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W - Interstate Traffic Cameras 2012-11-28 12.10.26GAINESVILLE – Cameras placed along 1-75 in Alachua County are transmitting images of traffic that are available for the public to view. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), the University of Florida and Alachua County contributed funding for the project. Through the gac-smartraffic website, the public can view traffic snapshots from 13 cameras.

Ten of the cameras currently run on solar power and wireless technology, while three remain connected to the electric grid. The first camera was put in place in August.

Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Operations Engineer Matthew Weisman said working on the Interstate is expensive and by using solar power and wireless technology, the work can be completed at a cheaper cost. According to Weisman, the cost of the cameras plus the concrete pole and construction are $20,000. Three cameras can be found in the Paynes Prairie area and more can be found at interchange exits such as Newberry and Archer roads. The most recent camera added in Marion County was placed on an existing concrete pole for $5,000.

The FDOT has future plans to place additional cameras and signs along parts of I-75.

“They are going to do a full deployment of ITS on the interstate, so more cameras are going to be added,” Weisman said.

The cameras that are already in place will become a part of the coming FDOT network of cameras and receive full power. Weisman said the FDOT was originally looking at 2017 or 2018 to fund the project through Alachua County.

“There were more reasons why we wanted to get our deployment of these 13 cameras up sooner,” Weisman said. Referring to the deadly vehicle pileup on Interstate 75in southern Alachua County in January 2012, Weisman said, “After the Payne’s Prairie crash, because there was legislation, they were able to get that money sooner.” The tragedy, which occurred along Interstate 75 as it runs through Payne’s Prairie, was blamed on an area brush fire, which led to car crashes resulting in the deaths of 11 people.

“If someone knows they are going to be planning a trip,” Weisman said. “They can go ahead and look at those cameras.” The public can view near real-time Interstate 75 traffic at http://gac-smartraffic.com/

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NEWBERRY – After about a year of disuse, Newberry’s old west end building is expected to reopen as a package store soon, although the exact date is not available.

Located at 24920 West Newberry Road, the store will sell wines and fine liquors. The business plan does not include alcohol service, although there may be occasional wine tastings. A drive-through service may also be available, although there is no firm decision about that yet.

The property is part of the company, RJ’s Lucky 7, LLC, which also includes the Lucky 7 Quik Mart. The west end building was constructed in 1966 as a convenience store, and the current owner took it over in September 1988. Shortly thereafter the building became a package store and bar.

City officials say the owner is in the process of obtaining a liquor license and improving the property with paving and landscaping. The building will be possibly repainted and equipped with new windows and doors.

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ALACHUA – The Alachua County Task Force of Recreation (ACTFOR) recently wrapped up its fall season. The City of Alachua and the Alachua Youth Soccer Organization hosted this year’s Fall Soccer Tournament at the Hal Brady Recreation Complex.  The tournament brought hundreds of participants and their families from all over Alachua County. The tournament was deemed a huge success, due in part to John Salbert, President of the Alachua Youth Soccer Organization, and his dedicated volunteers.

Alachua Girls Youth Volleyball and Alachua Little Jaguar Flag Football expressed their appreciation to all coaches and volunteers, which included Dee Edwards, Gretchen Baker, Lekeesha and Lisa Jenkins, Ed Riess, Chad Scott, Glenn Bryan, Earl Findley, Justin Beck, David Sutton and Hal Brady for their commitment, patience and hard work.

The tournament was enhanced through the support of area business sponsors, which included the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe, Integrity Title, T.C.R Construction, McDonald's of Alachua and Gator Domino's. Their generous contribution and support to the local teams was appreciated by everyone associated with the tournament.  But most important, credit is due to all players who participated and represented the organization with great sportsmanship and an amazing work ethic.

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GAINESVILLE – The Alachua County Commission has ensured that the FluMist program will continue to run for the next 15 years. The Commission voted unanimously to approve funding of $1.5 million from CHOICES program funds for FluMist. The CHOICES program was created to provide access to health care services for working and uninsured residents.

Each year the CHOICES program will allocate $100,000 for FluMist. The funds will be used to cover the cost of administering the program.

CHOICES had previously provided funding of $80,000 per year for the past three years to FluMist.

The most expensive part of the FluMist program is currently the vaccine, Paul Myers administrator of the Alachua County Health Department said.

The Florida Department of Health provides the vaccines. Myers said this year the program is on target to vaccinate 14,000 students.

