ALACHUA – What is considered to be an eyesore by many may soon be replaced with a Zaxby’s restaurant.  City of Alachua officials have confirmed that staff met with Brooks Haisten, a Zaxby’s franchisee, to discuss the property commonly referred to as the “Huddle House.” The site is the location of a former Huddle House restaurant and fronts U.S. Highway 441 at the Interstate 75 interchange in Alachua.  City staff reportedly recently met in a “preplanning” conference with Haisten.

Haisten owns Chicken Foot Development, Inc., a Florida Corporation, which also owns a Zaxby’s in Lake City, Fla. and additional locations in Tallahassee, Fla.

Haisten said he can’t say Zaxby’s will definitely open in Alachua, but he did say he has shown interest in the property.

I’m very interested,” he said. “It would benefit me.”

He said he will submit plans to the City of Alachua by the end of November.

As of Oct. 31, the property remained under the ownership of Sally Franklin, who had a long-term lease agreement with the Huddle House.

Through her representatives, Franklin has been trying to sell the property for several years although the property had been leased.  The Huddle House, which closed its doors more than a decade ago, has unsuccessfully attempted to sublet the site on a number of occasions.  Franklin’s lease agreement with the Huddle House expired May 2010.

City of Alachua officials and others have considered the Huddle House property to be an eyesore for a variety of reasons.  Chief among those is the state of disrepair in which the site has been kept.  There was also vocal opposition to an adult novelty store, Adult World, which briefly opened in the building, but was shut down in 2004.

Neighboring hoteliers have decried the appearance of the property saying that it harmed their businesses as travelers often avoid their lodging establishments upon seeing the vacant site.  At the time, the property was reportedly being used as shelter by several homeless people and as a tractor-trailer parking area.

In 2008, the City of Alachua enforced several code violations against the property, urging that the owner take responsibility to clean up the site, keep the doors secured and grass mowed.  That prompted the owner to take some action, including blocking the parking lot entrances to prevent truck parking and loitering.

Franklin would not comment on Wednesday, Oct. 31 as to a possible sale of the property.

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HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs City Commission ranked Edwin Booth as their top city manager candidate and agreed to offer him the position, contingent on an acceptable background check, during the regular commission meeting held on Thursday, Oct. 25.

While Scott Lippman was chosen by all five commissioners, Booth was the only one to be ranked number one by the majority of the commission.

All five candidates interviewed during the Monday, Oct. 22 meeting scored well. But Lippman’s inability to relocate to High Springs was concerning to Mayor Dean Davis and Commissioner Sue Weller, who said they ranked him lower for that reason.  Booth, who presently lives in South Carolina, indicated his willingness to relocate to the area if he selected by the commission.

Following the ranking, Commissioner Weller moved and Vice-Mayor Bob Barnas seconded a motion to offer Booth the position as part of the next step in the hiring process; once again stressing the offer would be contingent on an acceptable background check.

Following discussion about the method and cost of conducting the background check, the commission directed City Attorney Scott Walker to have his firm vet the candidate.  Negotiating a salary agreement was discussed, but was not assigned.

Contingent upon successful negotiations, it is anticipated that Walker will draw up a detailed agreement stipulating the terms and length of the contract for both parties to approve.

As reported in the Oct. 25 edition of Alachua County Today, Booth holds a BS in Management from Columbia College, a MA in Public Administration from Webster University, a MS in Military Science from Command & General Staff College.  He is a retired U.S. Army Colonel with more than 20 years experience in all phases of utility management, police, fire and rescue experience, budget planning and preparation, master planning, economic development and staff management.  He also has had extensive experience in zoning and planning issues and served on the Board of the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council for three years.

More recently, Booth has been the Town Administrator for Surfside Beach, SC.  Previously he served as the Town Administrator for Malabar, Fla., the City Manager in Ayden, NC, Commander, Dugway Proving Ground, UT, with 1,200 housing units under military control, City Manager, West Point, NE and Community Manager Fulda Military Community, with 1,800 housing units under military control.

