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March 17, 2020/11:45 a.m./ALACHUA COUNTY - The State Department of Health has announced two new positive cases in Alachua County. They are both travel related.

Those with questions or concerns about COVID-19, including testing, should call the Alachua County Health Department's call center at 352-334-8810. Operators are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday (after hours call 352-334-7900). The County's 311 hotline is also available to answer questions.
For current Coronavirus (COVID-19) information, visit the Alachua County Coronavirus website, the Alachua County Facebook page, call the Coronavirus Information Line at 866-779-6121, visit the Florida Department of Health website, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs City Commission approved an agreement with Kimley-Horn for on-call planning support services at their Feb. 27 City Commission meeting. Although North Central Florida Planning Council (NCFPC) currently provides planning support to the City, the Kimley-Horn services would be provided during periods of high activity or staff turnover.

The agreement calls for a Kimley-Horn representative to provide application review, representation before City boards, the Commission and City committees, preparation of planning and zoning-related staff reports and responses to planning and zoning-related questions from the public.

The City agreed to pay Kimley-Horn an hourly fee, based on the type of service being provided, but not-to-exceed $3,000 per month. According to the agreement “direct reimbursable expenses such as express delivery services, fees, air travel and other direct expenses will be billed at 1.15 times cost.” A percentage of labor fee will be added to each invoice to cover certain other expenses related to these tasks such as telecommunications, in-house reproduction, postage, supplies, project-related computer time and local mileage.”

The agreement lists 12 basic services Kimley-Horn’s representative will provide. A small portion of those services include analyzing projects for compliance with the City’s Comprehensive Plan, Land Development Code, subdivision standards and other specific City plans and policies, reviewing plan review checks, zoning clearances, sign permits, etc. and meeting with developers.

A rate schedule attached to the agreement specified that the agreement will expire in April, unless terminated sooner by one or the other party. Concern over whether a price increase may be requested at that time led to the city’s attorney saying he would discuss the matter will Allison Megrath, Kimley-Horn’s representative, and suggest the company hold their prices at the same rate for the entire first year.

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ALACHUA – The City of Alachua now has an additional fire station to provide services to residents. Up until the 1970s most of Florida's fire and rescue services were located in cities. The rural population had to wait for the fire trucks or ambulances to travel from the cities. When time is critical, this could mean the difference in saving a structure or saving a life. The state established the Municipal Service Taxing Unit at that time to raise funds for additional stations in rural areas. Even so, the stations had huge areas to cover and the state left it to the counties to determine the best use of funding to provide safety and medical help to these areas.

In Alachua County, a Master Plan was developed that anticipated growth and need for services to cover as many people as possible and where new stations would be located.

In 2004, the first mention of a station between Gainesville and Alachua was discussed, but funding was not available at that time. The Master Plan was updated in 2012 and the idea of a station in that area became part of the plan due to anticipated growth in the area. In 2015, the County and City of Alachua began planning for a station near Hague, halfway between Alachua and Gainesville. The City of Alachua's single station was covering a large area, taxing their ability to respond quickly. With multiple new communities like Turkey Creek and the expansion of businesses along the U.S. Highway 441 corridor, the site near Hague became an ideal location for a new station.

But a permanent station would take three to four years to complete so funding was put toward a temporary building that would host a small rotating crew of three and have a single fire engine for rapid response. While the station would have trained paramedics in their crew, an ambulance would be dispatched from one of the other stations if advanced medical care and transportation is needed. The County received bids for constructing a temporary building with living quarters for the crew and equipment with the low bid of $270,382. However, the County was able to drop the cost down to $135,800.

On Feb. 27, 2020 on a cold, windy morning, officials from Alachua County, City of Alachua, and the Alachua County Fire Department (ACFD) gathered at the metal building to dedicate the new station with a ribbon cutting. Despite the weather, about 50 people attended the ceremony.

AFCFD Fire Chief Harold Theus offered a welcome to all and gave a brief history of the 14-year struggle to make the station a reality. He was followed by County Manager Michele Lieberman and former firefighter and Alachua County Chair Chair Robert Hutchison. Alachua City Manager Adam Boukari and Mayor Gib Coerper thanked the County for their perseverance in making the station a reality.

The station’s location means that residents and business in the area will get quicker service for emergencies. An added bonus for residents may also mean lower insurance costs in the surrounding communities due to having a closer fire station.

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HIGH SPRINGS – The City of High Springs Commission is making changes to the City’s 2019-20 budget. Commissioners approved an ordinance on first reading to amend the budget. The ordinance will be heard a second time for final reading at the March 12 meeting. If it is approved at that time, the ordinance will go into effect.

Several reasons for the changes were mentioned, but most stemmed from personnel-related issues. City Manager Joel DeCoursey, Jr. reviewed some of those reasons.

