dixie County Sheriff’s Office report. 

“The thing that is so upsetting is that it was planned out weeks before,” Minde O’Sullivan said in an interview. “It wasn't like he just snapped on a whim. He was still walking around with a smile on his face while he was planning all of this.”

The morning of the murders, Paul Reinhart emailed her a message that read, “You got your wish and you can keep the millions.” Attached to the email was an audio recording Reinhart made of the two arguing. 

In the recording, Paul Reinhart said, “Honestly wish I were dead.” Minde O’Sullivan responded: “Yes, I do. I do, but you know what sucks? Is you changed your life insurance policies so I don’t get any f***ing money,” according to the sheriff’s office report.

As part of their bitter family legal fights over the estate, Konrad Reinhart accused Minde O’Sullivan of a role in Paul Reinhart’s violence. The sides settled their probate fight in July, according to court records.

“Paul told me that she told him… to go kill yourself multiple times, and Paul said, ‘Are you serious?’” Konrad Reinhart said in a deposition. “And she said, ‘Yes,’ and then she got angry because the life insurance was changed into the boys’ name, and that’s all she was concerned about was the money.”

Minde O’Sullivan’s charity, which raised $82,222 last year, pays for baseball facility improvements and sponsors local teams to compete in national tournaments. Its next major fundraiser is Sept. 23 at UF’s football stadium. 

Minde O’Sullivan said the charity gives her a purpose, staying involved with youth baseball. She still attends high school games, she said, and stays in contact with her sons’ teammates.

“I wake up every single morning and think, ‘This is not real, this didn’t happen,’” she said. “But you have choices to make: You either get up and get going, or you choose to give up. And I've never chosen to give up.”

She added: "Staying involved in sports and baseball, which was their true passion, has helped a lot. It gives me a purpose. I knew I won't have my own ever again, but I have hundreds of other children and I'm going to continue to help."

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — This summer and fall, UF/IFAS Extension will host the Ag Entrepreneurship Series, a program designed to help aspiring and beginning farmers sow the seeds of success.

“Extension offices across the state often hear from residents who are interested in starting a small farm or related business. However, many of these folks don’t have an agricultural background and need help getting their idea off the ground,” said Tatiana Sanchez-Jones, commercial horticulture agent with UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County. “In response, a few years ago we created the Ag Entrepreneurship Series, and it’s still going strong,”

Sanchez co-leads the program with Kevin Athearn, regional specialized agent for rural agribusiness development.

“Even those with business experience can benefit greatly from the program,” Athearn said. “That’s because agricultural enterprises are quite a bit different from other types of businesses. Our program helps people factor in those important differences and be in a better position to get financing for their farm and make the most of that investment.”

The program is open to anyone in Florida. Registration for the 2023 Ag Entrepreneurship Series is available through UF/IFAS Extension Online Learning.

The award-winning Ag Entrepreneurship series first launched in 2018 and has since expanded to include three workshops. Each workshop starts with a two-week, online course that includes recorded presentations, case study videos, worksheets and a discussion forum where workshop members can ask questions of the workshop leaders and network with each other.

  • Starting a Farm (June 16-30): Introduces learners to the basics of starting a farm business and includes setting a vision and goals, assessing financial readiness, evaluating suitability and feasibility of the enterprise, and the ins and outs of business structures, registration and regulations.
  • Farm Business Planning (Aug. 10-24): Takes learners through the more technical aspects of developing a farm business and includes conducting market research and a SWOT analysis, developing a mission statement and plans for marketing, operations, human resources, finances and risk management.
  • Marketing for Your Small Farm (Oct. 13-27): Walks learners through business plan implementation and includes marketing and promotional strategies, avenues for selling to consumers, and technologies for taking orders and accepting payment online.

At the end of the two weeks, participants attend a two-hour presentation and Q & A session with industry experts, including representatives from program partners Farm Credit of Florida and the Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement. Participants can attend these sessions in person or via Zoom.

People can sign up for one or more workshops in the series. Each workshop is $45, and participants who register for all three get a discounted rate of $100. Workshops are capped at 35 people, so early registration is recommended.

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TALLAHASSEE – This morning, the Lauren’s Kids foundation kicked off a 42+ hour continuous advocacy walk at the Florida Capitol to honor the 42 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse living in the U.S. today. The “42 Hours” event will close out National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month by bringing advocates, survivors and state leaders together to walk inside the walls of the Florida Capitol while raising awareness and advocating for change.

“We are walking together over the next 42+ hours to honor survivors, advocate for change, and bring awareness to something we know unfortunately impacts 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys before they graduate high school,” said Senator Lauren Book, Founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids. “Every 98 seconds, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted – which means that over the course of the next 42 hours, more than 1,500 people will be victimized. We will be shining a light for each one of those survivors to help amplify the messages of prevention, hope, and healing.”

Every 15 minutes, walkers will light a candle on a wall of the “42 Hours” display to symbolize the 10 survivors of sexual assault who were victimized during that time.

