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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ The Alachua County Criminal Courthouse will be renamed in honor of the late Judge Stephan P. Mickle. On Jan. 14, at 12 p.m. an event will be held to honor the life and legacy of the late judge. The event is at the main entrance of the Criminal Courthouse located at 220 S. Main Street, downtown Gainesville. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.

The event will feature speakers from Alachua County, the City of Gainesville and the Judiciary, as well as music, a color guard and words of inspiration. Alachua County middle and high school students participated in an essay/poetry contest based on a theme pertaining to Judge Mickle’s impact on history, society and the future. The winner of this year’s contest will share their essay during the ceremony. The contest, promoted through the Alachua County school system, will be an annual event.

A prolific barrier breaker, Judge Mickle’s legacy includes:

  • The first African-American to practice law in Alachua County since Reconstruction,
  • The first African-American County Court judge in Alachua County,
  • The first African-American judge in the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida,
  • The first African-American and only lawyer from the Eighth Judicial to serve on the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee,
  • The First African-American federal judge in the Northern District of Florida and
  • The First African-American Chief Judge of the Northern District of Florida.

“It is a tremendous honor to see the courthouse named after my father,” said his daughter, Stephanie Mickle. “It's important for others to be able to see themselves in his life. His sacrifices and triumphs will inspire others for generations to come and impact our youth early in their lives and education.”

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NEWBERRY – An item that garnered the most attention at the City of Newberry Jan. 3 Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Board meeting was a proposed amendment to the Land Development Regulations (LDR) to allow small-scale rural event centers by special exception in the City’s Agricultural Zoning District.

Triggering this LDR amendment was a request by Shabnam Rumpf-Monadizadeh to allow her to run a small-scale (300 participants or less) event center which may include a petting zoo, a beer garden, an urban vegetable garden, a small wedding venue, a yoga studio or a number of other educational or entertainment-related events.

Planning and Economic Development Director Bryan Thomas pointed out that allowing this type of use by special exception rather than by right allows the City’s Board of Adjustment (BOA) control over whether they choose to approve applications. He pointed out that a list of examples of allowable uses did not mean that the BOA had to allow all of those uses in all cases. The ordinance allowing for this amendment could be written to sunset at a certain time, could follow the land or could follow with the applicant.

P&Z Vice Chair Gavin Johnson expressed strong concern that allowing this use in an Agricultural Zoned District may constitute a burden for neighbors. He also voiced concern that allowing one person to obtain the special exception might mean the City couldn’t deny someone else under the same circumstances.

According to Thomas, under a special exception process, the City would be able to deny a different application for the same type of business if there was a compelling reason not to approve a second business. He also explained that the approval of one special exception application does not set a precedent for the approval of a similar subsequent application. A special exception application allows the City to review each application on the merits of the intended use.

“If we’re not willing to allow any commercial use in an Agricultural Zoned District, then we need to say we’re not going to allow anything,” said City Manager Mike New. “However, I think our citizens want to allow us to make opportunities for people to do things, but they expect us to control it enough so they aren’t a burden on their neighbor.”

Board Member Linda Woodcock said, “We can’t put everything in an ordinance. We can’t possibly address everything.” She added that approving the ordinance and seeing how it works would also allow time for the citizens to provide input on how it’s working.

By a 4-1 vote, the P&Z Board recommended approval of Ordinance 2022-18/LDR 22-01 to the City Commission. Johnson casting the dissenting vote.

In other business, a quasi-judicial hearing on Ordinance 2021-74/LDR 21-27 was conducted for property owned by Shabnam Rumpf-Monadizadeh.

The City Commission originally adopted Ordinance 2017-18 on Nov. 13, 2017, approving the voluntary annexation of several contiguous parcels including an approximately 4.27-acre parcel identified as Tax Parcel 04370-001-000. The annexations were in dispute, but have since been resolved, which is why they were addressed by the Planning and Zoning Board on Jan. 3.

The Board gave unanimous approval to recommend approval to the City Commission on this property, located on the south side of State Road 26/West Newberry Road along both sides of a portion of Southwest 174th Street, as well as several others.

To bring the property into conformance with the City’s Future Land Use Map and with the City’s Official Zoning Atlas, LDR 21-27 was addressed by the Board to amend the City’s Official Zoning Atlas by changing the zoning from Alachua County Agriculture (A) to City of Newberry Agricultural (A).

The proposed rezoning is contingent upon approval of the associated Application CPA 21-29 by the City Commission, which proposes to change this property’s Future Land Use category from County to City.

Thomas introduced Resolution 2022-01/SE 22-01, which was brought by Jayne Tate, Agent for GPS Newberry East LLC, owner. In a quasi-judicial public hearing, Thomas said the request was for a special exception to allow Greenfield East Pre-school to expand on its 1.03 acres at 21805 W. Newberry Road, which is located at Newberry Road and 218th Street.

