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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Aug. 9 at 4 p.m., a line of parents and children formed outside the doors of the High Springs Civic Center as the community came together to help students start the school year off right. For financially struggling families outfitting their children for the school year with clothes, backpacks and school supplies can be an added burden on an already stretched budget.

The need became even more dire during the pandemic when many families lost jobs and their source of income with it, forcing them to make tough choices between necessities like rent, food and utilities over school clothes, new backpacks and supplies and even haircuts. Poetic Cuts barbershop owner Arthur Miller decided to do something about it.

Miller's roots are deep in the community and he believes in helping those in need. He opened his barbershop in June 2020 in the same location as Otto Duncan, the first African American licensed barber in the area. Miller’s parents ministered at a church in High Springs until moving to Gainesville to open the Spirit of Excellence church and Miller holds services in High Springs at the old school house /history museum.

As Miller was growing up, there was a yearly program run by the owner of Lee's Preschool. Several churches held similar events to help provide school supplies to students. Miller knew he wanted to do something similar for the community, especially after the hardship of the pandemic, but he also knew that the project would require more people and coordination than he could do alone.

Miller approached High Springs Chamber of Commerce President Sharon Decker about working together. “We want the Chamber to support the community we live in just like they support our local businesses, and we are now placing a larger effort in doing events to help the community, especially those in need,” Decker said. “We were able to get a grant from Wal-Mart to buy supplies and they donated materials that were being replaced with newer items. We also collected donations of clothes to give the kids new outfits.”

Miller enlisted the help of his family and church members to staff the event and even served up hot dogs and burgers. He also recruited the help of three fellow barbers to offer free haircuts for the students. With an eye on the pandemic, Miller was able to procure COVID rapid testing on site. Gainesville’s PCS CEO LaToya Dawson provided a mobile lab offering COVID-19 testing with results in 10 minutes.

The event was advertised throughout the community and over 300 families showed up to get school supplies, clothes, lunch and haircuts. The line moved steadily in, as they limited the number of people to avoid overcrowding. A long line formed for the haircuts, and outside the building, PCS set up a tent to do rapid COVID testing where families could drive up and park and 10 minutes later have the results.

The High Springs chamber is planning another event giveaway on Aug. 21 at the Farmers Pavilion near the chamber offices. Decker says the chamber is working with Wal-Mart for a giveaway of household items and clothing. “This is only for charity to help those in need, not resale, so all items are coded to identify them as donations and can’t be resold or returned to the store for cash,” said Decker. The event starts at 10 a.m. Additional information is available by calling the chamber office at 386-454-3120 or by email at chamber@highsprings.com.

“It's all about working together to help the community we live in,” Decker said.

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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ The Alachua City Commission honored two Turkey Creek residents for saving a life at the Turkey Creek Golf Course. The Aug. 9 Commission kicked off with the recognition of Nancy L. Baumann and Georgina Kassebaum, avid golfers and volunteers at the golf club’s pro shop.

The two women were preparing to leave the pro shop to play golf when they began talking to a man who said that while he loved to play golf, his health made it hard to walk the course tracking the ball after each swing. The women offered to let him come with them and help him out. Suddenly, on the fourth hole, the man collapsed in full cardiac arrest.

Baumann had learned CPR as a Girl Scout but never expected to use it. But that day on the golf course, that knowledge was a lifesaver. As Baumann applied CPR to keep the victim's heart pumping, Kassbaum called 911 and helped direct medics and an ambulance from the Hague Fire Station to their location.

Lt. Ron Lewis of the fire station spoke about their efforts. “In many cases, help arrives too late to help major cardiac victims. Without the heart pumping blood and oxygen to the brain, a victim begins to suffer oxygen depredation to the brain within four minutes and by eight minutes they will be brain dead,” said Lewis. “Without these women's efforts to apply CPR and direct us to the location, this man would not have survived.”

Lewis added that efforts of bystanders offer rescue crews an increased chance of saving victims in critical time. “We wish to acknowledge those bystanders that help us save lives, so I contacted Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper.”

Coerper presented both women with a certificate for their heroic efforts as they were joined at the podium by the crews of Alachua Fire Station 21 and Hague Fire Station 25, as well as the entire commission.