“The Florida Council Against Sexual Violence works to ensure victims and survivors have a voice in the Florida Capitol, and to ensure prevention and treatment programs are present in communities throughout the state,” says Jennifer Dritt, Executive Director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, a “42 Miles” event partner. “Even if we do not realize it, statistically, each one of us knows someone who has experienced sexual violence – and each one of us likely knows a perpetrator, too. It is up to us all to educate ourselves and become a part of the solution.”

Armed with the knowledge that 95 percent of childhood sexual abuse is preventable through education and awareness, Lauren’s Kids offers familiesschools, and youth-serving organizations free tools and EMMY Award-winning video lessons to help teach personal safety from a place of fun and not fear. The Foundation has also created free resources for survivors, including the Guide to Hope & Healing, which helps families navigate the time following a child’s disclosure of sexual abuse.     

This will be Lauren’s Kids’ third year hosting the “42 Hours” event, an offshoot of the Foundation’s 1,500-mile “Walk in My Shoes” statewide awareness walk from Key West to Tallahassee, completed annually from 2010-2018. To learn more and watch the “42 Hours” event livestream, visit

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OCALA, Fla. - A GoFundMe account has been set up for an 8-year-old Ocala girl to purchase challenge coins to give to first responders.  According to GoFundMe Regional Spokesperson Claudia Curiel,   Aubryn has a huge appreciation for first responders and everything that they do. She's been hosting first responders at her home on Christmas Eve for the past five years. She serves them hot chocolate/coffee, treats and pastries. She plays games, colors and has made ornaments with the first responders that have shown up.

The Marion County sheriff presented her with a challenge coin thanking her for going above and beyond in thanking those who serve her community. She ended up collecting coins from each agency that stopped by. In January, she asked her parents if she could give them something to carry as a reminder that they are loved and appreciated. They had a challenge coin made for her to hand out.

She has since been invited to the Department of Corrections meeting and was honored by them for showing her appreciation. Now she's been invited to participate in a state meeting to honor elite first responders and asked to hand out her coins there. She's also been asked to present her local SRO's (School Resource Officers) with coins.

Her mother has set up a GoFundMe account to help support Aubryn's efforts.  "We would love to take part in these events but we are lacking the funds to have more coins made," said Aubryn's mother.  "We would like to have 300 additional coins made for these events and possibly more to have on hand for her annual events."  Aubryn's mother says that donations will be used to purchase more coins, and if there are any additional funds they will be used for her first responder events and will directly benefit first responders such as firefighters, police, sherriff, Department of Corrections, nurses, doctors, EMTs and veterans.

To view the GoFundMe please visit:

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Today, we pause in reverence to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his unyielding courage in the face of adversity, his boundless love in the face of hate, and his servant leadership in the face of supremacy. This great American not only chartered a new course in the fight for civil rights, he also illustrated how we should boldly advocate for our causes while exhibiting grace and humility. 

 Our nation and the City of Gainesville are still grappling with many of the same issues Dr. King fought valiantly for more than 68 years ago. While we face serious matters – lack of affordable housing, poverty, racial and social inequities – I truly believe this community has the talent, heart, drive and resolve to find lasting solutions. Like Dr. King eloquently proclaimed in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1964, "I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits." I also believe we can pay our neighbors a living wage and provide desirable housing that is affordable for all. 
So, as we observe this holiday in honor of Dr. King, I implore you to commit with me to be stalwart in efforts to alleviate inequities in our community. Join me in protecting the unique charm of our beloved Hoggetowne, while building a city in which all its neighbors are able to thrive. Together, as One Gainesville, we can do this.
Harvey Ward
Mayor, City of Gainesville
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As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the Alachua County Labor Coalition typically avoids weighing in on electoral contests. And we never endorse political candidates. But a recent dark-money mailer attacking one of our dedicated activists who is running for office and two of our signature policies he worked on requires us to speak up.

Residents of Gainesville Commission District 2 recently opened their mailboxes to find a cowardly postcard attacking Commission candidate James Ingle. It was paid for by the so-called Responsible Leadership Committee, Inc.—a dark money PAC. Two of three false claims made in the mailing are that Ingle “worked to limit our private property rights” and “fought for more government control over our wages.” These are references to the Alachua County Renters’ Rights and Wage Theft ordinances, respectively.

The Renters’ Rights ordinance does not limit private property rights any more than do laws prohibiting retail shops on your neighborhood cul-de-sacs or rats in restaurants. The reality is that the ordinance offers three simple, commonsense protections for Alachua County’s tenants. First, it requires universal inspections of rental properties. This merely ensures that landlords are adhering to the rules and regulations of the building code that ALREADY EXIST. Without universal inspections, tenants are forced to choose between blowing the whistle on hazardous living conditions or risking retaliation from a minority of bad landlords. Second, it requires landlords to inform tenants of the rights they ALREADY HAVE. Why should landlords be afraid of their renters knowing the law? Third, it sets reasonable water and energy efficiency standards for rental properties. These are necessary to lower utility costs for renters, reduce greenhouse emissions that cause climate change, and protect our aquifer. Why landlords would want to deplete our aquifer, unnecessarily spew harmful emissions into the air, and subject their tenants to unaffordable utility bills is beyond our understanding. But the bottom line is this: the landlord-tenant relationship is a business relationship, not a relationship between a landholder and their serf, and it should be regulated as such.

