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ALACHUA – Alachua’s City Commission ratified the Alachua Police Department’s bargaining agreement during Monday’s commission meeting.

The 2012-2013 agreement states that Gator Lodge 67 will represent the police department as the unit’s bargaining representative.

The Alachua Police Department Bargaining Unit ratified the contract on Dec. 3 in a unanimous vote. The contract will last until September 2013.

The 2012-2013 contract is similar to last year’s contract with only a few changes. In the previous contract, police officers with take-home vehicles were only allowed to take their vehicles home if they lived within 20 miles of the police station.

The new contract states that officers will be allowed to drive their assigned vehicles to and from their residence as long as they live within Alachua County.

The new contract also provides for a one-time additional wage payment before Dec 31. The payment will be equal to 2 percent of the officer’s existing base pay.

Commissioner Ben Boukari said he was grateful for both the City and the police department.

“I know this process can be lengthy,” he said. “I want to thank the folks on both sides.”

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FORT WHITE – A Fort White man was seriously injured while he was hunting Tuesday evening in Fort White.

Sixty-one-year-old Norberto Mondilio Quinones-Caseres was climbing over a fence when his gun discharged and a bullet hit him in the abdomen, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) investigators. The incident occurred at Bethany Farms on State Road 47.

The man was airlifted to Shands Hospital in Gainesville. He was alert at the time, according to Columbia County Sheriff’s Office deputies, who initially responded to the scene.

The victim told officials he was hunting coyotes.

FWC continues to investigate the incident.

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GAINESVILLE – After a vote by the Alachua County Commission, the controversial Archer Braid Trail project will run through Haile Plantation. The board ultimately approved the construction of the Haile Plantation portion of the trail and a quarter-mile portion of an existing trail.

The Archer Braid Trail is proposed to run from the City of Archer through University of Florida campus and will connect with existing trails. Construction for the Haile Plantation phase of the trail will begin in fall 2013.

The Haile Plantation portion has caused controversy among some subdivisions residents. A poll was held for those residents to decide whether or not they favored the trail portion in their neighborhood. However, when deciding on the county’s plans for infrastructure, the public’s vote is not binding.

In order to meet the Florida Department of Transportation deadline set for March and keep funding, county commissioners had to reach a decision on plans for the trail.

The county, through a local agency partnership agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will manage the Haile Plantation phase of the project. This phase does not contain bicycle or pedestrian pathways.

The first phase of the Archer Braid Trail project that runs along SR 24 from Archer to SW 91st street will be completed by the FDOT, said county transportation planning manager Jeff Hays.

The Haile Plantation trail segment will run for 2.2 miles. While a typical sidewalk is around 6-feet wide; the new sidewalk will be 8-to 10-feet wide said Hays. The trail will run along the portion of Haile Plantation from SW 91st Street and SW 46th Boulevard, and will cost $750,000.

The rationale behind building the Haile Plantation segment is due to its status as a large population center, and “People will have access to local attractions without having to get in their cars,” he said.

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HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs City Commission dispatched a 23-item agenda in under four hours on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012. As the only commission meeting during the month of December, the agenda was packed with a variety of issues that normally might have been dispersed between two or more meetings.

Both outgoing Interim City Manager Lee Vincent and newly-appointed City Manager Edwin Booth were on hand for the meeting, with Booth receiving more than his fair share of items on which to research, address and report back to the commission.

Possible uses of the city’s old school building, which related to at least three agenda items, was tabled to allow Booth and City Attorney Scott Walker time to research how the initial grant funds were intended to be used as part of the restoration of the old school building. Following the research, Booth is to provide a master use plan to the commission for consideration. An item on the agenda for the past few meetings, which is a request to allow Zumba classes to be held at the old school building, will be delayed until the commission approves a master use plan for the building.

Another item referred to the new city manager is notifying USDA Rural Development that the City does not intend to continue with Phases 4 and 5 of the wastewater system. Booth is to discuss the issue with USDA to see what is required from the City. If, at that time, it is determined that a letter is required, Booth will contact Walker to prepare the appropriate notification.

Following discussion of pollution control measures for stormwater runoff for James Paul Park, Booth is to contact the Florida Department of Transportation to determine if they have any intention of addressing the issue. Booth will also obtain costs for soil testing in the park and report back to the commission with his findings and associated costs.

Booth also was tasked with addressing the needs of the City Clerk’s department. Commission minutes were delayed earlier in the year due to the City Clerk taking on interim city manager duties. In an attempt to catch up on minutes, a former City employee has been hired on a temporary full-time basis to help the department catch up on past minutes.

The city manager was also tasked with setting up another meeting with the Police Benevolence Association (PBA) attorney as their attorney was unable to make the scheduled meeting. PBA negotiations are stalled until such time as the PBA attorney can attend a meeting with the City.

The City’s management of Poe Springs is on hold pending City Manager Booth meeting with the county manager to determine the status of Poe Springs’ construction projects. The City has been slated to take over Poe Springs, but the issue has been on hold due to completion of construction at the springs.

Booth is to act as executive director for the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) until such time as the CRA plan is revised, something that should be done every five years, and it is determined whether the CRA needs to hire an executive director. Commissioner and CRA Board Member Byran William is chairman of the CRA at this time.

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GAINESVILLE – In a move that’s sure to disappoint some locals, the opening of the temporary Plaza Ice Palace, in Gainesville’s Bo Diddley Community Plaza, has been cancelled.

The Gainesville rink was previously scheduled to open around Thanksgiving. However, due to technical difficulties, the opening of the rink was postponed and then cancelled.

