HIGH SPRINGS – Following University of Florida Soil Laboratory testing of soil removed from five different locations in the sinkhole next to High Springs City Hall, City Manager Ed Booth said that the test results show no adverse environmental impact to the soil.

The samples were taken by Booth in response to concerns expressed at a commission meeting as part of a discussion on re-closing the road behind City Hall, which had temporarily been re-opened late in November 2012. Although no report of environmental impact had been noted at the time, Booth said he believed this was the best course of action to take to accurately access the situation.

“We could have called for an environmental assessment,” he said at that time, “but that would have cost money and they would have done exactly what I did.” Soil sample testing was provided to the City at no cost by the University of Florida according to Booth.

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The 37th annual Pioneer Days brought out both the good guys and the villains for a high action weekend of festivities in High Springs.  

 HIGH SPRINGS – The James Paul Park in High Springs was a festival visitor’s paradise on Saturday and Sunday, April 27-28. The area bustled with activity from approximately 5,000 visitors, more than 30 fine arts and crafts booths, Heritage Village with pioneer demonstrators, non-stop music, Kids Korral, the Festival Food Court, business expos, a farmer’s market and the addition of the newly-created Railroad and Black History Museums, both of which were located in the old school house building.

      There was something for everyone to enjoy and the weather did not disappoint with sunshine and breezy conditions throughout both days. Heritage Village, with everyone dressed in period garb, boasted demonstrations of an old-fashioned spinning wheel, blacksmithing and the Rose Creek Band of Muskogee Indians, who demonstrated various crafts, tribal customs, ceremonial dances and talked about life during pioneer days. They shared related displays with visitors as well as providing a lean-to type of structure common during pioneer days.

      Historic Dudley Farms State Park sent over one of their old tractors to help complete the pioneer era mood. Visitors got a little chuckle when they saw the sign on the back which read, “I’m not leaking oil, I’m marking territory.”

      Booths were set up around the sinkhole and parking areas with artists and crafters selling craft items and some fine art. Wooden turned bowls, mugs, cutting boards and pens were displayed in one booth. Another had handmade soaps. Decorative signs, homemade jams and jellies, outdoor wood furniture, sand art, water beads and jewelry were among some of the items available for purchase.

      “We also had 14 business expo vendors this year,” explained one festival volunteer. Community not-for-profit organizations churches and retail businesses were on hand to answer questions and discuss their businesses with interested visitors.

      Pioneer Days wouldn’t be complete with out a visit from the much-appreciated pioneer cowboy re-enactment group, Not So Young Cowboys. They came dressed to the hilt in cowboy regalia, complete with silver-handled pistols, and re-enacted shoot-outs between the bad guys and the good guys four times daily to the delight of children and their parents.

      Big Red from K-Country kept things lively with a K-Country remote and couldn’t resist participating in the shoot outs along with the re-enactors.

      Music in the Park Series proudly served as the music host for the 37th Annual Pioneer Days Event and was sponsored by Hardees of High Springs. Twelve different musical groups were on hand to entertain during the two-day event. Michael Loveday, Music in the Park organizer, explained that a different group performed every hour.

      Visitors enjoyed Kettle Korn, corn on the cob, hot dogs and hamburgers, slushies, barbecue, pulled pork and chicken, fried pickles, corn dogs and funnel cakes as they visited booths, Kids Korral and Heritage Village. Some clubs and organizations sold food to raise money for their own or another organization. The Elks Club donated proceeds from the sale of their barbecue to High Springs Community School’s Music Department and the sale of corn on the cob to the Save the Priest effort. Kiwanis Club members plan to use the proceeds of their sales to do more projects in the community.

      The Priest Theatre participated in the event by holding free tours of the theater and offering free showings of the western classic, “Winchester 73,” starring James Stewart and Shelley Winters. Donations were accepted and went toward the Save the Priest campaign.

      “We couldn’t have ordered up a more perfect weekend for a festival,” said one festival goer. “This has been the best attendance I have seen at this festival for the past five years that I have been coming to Pioneer Days,” said one veteran festival visitor. “Attendance was steady to downright crazy busy, exclaimed one of the festival organizers. “Saturday afternoon was especially busy,” she said.

