GAINESVILLE – A 43-year-old Archer man was denied bail in Gainesville on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, after prosecutors argued that he would pose a threat to the community if released.

Joel Bruce Searby, who led the campaign to convert three Newberry public schools to municipal charter schools and has served as a basketball coach at Oak View Middle School, was arrested on Friday, June 21, and charged with luring a 15-year-old boy to his home for sex.

The State Attorney’s Office filed notice at Searby’s First Appearance hearing on June 22 that they would file a motion for pre-trial detention within three days. The motion was filed the same day with the hearing set for June 25.

The State Attorney’s Office has been filing these motions in any case that qualifies since Jan. 31, 2024, when an appeals court ruled that defendants are entitled to be released on bail in a reasonable amount and that the amount should not preclude the probability of an ordinary citizen being able to post bail.

Traditionally, prosecutors would have asked a judge to set a very high bail in a case of this sort. Now that they are limited by the appeals court ruling, it is more common for prosecutors to argue that the defendant would be a danger to the community if released.

The motion for pre-trial detention in Searby’s case stated that one of the charges against him – lewd or lascivious conduct with a victim under the age of 16 – qualifies under Florida statutes for pre-trial detention without bail and that a prosecutor would argue at the hearing that there is a substantial probability that the defendant committed such crime, the factual circumstances of the crime indicate a disregard for the safety of the community, and there are no conditions of release reasonably sufficient to protect the community from the risk of physical harm to person.

At the hearing Judge James Colaw agreed with prosecutors and granted the motion for pre-trial detention, which means that the defendant will remain in jail until his case is resolved, whether through a plea agreement or a trial.

Two Alachua County Sheriff’s Office detectives presented testimony, according to the memo that summarized the results of the hearing. Five letters of support for Searby were submitted but are not yet public.

The defendant has hired an attorney who has filed a plea of not guilty and a waiver of a right to a speedy trial on behalf of Searby.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The City of High Springs has appointed Jennifer Applebee as director of the City’s recreation department. A native of Fort White, Applebee joins High Springs from the City of Alachua, where she spent 10 years working with Alachua’s Recreation and Culture Department and soccer league.

Applebee volunteered as the Santa Fe Soccer Alliance President for several years before taking the job as the City of Alachua’s Recreation & Culture Program Coordinator. During her time in Alachua, she oversaw an array of programs including youth soccer, volleyball, basketball, dance, football, cheerleading, concert series, and several fundraising and outreach events.

“During her tenure in Alachua she reached hundreds of residents on our social media outlet, created flyers and campaigned tirelessly for our local programs,” said Alachua Recreation and Culture Director Damon Messina. “She also emceed plenty of the City’s events such as 399’s opening ceremonies and end of the year banquets

Applebee’s commitment to community enrichment extends further, as she has actively contributed to the High Springs Playhouse for eight years; directing multiple productions and currently holding the position of treasurer. She has been an executive officer for the Alachua County Task Force on Recreation for approximately five years.

Expressing her enthusiasm for her new role, Applebee said, “I'm excited. Right now, I'm doing a lot of listening — listening to staff, residents, and players about their vision for the future of High Springs Parks & REC and how we can collectively realize that vision.”

Outside of her professional achievements, Applebee is a devoted mother of three daughters: Riley, 20; Morgan, 16; and Dylan, 15. She is also an avid outdoorswoman, spending her free time hiking, camping, fishing, and scalloping. Her passion for theater continues as she frequently visits various theaters to enjoy diverse performances.

“The City of High Springs welcomes Jennifer Applebee and looks forward to her leadership in enhancing community recreation and cultural experiences for residents and visitors alike,” said High Springs Public Information Officer Kevin Mangan.

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NEWBERRY – The Newberry Board of Adjustment (BOA) was convened on Monday, June 24, 2024, following the Newberry City Commission meeting. Board members heard evidence in a Quasi-Judicial hearing on a site and development plan for Newberry City Hall.

Newberry Principal Planner Jean-Paul Perez presented his findings regarding the site and development plan. After reviewing the plan, a motion was made by Board Member Tony Mazon, seconded by Mark Clark, to approve the 15,000 square foot office space that will become Newberry’s future City Hall.

Board members unanimously agreed to approve the site and development plan.

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HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs City Commission on June 27, 2024 tackled recommendations by the Charter Review Committee. Following a lengthy dialogue, the Commission approved four of the eight items recommended by the Charter Review Committee to be on this November’s ballot.

Charter amendments approved include:

No. 1 Updating Corporate Boundary to that of the present-day boundary and provide for the ability of the City to change its boundary as prescribed by law.