In other city business, Lisa Kanarek, J.D., Outreach and Education Coordinator for Elder Options, was on hand to offer updates on the organization’s activities. Elder Options is the state-designated area agency on aging, and the Aging & Disability Resource Center. Kanarek presented the commission with an outline of services offered by the organization, especially regarding COVID-19 and vaccination efforts.

She spoke of the detrimental effect that misinformation about the vaccine has on the community and the huge surge of cases among unvaccinated people. “While our main focus is on the elderly and most vulnerable population, COVID infections, especially the Delta variant among the general population, affects everyone around them,” said Kanarek. “We want to help the entire community so our services are not just focused on the elderly, but helping anyone who wants it, to get vaccines.”

Elder Options offers information on where to get tested or receive the vaccine and is working with Hitchcock’s Grocery stores to provide vaccines in rural areas. The organization offers rides to vaccine locations for those without transportation and can even arrange for shots to be given at a person’s residence if they are housebound.

“The goal is to get as many people safely vaccinated as possible regardless of age for the safety of all those around them,” Kanarek said. Elder Options can be reached at 1-800-262-224.

The City Commission has approved increasing water and wastewater rates in the upcoming 2021-22 fiscal year. The City’s public services director, Rodolfo Valladares, said that the City establishes water, wastewater and reclaimed water rates to generate revenue sufficient to meet its operating expenses.

The water, wastewater, and reclaimed water rates were last modified in 2020 for the Fiscal Year 2021 budget process. Rates are evaluated annually during the budget process. Valladares said that the City is proposing a three percent increase to water rates, and two percent increase to the wastewater and reclaimed water rate. The Commission approved the increases Monday night on first reading and the matter will be heard about on second final reading at the Aug. 23 meeting.

The Commission also approved two financial measures for the City of Alachua Police Department (APD). The Commission approved an agreement between the School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) and City of Alachua to continue School Resource Officer Program (SROP) with the City of Alachua for the four schools within the City’s jurisdiction.

The agreement includes Santa Fe High School, Mebane Middle School, Alachua Elementary School and Irby Elementary School and five School Resource Officers. Each elementary school and the middle school will have one officer, with Santa Fe High School having two officers. The share of funding for Alachua schools remains level from the previous fiscal year at $300,000, with payments made in 10 monthly installments.

The other law enforcement issue was acceptance of $11,070 in federal funding assistance through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program. The JAG Program provides agencies with the flexibility to prioritize and support a broad range of activities to prevent and control crime based on their own local needs and conditions. JAG funds may be used for state and local initiatives, technical assistance, training, personnel, equipment, supplies, contractual support and information systems for criminal justice. APD will use the money for upgrading equipment with the department.

The Commission also approved renewing the insurance package with the Florida Municipal Insurance Trust (FMIT) at the base premium of $486,093, the FMIT Group Health Insurance plan at the base premium of $1,323,511, the Dental, Vision, and Life group plans at a combined base premium of $76,968, the storage tank liability, law enforcement death and disability policies, which now includes an “at work” coverage for all City employees at total extra cost of only $190 per year.

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ALACHUA COUNTY, FL – COVID-19 testing is by appointment only for those who are experiencing symptoms (fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), and are available at the Alachua County Health Department’s East Gainesville location (224 S.E. 24th Street, Gainesville) from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., all week, including Saturday and Sunday. 
 
COVID-19 vaccinations are available on a walk-in basis Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. COVID-19 vaccination appointments are available by calling 352-334-7910.
 
“Getting a free COVID-19 vaccination prevents expensive and painful hospitalizations,” stated Paul Myers, Administrator of the Alachua County Health Department. “Getting vaccinated protects yourself, family, friends, and those you come into contact with.”
 
Due to high demand, COVID-19 testing at the Alachua County Health Department is by appointment only and exclusively for those who are ill. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and want to be tested, please call 352-334-8810 to make an appointment.
 
If you need a COVID-19 test for travel purposes, please call the Alachua County Health Department’s Foreign Travel appointment line at 352-334-7910.
 
For more information, visit http://www.alachua.floridahealth.gov/.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – College students returning to the area will notice changes in traffic patterns made by the City of Gainesville and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). The recent changes to West University Avenue and to roadways near the University of Florida are part of the City’s Vision Zero action strategy to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries from traffic accidents.