Describing the Wage Theft ordinance as “government control over our wages” is possibly more bizarre. This ordinance merely provides an avenue for workers to ensure the contracts between them and their employers are enforced—an avenue much cheaper than seeking recourse in the courts. The ordinance does not limit how much an employer can pay their workers, which is what I presume the mailer attempts to falsely imply. What’s more, the program has been a smashing success! Since, 2014, the ordinance has allowed the Office of Equal Opportunity to win back over $100,000 of unpaid wages for 152 workers.

It should be clear by now that the folks over at the so-called Responsible Leadership Committee, Inc. are not trying to protect your freedoms. They are promoting serfdom!

Lastly, the mailer asserts that James Ingle’s leadership has “failed us.” While we cannot endorse James or any other candidate (and this letter is not an endorsement), readers should know this is as big of a lie as any other in the mailer. James Ingle has been a great leader in the Alachua County Labor Coalition, the AFL-CIO, and his own union—International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 1205. In fact, the basic protections afforded to tenants in Alachua County and the over $100,000 returned to workers would not be possible without him. We thank him for his leadership on these issues. Perhaps the best description for James is, in fact, responsible leader.

Bobby Mermer, Gainesville, Florida, PhD, ACLC Coordinator


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It’s high time the local business owners speak up. I am a small business owner in High Springs for seven years now, and before that, helped run the High Springs Art Coop for six years. As we all know, our area is growing at a crazy rate. People have discovered our area for the treasure it is, as we all have at one point, so we have to learn to accept change in a reasonable way. The key word is reasonable.

Landlord greed with unreasonable rents kills business, most of all small business. Even big business suffers. I remember a story before Covid of the famous Barney’s of NYC, an icon for years that closed because the owners of their building raised the rent. They were already paying a million dollars a month!

Locally, look how the lovely town of Alachua went from being a vibrant historic downtown that we in High Springs envied and now it struggles to make it. Why? I feel it is because of large land owners who own the majority of real estate. They get renters in the first year at a low rate and after a year jack up the rent. I was told by a previous store owner than they over charge for utilities, too. These small places can barely make $1,000 to $1,500 a month total and most don’t bring in a monthly salary for themselves. How are they going to pay over $2,000 a month rent? Shame on what has happened in that lovely town.

Micanopy is another depressed town because of unreasonable people and then just look at downtown Gainesville. I wonder how long all those huge apartment houses will sit empty because of the humongous rents they are charging.

We can still save High Springs. We can make it a model historic small-town success. Here we have a few local hero landowners who are logical, honest and smart business owners. They charge rents that these small businesses can sustain.

The Barber and Grady families in our town are a blessing to all who rent from them—unlike some of the newbies who have bought up some of our buildings. The newbies’ unrealistic expectations can kill small businesses, or no one will pay such high rents, so their structures remain empty.

For example, in downtown High Springs there is the corner spot where River Run Olive Oil sat. It is a prime location, and here it is another year that it sits empty. The original owners sold because they wished to retire.

Across the street from me is the largest group of modern local store spaces. There was a quilt store there for a bit, but she couldn’t sustain the high rent. The same with rentals on the other side of her, the buildings have sat empty for years now. The owner is from Miami and thinks she is going to get Miami prices. All of these are prime real estate, front and center on Main Street and empty.

The main inspiration to this letter is The Florida Springs Institute. It is our local nonprofit, which does so much good protecting and bringing awareness to our local waters. I understand they are being kicked out of their corner space by their landlord. I heard they weren’t even given the offer to stay at a higher rate. The landlord is going to put someone in there at a huge increase in rent.

Although the landlord professes to support the springs, it seems that is the bottom line is taking precedence. We will see if the “new” business can sustain the ridiculously high rent or will downtown have another empty store front?

I had to say something and bring attention to this issue, even though I don’t think there is much we can do. The town is at the mercy of landowners who decide the bottom line. We can only hope and pray that our little town of High Springs continues to grow with sweet businesses that add to our charm with newbies coming who want to add to our world.

We are not against “reasonable” change. We welcome new and younger people looking to share in our small-town dream. Younger entrepreneurs bring vitality and freshness. We are just asking new and old landlords to keep it real and not let the over inflated prices for everything else invade common sense business practices. We expect you to make “reasonable” incomes, just not overpriced ones.

The future is determined right now. We either jack up rents, run the little charming business out and we get replaced by offices, empty stores and decay, or we support the small-town flair, encouraging the entrepreneur and make a small local business possible for everyone.

Remember that a store that sits empty for years produces zero rent. The more spaces that are filled, the better it is for all businesses.

Tina Corbett

High Springs, Florida

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It is a great honor to serve High Springs as your new Postmaster. In my years with the United States Postal Service, I have seen firsthand the role the Postal Service plays connecting neighbors and our community to the nation.

Our Post Offices serve as a lifeline for our small businesses to reach customers no matter where they are. Under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s leadership and Delivering For America, the Postal Service’s 10-year plan, we are maintaining universal six-day mail delivery and expanded seven-day package delivery, stabilizing our workforce, and spurring innovation to meet the needs of our modern customers.

