Veterans attending an Adaptive Sports Program event at the north shore of Lake Wauburg in Micanopy, where Veterans were able to take part in paddle boarding, kayaking, pedal boating, and canoeing, June 12, 2024, pose for a group photo at the end of the day’s activities / Photo special to Alachua County Today

GAINESVILLE ‒ Veterans recently gathered at Lake Wauburg's north shore in Micanopy for a day of aquatic sports designed to boost their independence, well-being, and quality of life. Organized by the Adaptive Sports Program (ASP) of the Veterans Health System (NF/SG-VHS), the event offered paddle boarding, kayaking, pedal boating, and canoeing. These activities aim to enhance cardiovascular endurance and muscle strength, underscoring the program’s commitment to improving physical and mental health among Veterans with a disability or a senior Veteran age 55 or older.

The North Florida / South Georgia Veterans Health System (NF/SG-VHS) offers countless programs to Veterans throughout North Florida and South Georgia, including ASP. The ASP hosted the sports day where Veterans were able to take part in paddle boarding, kayaking, pedal boating, and canoeing, June 12, 2024. These activities were designed to increase cardiovascular endurance as well as strengthen lower and upper body muscles.

The ASP partners with the NF/SG-VHS Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC), which helps fund multi-day clinics for Veterans 55 and older to introduce them to various sports for a week at various locations. As more and more Veterans have learned about the ASP, as many as 25 Veterans have gone on to compete in the Golden Age Games while participating and training in the weekly events that NF/SG-VHS hosts in Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Lake City and Gainesville.

“We have found that our Veterans that are receiving this benefit of adaptive sports, recreation and leisure vastly improved their quality of life,” said Katie Blunk, the Adaptive Sports Coordinator for NF/SG-VHS. “And to really demonstrate to the Veteran that they don’t ever have to say that ‘they can’t do something’ when it comes to their physical well-being, we will show them exactly how they can.”

The encouragement of competing and realizing they can participate in these activities is a true testament that Veterans of all ages are able to defy any of their limitations. Through ASP activities, Veterans have improved their individual health, physical wellness, teamwork, empowered leadership, improved self-confidence, and camaraderie.

One such Veteran, Erich Brockmoeller, a former U.S. Marine Corps non-commissioned officer, expressed that he was turned onto the ASP after experiencing a self-isolation phase in life. Participating in the program has helped Erich realize he was not alone. There are many Veterans just like Brockmoeller, and he encourages all disabled Veterans to take part and experience the rewards of the program.

“The connections I made have been monumental, not to mention the physical and mental health of being involved in the adaptive sports program,” said Brockmoeller. “Go one time! Give it a try. One time has turned into more times and now I go multiple times a week.”

An additional benefit of the ASP has been creating or inventing adaptive sports equipment for Veterans to utilize in order to return to their favorite sport. Specialized rehabilitation events have been created with an aim to optimize Veterans’ independence, community engagement, well-being, and quality of life. The programs are built on clinical expertise within the VA, with essential support from Veteran Service Organizations, corporate sponsors, individual donors, and community partners.

Grant programs for ASP are essential for the program. Through these grant programs, various organizations have come together to increase and expand the quantity and quality of sustainable adaptive sports activities that Veterans can participate in to treat mental health, physical injuries, and sustain a healthy lifestyle.

“Adaptive sports in general strives to remove barriers to allow Veterans to engage in activities that bring well-being on physical, mental, and spiritual levels,” said Dr. Carmen Fernandez, the Associate Director for the GRECC at NF/SG-VHS. “The GRECC promotes advances in geriatric care, and we are fortunate to be here to assist the ASP in this endeavor.”

The Veterans participating in the activities all had a great experience enhancing their physical fitness and connecting with their fellow Veterans. The NF/SG-VHS ASP and GRECC staff ensured their day was filled with world-class health care, physical and mental motivation, safety, and camaraderie that these Veterans value and hold dear.

The next multi-day Adaptive Sports Clinic with the GRECC is scheduled for Sept. 17-20, 2024. Veterans with a disability or who are 55 and older should request their primary care provider to place a consult for adaptive sports to receive an application for participation. The deadline for applying is Aug. 16, 2024.

For more information on the Adaptive Sports Program, visit Adaptive Sports | VA North Florida/South Georgia Health Care | Veterans Affairs or VA National Veterans Sports Programs.