No. 6 Updating Public Notice Requirements to allow for electronic advertisement of public notices in the event the City has followed the requirements of Fla. Stat. 50.0311 and require five weeks of online publication in the event of electronic advertisement.

No. 7 Updating Oath of Office and Ability to Alter Appropriations and Reductions to require commissioners and charter officers to assert they are not precluded from holding office pursuant to Article VI, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution prior to taking office, and allow the City Commission to make supplemental appropriations or reductions and require the City Manager to inform the City Commission when revenues will be insufficient to meet appropriation amounts.

No. 8 Updating Public Owned Lands to update the names of public parks and add the Sports Complex to the list of public owned lands.

Other Charter Review Committee recommended items will be discussed further by the Commission for possible inclusion on the 2025 ballot for citizen consideration.

Of the failed recommendations, issues regarding forfeiture of office and censuring a commissioner for not adhering to the Charter appeared to be of most concern. Several commissioners and a few audience members along with Commissioner Andrew Miller expressed concern about Item No. 3: Commissioner Salary, Mayor Term, and Unified Commission to Instruct City Manager to allow for the salary of commissioners to continue at the same rate if the commission does not act on same, limit the term of the mayor to one year absent supermajority vote of the commission, prevent a single commissioner from ordering the City Manager to act, preventing the City Manager from following the instructions of a single commissioner, and provide for the ability of censure.

Miller said he believed those three items should be voted on separately.

Miller initially made a motion to strike Items 2, 3, 4 and 5, which died for lack of a second. Vice Mayor Tristan Grunder made another motion to put all of the items suggested by the Charter Review Committee on the ballot. That motion also died for lack of a second.

Following comments by the city attorney that commissioners could choose the items that they were all in agreement on for this year’s election ballot and discuss the remaining items for next year’s ballot, Miller made another motion to strike items No. 2 – 5 from Ordinance 2024-04. The motion passed 3-2 with Grunder and Commissioner Byran Williams in dissent.

Miller made another motion to approve the Ordinance with items No 2-5 deleted, which passed in another 3-2 vote with Grunder and Williams in dissent.

Items 2-5, which will not be on this year’s ballot are: No. 2 Commissioners, Voting, and Notice; No. 3 Commissioner Salary, Mayor Term, and Unified Commission to Instruct City Manager; No. 4 Adding Forfeiture of Office Section; No. 5 Disallowing Individual to Serve as both Manager and Clerk, Residency Requirements for City Manager and Candidates

In other business, the Commission unanimously approved two agreements related to School Resource Officers (SROs). The first was an agreement between the School Board of First Christian Academy and the City of High Springs for the City to provide SROs for their school.

The second agreement was between the School Board of Alachua County and City of High Springs which provides funding for SROs.

Also receiving unanimous approval was the City’s finance director request for approval to sell the 2021 CRA vehicle to the Building Department for the amount that was paid for the vehicle originally. The funds for the sale of the vehicle will go back into the CRA’s budget.

In still other business, Tree Committee Chairperson Linda Hewlett talked about a recent meeting in which the County’s arborist attended. She has been planting and maintaining trees in the community and offered to plant 70 more native trees in High Springs during the next two years. Commissioners unanimously voted to approve that action.

In final comments it was revealed that High Springs Police Officer Minor and Sgt. Moore attended to a woman who was not conscious. Using their emergency equipment, they were able to revive her and send her to the hospital.

The next High Springs City Commission meeting is scheduled for July 11 at 6:30 p.m.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The High Springs City Commission on June 13, 2024, approved extending the date for a workshop on the Bridlewood development project. Initially scheduled for June 18, the workshop will be rescheduled to accommodate the developer's staff availability. The new date will be advertised once confirmed.

In other business, the Commission set the 2024 City Commission election date for Seat #4 and Seat #5 for Nov. 5, 2024. The qualifying period for candidates is July 22 at 7:30 a.m. to July 25 at 6 p.m. Interested parties should contact the City Clerk for more information.

High Springs residents will likely not be seeing an increase in the Fire Services Assessment in the coming year. The City Commission unanimously approved the preliminary resolution for the Fire Services Assessment for the year beginning Oct. 1, 2024 at $781,894. Residential properties will be charged $223. Non-residential property use categories will be assessed by the square foot (capped at 40,000 square feet). Commercial rates are assessed at $0.09 sq. ft., Industrial/Warehouse rates are assessed at $0.02 sq. ft. and Institutional properties are charged at $0.16 sq. ft. The resolution establishing the final assessment will be heard at the July 25, 2024, meeting at 6:30 p.m.

