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ALACHUA – On Monday night, the Alachua City Commission heard good news about a resource for local senior citizens.  Seniors throughout Alachua County now have a new place to exercise, take classes and meet people. According to Anthony Clarizio, Director of ElderCare of Alachua County, the Alachua County Senior Recreation Center, located at 5701 NW 34 Street in Gainesville is thriving.

“It’s located with good access to all parts of the city,” he said.

Clarizio said the center, located at Gainesville’s Northside Park, is near Alachua, Waldo and High Springs. He said the center expected 500 people to register in the first year, and they’ve seen 2,400 registrants so far.

“This thing has just taken off,” he said.

The 17,000-square-foot center cost $5 million to build. Funding sources included the City of Gainesville and Alachua County, with each contributing $1.5 million to the project from revenue generated by the Wild Spaces-Public Places funding initiative and a $2 million state grant awarded through the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.

The center has a game room, classrooms, computer lab, exercise room and more. Clarizio said the number one exercise class at the center is Zumba Gold.

He said the center is working to extend its hours and allow working seniors to participate as well.

He said many seniors are losing friends and dealing with loss, and the center can help them cope.

“We have to figure out ways to replace that social network,” he said.  “Otherwise, people become depressed and isolated in their homes, and that’s about the worst thing they can do.”

Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper said he hasn’t been inside the facility, but he said the exterior impresses him.

“It’s a beautiful building with Wal-Mart right across the street,” he said.


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W_-_Rogers_FarmBrandi Everrett of Lake City accompanies her son, Tanner, as pony ride instructor Gerson Eddy leads the pony at rogers Farm.

ALACHUA COUNTY – People looking for a way to celebrate fall are invited to visit Rogers Farm’s Octoberfest.

The fall festival, located at 3831 NW 156th Avenue, is open to the public Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Schools and children’s groups are invited to book field trips during the week to visit the farm.

Once guests enter the farm, they are greeted with a variety of games and attractions. The festival features duck races, pony rides, games, slides and swings, a petting zoo with cows, pigs and another farm animals, and more.

Larry Rogers, owner of Rogers Farm, said he’s lived in the area his entire life.

“We’ve been here forever,” he said. “I was born right down the road.”

He said he came up with the idea for a fall festival after seeing it on a friend’s property in Georgia. He said he’s pulled a lot of ideas from fall festivals around the country to create the best event possible.  This is the fourth year Rogers Farm has offered a fall fest.

“We like to see the kids have fun,” he said.

After 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, the farm offers a 10-acre haunted corn maze and spook trail. Rogers said the farm sees an increase in college students those nights.

“We really do it in the daytime for kids,” he said. “We try to cater to the kids.”

Rogers Farm advertises on local radio stations, but he said a lot of their customers hear about the farm via word-of-mouth.

The festival opened Sept. 29, and it will run until Oct. 28.  It’s $8 admission for the games and activities, and $8 for the corn maze and spook trail.  Attendees can pay $12 and participate in all activities. Children under 3 are admitted for free. There is a covered picnic area and plenty of burgers, hotdogs and treats offered through onsite concessions.  Friday hours are from 5 p.m. until midnight, Saturday hours are 10 a.m. until midnight and Sunday hours are 1 p.m. until 7 p.m.  If you’re traveling from Gainesville, you can reach the farm via SR 121 North to NW 156th Avenue.

Rogers recommends that all residents come out and visit.

“I’ve never seen someone not enjoy it,” he said.

Karla Jones, a Gilchrist County resident, visited Rogers farm during the day with her homeschool group.  She brought her young children with her.

“I find it interesting,” she said. “We’ve never been.”

Alesha Waller of Lake City brought her children as well. She said she came because she thought it looked fun.

“It’s very nice,” she said. “The kids are enjoying it.”

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HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs City Commission voted of 4-1 Thursday, Oct. 11, to officially terminate former City Manager Jeri Langman following a relatively short quasi judicial public hearing.  Attorney Bill Whitley represented the City Commission as hearing officer and conducted the proceedings.

Whitley said he had prepared two resolutions for Commission consideration after the hearing.  The first was Resolution 2012-T to terminate and the second was Resolution 2012-U to reinstate Langman.

One reason for the hearing’s brevity was that Langman, who was sworn in to testify by Whitley, read a statement specifying that her attorney “has asked in writing at least three times for this hearing to be postponed as her husband had surgery today and is unable to attend this hearing.”  Langman said the attorney has not received a reply from the City to her request.

