HS_Candidate_forum_3-27-12_DSCF5800_copyEarly reports from the City of High Springs commission election show Scott Jamison with a solid lead over opponent Ann Carter.  More than 500 voters are said to have cast ballots in the municipal election where Carter and Jamison squared off to win a spot on the commission, filling a vacancy left when Eric May resigned from the commission.

Jamison won with 295 votes or 58.5 percent of the total while Carter picked up 209 ballots.

Add a comment

HIGH SPRINGS – Based on current trends, the City of High Springs could find revenues falling short for the 2011-2012 year, stated finance personnel during a budget workshop held Thursday, March 29.

City finance director Helen McIver warned that the city’s general fund could come in $75,000 short if the revenue inflow continues at the current pace. The budget report reflects some revenue items being reported at 50 to 97.12 percent uncollected.

She said the some of the concerns stemmed from franchise fees, tag agency and state revenue sharing. In franchise fees, the city could miss the anticipated budget target by $40,000, in large part because a 25-year contract with Clay Electric sunset earlier in the fiscal year.

The tag agency has seen declining revenues because people can now renew their tags online, said McIver. The tag agency has currently collected only 28 percent of the anticipated $65,000 of revenue budgeted for the year.

The inflow of tax revenues will increase during the next couple months, said McIver. But it will probably not increase enough to cover the entire $75,000 deficit predicted at the current time.

Although the city’s fiscal year budget is on an October through September annual cycle, both McIver and City Manager Jeri Langman said it is too early to predict how the city stands in terms of its yearly revenue.  Usually, Langman said, the budget process is not started until around June.

The city is working to ensure that the General Revenue Fund stays on par with the budget by cutting back on spending. McIver said the city can warn departments that funding for certain projects is no longer available. For example, if a city vehicle breaks down, it will have to be parked instead of repaired.

Staff said the city could determine if there are unspent, undedicated funds elsewhere that could be transferred to the General Revenue Fund, and there is money remaining in contingency that could be transferred if necessary. As a last resort, the city has money set aside in savings, part of which covers two months’ operating costs in case of emergency, staff reported.

Vice Mayor Bob Barnas said he would prefer that the money set aside in savings remain untouched.

Barnas warned during the budget workshop that the city may see layoffs, pay cuts and department consolidation. He said if the city was a business, it would have no choice but to lay off, cut back and consolidate in such a situation.

However, Langman said that over the last three years, there has been a tremendous amount of layoffs and cutbacks.

The city identified other departments falling short on budgeted revenue as well. The wastewater system’s total revenue is currently at 75 percent unearned as of a recent monthly recap report.

McIver states that the sewer account is in the current situation because rates were budgeted to be increased, but the current commission voted in December to not raise them. Also, additional users who would create addition revenue were expected to be added on to the sewer system, but implementation of Phases 4 and 5 were halted due to the USDA withdrawing the $1.6 million needed to complete the work.

The current budget report accounts for six month’s of revenue from the projected additional users at approximately $38,000. That money will remain uncollected. McIver said if the $38,000 in projected revenue and the anticipated gain from a rate increase were to be removed from the budget, the sewer account would be on par with where it was last year at this time.

Langman said the city is working on coming up with solutions to the budget shortfall. She said in the near future, the commission will be looking at capacity fees on vacant lots and a sliding scale for the sewer bills. Currently, water rates are tied to the sewer, and the city sees a decrease in the amount of water used as a result of customer concerns of high bills. The commission will discuss the possibility of adjusting that system.

Add a comment

NEWBERRY – The time has come for residents to let their voices be heard in their city government through the ballot box.

The Newberry general election will be held on Tuesday at the Newberry Fire Station at 310 NW 250th Street. Registered voters can cast their ballot for candidates running for the Newberry City Commission from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

These candidates will answer questions at a forum held tonight at 7 p.m. at Newberry City Hall at 25440 W. Newberry Road.

Three incumbents are up for re-election in this year’s election.

In Group One, incumbent Joe Hoffman will run against Tim Marden and Linda H. Woodcock.

Hoffman is a business owner who has served on the city commission since 2002. Fellow business owner Marden owns Space Walk of Gainesville and has over 20 years of business experience. The third candidate running in Group One, Woodcock, has an extensive background in education and spends her time volunteering and serving on both the Planning and Zoning Board and the Cemetery Committee.