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HIGH SPRINGS – Looking to increase revenues in city coffers, impact fees are on the table for the High Springs City Commission. At the April 11, 2013 commission meeting, commissioners discussed the impact fee study prepared by City Manager Ed Booth, which was provided to each of them for review during the March 28 meeting.

Booth explained that while impact fees were originally set at $9,000 per household, they were never collected by the City. “This study presents a more affordable and realistic alternative and takes into consideration a joint project with the City of Alachua and considers grant opportunities,” he said.

The matter brought little discussion as commissioners realized the revised impact fees would be significantly less than the original amount. Following unanimous agreement, commissioners tasked City Attorney Scott Walker to develop an ordinance based on Booth’s suggested impact fees at under $3,000 per average household.

Walker is expected to present the ordinance at the April 25 commission meeting for the required first reading. If it passes at that time, a public hearing and second reading of the ordinance will be scheduled to receive citizen input. Most likely the public hearing will take place at the May 9 regular commission meeting.

If fees are approved at second reading, “developers will have to pay the impact fee if they want to be guaranteed the use of the sewer system,” Booth said.

Impact fees are not intended to be used for ongoing operations and maintenance. Instead, the fees are to be used to further develop or expand the existing water and wastewater systems to accommodate new demand created by new development.

Booth earlier said as the cost for infrastructure expansion within the existing systems occurs due to new users, the connection fees should be directly based on the reduction of capacity caused by the new customers.

Booth estimates total capital cost to the City of $1.3 million for wastewater facilities, which equates to an impact fee per unit of $1,303 for additional wastewater customers.

“Based on a 250-gallon per customer water usage, the cost for residential customers would be $1,342 for a 3/4-1-inch meter. Two- and 3-inch meters, usually reserved for businesses using a larger water supply, would add $1,000 for a 2-inch meter or $3,000 for a 3-inch meter to the residential amount of $2,645.

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W - Brown Edit 06-07-12ALACHUA – Alachua city commissioner Shirley Green Brown celebrated her first anniversary pn the City Commission by becoming Alachua’s new vice mayor April 22.

Brown has served on the Alachua City Commission since April 2012. She succeeded Commissioner Robert Wilford as vice mayor and will hold the position for a year.

“I was humbled and honored by the nomination,” Brown said.

Brown has been an Alachua resident for about 40 years. She worked for the Alachua County School Board for 31 years and taught at Alachua Elementary School and W.W. Irby Elementary School. She continues to be involved with education by tutoring students in the community.

She retired as a career-speech and language pathologist in 2012.

Brown is active in the Alachua community with involvement in many organizations.

Brown is a member of the Friends of the Library, President of the Alachua Woman’s Club and serves on the School Advisory Council for Irby Elementary School. She is also the leadership chairperson for the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Mu Upsilon Omega Chapter and a State of Florida Special Olympics representative.

In her term as Vice Mayor, Brown hopes to increase jobs, improve youth programs and continue to promote the revitalization of the city of Alachua.

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W - Conrad Day care pixThe Newberry City Commission has approved up to $10,000 for repairs to bring the former Newberry daycare center up to code.

NEWBERRY – The fate of a building located in East Park, which was formerly used as a school cafeteria, is in the hands of the Newberry City Commission. For the last 30 years the building had been used as a daycare center, and over the past year it sat vacant.

The Citizens Advisory Board turned the building, which is located out front the ball fields off Newberry Lane, over to the city to decide its future, said Lewis King, advisory chairperson. One idea is to rent it out for citizen functions and activities, such as family reunions.

“We’ve had about 14 families that I know of that has been interested in renting the building,” Lewis said.

“But it wasn’t up to code.”

The commission agreed on April 22 to put up some $10,000 for repairs to bring the electricity and plumbing up to code and the parking accessibility up to ADA standards.

King believes the park’s building opens up another avenue for renters because at this point, the municipal building is the only building citizens can use, so it’s always booked up.