Just as the Postal Service continues to provide a vital service for our nation, the staff of the High Springs Post Office will proudly continue that same public service in this community.

On behalf of the 650,000 women and men of the United States Postal Service, I thank you for continuing to support the Postal Service. Providing reliable mail delivery while strengthening the future of this treasured institution is our commitment to you.

Angel Cruz

Postmaster High Springs, FL 32643-9998

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As a volunteer and advocate with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, this month I am asking everyone to join us and demand #MoreForMentalHealth.

I am doing more by calling on my legislators at the federal and state levels to support legislation that will fund the implementation of 988 and the suicide and mental health crisis system across our nation, particularly for those in underserved communities.

Currently, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255 and de-escalates the crises of tens of thousands of callers each day. On July 16, those in distress and those that support them will be able to reach the Lifeline through a simple 3-digit number: 988.

By making the Lifeline more accessible through this shorter number, calls, texts, and chats to the Lifeline's network of crisis call centers are expected to increase. It is vital that the federal government work with states to ensure callers in distress will have: 1) someone to call, 2) someone to come help, and 3) somewhere safe to go.

We must act NOW to secure funding to equip call centers and community crisis response services throughout the country with the staff and resources to respond to everyone in crisis.

Join me this month in urging our federal and state public officials to do #MoreForMentalHealth. You can start by visiting

Together, we can help #StopSuicide.

Peggy Portwine

Alachua, Florida

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“I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” These words are as moving today as when first spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the passionate and influential civil rights leader who stood as a “pillar of hope and a model of grace” in his fight towards equality for all.

On January 17, we will reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. King, who, with his brave supporters, stood in strong opposition to racial discrimination, as well as the wrongful and unequal treatment of people who differed in national origin and religious beliefs.

The State of Florida continues to carry Dr. King’s legacy forward, committed to ending discrimination and ensuring all within our state have fair and equal access to employment and housing - because every person deserves to live the American Dream. The Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) was established in 1969 to enforce the Florida Civil Rights Act and address discrimination through education, outreach, and partnership. Annually, the FCHR recognizes and honors Floridians who advance civil rights throughout the state in the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

As we take this time to honor Dr. King, let us consider how we can improve our own communities. Everyone should have the opportunity to live the American Dream. Dr. King paved the way for our society to embrace equality, and it is our job as Americans and Floridians to ensure the civil rights of all people.

Angela Primiano, Vice-Chair

Florida Commission on Human Relations

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WASHINGTON -- FEMA has provided more than $1 billion for 380,000 Florida survivors of Hurricane Ian, as part of the $5.5 billion in federal support the Biden-Harris administration has provided to help families and communities in Florida jumpstart their recovery.

The FEMA Individual Assistance funds, which go directly to applicants, are for rent, basic home repair and other disaster-related expenses. In addition, the U.S. Small Business Administration has approved $1.68 billion in low-interest disaster loans and the National Flood Insurance Program has paid $2.29 billion in claims. FEMA’s Public Assistance program has obligated $552 million to the state to reimburse debris removal and emergency response costs.

In continuing support to Floridians, FEMA is undertaking an extensive housing effort that includes funds for rent, home repairs, hotel stays, apartment leases, travel trailers and manufactured housing units.

More than 70,000 Florida households have been approved for $647 million in financial assistance for rent or basic home repairs, and more than 4,500 households have stayed in hotels temporarily under FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance program. Additionally, FEMA is placing eligible applicants in 313 apartment homes, under its Direct Lease program, and is also working to lease apartments, repair them and place hurricane survivors in them under its Multi-Family Lease and Repair program.

In addition to financial assistance for housing, 366 families have moved into travel trailers, manufactured housing units and apartments in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Lee, Sarasota and Volusia counties. More temporary housing is being prepared for occupancy.

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ODESSA, Fla. – The swimming pool in the backyard of Louis Minardi's home near Tampa may be distinctive to Florida: The custom-built pool is shaped like a six-shooter revolver, in a state made famous – sometimes infamous – by guns, gun politics and gun culture.

“Neighbors that have bought houses around here have all come by,” Minardi said. “They’re all, ‘Is this guy a whack job?’”

The story behind the revolver-shaped pool goes back roughly 40 years to an idea proposed by Minardi’s high school friend, Albert Jones III of Tampa, a contractor who said he was bored building more traditionally shaped pools.

Minardi was reluctant at first, but the idea resonated with him, given his lifelong relationship with guns. Now 67, Minardi said he grew up hunting with friends and remembers receiving his first firearm, a double-barrel shotgun, when he was in middle school but already mindful of gun safety.

“I was the shortest, littlest guy growing up, and bought a damn 12-gauge,” Minardi said. 

“The times were different then,” he said. “You're 12, and your mother drops you off a box of shells and a shotgun. But they trust it. They knew we knew what we were doing.”

Minardi said he opened a gunsmithing business with his brother after attending classes in 1976.