During the summer, the City converted Northwest 14th Street and Northwest 15th Street from two-way to one-way. The parallel streets function as a “one-way pair,” with traffic flowing in opposite directions. Specifically, traffic on Northwest 14th Street flows southbound between Northwest 5th Avenue and University Avenue, while motorists on Northwest 15th Street drive northbound only between the same cross streets.

“More than 850 pedestrians cross University Avenue at Northwest 15th street during the midday peak hour,” said City Planner Scott Wright. “By limiting the direction of traffic flow, there are fewer places where pedestrians and motorists can cross paths. That’s safer for everyone.” 

On-street parking remains along both streets of the one-way pair. New are flexible yellow posts installed to separate bicyclists from motorists.

“Everyone has the right to move about safely, and system designers and policymakers share this responsibility,” said Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe.

In May, FDOT reduced the speed limit on West University Avenue to 25 mph between the area just east of Northwest 21st Terrace and Northwest 13th Street. The state also has installed temporary speed tables at four locations along West University Avenue where future crosswalks are planned. The speed tables are intended for speeds of 25 mph or slower.

“Temporary speed tables are designed to encourage reduced traffic speeds and enhance pedestrian safety along the roadway,” said Greg Evans, FDOT District 2 secretary. “We believe our continuing efforts in this corridor will lead to safer roadways for all residents and visitors to Gainesville,” he said.

Later this year, FDOT expects to install new traffic lights where West University Avenue intersects with Northwest 16th Street and with Northwest 19th Street. The City also plans to convert nearby Northwest 17th and Northwest 18th streets into a one-way pair.

For more information, contact City of Gainesville Public Information Officer Rossana Passaniti at 352-393-7842 or passanitir1@cityofgainesville.org.

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NEWBERRY – Newberry City Commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance on first reading to adopt a Property Rights Element into the City’s Comprehensive Plan as required by a new state law that officially became effective July 1, 2021.

Based on the new state statute, the City was advised to immediately begin the large scale Comprehensive Plan amendment process to adopt a Property Rights Element under the state’s Expedited Review provision.

Due to this new statute, all other plan amendment applications that have not already been heard by the Planning and Zoning Board prior to July 1, as well as associated rezoning applications that are contingent upon approval of such plan amendments, are temporarily on hold.

Now that first reading of this ordinance has been approved by the City Commission, the ordinance will be immediately transmitted to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) for expedited state review.

Newberry planner Wendy Kinser-Maxwell provided a schedule of anticipated dates in the review and approval process. “DEO and other state agencies have a 30-day period for review,” Kinser-Maxwell said. Depending upon the state’s response date, the Commission may hear this ordinance on second reading and adoption at either their Sept. 9 or Sept. 27 meeting. Following enactment, plan amendment applications may proceed as usual.

County Solid Waste Services

Commissioners also approved an ordinance on first reading authorizing the continued levying of a Municipal Services Benefit Unit (MSBU) to provide solid waste services to the City. Director of Finance and Administration Dallas Lee said the rate for residential customers in fiscal year 2021-22 would remain the same as this year, which is $20.47.

The MSBU covers the costs included in the County’s landfill tipping fee for the County’s hazardous waste program, waste alternatives office and partial costs of the five county-wide rural collection centers, plus administration and billing costs associated with the assessment. This fee is collected along with other property taxes once a year by Alachua County.

Also discussed was the status of the County placing another rural collection center in the Newberry area. City Manager Mike New said the location being considered is not owned by the City. He said the City and County will be drawing up a Memorandum of Understanding and will also need to negotiate the acquisition of the land, which he hopes to have accomplished by the end of 2021. Another joint meeting will take place later in the week.

Development Fee Refunds Due

Planning and Economic Development Director Bryan Thomas presented information about three companies that had started businesses in Newberry that he believes qualify for a refund of commercial development fees, which were established by the Commission in 2019 to stimulate economic development in Newberry.

Resolution 2020-29 provided up to a maximum of $30,000 per project for refunds of development fees. The three primary criteria for qualification are the architectural design style, new job creation and new capital investment in the City.

Stonehouse Grill, a newly constructed restaurant in the Florida Vernacular style in the commercial plaza in Country Way at Newberry Town Center created approximately 45 full and part-time jobs and the capital investment in the project exceeds $2 million. The Stonehouse Grill project paid a total of $60,039 in development fees. Thomas said the maximum allowable refund would be $30,000.