The company ran into a number of technical difficulties with cutting down the pipes and the tubing necessary to chill the ice, said Russell Etling, Cultural Affairs program coordinator for the city's Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs.

“Both sides were very disappointed that it did not work out because we wanted to provide something for the holiday season,” he said.

Midwest Display, Inc. was in charge of running the ice rink. The City of Gainesville had previously managed its own ice rink in 2007 and earlier, but was unable to continue managing a rink due to financial considerations, Etling said.

The company had approached the city to install the rink, and the city would have received 10 percent of the revenue from ticket sales. The fee to enter the ice rink would have been $10 per hour with a skate rental, Etling said.

The delays after Thanksgiving had caused the company to miss a key time of attendance, especially for students attending college. For next year Etling said the vendor expressed an interest in trying again.

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W - Our Chiefland volunteers helped each child pick out special gifts for their family members copy

Chiefland volunteers helped each child pick out special gifts for their family members.

GAINESVILLE – The fifth annual Kids’ Holiday Shopping Night, hosted by Haven Hospice, brought smiles to more than 200 children at the organization’s Attic resale stores in Gainesville on Dec. 6, in Lake City on Dec. 11 and Chiefland on Dec. 13. Participating children enjoyed the opportunity to purchase presents for parents, grandparents and siblings, using “Santa Bucks” provided by the Attic.

Children were treated to a free photo with Santa, gift wrapping and refreshments, which helped many families who are financially struggling during the holiday season. Area businesses such as Toys for Tots, Dollar General, Family Dollar and Wal-Mart supported the effort.

“We are thankful to all the Haven staff, donors and volunteers who participated,” said Michael Morse, vice president of organizational advancement for Haven Hospice, “as well as the countless individuals in the community who generously support the Attic stores with their donations and purchases. Their support goes a long way toward helping the families and communities we serve.

All sales at the Haven Hospice Attic Resale Stores directly benefit Haven Hospice patients and their families, as well as those served by community programs such as Camp Safe Haven for children who have experienced a loss.

In 2011, the Attic stores provided $559,000 to directly support Haven’s unfunded programs and services.

For more information about the Haven Hospice Attic Resale Stores, call 352-378-7484. Haven Hospice is a not-for-profit community hospice organization providing services since 1979 and licensed in Florida since 1980. For more than 30 years Haven has served more than 60,000 patients and families in North Florida. For more information, visit www.havenhospice.org or call 800-727-1889.

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Q W - Alachua Parade -Feature - DSC 0143 copyOver 50 groups participated in the 35th annual Alachua Christmas Parade this past Saturday. The parade’s theme of “Alachua’s Legacy: Our Children” was in evidence as a variety of youth organizations, including Alachua Girl Scout Troop 282, marched down Main Street, waving to the crowds and tossing candy to youngsters.

ALACHUA – Saturday afternoon’s overcast skies and threatening rain were no match for the excitement and buzz of activity in downtown Alachua. With the city’s annual Christmas parade slated to begin at 2 p.m., crowds began gathering early along Main Street in spite of the gloomy forecast.

This year’s parade theme of “Alachua’s Legacy: Our Children” offered participants a seemingly infinite range of ideas to use in decorating the colorful floats that lined up at the top of Main Street. The parade is a partnership between the Alachua Chamber of Commerce and the City of Alachua, and this marked the parade’s 35th year.

Starting at 2 p.m. the series of floats, people, cars and an assortment of animals, including horses, dogs, donkeys and llamas, headed down Main Street as hundreds of excited spectators perched on street curbs and folding chairs waited for the show.

Former Alachua commissioner Orien Hills, who served as the parade’s Grand Marshal, headed up the procession of 50-plus registered parade entries.

This year’s parade featured a float design contest with prizes for not-for-profit and for-profit entries. As each participant reached the intersection of Main Street and NW 148th Place at the flashing yellow light, they paused under the watchful eyes of parade judges who jotted down scores.

Announcing each parade entry as they passed by, City of Alachua Commissioner Ben Boukari, Jr. served as the Master of Ceremonies. Along with Boukari was Alachua recreation director Hal Brady and chamber of commerce member Gussie Lee, who joined in engaging participants in good natured banter as they passed through the intersection.

Waiting in anxious anticipation for the candy that is traditionally tossed from parade participants, excited children lined the street. Red and white striped candy canes, green and red peppermints and a variety of other colorful candy were soon in the hands of youngsters who dashed from their perches to retrieve the sweets.

This year’s parade saw its share of elected officials participate. Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell took her usual spot near the front of the parade walking alongside Alachua Chief of Police Joel DeCoursey. Alachua County Commissioner Lee Pinkoson made the trek on foot, handing out candy along the parade route. And a familiar face in the parade was Clovis Watson, Jr., who has appeared in a number of his hometown parades. This difference this time is his new role as State Representative for Florida House District 20. Also walking along the parade route was Florida’s District 3 Congressman-elect Ted Yoho.

To the delight of spectators, the parade lasted nearly an hour. And unquestionably, the crowd’s favorite appeared at the end of the parade. Perched high atop a fire truck and dressed in his trademark red suit, a jolly Santa delivered a hearty “ho-ho-ho” and a “Merry Christmas” before dashing off.

While the parade may have been over, float judges David Pope, Linda Chapman and Eva Copeland still had a tough task at hand as they continued deliberating their decision for the float decorating contest. In the for-profit category, first place went to Matchmaker Realty, second place to Alarion Bank and third place to Lee’s Preschool. In the non-profit category, first place went to the Santa Fe Raider Marching Band, second place to River of Life Church and third place to the Hare Krishna Temple.

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