The expansion will allow the facility to increase student levels from 58 to 101 children. Thomas said that staff will likely double as well.

Concern about increased trips, which may possibly require a turn lane or traffic study, was discussed. A motion to approve recommending approval to the BOA at their Jan. 11 meeting was made with the caveat that the applicant make contact with the Florida Department of Transportation to discuss whether further traffic studies would be required. The motion received unanimous approval.

The Board also voted to recommend the following items to the City Commission:

Ordinance 2022-04/CPA 21-30, a large-scale amendment consisting of approximately 133.12 acres, Ordinance 2022-05/CPA 21-31, a small-scale amendment consisting of approximately 38.2 acres, Ordinance 2022-06/CPA 21-32, a small-scale amendment consisting of approximately 7.38 acres, Ordinance 2022-07/CPA 21-3301-06-22, a large-scale amendment consisting of approximately 194.44 acres, Ordinance 2022-08/CPA 21-34, consisting of approximately 4.27 acres, Ordinance 2022-14/LDR 21-41, consisting of several contiguous parcels totaling approximately 133.12 acres and Ordinance 2022-15/LDR 21-42, consisting of 4.27 acres.

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HIGH SPRINGS – The City of High Springs is considering projects that could be addressed using approximately $3 million in funds provided by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).  

Last May the City received approximately half of the ARPA funds allocated to High Springs.  The second half of the allocation is expected to be received in May 2022.  

ARPA funds were established to provide money to bolster the response to the COVID-19 emergency and economic impacts, help governments meet their present needs and build the foundation for a strong recovery.

Although the topic has been raised during the last two City Commission meetings, no action has been taken to whittle down the long list of projects that could be addressed using these funds.

At the Dec. 9 workshop, City Manager Ashley Stathatos provided Commissioners with the results from the Strategic Planning Sessions from last fiscal year as possible ARPA-funded projects.

Eligible uses include support of public health expenditures – COVID mitigation efforts, medical expenses, behavioral healthcare and certain public health and safety staff; address negative economic impacts caused by public health emergency that may include economic harm to workers, households, small businesses, impacted industries and the public sector; and to replace lost public sector revenue to bolster government services reduced due to the pandemic.

ARPA funds can also be used to provide premium pay for essential workers to support those bearing the greatest health risks because of their positions.

Another item ARPA funds can be used for is to invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure to expand access.

City departments that may see ARPA funds coming their way include the Police Department, Fire Department, Parks, and Administration.

Discussing the possibility of a Community Services Building, Assistant City Manager Bruce Gillingham mentioned that the City currently doesn’t have any buildings that can be used as an official shelter or an emergency operations center.  Neither the Civic Center nor Catherine Taylor Park’s building would meet the requirements and they also do not meet the requirements to house quarantined essential workers.  Had a building been available that met ADA requirements, American Red Cross and social distancing requirements, it might have been able to be used as a testing site or a temporary medical center.

In addition, Gillingham said the City is using a dish to communicate between buildings.  But there is currently no fiber-optic inner connectivity between buildings, which is something that could be a problem in a hurricane or other natural disaster.  

Gillingham also said the Community School only has one building, the Science Building, which can be used as a shelter.  Other than that, Santa Fe High School is the next closest location.  He also pointed out that if the County opens a shelter at the school, the High Springs Fire and Police Departments have to staff it.

Water infrastructure projects could include building or upgrading facilities, transmission, distribution and storage systems, including the replacement of lead service lines.  

Projects suggested by staff include engineering for a new water plant, water main upgrades/replacements, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system replacement and upgrade and additional software.  

Possible projects suggested by staff include engineering for sewer plant expansion Phase 3, generators for lift stations, spare pumps for lift stations, SCADA system replacement and upgrade and additional software.

Investing in broadband infrastructure could include providing the service to areas that are currently unserved or underserved or are lacking a wire line connection that reliably delivers minimum speeds of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload.  

Possible projects recommended by staff are to provide broadband in city parks, downtown and Wi-Fi in parks.

The possible blending of funds between High Springs and Alachua County to leverage their funds with the city’s funds was raised by Commissioner Ross Ambrose.  Stathatos said she would address that issue with the County in the next week.

The topic of body cameras for the police department was raised with High Springs Police Chief Antoine Sheppard saying that the City will eventually have to make that investment.  “I think we are the last agency in the county without body cams,” he said.  “One day it will be mandatory through state legislation.”

Sheppard said the City of Alachua purchased Panasonic body cams, which he thought cost about $30,000 - $40,000.  He said he would be interested to see how they perform.  “Originally, we were looking at Exxon, which cost around $100,000 over five years.”