In the 1980s, Minardi and his wife, Raye, decided they wanted a pool. They lived on a lake that contained snakes and alligators, and Raye Minardi would have to watch over their children swimming from the dock with a shotgun, she said.

The family wanted a pool at least 40 feet long to allow for laps. After Louis Minardi contacted Jones, who owned A.H. Jones Pools Inc., the idea was born for the gun pool – all 55 feet of it.

“You’re going to think I’m crazy,” Jones said, according to Louis Minardi. Knowing Minardi’s background as a gunsmith, Jones showed up with plans modeled after a Ruger Blackhawk, a 1950s-era, Western-style revolver characterized by its long barrel and known for its durability and accuracy.

“You swim your lap down the barrel,” Louis Minardi said Jones told him. “It gets deeper on that end. You can flip over from it, and then you can swim back.”

Jones pleaded with him to let him build the gun pool, Louis Minardi said. He said he was tired of building kidney-shaped pools, a staple of Florida’s backyards. Minardi agreed – provided he stayed within his project’s budget.

Jones, who died in 2010, color-coordinated the perimeter pool tiles to accurately reflect the revolver’s brown handle and silver body. He detailed tiles on the bottom of the pool to distinguish the gun’s individual components, like the trigger and ammunition chamber. And he installed a jacuzzi in the hammer. 

The pool has been resurfaced over the years, but the shape remains. 

Louis Minardi said the pool is popular among family and friends, who have used it to teach their children how to swim. 

Louis Minardi stopped gunsmithing in the late ‘80s, due to increasing insurance rates for gun warranties. He became more involved with the family-owned taxi service and has run that business ever since. 

Still, gun education remains important to him. He said he’s taken his children and grandchildren hunting since they were very young. He said he did not allow them to use a gun unless they were closely supervised and had proper training. 

Gun education is at the center of Louis Minardi’s views on gun regulation. He said people should be allowed to own guns and carry guns in public. Florida lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would eliminate requirements for concealed carry permits, which currently include mandatory classroom training and proof of proficiency at a gun range. He also said having a gun doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t know how to properly use it.

“If you're qualified, mentally able to have one and protect yourself, I think you ought to have one if you want one, whether you keep it at home or you carry it with you,” Louis Minardi said. “But it's like everything. It's educating. It's educating the people about the guns, how they work.”

“Nowadays, most people don’t know anything about them,” he said.

Reflecting on his pool, he wasn’t aware that people on social media had noticed the unusual shape on overhead map imagery. And he said in all his years since being a gunsmith with a revolver-shaped pool, he never considered another curious coincidence: His family lives on Gunn Highway.

“I don’t know. I never thought about Gunn Highway,“ Louis Minardi said. “It just happens to be the road we live on.”

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MILTON, Fla. — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the first set of awards through the Broadband Opportunity Grant Program to expand access to broadband internet for Florida’s underserved communities. More than $144 million was awarded for 58 projects in 41 Florida counties for broadband internet expansion that will impact nearly 160,000 unserved residential, educational, business, and community locations.

“I am proud to be in Santa Rosa County to announce the first awards through Florida’s Broadband Opportunity Program,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Broadband internet access creates jobs and enhances educational opportunities for Floridians. I look forward to continued investments through this program to ensure Florida families have access to important resources no matter where they live.”

“Broadband internet service is essential for workforce development, education, and healthcare. Thanks to Governor DeSantis’ leadership, Florida has taken monumental steps to bring reliable, high-speed internet to all Floridians,” said Department of Economic Opportunity Deputy Secretary Ben Melnick. “There is no doubt that the projects awarded today will shape the future of broadband in Florida, and we look forward to supporting the Governor’s vision for a connected economy.”

Administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), the Broadband Opportunity Program funds the installation and deployment of broadband internet infrastructure in unserved Florida communities, providing valuable access to telehealth, economic, educational, and workforce development opportunities to offer a brighter future for all Floridians.
The following projects will be awarded through the Broadband Opportunity Program:

