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ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. (January 24, 2020) — Two Washington D.C.-based nonprofits, the Center for Voter Information and the Voter Participation Center, are sending potentially misleading mailings to Alachua County voters. 

Intended for residents who are not registered to vote, the groups’ mailings have previously confused voters, with notices sent based on incorrect or out-of-date information. 

Neither the Center for Voter Information nor the Voter Participation Center is affiliated with the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections. The Alachua County Supervisor of Elections does not provide the address information used to conduct the mailing.

Contact information and the link to unsubscribe from the Center for Voter Information and the Voter Participation Center is below:

Center for Voter Information

info@centerforvoterinformation.org

Unsubscribe: https://www.centerforvoterinformation.org/unsubscribe/

Voter Participation Center

202-659-9570

info@voterparticipation.org

Unsubscribe: https://www.voterparticipation.org/got-mail/

The Alachua County Supervisor of Elections is the official source for information related to voter registration and elections in Alachua County.

Voters are encouraged to make sure their voter records are updated. This can be done at https://www.votealachua.com/My-Registration-Status or by calling 352-374-5252.

There are numerous ways for prospective voters to register to vote:

  • Online: Florida residents can register to vote online. The online voter registration portal — found at RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov — is a safe and secure option for voter registration.
  • In person: The Alachua County Supervisor of Elections’ office, located in Gainesville at 515 N. Main St., Suite 300, is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Registrations can also be completed and turned in at any Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles office or Alachua County Library District branch. 
  • By mail: Forms are available online at VoteAlachua.com.

Voters who need to update their signatures need to fill out new voter registration applications.

For more information, contact the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections at 352-374-5252.

 

Fax: 352-374-5264

VoteAlachua.com

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ALACHUA — The Alachua City Commission began its first meeting of the year on Jan. 13 on a high note. There were two special presentations, both involving Finance & Administrative Services Director Robert Bonetti. For the ninth consecutive year, the City of Alachua Finance & Administrative Services Department has been awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. The awards comes from the Government Finance Officers Association and is the highest form of recognition in government accounting and financial reporting. Alachua City Manager Adam Boukari presented the certificate to Bonetti. Bonetti then delivered the quarterly fiscal report on the city’s budget through the month of November 2019.

In other business, the Commission approved an ordinance for the final plat to revise a single lot within the existing subdivision of Pilot Forest. The property is located at 15703 NW 118th Place, at the southwest corner of the intersection of NW 118th Place and NW 157th Avenue. Currently the property has two existing buildings, a single-family dwelling and a detached accessory structure.

The proposed replat does not create additional lots, but is intended to modify the building setbacks since the existing residence is encroaching on the setbacks that were created by the approval of the Pilot Forest subdivision plat. The new setbacks would conform to current standards set forth in the City of Alachua Land Development Regulations. The Alachua Planning and Zoning Board had approved the request on Nov. 12, 2019 and forwarded it to the Commission for approval. Action by the commission was delayed pending the applicant obtaining all needed signatures for the plat since the mortgage had been sold to another financial institution after the Planning and Zoning Board hearing.

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Photo by DARLENE BOND special to Alachua County Today

HIGH SPRINGS — At 7:50 p.m. on Jan. 8, 2020 the High Springs Fire Department (HSFD) received a call about a house fire off of Poe Springs Road. Upon arrival, the firefighters found the inside of the house fully engulfed. It was an older house built in the 1920s and heavy smoke was pouring from the structure. The first concern was whether anyone was inside.

The most dangerous part of a firefighter’s job is if they have to enter a burning, smoke-filled building to try and find a victim. Visibility is poor, the fire can erupt in sudden bursts and the structure itself can be weakened to the point of collapse. As other units from Newberry (NFD) and the Alachua County Fire Department arrived to assist, the HSPD prepared to enter to search for victims. However, the owners of the house arrived and informed the firefighters that the house was unoccupied and was being used for storage.

The HSFD then went to what they refer to as defensive mode, which avoids a dangerous entry and concentrates on containing the fire and limiting structural damage. The items stored in the house added fuel to the fire and it took almost two hours to totally extinguish the flames, followed by a two-to-three-hour search to make sure there were no smoldering hot spots that could rekindle the blaze. While no one was injured and the structure was stable, the damage to the interior was extensive.

The HFSD handles about 66 fire calls a year, with house fires being the least predictable and the most dangerous if firefighters have to try and rescue trapped victims. According to HSFD Communications Director Kevin Mangan, while damaging house fires have declined nationwide due to better smoke detectors, they have also become more dangerous for both the residents and firefighters. Older buildings with solid wood construction or brick walls tend to burn slower than modern buildings that have more use of plastics both in the construction of the house and the furniture and appliances inside. “Forty years ago, the average was 15 minutes escape time from a burning house. Now it is less than five minutes and plastic items put off more toxic heavy smoke,” Mangan stated.