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HIGH SPRINGS – Commissioners conducted 30-minute interviews on Monday, Oct. 22, with the five candidates under consideration for the city manager position.  Although no candidate was chosen at that meeting, commissioners were asked to rank their top 2-3 candidates and list them at the Thursday, Oct. 25, regular commission meeting.  The next step in the hiring process will be determined after short listing.

Scott Lippman, Andrew DeCandis, Kathleen Margoles, Edwin Booth and Isabel Smith attended and were interviewed individually with a small group of residents in the audience.

Lippman has a BA in Psychology from Wake Forest and a Master’s in Management.  He received the 2003 City Manager’s Administrative Service Award, City of Dunnellon.  Lippman’s strong suit is finance and accounting with expertise in grant management.

Most recently he was Administrative Support Manager for Alachua County where he directed water utility operations, finance and accounting, human resources, supply logistics and provided technology support for a 200-employee, seven division department.

Lippman also has served as city manager for the City of Archer and finance director for the City of Dunnellon as well as Director, Financial Services and Materials Management for Hospice of Marion County and Director of Finance and Administration for The Hitachi Foundation in Washington, DC.  Presently, he resides in Williston.

DeCandis received his BA in Political Science at Pennsylvania State University and his Master of Public Administration from Marywood University.  He is a certified planner.

Currently he is Senior Director of Planning and Governmental Affairs for Orange County Public Schools in Orlando.  Previously, he was managing partner for DeCandis Group, LLC in Jacksonville, a consulting firm providing planning and development services.  He also served as Director, Planning and Development in Palm Coast and Transportation Planning Manager for St. Johns County in St. Augustine.

DeCandis’ awards and recognition center on development and transportation planning, as well as providing job opportunities for the disabled.  He currently resides in the Orlando area.

Margoles has a BA in Sociology from S.U.N.Y. College at Cortland and a MS in Human Services Administration from Nova Southeastern University.  She is a Certified Parks and Recreation Professional.

Most recently, Margoles served as Assistant City Manager for the City of Lake Worth where she managed rehabilitation and redevelopment projects budgeted at over $11 million, prepared the city budget, served as Public Information Officer and co-led negotiations with labor unions.

She also served as a consultant to the Town of Lauderdale-By-the-Sea where one of her projects included a sewer rate analysis and also a program grant audit.  Margoles was project manager managing public art projects for library and park bond programs for Broward County, Cultural Division and also served as Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Lauderdale Lakes.

Margoles’ received 2004 National Recreation and Parks Association Recognition of Significant Efforts award for her efforts to educate the public and elected officials on the benefits of parks and recreation.  Margoles currently resides in Coral Springs.

Booth holds a BS in Management from Columbia College, a MA in Public Administration from Webster University, a MS in Military Science from Command and General Staff College.  He is a retired U.S. Army Colonel with more than 20 years experience in all phases of utility management, police, fire and rescue experience, budget planning and preparation, master planning, economic development and staff management.  He also has had extensive experience in zoning and planning issues and served on the Board of the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council for three years.

Recently, Booth has been the Town Administrator for Surfside Beach, SC.  Previously he served as the Town Administrator for Malabar, Fla.; the City Manager in Ayden, NC; Commander, Dugway Proving Ground, UT, with 1200 housing units under military control; City Manager, West Point, NE; and Community Manager Fulda Military Community, with 1,800 housing units under military control.  He currently resides in Surfside Beach, SC.

Smith has an AS Degree in Interior Design and an AA in Journalism from Miami Dade Community College as well as a BA in Political Science from Florida International University.

Currently Smith is a Utility Billing Clerk with the City of Newberry.  Previous employment includes real estate sales for Coldwell Banker, Administrative Assistant and Financial Secretary for Bethel Baptist Church in Trenton, Administrative Assistant for the White Foundation in Bronson, Deputy Clerk and Administrative Assistant to mayor, City of Fanning Springs, and Administrative Specialist for Florida Power & Light, Miami.  Smith resides in High Springs.

Two other candidates chosen to interview were Marty Simone and Douglas Hewett, both of whom removed their names from consideration as they were unable to attend the interviews.