In addition to the electrical and plumbing upgrades in the first phase of repairs, there will be updates to the fire suppression system connected to the stove in the kitchen, which should be about $3,000, King said.

The second phase of repairs includes changing out some commodes and putting in a new floor and more lighting.

“A couple of months, and we should be up and running,” King said.

The initial money is a “starter amount with the idea that more money would be forthcoming when we got the 2014 budget to do even more things in there,” said Mayor Bill Conrad, referring to events such as parties and wedding receptions.

“There are other renovations that need to be made to the building,” said Commissioner Alena Lawson.

“That’s the plan: to try to generate some revenue so we can continue to upgrade it.”

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Purple Pink Coerper S5000741 copy

Working as a celebrity bartender, City of Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper served up drinks at The Great Outdoors Restaurant’s Pink and Purple fundraiser Thursday evening.

HIGH SPRINGS – The Great Outdoors Restaurant Spring House Tavern and Outside Patio Bar hosted the first Pink and Purple fundraiser on Thursday, April 18, 2013. The event, which garnered nearly $3,000 for Relay for Life, was a great success, according to event organizers.

Celebrity bartenders on hand for the event included High Springs City Manager Ed Booth and Mayor Sue Weller, Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper, High Springs Chamber President Sandra Webb and President of the Yellow Bellied Sliders Bicycle Group of High Springs, Tom Hewlett.

Great Outdoors General Manager Carol Ann Doherty said the restaurant is donating 100 percent of the profits from the patio that night, a total of $2,869. “We started working with the Relay for Life Sponsorship team six weeks ago for the first of what we hope will be an annual collaborative event,” explained Doherty.

Owners Bob and Karen Bentz of West Palm Beach were very much in support of this effort according to Doherty, who also said out-of-pocket expenses for the restaurant were $5,400. “We paid for Tom & Adam, the entertainment for the evening, pink and purple napkins and balloons, staff, and provided the facility…everything it took to generate that amount of cash for profit,” she explained.

“It was a great collaborative effort,” said Doherty. “We were extremely excited about this event and very pleased the entire community came out in support of it. Our staff dressed in pink and purple and we all enjoyed every minute of it,” she said.

In addition to the money raised through more than 150 dinners and many more drinks, “the group earned another $358 through tips received by the celebrity bartenders, chance drawing tickets and the donation jar,” added event chair Sharon Kantor.

Kantor said that 14 groups have raised more than $12,000 for Relay for Life prior to the Pink and Purple event fundraiser. “We hope to double, if not triple that amount by the end of the Relay for Life event.”

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Hawthorne city officials and guests gathered to celebrate completion of the City’s wastewater system improvement project with an official ribbon cutting ceremony.

HAWTHORNE – On Friday, April 26, the City of Hawthorne celebrated the expansion of its wastewater treatment plant with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

With representatives from the commission, City staff, Sawcross, Inc., Mittauer & Associates and public works staff, as well as those involved in the grant writing and construction process present, the ceremonial ribbon was cut, marking completion of the project.

The project cost totaled $1.15 million at no expense to the City of Hawthorne. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection awarded a Legislative Appropriation Grant of $500,000 while the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity awarded Hawthorne a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) of $650,000.

The expansion consisted of constructing a new chlorine contact chamber, yard piping, electrical work and other necessary renovations that allow treatment of wastewater to increase from 150,000 gallons per day to 200,000 gallons.

An important addition to the system is the sludge dewatering box to the plant. The City can now dispose of its own sludge rather than paying utility companies to haul it off. The dewatering box will allow the City to dry the sludge and take it to a recycler, reducing the cost charged by weight.

City Manager Ellen Vause projects to save up to 50 percent in the sludge hauling cost for the next year, but would need more time to accurately track the projected savings and costs.

Beginning with construction in November 2012, the project was completed in April 2013, although Hawthorne had until February 2014 to complete construction in accordance with the CDBG criteria.

Referring to future development in Hawthorne and business and residential expansion in the eastern part of the county, Hawthorne Mayor Matthew Surrency said, “Hopefully, it sets us up well in the future.”

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