The fire department recommends that all residents have an escape route planned for the family in advance and practice it so they can get out, if necessary, in a short period of time.

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NEWBERRY — The Newberry City Commission voted unanimously to accept the resolution designating Newberry as a Second Amendment Sanctuary City. The resolution now affirms the rights guaranteed by the Constitution’s Second Amendment involving gun laws.

Commissioners discussed this issue at the Dec. 9 meeting and directed staff to prepare a resolution affirming the constitutional Second Amendment rights of Newberry’s citizens.

In Florida, 15 out of 67 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions. Many jurisdictions, both city and county, across the United States have begun to adopt legislation affirming their belief in the rights afforded by the Second Amendment and declaring restrictive gun control laws adopted by another legislative body as unconstitutional.

This resolution serves as a statement assuring residents that the City of Newberry will not use resources to enforce gun control measures violating the Second Amendment.

Resolution 2020-3 lists several cases where challenges to this and other amendments to the Constitution were not upheld because of the clarity of the Constitution’s intent.

With this action, the City affirms their commitment to the Constitution and all of its parts. “With the Second Amendment particularly under attack today, each and every single one of us has a constitutional obligation to stand up against those attacks,” said Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe.

With this action, Newberry joins other places in North Central Florida as Second Amendment sanctuary areas.

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High Springs City Hall meeting room was overflowing as people voiced their opinions on a pending water extraction permit renewal.

HIGH SPRINGS — There is a battle being waged over the future of river resources, renewal of permits and the fate of a proposed water plant by Nestle.

For the past 20 years, the Seven Springs Bottling Plant has held a permit to withdraw water from Ginnie Springs. The permit allowed them to withdraw up to 1.152 million gallons a day from the spring, but as a smaller local plant, their average withdrawal has been a quarter of that amount, peaking at under 270,000 gallons per day for the past four years.

The water and environmental science models of 20 years ago did not foresee the growth of population and agricultural groups in the area and so water usage has become a much more important issue, especially dealing with the commercialization of a resource that is free to all Floridians.

Because of this, permits allowing large use are now being limited to five years and the number of first-time permits has become much more limited. Since the Seven Springs plant had an existing permit, they are able to reapply for a one-time fee of $115.

Water Management District Issues Permits

In January 2019, Nestle Corporation purchased the bottling plant from Seven Springs and began upgrading the facilities in expectation of opening a plant that could produce up to the limit of the permit at 1.152 million gallons a day. To date, they say they have spent $41 million on upgrades and infrastructure. Nestle will also pay an undisclosed amount to Seven Springs for the water itself.

Seven Springs will actually own the permit and Nestle will pay them for the usage. However, they can’t simply start drawing water. There are numerous rules and environmental regulations that have to be met regarding impacts on the health of the river and long-term effects.

The Suwanee River Water Management District (SRWMD) has the authority to make a determination on the permit approval and how much water Nestle can pull from the river. While that sounds definitive, the SRWMD scientist and environmental experts do not make the final decision. They send their recommendation to a six-member Board of Governors who determine whether to grant the permit and for how much water use. Currently the board is comprised of business leaders including three large farmers, a cattle company owner, pawn broker and a construction company president and cattle ranch owner. Only Virginia Johns has experience and education with water management, but that is largely dealing with construction stormwater management.

Majority of Permits for Large-Scale Ag and Livestock Use

The Santa Fe River is currently listed in recovery, both due to lower water levels and more directly due to pollution. There are over 60 springs that discharge into the 75-mile-long Santa Fe and Suwanee river system. Data has shown the that spring water flow rates have dropped continually since the 1930s, and increased agricultural and commercial use, combined with a rapidly increasing population has put a strain on the river system and aquifer. The aquifer provides most of the drinking water for Florida and southern Georgia. If the aquifer level falls too much, sea water can seep in, making the water undrinkable. South Florida has already experienced some of this effect.

While the amount of water requested by Nestle seems significant, the majority of the permits are granted for large-scale agricultural and livestock use. Over 90 percent of the water drawn from the rivers in the SRWMD area is used for agriculture. The large-scale farms also put nitrates into the groundwater, which causes algae and affects water-based wildlife. This is a primary reason that the river is considered endangered.

While the Board of Governors and SRWMD have authority over the permit, local governments have voiced their opinions. Alachua County passed a resolution requesting limiting the withdraw by Nestle to match previous use—not the full amount allowed by the permit.