For more information on the NF/SG-VHS, visit VA North Florida/South Georgia Health Care | Veterans Affairs.

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ARCHER – A 29-year-old Archer man is being held in jail without bond after his arrest. On Wednesday, June 19, 2024, Lyndon Bernard Boykins III was charged with burglary with battery, interfering with the custody of a minor, child abuse without great bodily harm, and battery after allegedly taking a baby from a home without permission, shaking it to prevent the baby’s mother from taking the child and battering two women who tried to stop him from taking the baby.

Boykins allegedly went to the home of a former girlfriend at about 7:28 p.m. without being invited. He allegedly entered her unlocked residence, picked up a baby and left with the baby. The responding Alachua County Sheriff’s deputy noted that the baby is Boykins’ biological child, but he does not have custody of the baby and does not live at the residence.

When the baby’s mother learned that Boykins had taken her child, she ran outside, but when he saw her, he allegedly began violently shaking the baby to prevent her from taking the baby. A second woman came to assist the baby’s mother at which point Boykins allegedly punched her in the face. The baby’s mother reportedly took the baby from Boykins, but he allegedly pushed her as she was trying to take the baby from him.

Witnesses reportedly said that Boykins shook the child so violently that the child’s unsupported head “flopped” from side to side, and the witnesses were concerned that the shaking would injure the baby. Witnesses reportedly told the responding deputy that the baby’s mother made multiple verbal requests to Boykin to return her baby before she physically took the baby.

The deputy reported that the baby and the mother sustained no visible injuries.

Post Miranda, Boykins reportedly admitted that he went to the residence without being invited, entered without permission and stayed inside the residence for about 10 minutes before he took the baby and left. He said the baby’s mother attacked him when he was outside the residence. He reportedly had scratches on his arms and neck, but the deputy reported that they appeared to be several days old and had begun healing.

Boykins has two felony convictions, one of which was violent, and one misdemeanor conviction. He has served one state prison sentence and was released in 2012. He was sentenced to 36 months of probation in May of this year after entering a plea of nolo contendere to possession of MDPV, along with another drug possession charge and charges of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana were dropped.

Senior Judge Aymer “Buck” Curtin ordered him held without bail, pending a hearing on a motion by the State Attorney’s Office to hold him without bail until trial.

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ALACHUA – The Alachua Chamber of Commerce’s annual Sportsfest Golf Tournament brought together area teams on June 15, 2024, at the picturesque Turkey Creek Golf Course. Despite record heat, the charity event saw unprecedented turnout in participation, volunteers, and funds raised. In its 35th year, the event drew golf enthusiasts for a day of friendly competition and community support.

“The community enthusiasm for this event only continues to grow,” said Alachua Chamber of Commerce President Adam Boukari. “Our business partners continue to step up and put our community first helping to raise funds that support the youth of our community.”

Participants kicked off the day early in a shotgun-style start, with teams of four players engaging in a best ball scramble format. Each team strategically used the best shot among their group for subsequent plays toward the pin, navigating the 18-hole course over approximately four hours.

Check-in process was at 7:30 a.m. with breakfast provided by MiApa. Shotgun start was at 8:30 a.m. Beverage station at the turn was sponsored by Alachua Okito. Lunch was provided by local community staple Conestogas Restaurant. A multitude of raffle prizes donated by area businesses were awarded, from gift cards, to hotel stays to TVs to new golf equipment. Afterword, the traditional and famous shootout — for teams that qualify — can win bragging rights and prize money to the victors.

Winning Teams and Results

  • Shootout Team: Campus USA Credit Union clinched the winning title, featuring Fred Hilton, Josh Hansen, Josh Dunbar, and Yancey Steingraber.
  • Gross Scores: Devin Osbourne, Bryan Faulk, Luke Tillman, and Clayton Gregory from Sysco.
  • Net Scores: Luke Smith, Charlie Culp, Jeff Tyre, and Nick Tyre from Concept Companies.

Beyond the thrill of victory and the camaraderie on the greens, the tournament holds deeper significance. Funds raised through the event traditionally support youth programs in the city of Alachua, particularly benefiting Legacy Park Recreation initiatives and education. Recent past contributions include enhancing study spaces at the Alachua branch library and supporting educational resources for local students.

