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ARCHER – The search for a new city manager for the City of Archer is underway and the city commission held a workshop Tuesday, June 5 to discuss five candidates who have applied for the position.

With former city manager John Glanzer’s resignation effective May 11, the commission is pressing forward to find a replacement.

Commissioners shared their thoughts on each candidate after their one-on-one interviews with them last week. City commissioners Fletcher Hope and Blanch Parker and Vice Mayor Marjorie Zander were present out of the five officials who will chose the new city manger for Archer.

Fourteen applications were submitted in response to advertisements for the city manager position, which was posted at the end of April. Each commission reviewed the applications and rated them based on a grading rubric with 10 to 12 different criteria.

Only five of the original 14 candidates made it to the second phase in the process, and they were given an hour interview with each commissioner separately.

The five candidates are Carlos Tobar, Judith Jankosky, George Hayfield, Craig Gould and Al Grieshaber.

Despite the progress in the application process, the city commission is still accepting applications for the position. The application process will stay open until the position is filled.

City Commissioner Fletcher Hope said, “If it takes us until September, I don’t want it to be until September, October, we need to make sure we have the correct review of profile and criteria for the right fit for Archer.

“I don’t want to slow it down, but I don’t want to rush it either, because we’re frightened of a budget final,” he said. “That’s why we did what we did at an expense to carry John Mayberry on as a temporary employee, and we quickly made sure we had our interim stuff taken care of,” Hope said.

The salary cap for the position is $75,000 including salary and benefits. Applicants are offered the option to give their preferred salary range on the application.

Some of the candidates have previous municipal experience and others have had leadership experience elsewhere.

Hope and Parker were both impressed by Carlos Tobar who has paid and unpaid experience in municipal government in Tampa, Jacksonville and California.

Parker said Tobar had plans for the recreation department that didn’t cost the city any money.

Commissioners Hope and Parker both agreed that someone with diverse skills would be a good fit for Archer.

“We’re so small we just have to get somebody that’s able to do not just the job in the office but they got to be able to move and do,” Parker said.

The city manager candidates are expected to be on the agenda for the next city commission meeting scheduled for June 11.

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HIGH SPRINGS – As the City of High Springs faces declining tax revenue, several department heads noted during the budget workshop on Tuesday that they will require additional employees to ensure public safety.

Finance Services Director Helen McIver said the Alachua County Property Appraisers’ Office estimated a 5 percent drop in property values for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which will equate to approximately $60,000 to $70,000 less in ad valorem taxes than the city received this year. The budget revenues already reflect a $1.5 million reduction in total revenues from the 2010-2011 fiscal year to the current year.

In addition, the Florida Supreme Court is considering a case about the state employee pension fund. If the court settles in favor of employees, the city may have to pay back a 3 percent reduction in retirement benefits that was instituted as a result of a State of Florida mandate. Commissioners suggested setting aside a reserve fund to be prepared for either outcome.

“It’s going to be a tough budget year,” Vice-Mayor Bob Barnas said.

The budget meeting falls on the heels of the commission voting to bring back the emergency dispatch center to the High Springs Police Department.  During the budget workshop, the commission decided to budget for one dispatch supervisor and five dispatchers.  The anticipated cost of the dispatch will be $268,925 for the 2012-2013 budget compared to $143,285 in 2011-2012. Dispatch services are currently handled through the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Combined Communication Center (CCC).

“Communications is the one that concerns me because of what we have to fund this budget year for next year’s operations, and that’s money that’s got to come out now,” Commissioner Scott Jamison said. “We need to figure out where we’re going to get it.”

Total expenditures from the police department operations have fallen from $1,044,788 in the adopted 2011-2012 budget to $937,318 for the proposed 2012-2013 budget. City Manager Jeri Langman said High Springs will have to fund approximately $54,000 to $75,000 in the current fiscal year to purchase equipment and software, and to begin training employees. The dispatch console alone will cost an estimated $40,000.

In addition, the city’s fire department proposed adding three firefighters and one administrative assistant. The addition will increase that portion of the budget from $507,650 in the previous fiscal year to a proposed $615,600 in 2012-2013 for personnel service costs.

According to the Fire Chief, Bruce Gillingham, the fire department needs more firemen to create a safe environment and improve fire response time. Currently, he said the response time is seven to eight minutes for a downtown call, but a typical fire will consume a house in 11 minutes.