Alpha Omega Training and Compliance (A.O.T.C.) facility is a newly-constructed industrial structure located in the Newberry Commerce Park. After review, City staff found that A.O.T.C. met two of the three criteria.

Although the A.O.T.C. facility is not designed in the Florida Vernacular style, they created approximately 13 full and part-time jobs. The capital investment in the project is approximately $1 million and they paid a total of $9,174 in development fees. “The maximum allowable refund would be $9,174,” Thomas said.

The Town Center Storage facility is a newly constructed office-retail center with several self- storage structures located at the southwest corner of State Road 45 and Southwest 15th Avenue. Town Center Storage also meets two of the three criteria. This business created seven full and part-time jobs and made a capital investment in the project of approximately $1.2 million.

The Town Center Storage project paid a total of $10,539 in development fees. Thomas reports that the maximum allowable refund would be $10,270.

Program Funds available for refunds is $50,000 and the total of all three applicant reimbursements is $49,444. The Commission approved all three applications.

Following approval of the commercial development fees, Thomas asked Commissioners to approve Resolution 2021-18 to extend the same program into fiscal year 2021-22. Commissioners unanimously approved the resolution with the stipulation that applicants must apply within two years after receiving their Certificate of Occupancy.

Fire Protection

During the July 15 Commission meeting Fire Chief Ben Buckner explained the use of the Quint (quintuple) apparatus owned by the City and told Commissioners that the 22-year-old Quint was nearing the end of its useful life. He listed alternatives to replace, refurbish or purchase a new apparatus.

During the Aug. 9 meeting he again addressed the issue. Although the apparatus has been well maintained, it is fast approaching the end of its service life.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends front line apparatus more than 15 years old be placed in reserve status and those that are 20-25 years old be replaced. Some repair and replacement parts for Newberry’s Quint are becoming scarce, particularly for the aerial device.

Also during the July 15 meeting, Commissioners set a preliminary fire assessment rate for fiscal year 2021-22 at $195 for residential properties, hoping to be able to reduce the rate or set it at the previous year’s rate of $175. Buckner and Lee presented alternatives and the amount of increase over last year’s fire assessment rate that would be required to accommodate each alternative.

Refurbishing the current Quint would result in a $7.60 increase, while purchasing a new Quint apparatus and trading in or selling the current Quint would result in a $15 Fire Assessment increase. Purchasing a used Quint and trading in or selling the current Quint would result in a $12 increase and purchasing a used fire engine and trading in or selling the current Quint would result in a $7.60 Fire Assessment increase.

All options would still result in an increase in the Fire Assessment. After discussion, Commissioners opted for purchasing a new Quint, which would likely result in a Fire Assessment of $190, but would provide the highest quality of public safety and the best long-term alternative.

Buckner said that delivery of a new Quint would take 13 – 14 months, so it would not be available until 2023.

New cautioned that the final fire assessment rate had not yet been determined and to hold off on ordering a new Quint until such time as it has received Commission approval.

Board Vacancy

One agenda item was tabled to the Aug. 23 meeting. An influx of 12 applicants to fill one vacancy on the Planning and Zoning Board and Historic Architectural Review Board led to the mayor suggesting that Commissioners meet individually with applicants and get to know them before voting on a new board member. The appointee will serve the remainder of Bill Conrad’s current term, which expires on April 30, 2022. Conrad stepped down when he moved out of Newberry.

Applicants include Ron Barlow, Anthony Cousins, Travis Edmond, Jordan Fairfield, Joy Glanzer, Walter Hawkins, Joy D. Ingram, Donald Long, Margaret (Peggy) Loy, Kim Robbins, Janeice Marshall Smith and Lisa Tate.

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ALACHUA COUNTY At the Aug. 17, 2021 Special Meeting, the Alachua County Commission decided to hold an Emergency Commission Meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, at 5 p.m. at the Alachua County Administration Building, 12 S.E. 1st Street, Gainesville.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the current spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and the possibility of reinstituting community masking requirements that follow the current CDC guidelines.

The Commission will take public comment in person or by calling 1-800-876-7516. Masks are required regardless of vaccination status. The public may view the meeting on Cox Channel 12, Facebook, and the County’s Video on Demand website.