  • City of Bonifay ($4,984,073) — to provide fiber to the home (FTTH) services to 259 unserved premises in the rural area of Holmes County north of Bonifay with speeds up to 200 megabits per second (MBPS).
  • Towns of Bell, Cross City, and Horseshoe Beach ($3,506,234) — to complete the first of three phases designed to bring FTTH services to over 11,000 of its metered customers in Gilchrist and Dixie Counties at speeds up to 2 gigabits per second (GB).
  • City of Trenton ($2,666,244) — to provide FTTH services to 1,965 premises with symmetrical 1GB speeds to residents in Gilchrist County.
  • Cities of Palm Bay, West Melbourne, and Titusville; Mims and Unincorporated Brevard County ($573,788) — to provide FTTH services to 443 unserved and underserved locations within Brevard County with minimum download speeds of 300 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • City of Bonifay ($4,998,524) — to provide FTTH services to 266 unserved premises in the rural area of Holmes County in the vicinity of Bonifay with download and upload speeds of 200 MBPS.
  • City of Keystone Heights; Clay Hill, Middleburg, McRae and Virginia Village ($1,880,000) — to provide FTTH services to 1,917 premises, 42 businesses and 8 community anchor institutions in Clay County capable of symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 MBPS.
  • Putnam County ($1,192,410) — to add 60 miles of fiber optic cable to their existing network to provide FTTH services to 1,192 unserved locations within Putnam County with symmetrical download and upload speeds of 1GB.
  • City of Archer; Town of Micanopy ($4,672,393) — to add 132 miles of fiber optic cable to their existing network to provide FTTH services to 1,701 unserved locations within Alachua County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 MBPS.
  • City of Gainesville ($1,438,610) — to add 27 miles of fiber optic cable to their existing network to provide FTTH services to 193 unserved locations within Alachua County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 MBPS.
  • City of Ocala ($1,423,488) — to add 53 miles of fiber optic cable to their existing network to provide FTTH services to 1,022 unserved locations within Marion County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 MBPS.
  • Cities of Archer and Newberry ($4,822,632) — to add 78 miles of fiber optic cable to their existing network to provide FTTH services to 795 unserved locations within Alachua County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 MBPS.
  • Town of Cross City ($5,000,000) — to deploy fiber optic cable and infrastructure to provide fiber to the home services to 1,067 unserved locations within Dixie County at minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 MBPS.
  • Town of Westville ($1,072,596) — to provide FTTH services for unserved areas within Holmes County at download and upload speeds up to 200 MBPS.
  • City of Live Oak; Towns of Mayo and Day ($5,000,000) — to add 1,016 miles of fiber optic cable to their existing network to provide FTTH services to 25,679 unserved and underserved locations within Suwannee and Lafayette Counties with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 MBPS.
  • Cities of Live Oak and Jasper; Towns of White Spring and Jennings ($5,000,000) — to add 757 miles of fiber optic cable to their existing network to provide FTTH services to 28,493 unserved and underserved locations within Suwannee and Hamilton Counties with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 MBPS.
  • City of Bokeelia ($63,311) — to add 1.1 miles of fiber optic cable to provide FTTH services to 110 unserved locations within Lee County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 200 MBPS.
  • City of Moore Haven; Lakeport and Ortona ($2,935,296) — to add 160 miles of fiber optic cable to provide FTTH services to 4,651 unserved and underserved locations within Glades County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 1 GBPS.
  • Town of Cross City ($2,020,902) — to add 58.8 miles of fiber optic cable to provide FTTH services to 2,612 unserved and underserved locations within Dixie County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 1 GBPS.
  • City of Riverdale; Flagler Estates and Spuds ($1,830,000) — to add 118 miles of fiber optic cable to provide FTTH services to 1,603 unserved and underserved locations within St. Johns County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 1 GBPS.
  • City of LaBelle; Montura ($2,496,672) — to add 58.8 miles of fiber optic cable to provide FTTH services to 1,424 unserved and underserved locations within Hendry County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 1 GBPS.
  • Lehigh Acres ($3,988,532) — to add 126 miles of fiber optic cable to provide FTTH services to 1,998 underserved locations in eastern Lee County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 1 GBPS.
  • Cities of Botswick and Keystone Heights; Towns of Pomona Park, Interlocken, Melrose, and Welaka; Putnam Hall, George’s Lake, and Unincorporated Crescent City ($4,496,107) — to deploy fiber optic cable service to 2,986 unserved and underserved locations within Putnam County with minimum download speeds of 50 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • Lehigh Acres ($4,111,225) — to deploy fiber optic cable service to 2,640 unserved and underserved locations within Lee County with minimum download speeds of 50 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • Cities of Hampton, Lawtey, and Starke ($2,160,000) — to deploy fiber optic cable service to 2,111 unserved and underserved locations in Bradford County with minimum download speeds of 50 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • Columbia County ($2,646,030) — to deploy fiber optic cable service to 1,725 unserved and underserved locations in Columbia County with minimum download speeds of 50 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • City of Fort Pierce of ($1,429,400) — to deploy fiber optic cable service to 636 unserved and underserved locations in St Lucie County with minimum download speeds of 50 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • Cities of Clewiston, Moore Haven, and Pioneer; Montura, Palmdale, Port LaBelle and Venus ($5,000,000) — to deploy FTTH services to more than 4,231 unserved locations in Glades, Hendry, and Highlands Counties with symmetrical download and upload speeds of between 1GB and 2GB.
  • Town of Nocatee; Unincorporated Brownsville ($1,657,558) — to provide FTTH services to 1,313 unserved and underserved residential customers in DeSoto County with 50 MBPS download and 10 MBPS upload speeds.
  • Town of Ponce de Leon ($3,639,672) — to deploy FTTH services to 259 unserved homes, businesses, and farms in Holmes County with download and upload speeds up to 200 MBPS speeds.
  • Towns of Alford, Cottondale, Grand Ridge, and Greenwood; Two Egg ($2,040,743) — to provide FTTH services to 1,082 unserved and underserved residential customers and 29 businesses and anchor institutions in Jackson County with symmetrical download and upload speeds of 1GB.
