HIGH SPRINGS ‒ One member of the High Springs City Commission pushed for a staff hiring freeze at the Feb. 8, 2024 High Springs City Commission. Commissioner Andrew Miller voiced his concern that the City should not hire any more staff until a new city manager was on board.

Commissioner Tristan Grunder agreed in part, saying he didn’t see the need for a formal hiring freeze, but instead, he recommended that the City hire only critical staff, if needed, as some positions require full staffing in order to meet required regulatory demands. Positions noted for consideration might be fire personnel and police officers.

City Clerk Angela Stone reported that hiring a new fire chief was already underway. Commissioners suggested that since the hiring process was already in place, the City should move forward with it.

Interim Fire Chief Mike Vogel said he would be available to fill that position until someone new was hired and in place. He also said that a selling point for a new city manager might be that he/she would be able to hire their own team to fill vacant positions.

Miller moved forward with a motion to approve a staff hiring freeze, but the motion died for lack of a second. Instead, Commissioners agreed that they would ask the city manager to refrain from hiring unless a critical position had to be filled.

SFHS Environmental Club

Santa Fe High School Environmental Club/Marine Biology students received a $1,500 grant from former City Commissioner Ross Ambrose, when he was on the Commission, to help fund a trip to Cedar Key, Seahorse-Key Marine laboratory. The only requirement was that the students were to come back to the City Commission and share what they had learned from the trip. Three students and Science Instructor Maureen Shankman were on-hand to talk about their experience and to also thank the Commission for the donation.

The group has recently partnered with the High Springs Youth Advisory Council to participate in several springs clean-up activities.

Other City Business

In other City business, the Commission unanimously approved a proclamation declaring February as Black History month in High Springs.

In response to a citizen’s complaint about the City’s waste hauling rates, the Commission directed the city attorney to contact the City’s contracted waste hauler, Waste Pro, about businesses having private contracts with the waste hauler. The individual complained that the City’s waste hauling prices increased by 60 percent from $188 to $302 per week for a six cubic yard pickup once a week. The business owner said he had the same size and pickup times in Alachua with the same waste company and it was 2 ½ times less for the same size and service.

Another complaint was lodged that the electric vehicle (EV) station had cars parked in the designated EV parking area that were not using the EV facilities and questioned if those drivers could be ticketed. Police Chief Antoine Sheppard said he was not legally allowed to ticket for that purpose.

The same individual also requested the City put in a turn lane on U.S. Highway 441 in front of the Pink Flamingo restaurant and a crossing lane on U.S. Highway 441 in front of Winn Dixie. She was told that in both instances, that the turn lane and the crossing lane are under the jurisdiction of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) as it is responsible for state highways.

In response to a request for the City to install other EV parking areas in the Winn Dixie parking lot, she was told that the City had no authority over business parking lots, but would see if they could facilitate conversation between the store and Duke Energy. Duke earlier expressed an interest in installing five EV parking facilities in downtown High Springs.

In other business, Sheppard said he had two officers on duty over the weekend and they had written 100 tickets during that time period.

Giving an update on the City’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) initiative, Public Works Director Thomas Henry said the project was 150 smart meters away from completion.

Stone updated the Commission on the status of a joint meeting between Alachua County and the City. The Commission agreed to the June 6 date that Alachua County requested.

Stone also reported that two individuals, Wayne Bloodsworth, Jr. and Chad Howell, had qualified for the upcoming March 26 election to fill City Commission Seat #2 The last day to register to vote for this election or to update voter information to vote in this municipal election is Feb. 26.

The next City Commission meeting is scheduled for Feb. 22.

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