“All I’m trying to do is raise the quality of care we are providing,” Gillingham said.

Commissioner Sue Weller said she would like to keep a full-time Parks and Recreation Director on staff, if possible. Other commissioners agreed. Barnas said he enjoyed the previous director’s contributions to the city, citing Music in the Park.

Barnas said he wants to look at cutting employee health benefits and getting rid of the tag agency to lower city costs.

“We’re going to have to change – dramatically change – what we contribute as a city to health benefits,” Barnas said.

If the employees want to stay with their current plan, Barnas said the employees will have to pay the difference between what the city can pay next fiscal year and the total cost of the plan. McIver estimates the city will pay $6,500 per employee for 45 to 50 employees in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Although McIver had estimates on reductions in property taxes, the revenue side of the budget has not been formally prepared.

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newsflashHigh Springs City Manager Jeri Langman has called a press conference for Friday, June 8 at 10 a.m. in which, it is reported, she will ask that Vice Mayor Bob Barnas resign from his position on the city commission. 

Attorney Linda Rice Chapman reports that the call for Barnas' resignation comes amid accusations of "repeated violations of the Charter of the City of High Springs."

Chapman said Langman would be detailing the violations at the press conference, which is to be held on the steps of City Hall.

Chapman represents former High Springs City Planner Christian Popoli, whose position was terminated in April after Barnas and other commissioners said hiring a city engineer was more important.

 

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HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs City Commission voted on Thursday, May 24, to submit an application to the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce Council of Economic Outreach requesting a tax rebate for Plantation Oaks Assisted Living Residence, a local business that provides care to elderly people who can no longer live by themselves.

During the April 26 meeting, Commission Scott Jamison said he was concerned that Plantation Oaks did not meet the guidelines required by the ordinance for tax exemption.  The exemption would grant Plantation Oaks a 60 percent reduction in taxes for six years.

“It concerns me a little bit that we are looking at approving something that doesn’t fit any of the criteria in an ordinance that we put forth,” Jamison said.

The ordinance requires at least 25 non-manufacturing employees for a new business, which Plantation Oaks does not meet. To calculate the possible tax reduction, the commission took into account the number of employees and average employee wages.

A majority of the commission felt that the business should be granted the exemption in hopes of creating  a business-friendly environment in the city. The intent was to give benefits and breaks to business coming in, said Commissioner Linda Gestrin.

High Springs city attorney Raymond Ivey said the commission can grant a waiver for Plantation Oaks, but warned that doing so for a business not meeting the requirement could open the door to others requesting the same treatment.

“This is a business that has added employment to the city, has bent over backward to help the city,” Vice-Mayor Bob Barnas said at an earlier meeting. “If we want to continue to invite businesses to come to town, this is something that we said we were going to do years ago in economic developments and incentives. It will go to the county, and they will review it.”

On March 20, Mayor Dean Davis said the owner of Plantation Oaks purchased the building for $2 million. Previously a conference center for Seventh Day Adventists, the building was not on the tax rolls, but the taxes expected from the business for this year total $51,000 to $53,000. According to Barnas, the business pays $12,000 to the city in taxes.

At the May 24 meeting, Commissioner Sue Weller made the motion to pass the application along to the Council of Economic Outreach. Commissioner Scott Jamison voted against the measure citing the applicant’s failure to not meet the required guidelines. The motion passed four to one.

“They are helping our city,” Davis said.

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Beryl rainfall not enough to cure water woes

W_-_Santa_Fe_River_Peril_DSCF6040_copy  Area residents survey the High Springs boat ramp at Santa Fe River on Tuesday, only to find much of the river is gone, and all that's left is but a trickle where the once vibrant waterway rolled.

HIGH SPRINGS – As tropical storm Beryl slid across northeastern Florida, she deposited thousands of gallons of rainwater across the drought-stricken land. The rain soaked into the thirsty soil, awakened wilted plants, drenched bone-dry lakebeds, and raised reservoir and pool levels.

Overall, the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) estimates a total of six inches of rain fell over its 15 county jurisdiction.

But it wasn’t enough.

During a public information meeting about the Santa Fe River held at Poe Springs on Tuesday, Megan Wetherington, Senior Professional Engineer at SRWMD, said the river will hardly see an increase in levels or flow because the surrounding areas were so dry. Like a sponge, those dry areas will soak up the water before it reaches the river. Prior to Beryl, Florida had record low water levels, Wetherington said.