The City will be hiring a new meter reader. Although all new construction is being provided with the new electronic meters, a number of the old meters are still in place and must be read individually.

Changes to the Planning and Zoning Department include the use of an outside firm, Kimley-Horn planning staff, at a not-to-exceed amount of $3,000 per month and the hiring of an office assistant.

In the future, code enforcement duties will be handled through the High Springs Police Department (HSPD). A person will be trained to perform code enforcement duties, but will also serve as a field service technician. This person will be wearing a HSPD uniform and will be able to communicate directly with the department via radio from any site they are on to help them determine if the property is vacant or if there are any extenuating circumstances to be considered before approaching the property owner.

The Deputy Chief position will not be funded this year. Funds saved from that line item will be used to hire a detective, another officer and a traffic officer. HSPD Chief Antoine Sheppard said there had been three traffic deaths during the past year and he believed another traffic officer might help make a difference.

The amount of the adjustment is nearly $43,000, some of which is coming from the personnel changes, some from the Contingency Fund and an additional $71,000 was removed from Wild Spaces Public Places funds to provide AED Defibrillators to the Recreation Department for use at City sporting events.

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NEWBERRY – On Feb. 29, 2020 a small group of visitors, who braved the chilly and windy morning weather, was treated to a walk through time covering over 160 years. They had come to Dudley Farm Historic State park for a tour of the homestead and surrounding buildings built by the Dudley Family over three generations. Park volunteer Doug Day led the hour-long tour, explaining the family history and the agricultural techniques used over the generations to make the farm an important crossroads in early Florida history.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Dudley State Park is a one-of-a-kind, authentic working Florida farm rather than a re-created farmstead. Staff and volunteers in period clothing perform chores, raise crops and tend to livestock—cracker cows and horses, bronze turkeys and heritage breed chickens.

The 327-acre park has 18 original buildings built between the 1880s and 1930s that still existed, including the restored family farmhouse with original furnishings, kitchen, general store, post office and cane syrup complex. Some of the buildings were not part of the original farm but were relocated in the park to give a more complete picture of what life was like in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

After Florida became a state in 1845, settlers from South Carolina arrived seeking land for cotton production. Philip Benjamin Harvey Dudley and his wife, Mary, were part of that migration, settling in Archer in 1852 and purchasing the land that became Dudley Farm in 1859. Dudley rapidly became a middle-class, agrarian through his ownership of 960 acres with 30 slaves who cleared land and grew cotton. But, he and his family also worked hard to make the farm a success, working dawn to dusk. In a time where everyone worked for a common goal, each of his children had duties depending on their age. The original homesite was a log cabin northwest of the present farmhouse. No remains of the original cabin still exist except for the possible location of a well.

Dudley Sr. served the Confederacy during the Civil War as a captain of the Alachua Rangers 7th Regiment. After the war, he returned home to the challenge of managing a large cotton plantation without enslaved workers. Dudley Sr. and his oldest son turned to grazing cattle, in addition to raising cotton and crops with hired help. Work also began on a road from the farm to Gainesville so cattlemen could drive herds to market. Another road intersected at the farm that connected Newberry, Archer, Jonesville and Gainesville. The old road is still visible today as the main path to the farmhouse. These roads and cattle production put Dudley Farm on the map as an important crossroads and commercial center.

When his father died in 1881, his eldest son, Ben Dudley Jr., built the present farmhouse to accommodate his family that grew to eight girls and four boys. He also added a general store, kitchen, smokehouse, sweet potato storehouse, dairy and canning house, outhouses, corncrib and barn. All were constructed of heart pine from the property. The prosperous farm produced cotton, corn, rice, millet, rye, oats, sugar cane and sweet potatoes. Milk, butter, eggs, turkeys and sausage were taken to Gainesville to be sold.

In the Reconstruction era, when jobs were scarce and poverty high in the decimated south, the farm laborers and tenant farmers were paid only with a "furnish" partly consisting of pork and sugarcane. But, the farm prospered and after Ben's death in 1918 his widow continued to work the farm along with her three sons.

Over the years, most of the siblings moved away to start their own careers and families. One son, Ralph Dudley, stayed and continued to raise cattle, tobacco and vegetable crops until his death in 1967. The youngest of Ben’s 12 children, Myrtle Dudley, was the last to remain on the farm. She managed a small cattle herd and vegetable and flower gardens. As she became older, Myrtle carried out her mother’s wish to keep the farm intact by donating 24 acres to the park service in 1983.In 1986, the state purchased an additional 232 acres to preserve the rural landscape that was part of the original Dudley land. The farm not only contained the buildings, but a wealth of documents and furnishings from the generations of Dudleys. One of the conditions of giving the state the property was that Myrtle would live on the farm until her death in 1996 at the age of 94.