Further discussion included maintenance equipment for the gravity system, funding fewer projects, but funding them completely and monitoring possibilities for the wastewater and water systems. 

Stathatos said she would send out a list to the Commissioners and add the items that were discussed during the workshop so they could determine the importance of each item.  Once the top five items are determined, staff will research costs and considerations and present a plan to the Commission.

The City must obligate funds to the various chosen projects by Dec. 31, 2024, and expend those funds by Dec. 31, 2026.  Any unexpended funds will go back to the government after that date.  In addition, local governments are required to provide periodic reports along with a detailed accounting of how the funds are used.

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The High Springs Garden Club has selected its new Board of Directors for 2022 to 2024.  L to R: – Vice President Carole Tate, President Billie Jo Benedict, Secretary Ginger O’Loughlin, and Treasurer Vickie Cox.

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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ Area firefighters had their hands full on Dec. 26 with two crashes in different parts of Alachua County.  In Micanopy, at approximately 5 a.m. Sunday morning units from Alachua County Fire Rescue (ACFR) and Micanopy Fire Department responded to a report of a single vehicle crash in the southbound lane of U.S. Highway 441 near Micanopy.  Upon arrival rescue personnel found a 2002 Chrysler minivan on its side with a 60-year-old Ocala man trapped inside.  

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the vehicle traveled off of the road and onto the center grass median for unknown reasons.  Once in the median, the driver lost control of the vehicle and it overturned.

The driver was removed from the vehicle using the jaws of life and was transported to UF Health Shands in stable condition.

Later the same day in Hawthorne, units from Alachua County Fire Rescue and Windsor Fire Rescue were dispatched to the scene of a two-vehicle crash at approximately 3 p.m.  The crash occurred on Hawthorne Road near County Road 325.  Upon arrival, rescue personnel found both vehicles with heavy damage and one person trapped inside one of the vehicles.

The jaws of life were used to extricate the trapped individual, who was determined to be in critical condition and was transported to the UF Health Shands trauma center.  A second person was transported to Shands with non-life-threatening injuries.  

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ALACHUA COUTY ‒ Join library staff for outdoor stories and songs as Story Time on the Green begins again on Jan. 11.

Librarians and library staff will read tales and lead activities perfect for infants through five-year-olds at library green spaces and parks throughout Alachua County. Join in songs, finger plays, and story boards to spark your child's imagination and communication and reading skills.

Parents and families can bring blankets and chairs to spread out. Story Time on the Green will be held at 10:30 a.m., weather permitting (at least 50°) at various library location.

On Tuesdays, activities will be held at Lois Forte Park, 120 N.W. 260th Street, Newberry, with the Newberry Branch team.

On Wednesdays, activities will be held in Hawthorne, Archer and High Springs. The Hawthorne Branch is located at 6640 S.E. 221St Street, Hawthorne, Wilson Robinson Park, 13975 S.W. 174th Street, Archer, with the Archer Branch team and High Springs Farmers Market, 23517 N.W. 185th Road, High Springs, with the High Springs Branch team.

On Thursdays, activities will be held in Waldo and Alachua. The Waldo Branch is located at 15150 N.E. US Highway 301, Waldo and Alachua’s location will be at the Legacy Park Multipurpose Center playground, 15400 Peggy Road, Alachua, with the Alachua Branch team.

On Saturdays, activities will be held in Micanopy. Park by the fire station, corner of Northeast Cholokka Blvd. and Northeast 7th Ave., Micanopy, with the Micanopy Branch team.

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ALACHUA ‒ Turkey Creek Golf Course will be hosting the “Miracle at Turkey Creek Golf Celebration” tournament Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. This event is being held to commemorate the first anniversary of the reopening of Turkey Creek Golf Course that occurred on Jan. 23, 2021. 

For those not familiar with the story of the golf course, go online to see “Miracle at Turkey Creek,” a Golf Digest digital article that chronicles the reopening. It is an inspiring story. (https://www.golfdigest.com/story/turkey-creek-golfvolunteers

The tournament will be a 4-person team scramble with first, second, and third place prizes. There will also be a long drive, closest to the pin, and longest putt prizes. 

To register a team for the tournament, please go to http://tcgolf.eventbrite.com/. The cost is $250 per 4-person team. Registration, with morning refreshments, begins at 7:30 a.m. with a shotgun start at 8:30 a.m.

In addition, there are sponsorship opportunities available. Position your business with this celebration of success. For more information, please call 386-518-6815 or email proshoptcgc@gmail.com. 

In addition, visit https://www.turkeycreekgolfcourse.com/ for more information regarding membership and corporate sponsorship opportunities. Come on out and join in the celebration of “Miracle at Turkey Creek.”

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