High Springs Prepares Two Resolutions

On Jan 9, 2020, the High Springs City Commission addressed the issue. While the City has no jurisdiction in the final decision, they felt that it was their responsibility to hold an open meeting to hear the opinions of residents. It turned out to be the most highly attended meeting the Commission has had. So many people showed up that High Springs Police and Fire staff had to limit the number of people in the commission chamber, while the exterior hall area and the steps were filled with people wanting a chance to voice their opinions.

The Commission had prepared two resolutions for consideration. One resolution was to voice their opinion that the permit should not be renewed and the second was an alternative that Nestle should be limited to the previous amount that Seven Springs pumped out and not the maximum 1.152 million gallons per day allowed by the permit.

Opponents Cite Strained River System and Pollution

The meeting lasted more than two hours with numerous speakers on both sides of the debate. Data, both in support and opposition to the proposed Nestle plant, was presented along with residents’ personal opinions. Many of the opponents of the plant cite the cumulative effect of granting more permits to a river system that is already feeling the strains of overuse and pollution. They cited that the 1.52 million gallons pulled each day would amount to 2.1 billion gallons over five years.

They expressed concerns about the water plant's effect on the river's health, wildlife and how that would affect eco-tourism, which is important to the local economy. They also expressed concerns on a fourfold increase in traffic on Poe Springs Road. There were also concerns about additional environmental pollution by creating 2 billion more plastic bottles per year. There are already over 50 billion bottles discarded per year. Other speakers cited the commercialization and profit from an outside corporation for a resource that was free to all Floridians.

Proponents Cite Water Resource Management and Jobs

Proponents of the plant stressed that Nestle has been environmentally conscious about their commercial water plants and has been one of the leaders in water resource management. They said that it is not in Nestle's interest to drain the water or pollute it since that would kill their very product they are producing. Several speakers pointed to the fact that even at the maximum draw of 1.152 million a day, it adds up to less than one-half of one-percent of the water drawn from the river and one one-hundredth of the amount produced by the river. They also cited that most of the damage to the river comes from agriculture and development, both of which have major money and legal teams that locals would have trouble litigating against. They said that Nestle would help fight this since it would again affect their operations by damaging the river and aquifer. They also stated that they bring jobs and taxes into the local economy.

City Declines to Approve Resolutions, Sends Letter

In the end, the High Springs City Commission did not approve either resolution but does plan to send a “strongly worded” letter to the SRWMD suggesting that they revise the permit to limit water withdrawal to the previously used amount. While they have no jurisdiction in the decision, the Commission sought the middle ground acknowledging the arguments from both sides.

As of Jan. 14, the SRWMD had received the last of the required Requested Additional Information (RAI) forms from Nestle and Seven Springs and now has 90 days to review it and forward their decision to the Governing Board.

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Special to Alachua County Today

GAINESVILLE — Book lovers and avid readers will experience page turning adventures when the Sunshine State Book Festival, debuts Jan. 24 – 26, 2020, further enriching the cultural landscape of North Central Florida.

Over the decades, Gainesville has transitioned from a small, sleepy little college town into a thriving and vibrant center of international higher education and a medical mecca with three major medical complexes.

North Central Florida residents enjoy a smorgasbord of creative offerings in the area. There are multiple stages for the performing arts, including the 1,700-seat UF Phillips Center, three visual fine-arts festivals, a variety of musical groups and ensembles in an array of musical styles, a professional dance troupe, and choral groups.

The cultural void being filled, is a literary festival to showcase and spotlight the many published authors living and writing among us as our family, neighbors, friends and associates. With an estimated 200 published authors living in our midst; a book festival is long overdue and greatly anticipated by readers and writers. The festival offers three days of free literary enrichment for readers of all genres and all ages.

Colorful characters scheme, connive and frolic about the imaginations of writers eager to be written into captivating, page-turning adventures for reading enjoyment. Books are the “magic carpets” that transport readers to another time, another place and another situation without readers leaving the comfort of their lazy-chair.

Alachua resident, Jess Elliott, has authored two collections of ghost stories, “Ghost Lite” and “Tales from Kensington” and a humorous novel, “Monkey Mind” set in Alachua. Two more novels are slated for release soon.

A kick-off public reception is Friday afternoon Jan. 24 at the Matheson Historical Museum on East University Avenue, from 5 – 7 p.m. This is an opportunity to mix and mingle with authors, guests and dignitaries, notables and VIPs.

The centerpiece of the festival will be Saturday, Jan. 25 when the Santa Fe College Fine Arts Hall hosts and showcases 75 area authors from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Readers have an opportunity to visit with authors they know and read. They will also discover authors new to them. Authors are happy to sign copies of books you add to your personal library.