“It will be positive,” she said. “It’s just not the drought-buster that that we need.”

Recently, the Alachua County Health Department identified an algal bloom on the Santa Fe River between the U.S Highway 27 bridge and Poe Springs. The water samples it collected contained the algae Anabaena circinalis, a known producer of toxins. In Florida, there are no records of the algae producing these toxins, but David Whiting of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said scientists are unsure what causes the algae toxin producers to turn on and off.  An algae bloom in Leon County’s Lake Munson produced high levels of toxin one year, but the next year, no toxins were present.

The three major contributors to the algae bloom are fertilizers, septic tanks and over pumping of the ground water, said Robert Hutchinson of the Alachua Conservation Trust. Nutrients contained within the fertilizers and waste products, such as human and animal waste, seep into the river and feed the algae. Unseasonable warm temperatures and an early summer contributed to the growth of the thick algae mats and the cyanobacteria, as well.

“It’s taken 100 years to get this bad; it’s going to take at least 100 years more to clean things up,” Hutchinson said. “It’s important not to point fingers because we are all part of the problem, just like we all have to be a part of the solution.”

During the public information meeting, which was organized by Merrillee Maltwitz-Jipson, president of Our Santa Fe River, Cris Costello of the Sierra Club said the current condition of the Santa Fe River is a result of abuse of Florida’s water bodies.

If people thought of the Santa Fe as a bucket slowly being filled with waste, the bucket has to eventually reach a tipping point, she said.

“The bottom line is if there was nothing for the algae to eat, it wouldn’t grow. It wouldn’t bloom,” Costello said, adding “If we look around Alachua County, there are spray fields, animal feeding operations, dairy farms and septic tanks.”

The water quantity and water quality problems facing the river are extensive, said Charlie Houder, acting executive director of the SRWMD.  However, the district maintains that if the water is managed properly, there is enough to go around. He said the district will not stop issuing water permits.

On Tuesday the district did issue a Water Shortage Order to be in effect from June 13 to Sept. 30, 2012, for all water users within its boundaries. This is the first time the district has ever issued a water shortage order, Houder said.

The order places restrictions on certain uses, as well as calling for widespread conservation. Residential watering of existing lawns will be limited to one day a week, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Designated watering days are determined by even-odd address numbers, according to the SRWMD website.

For agricultural and commercial water use, the water shortage order lists separate rules and restrictions. They are also encouraged to reduce all non-essential water usage.

Alachua County alone uses 60 million gallons of water a day, said Chris Bird, director of the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department. Over 50 percent of that water is used to irrigate residential lawns, and only an estimated seven percent of the recent rainfall will make it back into the aquifer.

“We all have to come up with a new ethic, a water ethic,” Houder said. “I think the era of cheap water is pretty much over.”

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dscf6072web

 

SEE COMPLETE VIDEO HERE

LANGMAN'S DETAILED MEMO TO MAYOR DEAN DAVIS HERE

 

Below is a prepared statement that was released as High Springs City Manager Jeri Langman called for Vice-Mayor Bob Barnas to resign this morning, Friday, June 8.

My name is Jeri Langman. I am City Manager for the City of High Springs. I am here today to call for the resignation of Vice-Mayor Barnas for egregious and repeated Violations of the Charter of High Springs. The City of High Springs has a manager/commission form of government. The City Manager runs the day to day operations and the City Commission makes policy, which the Manager carries out. While it is true the City Manager serves at the pleasure of the City Commission, he or she serves at the Commission’s pleasure collectively, as a Board. The City Manager cannot be directed by any one Commissioner. Our City Charter is very clear:

Section 2.04. - Mayor.

………

(b) Duties. The mayor shall preside at meetings of the commission and shall be recognized as head of the city government for service of process, ceremonial matters, and execution of contracts, deeds, and others documents. The mayor shall have no administrative duties other than those necessary to accomplish these duties.

Section 2.05. - General powers of city commission.

All powers of the city shall be vested in the city commission except those powers specifically given to the charter officers or specifically reserved by this Charter to the electors of the city.

Section 3.04. - City manager—Powers and duties.

The city manager, when necessary, shall appoint, suspend, demote, or dismiss any city employee under his jurisdiction in accordance with law and the personnel rules, …….. The city manager shall direct and supervise the administration of all departments of the city except the offices of city clerk and city attorney and ….. shall see that all laws, Charter provisions, ordinances, resolutions, and other acts of the commission subject to enforcement by him are faithfully executed.