Langman requested the city attorney contact her attorney, Carla Franklin, to see if they could agree to delay the hearing to Oct. 28 to allow her attorney to be present.  This is “a reasonable request normally afforded to any officer of the court who requests it.  To afford me any less due process is continuing this unlawful retaliation against me for blowing the whistle on Mayor Davis, Vice-Mayor Barnas and Ms. Gestrin for unlawful activities,” she said.

Former City Attorney Thomas DePeter was sworn in.  He commented on the procedural nature of the hearing and suggested the Commission ask their new attorney whether granting an extension would be a violation of the Charter, and pointed out that in a quasi judicial hearing any ex-parte communication regarding the issue would mean the findings are flawed.

Following the two speakers and seeing no one else to testify, Whitley closed the hearing and returned the meeting to the mayor and commissioners.

Commissioner Sue Weller asked if the Commission was in compliance by continuing.  City Attorney Tosha Fernandez, noting the meeting had been properly noticed and followed the City Charter, said, “It is your prerogative to make a decision this evening.”

Vice-Mayor Barnas moved and Commissioner Sue Weller seconded a motion to pass Resolution 2012-T to officially terminate Langman.

During public comments, DePeter said he did not hear any testimony from anybody regarding the performance of the city manager or whether she is pleasing the Commission.  “I heard no substantial evidence at all presented at this hearing,” he said.

Attorney Paul Regensdorf commented that as a lawyer he had been in several hearings where one side or the other has a scheduling issue.  “I don’t think I’ve ever been in a hearing where, because of the unavailability of a lawyer, the presiding body did not grant a continuance when requested,” he said.  “My opinion would be that, whatever the time limit is for a hearing is one that obviously could be waived as long as both parties agree.”

“It is a little bit startling to me,” he continued, “that a body such as this does not allow a person who is going to be fired to have their attorney present when the grounds requested for that continuance is the unavailability due to some sort of medical problem in the family.  I’ve only practiced law 40 years.  I’ve never seen that happen before.  I guess this will be the first time if, in fact, you don’t grant her that continuance.”

The Commission moved forward and voted 4-1 to approve Resolution 2012-T.

The dissenting vote was cast by Commissioner Scott Jamison who had earlier stated he would hope that the Commissioners would “take note from this as we go into the next City Manager…that we inventory what we’ve done and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes dealing with the next one as we move forward.”

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Email Cwalker@alachuatoday.com

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Full video of the High Springs commission candidates forum hosted by the High Springs New Century Woman's Club, Inc.

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HIGH SPRINGS – Residents who have lately focused on the national election debates switched gears on Tuesday, Oct. 23, to focus on the upcoming Tuesday, Nov. 6, local city election.  A referendum and a race between candidates Pat Rush and Byran Williams for the city commission seat being vacated by Mayor Dean Davis hang in the balance of this year’s election.

Approximately 65 residents of the 3,366 registered voters attended the hour-long forum as candidates expressed diverse opinions in answer to questions posed by the High Springs Woman’s Club.

Following a two-minute introduction by both candidates, each had three minutes to respond to prepared questions asked by moderator Alison Horvath.  Candidates had one minute each to rebut his opponent’s answers.  Once the prepared questions were answered, Horvath drew names of audience members who asked questions from the floor.

In his opening statement Rush cited lack of communication between the citizens and city government.  Citizens “are not sure where the money is being spent…what the commission is doing…or the different functions of the city,” he said.

Attending meetings where commissioners talk to the city manager and attorney didn’t seem satisfying to Rush.  He expressed a desire for a more hands-on approach.  “I took the opportunity to go around and tour the sewer repair with some of the workers here in town and I think that type of involvement – meeting with the employees – helps to educate and let you know what’s exactly going on.”

Williams discussed his lifelong history and education in High Springs, his service to the city as mayor, vice-mayor, commissioner and pastor of a local church.  He stressed that he did not “serve any particular group, but instead all of the citizens of High Springs.”

Saying he would like to restore the city’s reputation as “a friendly city…a place where people can come and meet a person on the street and say hi and shake their hands.”  Fondly remembering the days when everybody spoke to everybody else on the street he said, “That’s the kind of High Springs I’d like to see again.”