Today, living history interpreters conduct daily farm work including the care of cattle, poultry, crops and building maintenance. Cane grindings take place in the fall as they did when the Dudleys lived here. The park regularly holds events exhibiting aspects of the agrarian life from early Florida. On March 7, the park will hold an event called “Plowing up the Past” to celebrate the 85th Anniversary of the State Park Services founding with demonstrations of how Florida farmers prepared for plantings. The following Saturday, March 14, will host kids day with activities for children to learn the history as well as a picnic on the property.

The park is located at 18730 West Newberry Road east of Newberry Florida and is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday – Sunday. There is a $5 admission per vehicle. For more information, call 352-472-1142.

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HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs is often associated with nature and the rivers that provide recreation for boating, swimming and cave diving, but the rivers are not the only sporting attraction that brings people from all over the world to the town. It is also home to a quarter-mile Bicycle Motocross Racing track (BMX) that is considered one of the smoothest and most challenging tracks in Florida that has even attracted Olympic hopefuls to train there.

BMX racing is a popular extreme style sport that often involves whole families racing and competing for points to be used in state, regional, national and even worldwide competitions. There are 22 sanctioned tracks in Florida and from October to April each year there are 12 competitions held to qualify for the State Championship competition, which is held in Orlando in May. The High Springs track always hosts at least one of the qualifying events.

Bicycle Motocross racing (BMX) was invented in California in the late 1960s and has gained popularity around the world. In the 1970s, the USA BMX Foundation was established, and by 1981 the International Cycling Union officially recognized it as a sport. In 2008, it was officially sanctioned as an Olympic sport. Today there are over 370 BMX tracks in the United States.

BMX is an off-road bicycle competition between up to eight riders on a serpentine single lap clay track that includes jumps and large banked turns. The bikes are single gear, with two classifications based on either a 20- or 24-inch wheel size. There is a non-pedal bike for young children called Striders, which are moved by the rider’s feet. BMX racing attracts a wide variety of ages, some as young as two and one who is 71 years old, often including multiple generations in a family.

The High Springs track was built in 2002 by the City of High Springs and a partnership with local volunteers to provide youth and family-friendly sporting in the area. The track is a nonprofit organization under a board of directors involved in the sport. The track is managed by John and Laura Pringle, who are both BMX racers, along with their two daughters.

Over the weekend of Feb. 28 to March 1, over 700 racers participated in the state qualifying at the track. Most of the riders were from Florida, but 16 other came from other states and one even came from Japan. There were 90 different classes/groups spanning balance bikes, novices, intermediate and experts between the age of five and under to 51 and over. The classes are based on age groups, type of bike and experience so that all riders are only competing against other riders with the same ability and equipment. In the BMX sport, everyone starts as a novice. Both boys and girls move up after winning 10 races and boys move up again after 20 wins. More wins allow riders to compete in district, state and regional contests. If they win these, they can compete at the Grand Nationals held in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

To Laura Pringle, it's not the competition that's important—it's the family orientated spirit among the BMX community. “Many times the parents will come to watch their kids race and wind up doing it themselves. You don't see too many sports where parents participate with their kids.”

Pringle also pointed out that the event is a positive contribution to the local economy. “Based on 3.2 spectators per participant, which is a number studied by the BMX industry, we estimate that there 2,377 per day on Saturday and Sunday for a total attendance of 7,132.

We offer RV camping, but many also stay at local hotels and use local shops and restaurants. There were 1,585 making the initial economic impact for just the hotels for $190,000. Including the other services used in the community, the total estimated economic impact using a conservative $50 per person/per day was about $546,000 for the weekend event.” Pringle said, “But the event is not just about economic impact or the competition, it's about an opportunity for the BMX community to get together and have fun”.

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GAINESVILLE  — In light of the recent COVID-19 situation, United Way of North Central Florida (UWNCFL) has launched the United We Care Emergency Relief Fund to support our nonprofit Community Impact Partners as they serve affected community members.

As we know many residents of North Central Florida will be affected by various school and business closures. During this constantly changing time, we hope that by providing further support to our Community Impact Partners, they in turn can assist many more community members in need. United We Care funds are designated to help provide assistance with rent, utilities, food, toiletries and gas (as needed).

“Many of our local community members live paycheck-to-paycheck and do not have the ability to save for unforeseen events, such as a global pandemic,” said Mona Gil de Gibaja, UWNCFL President & CEO. “Donations made to this crucial fund will help to keep families housed, fed and stable during this unsteady time.”

Furthermore, UWNCFL has pledged that 100% of the donations to the United We Care fund will go straight to helping local community members in need and no administrative costs will be taken, said Gil de Gibaja.

Community members seeking assistance can dial 2-1-1 or 352-332-4636 to get connected with local resources.

For more information and to donate to UWNCFL’s United We Care Emergency Relief Fund, please visit: www.unitedwayncfl.org/COVID-19.

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