Incumbent Lois Forte will run against Barbara Hendrix in Group Two.

Forte has served on the city commission for about 20 years and has been working for the Newberry Senior Citizen Program since 1997. Her challenger, Hendrix, is the executive director of the Newberry Main Street Program and owns daba designworks in Newberry.

In Group Three, incumbent Alena King Lawson will run against Monty Farnsworth.

Lawson has served on the city commission for about 10 years and is an investigator for the Public Defender’s Office. Farnsworth has experience in the nursing field and has served on the Newberry City Commission previously.

Tonight, the seven candidates will get a chance to answer several questions submitted by the Newberry Chamber of Commerce members. Residents can also submit questions to ask the candidates.

Former State Representative and Newberry Commissioner Debbie Boyd will moderate the forum, which will be televised on channel 97 for Cox Cable subscribers.

Add a comment

W_-_Chili_IMG_9673_copyWith their booth having as much flare as their chili, buffallo is the secret ingredienet for Stephen and Clara Spicer. 

HIGH SPRINGS – As the rain dripped down from the tips of the tents set up at O’Leno State Park on Saturday, cooks huddled underneath, warmed by the spicy, and sometimes sweet, aroma of their chili.

It was the 5th annual O’Leno Olé Chili Cook-Off, and despite Mother Nature’s best efforts to wash out the contestants, the fiery flavor still won the day. The cook-off brought in 15 chefs and garnered $1,500.

The O’Leno Olé Chili Cook-Off began as a simple fundraiser for the Friends of O’Leno organization, but as popularity spread, the Santa Fe River Springs Basin Working Group joined them to create the Springs Celebration, which featured live music, a dance show, shadow puppet shows and other educational activities.

The chili wasn’t the only thing with a unique flair at the cook-off. Some of the contestants displayed their “wild side” through their displays.

A brown buffalo head was positioned on top of a can with chili peppers on it. Two buffalo statues adorned with multi-colored boas and hats framed the colorful shack. Clara and Stephen Spicer, from Sarasota, said the hodgepodge collection doesn’t reflect all of the decorations they have stored at home.

“If it jumps out, it’s ours to keep,” Clara Spicer said of the collection.

The two said they didn’t care if they won, but only cared about making good chili and supporting the charity. Their secret was real buffalo meat. They won second place for showmanship and second in the open class.

The first place winners for showmanship, Mitch Cooper, Dianna Cooper and Clint Herrick showed off their antiques. Mitch Cooper wore black suspenders and cooked the chili on Herrick’s 1888 wood stove. Herrick, who donned a leather getup, also donated several wooden pieces he made and a wagon from the 1900s that he refurbished to look like a western-style covered wagon.

Mitch Cooper said that in his 30 years of making chili, he’s never made two batches of chili the same.

The cook-off is part of an international non-profit called the Chili Appreciation Society International, known simply in the chili world as CASI. When chefs win a CASI cook-off they earn points, and when they earn enough points they are invited to the Mecca of CASI chili cook-offs in Terlingua, Texas.

Candi Knight-Arevalo, an officer for the Florida division of CASI, grew up in the chili world. She made it to the Terlingua International Chili Championship last year.

Her booth featured a wooden cart that read “Candi’s Kisses.” When she was little, Knight-Arevalo said, she ran a kissing both on the side of her parents’ tent while they cooked chili at cook-offs.

She took home a fourth place in the CASI class on Saturday.

The winner of the CASI division, which is graded on a strict system based on five categories, was Bert Dunn, of Homosassa, who has been participating in the O’Leno Olé Chili Cook-Off since its first year.

The winner of the open class, which was graded based on a less restricted scale, was given to Gilchrist County resident Jeff Runde.

The People’s Choice Award was given to Fort White Resident Brenda Smith-McKenzie, or “Granny B,” who had three plaques and six trophies on display to show her chili-cooking prowess.

Another chef, Kathy Gunderson, of Spring Hills, Fla., earned her first chili-cooking trophy on Saturday. Gunderson, who goes by “Kat,” calls her chili the “Kat’s Meow.” She said she was inspired to try a chili cook off after her 20-year-old son, who had moved out, called back home for the recipe, saying that he couldn’t find anything like his mom’s chili.