This year’s event featured 27 teams with 108 participants, supported by over 30 volunteers “We are incredibly grateful for the well-organized, community-supported golf tournament,” said Sportsfest Committee Chair Shelley Vickers of Scherer Construction. “This event would not have been possible without the dedication of our volunteers, committee members, and especially our sponsors.”

The 2024 Sportsfest Golf Scramble raised over $26,000 to support local youth who participate in the City of Alachua’s activities, program and events. “It took an army of chamber volunteers and local merchants who donate their time and funds to consistently make this happen,” said Vickers.

Sportsfest sponsors were Dollar General, Capital City Bank, Scherer Construction, Palms Medical, Pizza in the Hood, Okito, MiApa, Conestogas, Boukari Realty, Campus USA Credit Union, Edward Jones Potts & Surrency, Concept Companies, Menadier Engineering, San Felasco Tech City, Waco Properties, Santa Fe Ford, Florida Credit Union, Douglas Adel, Waste Pro, Easy Dumpster, ReMax, State Farm, Sysco, True Force Roofing, New Generation Builders, Polaris, and the City of Alachua.

“The City of Alachua's crew was amazing, generously donating their tent, tables, and chairs for the event,” said Vickers, adding, “We also had numerous wonderful hole sponsors and community donations, all contributing to making this event unforgettable.”

The success of the tournament was made possible by longstanding sponsors such as Dollar General and Capital City Bank, whose support continues to foster positive impacts across Alachua.

A shoutout from Vickers captured the event’s long running success, “Thank you to everyone who made this year's Sportsfest one for the books! We can’t wait till next year.

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NEWBERRY ‒ The Newberry City Commission on June 24, 2024, unanimously approved a ground lease agreement with LifeSoils LLC for a 15-acre site. This partnership aims to address the disposal of biosolids generated by the City's wastewater treatment facility through an innovative composting process.

The City’s wastewater treatment facility produces two bi-products: treated effluent and biosolids. Currently, the treated effluent is managed by applying it to the ground via a sprinkler system, allowing it to percolate into the soil. Biosolids, on the other hand, are applied to the land to be absorbed by grass vegetation, which is subsequently harvested as hay. However, new regulations concerning biosolids disposal necessitate a change in the City's current practices. These new disposal options are often costly and could significantly increase wastewater rates for residents.

LifeSoils LLC has developed a process for biosolids disposal that transforms them into a high-quality soil amendment and enhancer. The City of Newberry and LifeSoils LLC are now partnering to establish a composting facility in North Central Florida. “Newberry’s available land, and its supply of both yard waste and biosolids, make us a good candidate for this partnership,” said City Manager Mike New.

The ground lease agreement stipulates a 30-year term, with the possibility of renewing the agreement up to three times for additional 10-year periods. Additionally, the agreement requires a 36-month notice for termination.

In the absence of Mayor Jordan Marlowe, Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Clark ran the June 24, 2024 City Commission meeting.

In other City businesses, the Commission also unanimously approved conveyance of 1.03 acres of land from Gary Weseman, Manager, Tanglewood Properties of Gainesville LLC to the City of Newberry. The property is being sold to the City for $10 and will be used for the construction of a water tower.

Lead Service Line Inventory

Engineer Katherine VanZant addressed the Commission to explain that the Department of Environmental Protection is implementing a program that tests water pipes to determine if the pipes are lead. VanZant congratulated the City of Newberry for already starting this evaluation program; something which she said has not been started in many Florida cities.

The results of the assessment will be due in October of this year. With a little more than 500 properties left for the City to assess, “Newberry will easily meet the October deadline,” said VanZant.

Wastewater Plant Funding

The City Commission unanimously approved a change to the originally-approved line of credit for the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).

The City is nearing the beginning of construction of the plant, which is funded through various grants and loans. The loans and grants are reimbursements, and after the payment is made, the City can request the reimbursement. This will require the City to float the cash between the payment and the reimbursement for 60 - 90 days. As the City does not have sufficient cash on hand, the City proposed entering into a construction line of credit to draw down funds to meet these cash requirements.

Staff engaged the City’s financial advisor (PFM) to prepare a request for proposals to provide the City with interim funding to pay costs related to utility projects eligible for State Revolving Fund reimbursement.

