W -Mugshot - Dallas - ASOHAWTHORNE– When the family of Roger A. Henderson, 64, hadn’t heard from him since the previous evening, they became concerned, according to a release from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO). So, on Saturday, they contacted the ACSO. Shortly after, a family member entered his home on the 6000 block of Southeast 215th Street in the city of Hawthorne.

The relative found Henderson lying on the floor with blood on his clothes. When patrol and K-9 deputies entered the house, they also found him near the living room couch with multiple stab wounds to his chest and back.

Family members reported seeing Henderson’s possessions thrown across his front yard. They also saw a female walk into a bedroom at the back of the home once they were inside, according to the press release.

Deputies searched the home for the woman, and found her sitting on a bed in a nearby room. She was later identified as Claudia B. Dallas, 41, Henderson’s girlfriend. When deputies asked her to surrender and show her hands, she ignored the orders. The deputies managed to arrest her with the help of a police dog.

Henderson was pronounced dead on the scene. An autopsy has not yet been conducted, but will soon be by the Medical Examiner’s Office. Dallas is currently in Alachua County Jail on charges of first degree murder and resisting an officer. Her bail has been set at just over $1 million dollars.  

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HIGH SPRINGS – Bev’s Burger Café employee Amy Terrell reported for work at 315 NE Santa Fe Blvd. at 6:45 a.m. on Wednesday, last week, only to find shattered glass on the floor in front of the emergency exit door. Although nothing was apparently taken and no further vandalism took place, one of the drawers was left open.

Manager Kristen Keene said it looked as though they must have climbed through the door after breaking the glass and were searching for money. Having found none, they apparently left the building. It is unknown exactly when the break-in occurred, but she said she assumed they must have come in during the night after closing time.

The emergency exit door was replaced at a cost of around $200, Keene said.

Officer Kendrick Hampton was the High Springs police officer who responded to the scene. He indicated the case was still open and said he could not comment on details at this time.

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HIGH SPRINGS – An inspection of the High Springs Fire Department and city utilities took place Aug. 19 by Insurance Services Office, Inc. The ISO rating determines how property owners’ insurance companies decide how much each property owner owes each year for coverage. In this case, a lower number means a better score.

Based on his discussion with the ISO inspector, City Manager Ed Booth said it appears that the High Springs Fire Department may have improved their ISO rating from a six to a five. If that is true, homeowner’s insurance rates may go down.

The assessment looks at not only the fire department and its ability to fight a fire, but also the city’s ability to provide enough water and water pressure with which to fight fires. The rating goes from one to 10, with one being the best.

Fire Chief Bruce Gillingham said he was cautiously optimistic as he explained in a subsequent interview that the inspector forwarded his assessment information to the New Jersey office of Versk, the parent company for ISO. ISO developed the system to establish a standard risk assessment for all fire departments and aid insurance companies in understanding their risk potential.

“It will be another 45 days before we know officially whether we have achieved an improved score,” Gillingham said. “Their people have to plug in all the numbers and determine how things fall out before they will give us an official statement.”

Gillingham expects that whatever notification the city receives will list the reasons for improvement, if they determine there is improvement in their number score, and will also list areas that need additional attention for future improvement.

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NEWBERRY – With the City of Newberry’s fiscal year drawing to a close, the commission’s magic number is 5 percent.

The budget workshop Aug. 19 solidified the decision to cut operations spending by 5 percent across the board in the general fund, said Keith Ashby, city manager.

The city has to decide whether to lower the administrative service charge the general fund levies on enterprise funds to 5 percent. Administrative charges are allocated when the city provides personnel or services like accounting and payroll.

This administrative service charge will bring in about $270,000 to the general fund, which is about 5 percent of the entire budget.

Most cities in the area charge 8 to 11 percent, but Newberry is a much smaller town, making things more difficult.

“You can’t cut positions in a department as easily as a big city can,” Ashby said. “That is why we are cutting the 5 percent with scalpel and not with a meat axe.”

“There’s a tendency with the budget to say, ‘Get it down!’” he said. “But we say we will get it down, but we will cut finely.”

Commissioner Tim Marden agrees with the subtle approach to getting the city’s budget back in balance and thinks “citizens can be incredibly optimistic moving forward over the next couple of years.”

Marden noticed a 15 percent difference in spending versus revenue and believes that if Newberry can keep its spending down by 5 percent for the next three years, the budget can be balanced.

One issue that springs up when balancing the budget is the fact that only about half of Newberry’s population contributes to the utility fund, which is used as a reserve, yet taxes have been lowered in the recent past.

The commission is firm about keeping taxes constant and spending curbed for the near future, so it is exploring other options such as enacting franchise fees on the other utility companies within the city limits, Clay Electric and Central Florida Electric.  

While these franchise fees may raise rates for residents that receive utilities from Clay and Central Florida Electric, the entire population would be contributing to the utility reserve fund.   Those who receive city utilities already pay a higher rate than those that aren’t on city utilities.

At this stage, Ashby will be meeting with attorneys to discuss the possibilities and costs from a legal standpoint.

“There’s a good dialogue going right now,” Ashby said.

“Sometimes our commissioners are split philosophically.”

“We have a group who are very cautious with spending and those who will take a bigger risk for growth,” he said.

The latest venture, the Martin Luther King Community Center, is in full swing and the Parks and Recreation department will be presenting program implementation. The city will continue its avid search for grants, having pulled in over $11 million in the last couple of years.

“Newberry has been in great shape consistently,” Ashby said. “From a staff standpoint, we just have to define the clarity.”

The commissioners said it’s all about staying true to Newberry’s vision.