Gunderson won third place in both the open class and the showmanship category.

While the rain may have prevented some chili cooks from coming out and participating in Saturday’s event, conceded Friends of O’Leno member Harriet Walsh, of High Springs, Gunderson said the weather didn’t keep her down.

“It hasn’t spoiled my time,” she said.

Add a comment

HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs voters will select one of two candidates for city commission during a special election Tuesday, April 10.  High Springs residents Ann Carter and Scott Jamison were the only two candidates qualifying for the race to fill a vacant seat on the commission in a town where political tensions have reached a fever pitch.

Whichever candidate receives the most votes will be sworn in to fill the remaining seven months of a three year term vacated on Jan. 31 when Commissioner Eric May unexpectedly resigned from the commission, citing concerns of impropriety by city officials.

Scott Jamison has a bachelor’s degree in public recreation and additional credentials to teach.  He taught at area schools for several years and is now a personnel specialist in the human resources department at the School Board of Alachua County.

Carter is retired but recently started a baking business.  Most of her career was with the federal government, including with the United States Departments of Agriculture, Treasury, Transportation, Defense, Energy, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Air Force among others.

Both candidates have said if elected, they would likely seek re-election in November when the term expires.  Mayor Dean Davis’ seat on the commission will also expire in November.

Approximately 825 voters cast ballots during the November 2011 election in which Bob Barnas and Linda Gestrin defeated incumbent commissioners Larry Travis and Byran Williams.

There are 3,413 registered voters in the City of High Springs according to the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections.

High Springs city officials said Wednesday that 19 absentee ballots had been issued and may be returned to City Hall up until the closing of the election on April 10.

Voters may cast ballots between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on April 10 at the High Springs Civic Center, which will serve as the only voting precinct.

Add a comment

ALACHUA – Three candidates are vying for one seat in the April 10 City of Alachua election.

Shirley Green Brown, Patricia Lee and Billy Rogers are all seeking election to a seat on the commission currently held by Commissioner Orien Hills.

After serving five consecutive terms totaling 15 years, Commissioner Hills decided not to seek re-election to his seat.  Commissioner Gary Hardacre ran unopposed for his seat on the commission.

Brown, Lee and Rogers will square off in the citywide election scheduled for April 10.  If no candidate receives 50 percent plus one vote, the election would go to a runoff between the top two candidates.

Brown is a speech and language pathologist with the School Board of Alachua County.  Lee is the executive director of CDC of Leesburg & Vicinity, a community development corporation.  Rogers runs Way2Be Music International, a music production services company.

The Hal Brady Recreation Complex, the Cleather Hancock, Sr. Community Center and Plantation Oaks at Turkey Creek will serve as polling stations for the April election.  Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.  According to the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections, there are 5,732 registered voters in the City of Alachua.

Editor’s note: The following is a brief biography and answers to questions asked of each candidate.  Candidates were asked to keep responses to 50 words or less.

Shirley Green Brown

How long have you lived in the City of Alachua? Since the 1970's

Who is your current employer, for how long and what is your position? School Board of Alachua County, 31 years, Speech & Language Pathologist

What is your education? B.S. degree in Speech Pathology, Post-graduate studies at the University of Florida and Florida State University

What is your community involvement? I volunteered with the Recreation's skating program, coached basketball teams, scorekeeper for t-ball, baseball, basketball, Pop Warner football, worked the concession stand and supported all programs at the  Recreation center.  I served as a participating member on Irby, Alachua, Mebane and Santa Fe High School Advisory councils as a staff member/parent and tutor students in the area. I am the President of the Alachua Woman's Club, former President and member of the Friends of the Library and St. Luke AME Church.

General questions:

1. Why are you the best qualified to be the next commissioner for the City of Alachua?

I am highly qualified for this office.  My expertise in education as well as my strong leadership skills, integrity, commitment, dedication to the community, respect for others, dependability and amiable personality will enhance the strength of the commission while working cohesively with the other members of the board.

2. What do you believe is the number one issue facing the City of Alachua?

The number one issue is our future growth and how it will impact our community.