  • City of Homestead; Redlands and Unincorporated Florida City ($1,510,481) — to provide FTTH services to 800 unserved and underserved residential customers and 10 businesses and anchor institutions in Miami-Dade County with symmetrical download and upload speeds of 1 Gbps or higher.
  • Clarksville and Unincorporated Northwest Calhoun County ($2,648,194) — to add 99.8 miles of FTTH via ethernet passive optical network to connect 716 underserved homes and businesses in Calhoun County with a standard starting speed of up to 300 MBPS download and 10 Mbps upload speeds.
  • Town of Altha; Willis, Chipola, Eufala, and Unincorporated Northeast Calhoun County ($3,375,471) — to add 142.1 miles of fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) via ethernet passive optical network to connect 1,210 unserved and underserved homes and businesses in Calhoun County with a standard starting speed of up to 300 MBPS download and 10 MBPS upload speeds.
  • City of Bunnell; Andalusia and Bimini ($527,659) — to add 20.2 miles of FTTP via ethernet passive optical network to connect 128 unserved and underserved homes and businesses in Flagler County with a standard starting speed of up to 300 MBPS download and 10 MBPS upload speeds.
  • Cities of Chattahoochee, Gretna, and Quincy; Town of Greensboro; Wetumpka ($1,844,095) — to add 281.7 miles of FTTP via ethernet passive optical network to connect 3,390 unserved and underserved homes and businesses in Gadsden County with a standard starting speed of up to 300 MBPS download and 10 MBPS upload speeds.
  • City of Pioneer; La Deca and Montura ($4,750,000) — to bring high speed internet service to eastern Hendry County through installation of fixed wireless service to 1,700 households at download speeds of 100 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • City of Punta Gorda; Port Charlotte ($2,397,636) — to provide FTTH services to 1,469 unserved or underserved residential customers and 195 businesses in Charlotte County with 1GBPS or higher symmetrical download and upload speeds.
  • North Brooksville, Spring Lake, Nobleton, South Brooksville, Hill ‘N Dale, Istachatta, North Weeki Wachee, and Unincorporated Hernando County ($4,701,477) — to add 258.5 miles of FTTP via ethernet passive optical network to connect 2,276 underserved homes and businesses in Hernando County with a standard starting speed of up to 300 MBPS download and 10 MBPS upload.
  • City of Graceville; Unincorporated Northeast Holmes County ($107,317) — to add 9.1 miles of FTTP via ethernet passive optical network to connect 97 unserved or underserved homes and businesses in Holmes County with a standard starting speed of up to 300 MBPS download and 10 MBPS upload.
  • City of Williston Town of Bronson; Morriston, Raleigh, Williston Highlands, Rosewood, and Sumner ($1,259,236) — to add 48.1 miles of FTTP via ethernet passive optical network to connect 405 unserved or underserved homes and businesses in Levy County with a standard starting speed of up to 300 MBPS download and 10 MBPS upload.
  • City of Bristol; Town of White Springs; Lake Mystic, Estiffanulga, and Unincorporated NE Liberty County ($836,705) — to add 47.8 miles of FTTP via ethernet passive optical network to connect 433 unserved or underserved homes and businesses in Liberty County with a standard starting speed of up to 300 MBPS download and 10 MBPS upload.
  • Deer Park and Bull Creek ($3,605,129) — to deploy 135.4 miles of new fiber optic cable and provide FTTH services to 1,024 unserved locations within Osceola County with download speeds of 300 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • Yeehaw Junction and Kenansville ($4,067,268) — to deploy 153.5 miles of new fiber optic cable and provide FTTH services to 791 unserved locations within Osceola County with download speeds of 300 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • Town of Jay; Fidelis, Berrydale, Cobbtown, and Unincorporated Santa Rosa County, ($2,363,937) — to deploy 103.7 miles of new fiber optic cable and provide FTTH services to 791 unserved locations within Santa Rosa County with download speeds of 300 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • Geneva and Black Hammock ($367,000) — to deploy 51.7 miles of new fiber optic cable and provide FTTH services to 734 unserved locations within Seminole County with download speeds of 300 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • City of Lake Helen; DeLeon Springs, Balm, Farmton, Osteen, and Boden ($811,000) — to deploy 124.1 miles of new fiber optic cable and provide FTTH services to 1,622 unserved locations within Volusia County with download speeds of 300 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • Cities of Fountain, Southport, and Youngstown ($866,700) — to deploy fiber optic cable internet service to 2,500 unserved households in Bay County with download and upload speeds of up to 1GBPS.
  • Unincorporated Okeechobee County ($2,059,550) — to deploy fiber optic cable internet service to 2,312 unserved households in Okeechobee County with download and upload speeds of up to 1GBPS.
  • Unincorporated Okeechobee County ($984,350) — to deploy fiber optic cable internet service to 1,290 unserved households in Okeechobee County with download and upload speeds of up to 1GBPS.
  • Orangetree and Golden Gate Estates ($777,407) — to deploy fiber optic cable internet service to 781 unserved households in Collier County with download and upload speeds of up to 1GBPS.
  • Cities of Sebring and Avon Park ($1,363,975) — to deploy fiber optic cable internet service to over 700 unserved households in Highlands County with download and upload speeds of up to 1GBPS.
  • Chaires ($236,300) — to deploy fiber optic cable internet service to over 119 unserved households in Leon County with download and upload speeds of up to 1GBPS.
  • Unincorporated Indian River County ($532,147) — to deploy fiber optic cable internet service to 674 unserved households in the unincorporated areas in Indian River County with download and upload speeds of up to 1GBPS.
  • City of Jasper; Town of Jennings ($2,734,261) — to deploy fiber optic cable internet service to 2,156 unserved households in Hamilton County download and upload speeds of up to 1GBPS.
  • Indiantown ($56,500) — to deploy fiber optic cable internet service to 50 unserved households in Martin County with download and upload speeds of up to 1GBPS.
  • Escambia County ($802,489) — to deploy 24.8 miles on new fiber optic cable and provide FTTH services to 206 unserved locations within Escambia County with minimum download speeds of 300 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • Town of Bell ($4,956,100) — to employ fixed wireless technology to provide high speed internet service to 1,350 unserved premises in Gilchrist County.
  • Polk County ($4,734,786) — to lease 8 miles of fiber optic cable to provide fixed wireless services to 22,169 unserved and underserved locations in and around the City of Lakeland, City of Winter Haven, City of Haines City and City of Lake Wales.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – After a jury couldn't agree on the death penalty in Florida's deadliest school shooting, Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee are proposing to make it easier to send condemned convicts to death row.