Notable area authors give hourly presentations that include: Gainesville’s literary heritage, the University of Florida sports heroes and history, Florida’s natural beauty. Reading fans of Ernest Hemingway will want to hear the talk by special festival guest, author and artist Hilary Hemingway, “Remembering Uncle Ernest.” Following each literary presentation, a drawing will be held for prizes, and free signed books by participating authors.

Little readers will be attracted to the dedicated Children’s Corner for oral storytelling and activities. They will also be drawn to the several children’s authors at the festival.

The Literary Heritage Tour, Sunday, Jan. 26, is a special feature of the festival. Re-enactors will inform and entertain about the imprint and importance poet, Robert Frost at the Thomas Center; naturalist William Bartram at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park; and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings at the Cross- Creek State Park; had on our literary landscape.

Festival director Mallory O’Connor says, “A major literary event is long overdue and eagerly anticipated. It will complement the other cultural events in our area.”

Elliott, vice-president of Writers Alliance of Gainesville, a 501(C)(3) non-profit, says, “The Sunshine State Book Festival puts deserving area authors on the literary map.”

For complete festival information visit: http://www.sunshinestatebookfestival.org/

Schedule of festival activities

Friday, January 24, 2020

Kick-Off Public reception at the Matheson History Museum –from 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm – welcomes authors, dignitaries, guests, readers, all welcome

 

Saturday, January 25, 2020

 Santa Fe College – Fine Arts Hall – 10:00 am to 5:00 pm –Showcasing 75 area authors and

Hourly presentations:

11:00 am – Hilary Hemingway – ‘Remembering Uncle Ernest’

12:00 pm – Kevin McCarthy – Retired UF ProfessorGainesville’s Literary Heritage

1:00 p – Joe Haldeman, Nebula Award winner – An Interview: Books, Movies and War with

2:00 pm – Steve Noll, UF Professor – Florida Sports History: it’s More than just Fun and Games

3:00 pm – John Dunn – Drying Up: The Fresh Water Crisis in Florida

4:00 pm – Lola Haskins, Heeding Florida’s Past – Natural Beauty That Survived It Can Change Our Future

Children’s Corner – 10:00 am to 5:00 pm – a dedicated area for oral storytelling and children’s activities

SFC – Food Court open from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

 

Sunday, January 26, 2020

 Literary Heritage Tour – hear from re-enactors of:

10:00 – 10:45 a.m. - Robert Frost – Thomas Center

Lunch Break

1:30 – 2:30 p.m. – William Bartram – Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

3:15 – 4:15 p.m. – Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings – Cross Creek State Park

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NEWBERRY — The City of Newberry’s utility services were recently featured in “Relay” magazine’s special winter 2019 issue, which recognized the best utility service providers in the state. Relay is a Florida electric industry trade journal published by the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA). The full-page article is titled, “Newberry: Where Value and Service Meet.”

Newberry is one of five cities featured in the special section titled “Small Utility: Big Community Commitment.”

Ft. Pierce, the Keys, New Smyrna Beach and Homestead were the other four utilities also featured. However, Newberry is the smallest of those utilities with a customer base of 2,100 and a team of only 10 employees.

One of the ways Newberry has kept their utility prices low is by not owning their own electricity plant. Instead, the City purchases power through a joint ownership in the FMEA, as well as through an interest in the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant.

In addition, City Commissioners have authorized the installation of an automatic metering infrastructure (AMI) system to improve reading accuracy and streamline the meter reading process. In the “Relay” article, City of Newberry Electric Utility Customer Service Supervisor Tammy Snyder said, “The City recently signed a contract to purchase more than 10 percent of their load from solar power, so that all city facilities will be powered by renewable energy.”

Another way in which Newberry keeps costs low is by cross-training employees from different departments to step in when emergencies arise. A water leak may bring in employees from three different departments to rectify the issue in the most efficient manner.

Another feature that helps build strong brand loyalty is that all decisions are made with oversight by the public. Although staff members review an issue thoroughly before it is brought before the City Commission for decisions, public hearings and open discussions give citizens the ability to weigh in prior to a vote by commissioners.

According to Snyder, the fact that most employees live in the city in which they work helps to keep them in touch with the public and to look out for the best interests of the citizens.

“I am excited to share with you that Newberry was recently featured in “Relay” magazine for our outstanding value and customer service,” said City Manager Mike New. “We were recognized in this special issue along with electric industry giants like Tallahassee (voted number one utility in the nation a few years ago), Lakeland Electric and Orlando Utilities Commission. Newberry is the sole utility identified in the publication that serves less than 20,000 customers, we serve 2,000ish,” he said.

Interested person may access the web version of Relay magazine for further information.

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