HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs City Commission’s May 16, 2013 workshop was initially set to discuss amendments to the Commissioners’ Rules of Procedure. At the May 9, 2013 commission meeting, commissioners add further discussion on amendments to the 2012/2013 City budget, which had been proposed by City Manager Ed Booth during that meeting.

The Rules of Procedure, which were originally adopted on March 10, 2011, became an item for discussion due to complaints from citizens and commissioners that one commissioner used his blog to denigrate both the public and commissioners alike.

The controversy led to creation of Resolution 2013-C to address civility, which failed to pass after several discussions on the issue, despite the fact that much of the language was lifted from the City’s Employee Handbook and referred to employee civility.

Charges by Commissioner Bob Barnas that the resolution was “one-sided” and a violation of his right to free speech were addressed by City Attorney Scott Walker, who assured commissioners that the resolution did not limit free speech. Walked said that more and more cities are now crafting civility expectations into formal statements for their elected officials.

In not approving the resolution, commissioners seemed to agree that the appropriate place to address the issue of commissioners’ civility toward each other and toward the public might best be handled by considering amendments to the Commissioners’ Rules of Procedure instead of by resolution.

Barnas, the only commissioner who has a blog, will not be participating in the discussion. He said at the May 9 meeting he would be “out of town,” but would submit any questions or changes he’d like to see made to the budget, the second workshop item, in advance of leaving town.

The second item for workshop discussion is consideration of amendments to the current year’s fiscal budget. As City Manager Booth presented the overview of the proposed changes during first reading of Ordinance 2013-04 at the May 9 regular city commission meeting, commissioners will likely address specific questions that have arisen upon review of the proposed budget.

Questions regarding the appropriateness of making budget adjustments after funds have been earmarked for spending have been addressed by City Attorney Scott Walker during several recent meetings. Florida Statutes Section 166.241 addresses “Fiscal years, appropriations, budgets, and budget amendments” for municipal governments and excerpts of that Section are included below.

“(3)  The governing body of each municipality at any time within a fiscal year or within up to 60 days following the end of the fiscal year may amend a budget for that year as follows:

Ordinance 2013-04 is expected to be heard in second and final reading at the regular city commission meeting scheduled for June 13, 2013.

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W - Chamber president DF DSCF7766 copyIncoming Alachua Chamber of Commerce President David Flinchum is excited about the opportunities ahead as the organization completes construction of its new offices on Alachua's Main Street.

ALACHUA – The new president of the Alachua Chamber of Commerce has high hopes for the next 12 months.

David Flinchum, 41, manager of the Alachua Walgreens, became the new chamber president Tuesday night at the chamber’s annual banquet. Flinchum, who served as vice president since May of last year, has been in line to assume the position once David Pope, the former chamber president, finished his term.

Flinchum doesn't expect much to change. “I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel,” he said.

He said he plans to continue Pope’s initiatives, which aimed to give the chamber’s member businesses more value for their membership dues.

“My hope as the president of the chamber is to involve the members, the businesses, to support them and help them get business.” By doing that, more businesses will join the chamber, allowing the organization to offer additional support through the increased revenue in membership dues, he said. During Pope’s term, the chamber held mixers to facilitate networking between businesses. Flinchum said he wants to expand on that by offering services to match businesses with each other. For instance, if Walgreens needs a fence built around its property, they would know who in the chamber to contact.

During Flinchum’s term, the chamber will finally have a permanent home. Currently, it operates out of a small office at Alachua Elementary School. For the past several years, there have been plans to convert the building at 14801 Main Street into the chamber’s headquarters and welcome center. The building, formerly a post office, and more recently a police station, required a number of repairs. One of the chamber's biggest challenges has been getting the funding to make the site usable, Flinchum said.

“It needed, basically, to be gutted and rebuilt,” he said. It also needed to be brought up to code.

The new location is set to open around the October timeframe. Flinchum credits Pope with finally getting the new location in order. In addition to serving as the Alachua Chamber of Commerce’s office building, it will also be a welcome center for the community.

“We envision it as a place where people who are visiting can stop in and learn about the local community,” Flinchum said. There will be information available from the Alachua Historical Society about the area’s history, as well as details about local businesses.

The Alachua Chamber of Commerce sponsors and participates in local events including the annual Christmas parade, Main Street’s Scarecrow Row and Shop-Dine-Stroll on Main Street.

“Some people live here and don't know what is going on,” Flinchum said.

Flinchum was born and raised in Gainesville and moved to Alachua in 2003. Since then, he said he’s gotten involved with the local community, making him happy to serve it through the chamber. However, he said there probably won’t be any major changes during his term.

“There’s not a whole lot that's wrong,” he said.

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HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs commissioners will address the issue of civility at a workshop set for Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. This workshop follows several commission discussions in March regarding civility, which were initially sparked by resident and commissioner complaints regarding comments posted by one commissioner on his blog.

A resolution was drafted at the time, which delineated what residents should be able to expect of their elected officials. The resolution failed to pass amid controversy about freedom of speech and commissioners decided instead to hold a workshop to update the Rules and Procedures Handbook for Commissioners, which was originally adopted on March 10, 2011. The workshop will be held in the High Springs Commission meeting room.