Section 2.06. - Commission-employee relationship.

Neither the city commission nor any of its members shall in any manner dictate the appointment or removal of any city employee except the charter officers, nor shall the commission or any of its members give orders to any employee other than commission orders to a charter officer. The commission or its members shall deal on all matters through the appropriate charter officer.

Since I was appointed City Manager Vice-Mayor Barnas has attempted to run the day to day operations of the City of High Springs by directing me to take various actions. He is a rogue Commissioner. I was directed by Barnas to fire Christian Popoli. I refused. Christian was a competent employee and I relied  him to help me manage the City. Because I refused to fire him, Vice-Commissioner Barnas manipulated the budget to eliminate Christian’s position. Vice Mayor Barnas then pushed this budget change through the Commission without explaining his true motives to the public or even to all of the Commissioners.

I have voluminous e-mail from Vice Mayor Barnas where he has attempted to direct my every move in this office. He has done this without Commission approval or direction, or even knowledge by some of the other Commissioners. Every time he does this he is violating the Charter of the City of High Springs.

Vice Mayor Barnas has been attempting to negotiate contracts on behalf of the City of High Springs without Commission direction, approval or knowledge. This is a direct violation of the Charter of the City of High Springs.  He has been writing letters on behalf of the City of High Springs without Commission direction, approval or knowledge. This is a direct violation of the Charter of the City of High Springs. He has been directing City staff on his own without my direction, approval or even knowledge. This is a direct violation of the Charter of the City of High Springs. He has constantly directed me to direct staff in a certain and specific manner and each time he does this he is violating the City of High Springs Charter. It is my duty as City Manager to see that all laws, Charter provisions, ordinances, (and) resolutions, …..subject to enforcement by (me)…. are faithfully executed.

Therefore, as a result of Vice Mayor Barnas’ repeated refusal to follow the law of the Charter of High Springs I am calling for him to do the right thing and step down from his position as a High Springs Commissioner immediately.

I will be filing a formal complaint with the State Attorney and Governor’s office as soon as the paper work is completed. Thank you all for coming.

 

 

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W_-_Mug_-_Willard_MWALDO – A 19-year-old man has been charged in the Tuesday afternoon shooting death of his ex-girlfriend’s father.

According to the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO), Willard Merle Newman was arrested on charges of first-degree murder and armed burglary for allegedly shooting Ronald Lamar Andrews, 46, of 18104 N.E. 143rd Avenue, Lake Alto Estates, Waldo.

The report states that Andrews’ 15-year-old daughter had been dating Newman against his wishes for the last four years, but the couple had broken up on two weeks earlier.

The shooting reportedly happened after Joseph Andrews drove his brother, Ronald Andrews, home. They arrived at around 4:50 p.m. Joseph Andrews stayed in the kitchen while Ronald Andrews went to his teenage daughter’s bedroom to check if she was home.

Joseph Andrews told ACSO officials that Ronald Andrews opened the bedroom door, threw up his hand and exclaimed, “What the hell! What the hell!”

Joseph Andrews saw two muzzle flashes, heard two gunshots and witnessed his brother’s body fall onto the bedroom floor. After hearing an additional gunshot, Joseph Andrews ran outside and got into his van and called the police.  Deputies responded and Ronald Andrews was pronounced dead at the scene.

Deputies removed three .380 caliber shell casings and one projectile from the bedroom closet wall.

Willard S. Newman, the defendant’s father, told ACSO Sgt. Terry Crews that Newman arrived at his Lake Alto Estates residence around 2:30 p.m. earlier that day. Newman told his father he was going to visit his ex-girlfriend, who lived in the same neighborhood.

Newman returned to his father’s house at approximately 5 p.m. and left on his scooter toward his home in the Oak Park mobile home park.

Earlier in the day, Kenneth Oliver, the fiancé of Newman’s mother, Tamatha Walden, had noticed his .380 caliber handgun was missing from their home. When Newman arrived at the home, Oliver asked where the gun was and if he was involved in the Waldo shooting.

Oliver confirmed his missing handgun was in the scooter and called ACSO at 6:24 p.m. to report Newman was involved in the shooting. Detectives recovered the handgun from the scooter along with a black ski mask and a pair of gloves.

Newman is currently being held in the Alachua County jail.

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