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HIGH SPRINGS – In a 3-1 vote, the High Springs City Commission has approved placing advertisements for applicants to serve on the city’s Charter Review Board.  At the Oct. 25 commission meeting, Commissioner Sue Weller provided the dissenting vote.  Citing inconsistencies between the Charter and the City’s Procedures Manual, Mayor Dean Davis said a charter review was long overdue.  Commissioner Scott Jamison was previously excused from attending this meeting due to a family commitment.

Commissioner Linda Gestrin moved and Vice-Mayor Bob Barnas seconded a motion to request the city clerk advertise for committee members who wanted to serve and also post the item on the city’s website.

In answer to a question regarding the usual advertising period for committee or board appointments, City Clerk Jenny Parham said it was usually “two to three weeks.”

Commissioner Weller explained that since a new commissioner would be sworn in on Nov. 20, and noting the usual advertising time for most appointments, suggested the commission abide by the 2-3 week advertising period to make sure anyone interested had enough time to apply.

Commissioner Gestrin disagreed, saying the issue had been talked about all year and she thought the commission should not only advertise for a shorter time period, but also should appoint the committee at the Nov. 8 meeting.

Hearing from City Attorney Scott Walker that the commission was not bound by any regulation as to length of advertising period and could, in fact, appoint without advertising for applicants at all, commissioners voted to appoint applicants at the Nov. 8 meeting.

Interested parties must be electors of the city, holding no other office, appointment or employment in the city government, except on advisory bodies as described in Section 5.01 of the City Charter.

Applications may be obtained Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. at City Hall, 110 NW 1st Avenue, High Springs, or on the city’s website at  Applications will be accepted until 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 7.  Members will be appointed by the City Commission at the Nov. 8 City Commission meeting.

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W_-_Girl_Scout-_Scarecrow_copyAlachua Girl Scout Troop 1893 created their “zombie” for Scarecrow Row on behalf of the Alachua Lions Club.

ALACHUA – Visitors to Alachua’s downtown area are in for a seasonal treat as both sides of Main Street are decked out in Halloween thrills and chills.  With the spooky holiday less than a week away, the city’s Scarecrow Row is bringing smiles and chuckles to passersby.  This year’s theme, which is “Characters of the Good Life Community,” has been incorporated into a number of the scarecrows adorning lampposts lining the street.  Scenes of horror and humor as well as familiar favorites can be spotted clustered under the lights.

Sponsored by the Alachua Chamber of Commerce and Alachua businesses, the annual ritual is a prelude to Trick-or-Treat on Main Street, which occurs on Wednesday, Oct. 31 from 6 – 8 p.m.  In the space of those few hours on Halloween, Main Street will be flooded with pint-sized goblins dressed in every imaginable costume, seeking sweet treats from Main Street merchants who will be handing out candy.  In addition to the carnival atmosphere and “good spirits” that are certain to pervade the event, a costume contest will be held with prizes awarded in various age categories.

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Complete 15-page ruling HERE


Today Reporter

 GAINESVILLE – Following a last-minute hearing, a local judge has issued an order postponing a High Springs debt ceiling ordinance that would have immediately gone into effect if approved by voters on Nov. 6.

Judge Stanley Griffis ruled Wednesday that although the measure should remain on the ballot, the amendment will not go in effect until the court further orders.

High Springs resident Ross Ambrose, represented by Attorney Linda Rice Chapman, filed a lawsuit seeking emergency injunctive relief to stop the measure from appearing on the ballot, but Judge Griffis decided the best course of action would be to allow citizens to vote on the measure and determine later whether the measure was improper.

Judge Griffis granted part of the City Commission’s motion to dismiss, saying that although the ordinance was properly noticed to the public, there is an issue as to whether the Commission was required to re-notice the ordinance when they enacted a $2 million dollar increase in the debt ceiling.  That increase was double the advertised $1 million limit, to which the commission later turned after the city attorney was notified of the possible violation of Florida law.

Therefore, the City Commission must now file an answer to the complaint, and the issue will go to trial.

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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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