“Our city made a commitment six or seven years ago,” Commissioner Joe Hoffman said, “to making parks and recreation the economic driver. It’s worth it, but it takes time and commitment. We will put that to the citizens and see what’s what at the next meeting.”

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W - Back to School - DSCF8188

Eva Copeland, principal of Alachua Elementary, greets parents and children before they meet the teachers for the school year.

ALACHUA – Summer has come to an end, and the children of Alachua County have had their first taste of the new school year.

“It was a good year last year, and we’re expecting another one,” said Kevin Berry, 37, curriculum resource teacher at Alachua Elementary.

School started on Monday, but the children and parents had a chance to meet the teachers last Thursday and Friday at schools around the county.

Alachua Elementary had parents and students meet the teachers from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday.

School faculty and staff directed them into the buildings to discuss what materials they would need, where they would sit and what books they would be reading.

“Hi, what’s your name?” asked teacher Dakota Faust, 23, as she introduced herself to a new pupil.

The parents talked about their hopes and plans for the school year, while the kids wandered into classrooms and looked at books scattered on desks. “I might get involved with the PTA this year, since I’m no longer working during the day,” said parent Maria Walker, 43. Some members of the PTA were selling shirts and ribbons to raise money.  

Teachers laid out their goals, too. “I just hope they grow and learn in all subjects,” said teacher Kaytlynn Milliken, 22, who had already talked to six parents.

There was no shortage of parents, though the turnout might have been slightly lower than last year, said Eva Copeland, principal.

“The kids seem to be excited,” Copeland said. “We want to keep moving them forward. Not just in academics, but social success, too.” Copeland was interrupted by a student that came up to hug her.

“Did you have a good summer?” she asked the small girl. “Yeah,” the girl replied.  “You’ve grown,” Copeland said.

The familiar faces didn’t just come in the form of students. Several teachers, like Faust, are returning as full-time teachers after interning at the school.

Parent Julie Rye took her daughter, Hailey, 7, to prepare for her first year at Alachua Elementary. “I feel great about the school,” she said.

Alachua Elementary is one of the few schools in the county that saw an improvement in their grade from the Florida Department of Education after the evaluation standards change. Berry and Copeland credit the improvement to a strengthening of the curriculum last year, which included workshops for teachers that trained the teachers in curriculum changes. This year, the Common Core standards, which are intended to reduce inconsistencies in curriculums across the country, will be in effect.

“We’ve learned to teach to individual students instead of groups,” Berry said.

At 1:45 p.m. on Monday, the students at Alachua Elementary had finished their first day in the new school year. As they trickled out of the building, even some parents were sad to see the summer be over.

One parent said she was more upset than some of the children that school was back in session. Some of the children, including hers, were excited, she said.

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purple shirts IMG 5999NEWBERRY – Easton Newberry Sports Complex is finally unveiling its Olympic rings Friday as the facility has officially earned its designation as a Community Olympic Development Center for youth archery.

Easton is an approved archery Olympic training site after years of focusing efforts on streamlining the facility operations and tailoring the classes to better fit the United States Olympic Committee high performance system and USA Archery standards.

At 10:30 a.m. Friday, before the unveiling ceremony, the complex will offer open shooting at the range adorned with the soon-to-be revealed Community Olympic Development Program logo. Attendees can shoot alongside youth national and state champions.

At noon, the RSVP luncheon will begin and as the guests eat, speakers from the United States Olympic Committee, Easton foundation and local government will present. Then the Olympic rings will be unveiled in all their glory.

The guest list includes 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jake Kaminski, 2012 Para Olympic gold medalist Jerry Shields, Newberry Commissioner Joe Hoffman, Mayor Bill Conrad, Commissioner Alena Lawson, Commissioner Lois Forte, Alachua County Commissioner Charles Chestnut, County Commissioner Susan Baird, CEO and President of Easton Foundations Greg Easton, Olympic Committee member Bobbi Ullman and USA Archery Head Coach Kisik Lee. There are expected to be around 100 guests.

“It’s a landmark day for the city of Newberry,” Mayor Bill Conrad said.

“It’s going to open the door the young archers in Newberry to have an opportunity for Olympic gold,” he said.

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W - HS HAWK Mentor

Jay Porter in a weekly visit with a mentoring student. The mentoring program has been active for five years.

HIGH SPRINGS – For the past five years, men and women have given their time to mentoring students at High Springs Community School as part of HAWKS Mentoring Program.

Danette Drageset coordinates the program by matching up social and academic mentors with students from the first to eighth grades who have been recommended by teachers and staff.

“It is almost like working a Sudoku puzzle, really,” she said, “finding what works for the students and what works for the mentors.”

Volunteer mentors give their preferences for age and provide their availability to be matched with students accordingly. Students receive extra homework for things like spelling or multiplication tables. They also have the opportunity to talk with someone about positive choices and time management.

Mentors are people who are giving whatever time they have for the participating kids, Drageset said, and she is appreciative. Thirty minutes of discussion or study help can make a difference, she said.

“As much as or as little time as you have is all it takes.”

She said she strives to make the experience fun not just for the child but also the volunteer. If the same students and mentors participate year after year, she keeps them together in an effort to forge bonds between them.

“It’s cool to stay one with the same students and see them grow,” Drageset said.

She plans to have a mentors and students meeting by mid-September after the kids settle in to the routine of a new school year. Their interactions will be focused on organizational skills and talking and working through scenarios for constructive choices, goals and class behavior.

“The mentoring program is just extra time spent reinforcing basic skills that will help the kids be more successful,” Drageset said.

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