In other City business, commissioners unanimously approved an application for the use of the Civic Center on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, by the High Springs Mission Society for their annual community Thanksgiving banquet. Approval was also granted to waive the fees for the use of the facility for this event.

Commissioners supported the City Manager’s need for at least a part-time technology employee to upgrade the City’s website, among other things. City Manager Ed Booth said he would include it as part of his budget adjustments for the next meeting.

Although the City received one application from Suzie Ann Clark, previous chair of the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board, to fill a vacancy on that board, Commissioner Barnas moved to table the item and Commissioner Gestrin seconded to allow the city clerk time to ask the alternates on that board if they would like to fill the seat.

Commissioners discussed the possible acquisition of the chapel from St. Madeline’s Catholic Church, but declined to approve the action citing maintenance and the possibility that the building would be used by people looking for a place to sleep at night.

Following a discussion about the proper procedure to change the City Employee Manual regarding employee vacation, sick leave and compensatory time, City Clerk Jenny Parham explained that the Employee Manual was originally approved by ordinance and another ordinance would be required to change it. During discussion, City Manager Booth said he would contact the Florida League of Cities to determine what was usual and customary as a maximum. Commissioner Linda Gestrin commented that it was what the City of High Springs could afford that was important rather than what other cities do. Mayor Sue Weller suggested the City include a line item in the budget “when we know someone is going to retire” to pay out vacation or sick leave rather than have the money paid out of the department’s budget. Currently, the City allows employees to carry forward annually 1,040 maximum hours of sick leave, 320 hours vacation time for department heads and 240 hours for non-department heads.

Commissioner Barnas questioned how the use of the Community Center for a 40-hour a week summer camp was approved without at least notifying the commissioners. Clearly expressing his concern that “back door deals” were being made “under the table,” City Manager Booth said he was planning to inform commissioners during the City Manager Report, near the end of the meeting, but Barnas beat him to it.

Commissioner Barnas expressed concern that the procedure for budget amendments would get the City into another lawsuit. City Attorney Scott Walker explained that Statute 166.241 determined the procedure for all municipalities. Reading the portion of the statute that applied to the issue in question, Walker further stated he had checked with appropriate parties to determine if his interpretation of the process was correct. He indicated he had confirmation that the process the City is following is appropriate and within the guidelines of the statute.

Both City Clerk Parham and City Attorney Walker assured commissioners that all records are being scanned at this point and will be sent to Municipal Code for codification and publication in the near future.

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W - 5-3-13Relay 022 copyAlachua and High Springs were represented by 16 teams in this year’s Relay for Life which took place at the High Springs Civic Center over an 18-hour period.

HIGH SPRINGS – The Alachua/High Springs Relay for Life event carried on as planned Friday and Saturday, May 3-4, 2013, at the Civic Center in High Springs, despite inclement weather.

While a total of funds raised throughout the event were not available as of press time, American Cancer Society Community Representative and staff partner for the event, Lacey Duncan, said, “We have received more than $28,000 so far and we are expecting even more money to come in from committed sponsorships, as well as teams who have not turned in all of their fundraising money yet.”

Duncan believes the event will easily meet this year’s goal of $29,000. “The weather did not stop us from having a successful Relay because we should meet and likely exceed the event’s goal this year,” she said.

Sixteen teams from Alachua and High Springs raised funds and walked in the 18-hour Relay for Life event this year. Teams sold burritos, nachos and cheese, and other traditional Mexican dishes to raise money because the Relay took place during Cinco de Mayo weekend. “This was my first year as an American Cancer Society Staff Partner and I was greatly encouraged to see the large amount of community involvement and participation,” said Duncan. She also explained that the number of participating teams exceeded last year’s 12 teams and the total funds raised in 2012 were $21,000.

Relay for Life teams from Alachua and High Springs walked throughout the night until dawn to symbolize how cancer patients have to go through the dark times to get back into the light of their lives. “Cancer never sleeps, so participants are willing to sacrifice a night of sleep to help cancer research,” said Sharon Kantor, the Relay for Life Event Chair.

Duncan remarked that the community support and involvement was tremendous this year. “The committee and both communities have really challenged themselves in this year’s event and many local restaurants have offered their venues to host fundraisers.” Among others, Duncan mentioned the Pink and Purple event on the patio of The Great Outdoors restaurant and fundraising conducted by The Springs Diner in High Springs and Crispers in Gainesville. “They were a tremendous help,” she said and they were only a few of the businesses that participated according to Duncan.

“It was a great experience this year to have both city mayors participate so fully,” said Duncan. They both, along with other city dignitaries, participated in the Pink and Purple event as bartenders. Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper led the Boy Scouts and others in the pledge of allegiance the night of the relay and High Springs Mayor Sue Weller addressed the crowd the same night thanking everyone for contributing from their hearts and being there to show support to those who are currently fighting cancer, and their caretakers, and also those who have survived cancer. Weller said, “We know that one day we will solve the mystery of cancer and we will not have to face this disease any longer.”