In answer to a question about the amendment to the city’s charter to restrict municipal borrowing to $1 million on any single loan transaction unless a majority of commissioners and the voters approve a higher loan amount, Rush responded saying that the city is “$8.5 million in debt on a sewer system that loses money on every single user.  It was a bad idea,” he said, indicating a gravity system would have been a better choice.

“Those of you on the system are on a grinder pump and they fail routinely,” he said.  “Now we’re $8.5 million in debt on that.”  Indicating the sewer system loan was a 40 year loan, he said, “I will be 95-years old” when it’s paid.  “It must be stopped.  We’re going to go broke if it continues.  Yes, I think it was a reckless thing in the past and I’d like to see it stopped,” he added.

Williams expressed concern that if the funds are needed for an emergency, there might not be time to bring it before the commission and then before the citizens in a referendum.  “It would take you forever,” he said.  “You’ve tied the city’s hands.”

Indicating that commissioners are elected to act in the best interests of the city, he explained it will be confusing and divisive for citizens “and it’s time out for all that confusion and division in the city of High Springs.”

In rebuttal, Rush said, “It really wouldn’t affect my vote in the city as I have no intention of taking out loans for a million dollars… It’s real easy to take out loans.  The reason I feel that this amendment is important is because it has happened in the past.”

Rebutting Rush’s comments, Williams emphasized the possibility of an emergency in which the city might have to act quickly.  He explained, “If an emergency situation comes up, we don’t want to leave our citizens hanging around,” he said.  “We elect our commissioners to make a judgment…a sound, sensible judgment to do what’s right for the city of High Springs.  In spite of what other people may say or think,” he emphasized, “it can be done.  It’s been done in the past,” he said.

In answer to their position on expansion of the sewer system, Williams said, “The city made the decision on the sewer system around 2000.  I came onto the commission in 2003.”  Citing figures indicating that if the current city population, which consists of 1,456 dwellings, was hooked up to the sewer system upon construction completion and at the city’s current rate of $34.41 per month for 12 months, the amount of money the city would generate would be $601,211.

Should the city decide to raise the rate to $69.45 per month, again with the same number of dwellings, the city would receive “$1.2 million per year,” he said.

“That’s easy math,” said Williams, who also said he was concerned that the city’s water system might be affected if the sewer system is not completed and expressed even more concern about the possibly of citizens being required to buy bottled drinking water.

Williams spoke about his concern regarding the “fairness” to those already hooked up of not completing the system.  “It’s just not fair,” said Williams emphatically.

Rush countered by saying, “This is one huge difference between Mr. Williams and myself. I disagree with every single word he said.”

Rush went on to explain that half of his water bill was going to pay for people who were on the sewer.  “In total we get about $180,000 per year, which is taken out of the water fund to pay for the sewer.  That’s money that’s lost,” he said, “because the sewer loses that much money.  An additional $8,000 comes out of trash pickup.  We are dropping about $260,000 a year.”

Rush added, “Everyone who is not on the sewer is helping to pay for the sewer…This system is just a calamity.”

Because this election coincides with the national election, the Supervisor of Elections must certify the election results prior to declaring any candidate a winner.  In past years, the winning candidate would have been sworn in at the next regular commission meeting after the election.  This year it is estimated that swearing in of the new commissioner may not take place until possibly the second regular commission meeting in November.

The Supervisor of Elections office reports 3,366 registered voters for High Springs.  During the 2011 election, 771 votes were cast by High Springs residents.

Voting locations this year are at Precinct 20, located at the High Springs Civic Center, 330 NW Santa Fe Blvd. (US 441) and Precinct 60, located at Fellowship Church of High Springs, 16916 NW US Hwy 441.

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ALACHUA – Officers with the Alachua Police Department (APD) conducted a vehicle stop on Interstate 75 at the 397 mile marker on Wednesday.

The vehicle, a black Nissan SUV driven by Zactores Fields was traveling in excess of the posted speed limit. While making contact with Fields, officers noticed an odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle. APD K9 Blitz was utilized to check the perimeter of the vehicle for the odor of narcotics. A search of the vehicle was subsequently conducted.

Upon searching the vehicle, a loaded, unsecured .22 caliber handgun was located underneath the driver’s seat. In addition, a baggy containing marijuana was located between the driver’s seat and center console.

Fields was identified as a convicted felon and did not possess a concealed weapons permit.