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NEWBERRY ‒ The Newberry City Commission is scheduled to consider the proposed millage rate and tentative budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22 at 7 p.m., Sept. 13, at Newberry City Hall. Prior to that date, Commissioners must approve a preliminary Millage Rate and advise the County Property Appraiser of the rate set for inclusion in the TRIM notice, which is sent out by the Appraiser’s office in August.

The second public budget hearing to adopt the final millage rate and final budget is 7 p.m., Monday, Sept. 27, also at Newberry City Hall.

At the July 26 City Commission meeting, staff proposed setting the millage rate at the same rate as currently levied, which is 5.9999 mills. However, during the July 26 City Commission meeting, Commissioners approved Resolution 2021-27 setting the preliminary millage rate at 6.2807 mills, which is $6,2807 per $1,000 of assessed property within the City. “The rolled back rate is declared to be 5.5945mills,whichis $5.5945per $1,000.00 of assessedproperty,” said Assistant City Manager Dallas Lee.

“Proposed millage rates should be set at the highest rate the Board expects to adopt in September,” Lee said. The TRIM process allows for the City to adopt millage rates lower than that rate, but should they set it lower now and need to raise the millage rate later, the process becomes much more cumbersome. Therefore, municipalities generally set their millage rates higher than they expect will be needed to balance the budget.

A small scale amendment to the Future Land Use Map to change the Future Land Use classification from Low Density Residential (1 – 4 Dwelling Units/Acre to Medium Density Residential (less than or equal to 8 DU/Acre) was approved on second and final reading. The applicants, Herb and Jeanie Marlowe, own approximately 2.08 acres immediately north of Oak View Middle School, which currently has three single-family homes on the property located at 24916, 24928 and 24902 S.W. 4th Avenue.

Newberry Planner Wendy Kinser-Maxwell said, “This provides a step down of intensity of land use from Commercial to the west and Residential to the east. In addition, it provides additional housing opportunities for housing near schools.”

This ordinance will go into effect 31 days after approval.

Annexations

Following approval of the small scale amendment, Herb and Jeanie Marlowe also received approval to rezone the same 2.08 acres listed to the RMF-1 (Residential Medium Density Zoning District).

A quasi-judicial public hearing was held on second reading of Ordinances 2021-27, a petition by Cynthia Cullen Hatton, aka Cynthia Cullen Saylor, owner, to voluntarily annex approximately 40.3 acres consisting of two adjacent tax parcels into the City. The application included tax parcels #01834-003-000 and #01834-006-000 each of which consists of approximately 20.15 acres. This property is located approximately .25 mile south of Northwest 46th Avenue and a little less than a mile east of Northwest 298th Street (county line).

Another quasi-judicial public hearing was held on second reading of Ordinance 2021-28. The petitioner, James L. Fleming, requested to annex tax parcel 04265-007-000, consisting of approximately 7.66 acres, into the City. This ordinance was also approved by Commissioners. This property is located approximately .32 mile east of Northwest 202nd Street on the north side of West Newberry Road, just west of Pet Paradise.

A final quasi-judicial public hearing was heard on second reading and also received approval. Ordinance 2021-33 was presented by Planning and Economic Development Director Bryan Thomas to de-annex a parcel of land that the City has found is not substantially contiguous to the City’s boundary. Tax parcel 04152-001-000 consists of approximately 77.5 acres. “This ordinance is designed to resolve the conflict resolution process between Alachua County and the City of Newberry pertaining to this particular annexation.”

Law Enforcement Savings

The City of Newberry entered into an amended contract with the Alachua County Sheriff for law enforcement services in June. The amended contract resulted in a savings of $136,000 in the current year’s budget. The Commission opted to consider how the savings will be allocated during the budget process instead of considering them at the July 26 meeting.

Meeting Dates

City Manager Mike New announced several budget workshop dates, the first of which was initially scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 3, but has now been rescheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 10, from 7 – 9 p.m. There will also be an Automatic Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Town Hall meeting this fall and a proposed Town Hall meeting to take place on a weeknight in October where citizens can learn about Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA) and the utility system.

In other matters, Mayor Marlowe thanked staff for working with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to move the crosswalk at the elementary school. He said the project was eight months in the making and that moving the traffic lights was the biggest part of the project.

He also mentioned two parades that are coming up. The first is the Welcome Home Vets parade, sponsored by the Newberry American Legion on Sept. 25 and a Homecoming Parade on Oct. 1.

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