Both mayors also walked and some teams “relayed in the rain,” said Duncan. “The funds raised will make a lot of difference in the fight against cancer,” she said. “This was an important fundraiser and a very successful event.”

All of the money raised by Relay for Life goes to the American Cancer Society. “From there we are able to continue research and provide support to cancer patients throughout the country,” said Duncan.

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 HAWTHORNE – Hawthorne’s upcoming June 11 city election for commission members is set with the official candidates after the qualifying period ended April 24.

Seats one, three and five on the commission are up for election. Commissioner William Carlton is running unopposed for seat three and Mayor Matthew Surrency is running unopposed for seat 5. Vice Mayor Tommie Howard is running for re-election for seat one, but unlike Carlton and Surrency, he has an opponent.

Harry Carter has tossed his hat in the ring and will face off against Howard, a friend and fellow member of the American Legion Post 230, a patriotic veterans organization.

Carter has previously served on the commission and opted to get involved with Hawthorne municipal government once again.

“I think I did a good job before and I can make a difference,” said Carter in a recent interview.

Finishing up his first term on the commission, this will be the second election for Howard, but his first contested campaign.

“I’ve always prided myself as being the voice of the people,” he said. “I am a work horse, not a show horse.”

Both candidates expect to begin their campaigns soon with printed posters, signs and making sure Hawthorne’s citizens have their voices heard.

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W - Chamber Pope Davenport   L-R: Outgoing Alachua Chamber of Commerce President David Pope congratulates Julius Davenport for his selection as the chamber’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

ALACHUA – The Alachua Chamber of Commerce got back to its roots Tuesday when it held its annual banquet at the Alachua Woman’s Club in downtown Alachua. The change in venue for the banquet was the first in more than a decade.

The annual event is also a special occasion when business leaders recognize people and organizations who have contributed to the community in a host of ways.

The banquet featured award presentations as well as the ever popular silent auction. And before the evening was over, outgoing President David Pope passed the gavel to newly-elected President David Flinchum, and a new Board of Directors was installed.

Pope provided a year in review, highlighting the accomplishments, endeavors and successes of the chamber and the business community as a whole.

In delivering a state of the city address, Alachua City Manager Traci Cain offered riveting statistics on the city’s growth over the last year. The common thread in Alachua’s success, Cain said, is its people. She pointed to corporate achievements and expansions, particularly within Progress Corporate Park.

Among the more exciting news Cain highlighted was the recent naming of the University of Florida’s Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator as the 2013 Incubator of the Year by the National Business Incubation Association. The incubator, which is located in the corporate park, was among 7,000 contenders worldwide.

Other recent success stories include Alachua-based Nanotherapeutics, which recently won a U.S. Department of Defense contract in an amount up to $360 million to develop medical countermeasures, including the development and manufacture of drugs and vaccines to combat bioterrorism. The company is expanding in Alachua, with plans of constructing an entirely new facility and reportedly employing an estimated 150 additional people with a median income of $90,000.

The success of Alachua is tied to the success of companies like Nanotherapeutics and other businesses in the town and is ultimately thanks to the people, Cain insisted.

In carrying forward that theme, the Chamber honored some of those people who are credited with improving the quality of life in the local area.

Chief among those receiving accolades Tuesday evening was Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper. Coerper was named the Volunteer of the Year for his community involvement, which includes tutoring and organizing Shop, Dine and Stroll events among other activities. But in a special move, the Alachua Lions Club also asked to honor Coerper at the chamber’s annual banquet. The club bestowed upon Coerper Lions Club International’s highest award, the Melvin Jones Award.

The chamber named Capital City Bank as its Small Business of the Year and Dollar General as its Large Business of the Year. Both companies have received the award previously. It is awarded in part based on the business’ support of chamber and community events and activities.

The Educator of the Year award went to Jessie Jung, an Alachua Elementary teacher who also recently won the countywide Elementary Teacher of the Year award.

Alachua Police Department Officer David Floyd was selected as the Police Officer of the Year. Police Chief Joel DeCoursey presented the award, saying “[Floyd] is someone you want on your team.”

Julius Davenport, who served for many years on the chamber’s board of directors, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Davenport was recently promoted at Farm Credit of Florida, which required him to transfer to south Florida. He returned Tuesday evening to accept the award, saying he appreciated the opportunities and guidance provided to him by members of the chamber.

Before the evening’s festivities concluded, Pope was honored for his service as the Alachua Chamber of Commerce President over the last year.

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HIGH SPRINGS – A railroad museum may be in the future for High Springs. The Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) is looking into the old railroad station, which housed The Station Bakery & Café for several years, in an effort to secure a permanent location for the High Springs Railroad Museum,

City Manager Ed Booth spoke with the building owner on behalf of the CRA and said the owner was interested in renting or selling the building.

CRA members are acting on requests from the public to establish a permanent location for a railroad museum as a way to preserve the importance of the railroad to the community.

Booth said that once the Florida Department of Transportation begins talks with CSX Railroad about the Rails-to-Trails program, he hopes the City will be able to obtain a locomotive from CSX for the museum.

The Railroad Museum and restoration of the front of the Priest Theater are two projects earmarked by the CRA.

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