The changes – which would allow a jury to recommend the death penalty even when only eight of 12 jurors agree – align with plans endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Rep. Berny Jacques, R-Clearwater, introduced a bill in the House on Tuesday that would allow death sentences in cases when only eight jurors agree. Florida law currently requires a unanimous agreement, or a judge would sentence a defendant to life in prison without parole.

Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, introduced a version of the same bill in the Senate late Monday.

Florida’s Republican governor called for the change last year, after the jury that convicted Cruz in the school shooting split 9-3 in favor of the death penalty in October. 

“If you have a death penalty at all, that is a case – where you’re massacring those students with premeditation and utter disregard for humanity – that you deserve the death penalty,” DeSantis said after the sentencing.

Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, who represents the district where Nikolas Cruz, 19, fatally shot 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Broward County in 2018 said she was withholding support for the proposed changes until she can speak with victims' families. 

Broward County is home to more registered Democratic voters in Florida than any other. It is unclear if Democrats will object to the proposed changes.

“It's much larger than just one case,” Polsky said in an interview, adding she was unhappy with last year’s verdict in the Cruz case. “I need to really take a deep dive, which I haven't done. It's just something I need to really look into, understand and speak to my constituents.”

The chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Lakewood Ranch, cautioned that lawmakers were facing an “almost infinite number of topics that the state has to address every year,” adding that issues surrounding Florida’s death penalty have not been a priority until this year.

Gregory said it was important for lawmakers to reevaluate laws when the state sees challenges or changes in its system.

Jacques said in an interview he and Ingoglia worked for weeks on the legislation, and he did not coordinate with the governor. He said the governor’s public demands for a supermajority among jurors in death penalty cases was “music to our ears.”

Jacques said he preferred requiring only seven jurors to accept a death penalty recommendation. He said that was the system in place when he was a prosecutor. He said he and Ingoglia settled on a requirement for eight jurors as a compromise.

The sentence for Cruz reignited debate surrounding Florida’s capital punishment statute. Florida lawmakers meet for 60 days starting in March to consider thousands of new legislative proposals. 

Neither the House or Senate bill was designated a top priority for legislative leaders. But support from DeSantis – who wields considerable influence over the Capitol – and the overwhelming majority Republicans hold in the Legislature made the effort’s passage highly likely.

No lobbyists from any public-interest organizations immediately registered to try to influence the outcome of debate over the bills, according to lobbying records reviewed Tuesday.

Prior to 2016 in Florida, a defendant could be sentenced to death by a majority 7-5 vote. Additionally, judges, rather than the jury, could also rule that aggravating factors made a defendant eligible for the death penalty. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the state’s death penalty procedure was unconstitutional.

In response to the court’s ruling, lawmakers in 2017 adopted the unanimous sentencing law.

In a case in 2020, the Florida Supreme Court opened the door to imposing death sentences even when jurors do not agree unanimously. 

Jacques said he is confident the new procedure would hold up to legal challenges in state or federal courts. 

The bill also proposes a jury recommendation, rather than jury determination, of a death sentence. Jacques said a judge could overturn a jury's recommendation and impose his or her own sentence. 

“At the end of the day, the judge is the one who does sentencing,” he said. “This is an advisory recommendation that the jury provides.”

With his life spared, Cruz's whereabouts in Florida's prison system are unknown. The Department of Corrections has not released which prison Cruz has been sent to serve his life sentence. The state is permitted in rare cases to withhold such information when it is necessary to protect the safety of an inmate.

Family members of some victims of the school shooting have openly said they hope Cruz would be killed in prison by fellow inmates. 

Michael Schulman, whose son was a teacher who died in the school shooting, told Cruz in a courtroom in November that he hoped “that the prisoners and the inmates you associate with execute the judgment that this court can’t.”

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