In other business, the Commission approved a request by Josh Highlander of Rise Construction Services to begin pouring concrete earlier than usual for the Life Spring Church project. Highlander requested that concrete trucks begin arriving on the property at 4 a.m. as it will take 10 – 15 truckloads of concrete for the Life Spring Church project. Given the location’s distance from neighboring properties, early morning deliveries are not expected to cause disturbances.

The Commission also approved the sale of a rarely used fire department boat and an inoperable sewer department vacuum truck, with proceeds returning to their respective budgets. Commissioners authorized the two items to be surplused so they could be sold. The first item was a boat the Fire Department purchased for water rescue. The Fire Chief said there is only seven hours on the motor so it hasn’t been used much. The boat will be sold as is. Funds from the sale of the boat will be returned to the Fire Department budget. The second item surplused was a vacuum truck owned by the sewer department. The item was purchased in July 2022 from Lake City for $8,000. The equipment has not been operable since the purchase and repairs are not cost effective. Funds from the sale of the truck will be returned to the Sewer Department’s budget.

In other matters, following a presentation by the Alachua County Fire Marshal, the Commission unanimously approved a site plan for Air Liquide to replace a building damaged in the April 4, 2023 explosion that injured multiple workers. The global manufacturer of industrial gas will replace the destroyed building with two new structures at 17526 High Springs Main Street. The item was reviewed on May 20 by the Plan Board, which recommended approval in a 5 – 0 vote.

The Commission also approved a lease agreement allowing Boy Scout Troop #69 to hold meetings at 19460 N.W. U.S. Highway 441 for $10 per year. The lease will automatically renew annually unless terminated with 30 days’ notice.

Turning to the status of the Priest Theater, City Manager Jeremy Marshall proposed that a committee be formed to oversee repairs to the structure. Committee members will include Marshall, Public Works Director Allan Alligood and Commissioner Andrew Miller.

In light of upcoming holidays that may conflict with previously scheduled meeting dates, the Commission has adjusted several meeting dates to Sept. 12 and 23, Nov. 14 and 21, and Dec. 12

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ALACHUA – A 33-year-old Alachua man was arrested on Friday, June 7, 2024, and charged with attempted sexual battery with a victim under 12 years old and lewd or lascivious exhibition with a victim under 16.

The victim, who is under the age of 12, told a family member about the incident with Edward Dontrell Martin in late March and was interviewed at the Child Advocacy Center on April 4. She reportedly said that Martin had touched her and had exposed himself to her in 2022.

The victim also said she pushed him away and told him to leave after which he allegedly said that if she told anyone, something bad would happen and it would be her fault. The victim was able to pinpoint the incident date by referring to a family vacation that happened close to the incident.

Martin has one felony conviction and one misdemeanor conviction. The State Attorney’s Office filed a motion to hold him without bail until trial, but Judge David Kreider disagreed that there were no release conditions that would keep the community safe.

Kreider set bail at $175,000 with conditions that Martin be fitted with a GPS monitor before release, have no contact with minors and possess no weapons or firearms.

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ALACHUA ‒ This past Saturday, the Legacy Multipurpose Center in Alachua became the epicenter of celebration and community spirit as two significant events merged into one vibrant occasion. Hosted by the City of Alachua's Recreation & Culture Department, the day commemorated Juneteenth while also promoting youth engagement through sports and education.

The festivities kicked off with a partnership between 399 Sports & Recreation and several local organizations, including the Alachua Newnansville Subcommittee, Alachua County Remembrance Project, Faith in Florida, Combined Masons of Alachua County, and the A.L. Mebane Alumni Association. Together, they orchestrated a multifaceted celebration of Juneteenth.

Before, during and after the event, 399 and all-time great Santa Fe High School baller Don’Trell “Saucy” Jenkins and his team of local coaches provided a skills clinic for community youth.

The occasion drew a diverse crowd of participants and dignitaries, underscoring the unity and support within Alachua's Good Life Community. Among the notable attendees were Alachua City Manager Mike DaRoza, Mayor Gib Coerper, Vice Mayor Ed Potts, Commissioners Jennifer Ringerson and Shirey Green Brown, Alachua County Commissioner Chuck Chestnut IV, High Springs City Commissioner Byron Williams, Coach Rudy Rothseiden, Rodney Peterson, Brandon Wilson, and Horace Jenkins.

The collaborative effort showcased the power of combining public and private resources to deliver enhanced services and opportunities within the community. The Recreation & Culture Department expressed gratitude to all volunteers and partners involved, emphasizing that such events strengthen the community's foundation through celebration, progress, and service.

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