Fields was arrested on four counts and charged with Carrying a Concealed Weapon, Possession of Marijuana (less than 20 grams), Possession of Firearm by Convicted Felon and Possession of Ammunition by Convicted Felon.

Fields is being held at the Alachua County Jail in lieu of $125,000.

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Since 1976 Carlton DeLoach has been delivering mail throughout Alachua County, and he knows his route like the back of his hand.  But this will change in a few short weeks when he hangs up his mailbag for good after 36 years.

Every weekday morning at 6:30 a.m., Carlton DeLoach heads to the Alachua County post office, sorts the mail, ties it with a strap and carries it out to his truck.

DeLoach then gets into his tan Chevy S-10 pickup and spends the next five hours driving 80 miles throughout Alachua County.

He drives from Alachua to the Hare Krishna community, then to Lacrosse and Hague. He drives down tree-lined roads to reach Santa Fe, and then he comes back to County Road 239. His route takes him down dirt roads and paths lined with North Florida’s abundant wildlife.

DeLoach, 65, is called Buddy by almost everyone who knows him. He has delivered mail along this route for the United States Postal Service for 36 years – more than half his life. He will retire Nov. 2.

He wears round glasses and speaks with a slight twang. When he talks about his time at the post office, tears fill his eyes.

DeLoach said he was born and raised in Alachua County. He started as a mail carrier in 1976, when he was 29 years old and a first-class stamp cost 13 cents.

“I decided after that year I’d stick with it full time, and that’s what I’ve been doing since then,” he said.

He said he’s seen a lot of development in Alachua since the 1970s. When he started, there were two routes. There are nine routes today.

“Almost everything was agriculturally related back then,” he said. “It’s changed a lot.”

He said the popularity of Facebook and other social networking websites have decreased the amount of mail people send.

“Twenty years ago, you would’ve mailed a letter to your mother to tell her how you’re doing in school,” he said. “Everybody knows your business as well as you do.”

DeLoach’s wife, Elizabeth, said he makes a personal connection with the people he serves.

“Everybody knows who he is,” she said.

She said customers often call Buddy’s home number to tell him that they’re going on vacation and need their mail held.

“He can talk,” she said. “That’s why his customers like him so much.”

Elizabeth said she knows Buddy will miss his route once he’s done.

“What they’re going to miss about him the most down at the post office is his mother’s pound cakes,” she said, laughing.

He said his coworkers were surprised when they heard the news.

“They thought I was going to be there forever, I think,” he said. “Probably die on the job or something.”

DeLoach doesn’t know how many miles he’s traveled, but he received an award for one million accident-free miles three years ago.

Karen Avinger has known DeLoach for close to 40 years. Avinger, who lives right outside of Alachua, is on DeLoach’s postal route. She said he’s always been friendly.

“If we ever had any complaints, he would always try to take care of the problem,” she said. “He went out of his way to try to be helpful.”

She said he’d bring mail to her front door when after her husband had surgery.

“He’s really a caring person,” she said.

When asked what he’ll do once he’s retired, DeLoach laughed and said he’d spend his free time on his farm with his horses, donkeys, mules and dogs, and “Whatever my wife wants me to do.”

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NEWBERRY – In the wake of Olympics silver medalist archer Jake Kaminski’s visit, the Easton Newberry Sports Complex is on a mission to enhance its high-quality intermediate sports program, and the Unites States Olympics Committee (USOC) will visit the complex on Dec. 3.

The USOC has researched and found that kids have a better shot at training for Olympics if they are in their hometown near a complex such as Easton, which in turn hopes that its local youth archers can maximize their potential to participate in the Olympics and Paralympics training system.

The complex has a steadily growing Junior Olympic Archery Development Program that just raised $16,000, and has set its sights on partnering with national governing bodies and community sports groups to become a Community Olympics Development Program (CODP), said Doug Engh, the outreach director for Easton Foundations. USA Archery has also established a memorandum of understanding with the facility, which has produced two national champions.

With CODP designation the complex would have access to USOC corporate sponsors, national recognition and media exposure, considering how few and far between the development program sites are. Designation could also grant access to the USOC-funded annual conference for COPD managers at an Olympics training center.

Participation in the program would require monthly progress reports from a steering committee coupled with local outreach. Once designated, an athlete at the facility would have a much higher probability to be considered for Olympics training.

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cgrinstead@alachuatoday.com

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