PFM distributed a request for proposals on March 6, to a list of local and regional financial institutions to identify the qualified financial institutions that could provide the City with a fixed (at draw) and/or variable rate line of credit at the lowest overall borrowing cost, according to certain conditions as determined by the City. On April 2, the City received two proposals from Seacoast Bank and Truist.

Staff recommended Seacoast Bank as the loan provider, and on April 22, 2024, the Commission adopted Resolution 2024-13 to enter into a loan agreement with Seacoast Bank.

After the Commission’s approval, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) requested that changes be made to the loan agreements. Negotiations resulted in lowering the line of credit from $20 million to $10 million and clarifying that system development fees are included as the pledged revenues and some other minor tweaks. Due to the change in the loan term the resolution must be brought back before the Commission for approval.

It is reported that Seacoast Bank has agreed to hold the terms the same as their original bid.

The next Newberry City Commission meeting will be held on July 8 at 7 p.m.

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TALLAHASSEE ‒ On June 7, 2024, the Florida Commission on Ethics dismissed an ethics complaint against Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe. The complaint, filed by Tyler Foerst, Co-Chair of Save Our Schools Newberry, was reviewed during a closed-session meeting where the Commission assessed 22 complaints for legal sufficiency.

Foerst’s complaint alleged that Marlowe's actions constituted an overreach of his authority and misuse of city resources. Foerst claimed that Mayor Marlowe improperly directed City staff to assist in creating a budget for Education First for Newberry (EFN), a private entity, without the approval of the City Commission.

The complaint alleged that Marlowe “has been directing City staff to assist in the creation of the budget for Education First for Newberry (EFN) and has used City resources in benefit of EFN, a private entity, without a vote of the City Commission. By unilaterally ordering City staff to work for the benefit of a private entity, the Mayor has clearly overstepped his authority and abused his power.”

In its dismissal, the Commission stated the complaint lacked legal sufficiency. The Florida Commission on Ethics clarified that their review of legal sufficiency focuses on jurisdiction and whether the complaint’s content adequately alleges a violation of the Code of Ethics or other laws within the Commission’s scope. The Commission emphasized that no factual investigation is conducted at this stage, and thus their conclusions do not reflect on the truthfulness of the allegations.

The Florida Commission on Ethics, an independent nine-member body established in 1974, oversees the review of complaints filed under the statutory Code of Ethics and provides advisory opinions to public officials regarding potential conflicts of interest.

Should the Commission find a complaint legally sufficient, it may conduct a public hearing. If a violation is confirmed, the Commission can recommend civil penalties, including fines up to $10,000 per violation and removal from office or employment.

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ALACHUA – Former Alachua Police Chief Chad D. Scott returned to the Alachua Police Department (APD) effective Thursday, June 20, 2024. Scott rejoins the force at the rank of Captain and has been assigned to coordinate special projects as well as other administrative duties and assignments.

The Department wrote on its official Facebook page that Captain Scott comes to APD with a wealth of knowledge and an outstanding track record of leadership in policing. Scott served in multiple leadership roles including Chief of Police, Colonel and, most recently, Major at the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office.

“We are excited to have one of our former leaders return home,” said Chief Jesse Sandusky. “With Captain Scott’s leadership abilities and knowledge of our local community, I know that he will serve the citizens well in this new endeavor.”

Scott is currently running for Alachua County Sheriff and recently left his employment at the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office where he served as Major.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ High Springs City Commissioners conducted a special presentation at the beginning of their June 13, 2024, City Commission meeting to recognize members of the High Springs Fire Department who recently performed an emergency delivery of a baby girl in fire department’s parking lot.

Just before 5 a.m. on Friday, June 7, the High Springs Fire Department first responders sprang into action to deliver the baby girl. The parents had been en route to UF Health Shands from the Live Oak area when they realized they wouldn't make it in time, and dialed 911 informing operators that they were moments away from the High Springs Fire Department.

Under the command of Captain Andy Burkhalter, the crew recognized the urgency of the situation and prepared for the imminent arrival. Firefighter (FF)/Paramedic Jon Friend, alongside FF/Paramedic Jake Rhoden, skillfully assisted in safely delivering the baby, who was born at approximately 33 weeks, into the world. FF/EMT Clinton Drake expertly applied cord clamps, while FF/Paramedic Doug Hope aided the new father in cutting the cord.

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