Students from kindergarten to eighth grade are the target population for administration of the vaccine. There is no fee for these students to receive the vaccine, which is generally administered through a nasal spray.

Myers said according to models, vaccinating around 70 percent of students from kindergarten through the eighth grade can protect an entire community from influenza.

“Of all the outbreaks we had investigated in schools, none had been vaccinated so far,” Myers said. “This whole program is based upon community immunity.”

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GAINESVILLE – The three suspected West Nile virus cases discovered in Alachua County have been declared negative.

Paul Myers, Alachua County Health Department administrator, said one of the victims had symptoms consistent with West Nile.

“The confirmatory blood test indicated that one of the three individuals had been infected with the West Nile virus sometime in the past,” Myers said. “We just don’t know exactly when.”

The men had attempted to donate blood when the antibodies for West Nile were the discovered. Each of the men had been exposed to extensive time outside. One of the men had been infected with West Nile sometime in the past.

Alachua County is still under the Mosquito Born Illness advisory that took effect on Sept. 27, 2012.

West Nile symptoms include sudden onset of headache, fever, stiff neck. Symptoms can appear from 2 to 14 days from the first time of exposure.

The illness first appeared in Sentinel chickens. Myers mentioned at least one horse being infected with West Nile. Alachua County had one confirmed case of West Nile in 2003.

Myers said it is been a particularly bad year for West Nile virus.

“It goes back to the winter of 2011-2012. It was a very mild winter, the mosquito die off was not complete,” he said. “Tropical storm Debby came through and created overwhelming numbers of breeding places for mosquitos.”

Even with the cooler weather, Myers still urges residents to protect themselves

“It’s imminent that I will be lifting the Mosquito Borne Illness Advisory in consultation with the state health office,” he said.

Myers still recommends residents drain any standing water, wear long sleeves and check that window screens are in good repair to ensure protection from mosquitoes.

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HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs Mayor Dean Davis convened his final meeting before stepping down on Nov. 20, 2012. As one of his last acts as mayor, Davis presented a plaque to City employee Ginger Travers in appreciation of her actions as a Communications Operator during the May 18, 2011, shooting incident at High Springs Community School.

He said it was something he had wanted to do before retiring and, as this was his last day in office, he wanted to make sure he made the presentation personally to Travers.

Vice-Mayor Bob Barnas presented Mayor Davis with the traditional gavel and plaque in recognition of his leadership and service as mayor to the City of High Springs during 2011-2012.

Davis said he was humbled by the job.

“To my many friends, and I know who you are, that loved me and prayed for me constantly for the last three years…thank you, thank you, thank you and may God richly bless you.”

“For the few vocal and blogging people that have hated me for three years, I have prayed for you those three years and will continue to pray for you. May God bless you and keep you and reveal himself to you.”

“To the commissioners now and the man being seated, good luck and God bless you. It’s been an honor to serve with you. It’s been rocky, but it’s been interesting…and sometimes it’s been fun.”

“I’ll leave you with this thought: If five of us agree, four of us are unnecessary. We’ve been varied in our thoughts. But when we were voted down we didn’t stalk out of the room, we just kept on keeping on. I think you are headed for a great year,” said Davis.

“It is with some fear and trepidation, but more than that, just joy that I adjourn this 2012 commission meeting.”

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W - SpeedLimitDCF7363 copyALACHUA – Motorists traveling through Alachua on U.S. Highway 441 may have noticed a change in speed limits near Progress Corporate Park.

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) recently ordered reduced speeds in the area as a result of a study the agency conducted. The changes come after what FDOT termed an “in-house request” to conduct a safety study of the U.S. 441 corridor in Alachua. The department determined that congestion in the area surrounding Progress Corporate Park, the Santa Fe College Perry Center and nearby State of Florida office park warranted adjustments in speed limits.

The 45 mile per hour speed limit zone was pushed eastward by about two-tenths of a mile, taking that zone to the edge of the County Road 2054 overpass. But likely more noticeable to motorists will be the extended 55 mile per hour zone, which was increased eastward to nearly a mile long. Under the new speed limit arraignment, the 65 mile per hour speed limit does not occur until the Calvary Baptist Church area.

Former Alachua Mayor Jean Calderwood had long been a proponent of speed limit reductions in that area of the U.S. 441 corridor. In previous years, Calderwood repeatedly requested that FDOT review the area and consider speed reductions due to a growing number of motorists entering and leaving the highway there.

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