3. If elected, what would be your goals or what would you like to see accomplished?

If elected, I will work tirelessly to meet these goals: Improve programs for our youth, increase sporting events for our recreational department, encourage more job opportunities, budget revisions, explore funding for better roads/streets and continue to support the revitalization of the Good Life Community. 

 Patricia Lee

How long have you lived in the City of Alachua? I was born and raised in Alachua and have been back living within city limits or its immediate borders for the past 18 years.

Who is your current employer, for how long and what is your position? I am currently building business and strategic plans for a non-profit organization that will be a new model for community and economic development.

What is your education? I have an MBA with a concentration in accounting from Southern-Methodist University, a B.S. in Business Education from Bethune-Cookman University, and Valedictorian of A.L. Mebane High School.

What is your community involvement? I am a member of Greater New Hope MBC Mission Society, an active Rotarian, member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and Alachua Woman's Club and Greater New Hope MBC.  Also a member of many organizations in the city(s) where most of my work is performed.

General questions:

1. Why are you the best qualified to be the next commissioner for the City of Alachua?

I am best qualified to be the next commissioner for the City of Alachua for the following reasons: Experience working in city government, diverse businesses and non-profits, coupled with my formal and informal education provides the knowledge, experience and exposure to hit the ground running when elected. 
2. What do you believe is the number one issue facing the City of Alachua?

Number One Issue:  I don't rank issues because my number one issue may not be someone else's; nor is my issue more important than another’s. I am proactive solutions oriented believing it better to address a thing before it become a problem.  We must be forward thinkers that employ multi-faceted solutions before situations become number one issues for any element of our community.

3. If elected, what would be your goals or what would you like to see accomplished?

If elected I would like to see the following:
Business friendly government that understands businesses needs, neighborhood community centers with educational components, job creation through recreational, cultural and small business development, more public-private partnering for less reliance on tax dollars, more alternative funding sources for less reliance on tax dollars.

 Billy Rogers

Editor’s note:  As of press time, Alachua County Today had not received a response from Mr. Rogers.  If and when a response is provided, this story will be updated at AlachuaCountyToday.com to reflect the new information.

Add a comment

W_-_HS_Gazebo_3-27-12_copyHIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs City Commission will move forward with improvements to the pocket park along Railroad Avenue.  The decision was made at a special Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) meeting on Friday, March 30.

After concerns were raised earlier about safety, the commission discussed the possibility of moving the gazebo from its current location to another within the city. Commissioner Linda Gestrin worried that the current placement of the gazebo so close to the street could potentially cause an accident.

In March, City Manager Jeri Langman halted further progress on the park until city leaders decided how to proceed.

The High Springs Community Development Corporation (CDC) began talks about the project in 2008 and obtained two grants totaling $6,000 to help the city with associated costs. The CRA contributed an additional $3,000 to cover any costs accrued beyond the $6,000. In February 2012, the CDC money was handed over to the City of High Springs for construction on the park.

However, after the City’s recent move to stop progress on the park, the CDC requested that the City return the money.

“As the recipients of the two grants, we have a fiduciary responsibility to the grantors to assure these monies are used for their designated purpose,” stated Dot Harvey, president of the CDC, in a letter to the city manager.

Since the safety concerns were raised, Langman hasworked with the city’s building inspector to determine how the project could safely move forward.  The city has decided to close off the exit to the gazebo that leads into the street and build an alternate exit from the side.  Langman said the High Springs Fire Department has offered its time to move wood from the side of the gazebo to close off the back exit. Several benches, which are being restored by the fire department, will be placed inside the structure for seating.

In addition, landscaping will be added around the rear of the gazebo to create a barrier between the street and the gazebo. To comply with American Disability Association requirements, one of the exits will have a ramp leading from the gazebo to the sidewalk.

Lighting at the pocket park will be provided either by Progress Energy or through solar lighting, depending on which is the most economical, said Vice Mayor Bob Barnas. He said water will also be hooked up to the park for landscape irrigation.

Barnas said if any money is left over from the donated $6,000, it will be returned to the CDC.

“It’s a nice project,” Barnas said.  “It’s in a good location and it will be safe.”

City staff added that the park will provide a space for people to gather during events such as Pioneer Days or simply to eat lunch outside on a beautiful day.

Add a comment

More Articles ...