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ALACHUA ‒ A drunk Alachua man was arrested in an apartment complex Sunday night. Michael Jewel Coulon, 46, was arrested at approximately 7 p.m. Sunday following reports of a fight in progress at an Alachua apartment complex parking lot. When Alachua Police Department (APD) officers arrived on the scene, they found Coulon in a visibly irate state. The 6-foot-1-inch man began walking toward officers in an aggressive manner saying, “Y’all f***ing want some,” and pounding on his chest.

When Coulon proceeded to punch the front of a marked APD patrol car, he was ordered to the ground numerous times by officers.

Coulon didn’t comply but continued to pace around threatening to fight law enforcement. During this time officers were able to determine Coulon was heavily intoxicated. According to the APD report, “The defendant was subdued and post-arrest stated he had been drinking heavily.”

After subduing Coulon, officers were able to investigate the initial cause for the call and spoke with two females who said that Coulon had approached them as they walked through the parking lot of the apartment complex. During that time, he began yelling expletives at both women, balling his fists and making statements about fighting.

The women said that due to the defendant’s size, estimated at 280 pounds, as well as his aggressive statements and behavior, they were in fear for their safety.

Coulon was charged with simple assault/threat to do violence, two counts of disorderly intoxication in a public place and resisting arrest. He was taken to the hospital and will be held on bond of $40,000 when he is released from the hospital. Coulon currently lives in Alachua, but according to APD he has an out-of-county criminal history from 2000 to 2022.

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HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) recommend approval of expanding the city’s CRA district to City Commissioners.

At the May 26 board meeting, CRA Coordinator David Sutton presented two maps for comparison showing the original proposed expansion area and also an expansion area that included two more parcels of land. Staff had requested that the Board consider the two properties in the CRA district expansion. The properties are located to the west of the peanut mill property, which was included in the original expansion map and are identified as 00726-000-000 and 00726-001- 000.

The CRA works to assist in economic revitalization in the core of downtown High Springs and to secure funding for infrastructure improvements. The parcels are undeveloped industrial properties and adjoin the mill property. “The addition of these two properties will provide the CRA with the opportunity to assist in the development of these parcels,” said CRA member Ross Ambrose.

Sutton has spoken with CRA’s consultants regarding the required “Finding of Necessity” and was told there would be no additional cost if the City were to add the two parcels.

CRA Board members approved the addition of the two parcels to the proposed district expansion.

During the following City Commission meeting, Commissioners unanimously approved expansion of the CRA district along with property located on either side of West U.S. Highway 27 from Northwest 239th Street (currently the west boundary) west to Northwest 246th Street.

This proposed extension from Northwest 239th Street to Northwest 246th Street would have a northern boundary of Northwest 187th Avenue and a southern boundary of the CSX property (future Rails to Trails).

GAI has been engaged to complete the “Finding of Necessity” at a cost of $15,000. Once completed, the matter will go back for adoption by the CRA Board and then by the Commission. Following that, the proposed expansion will be submitted to the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners for approval.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Area small businesses, artists and local organizations have teamed up to help raise funds for children’s art programs in High Springs. The “Paint the Night Benefit Gala” raised funds for the Good News Arts Gallery programs focused on children. The gallery, founded and owned by Jessica Caldas, provides space for local, regional, and national artists to show challenging and engaging work tied to relevant contemporary issues.

When Caldas opened the gallery in 2020, she also envisioned an open space for community members to present work via additional exhibitions, musical performances, spoken word, events, and whatever else served the community’s needs as well as teaching classes in different arts for both adults and children.

The non-profit gallery does not take a commission on artists’ sales but does pay teachers and buys supplies for all classes and camps. Good News Arts also offers after-school art classes for kids for $5 per student and a seven-week summer camp with only a $20 registration fee, which provides free snacks, lunch and art supplies for all students. Costs associated with the camps are supplemented by donors and volunteer staff. The gallery also works with several agencies that sponsor the summer camp including the City of High Springs Parks and Recreation Department, the Children’s Trust of Alachua County, and private donors.

The May 21gala was held at the High Springs Woman's Club to raise funds to support these programs through the $40 entry fee donation. The evening was a community effort, with numerous local and regional artists offering their works for auction. Various organizations donated food, drink and entertainment adding to the lively ambiance of the evening. Wine was supplied by Specialty Wines while local breweries First Magnitude Brewing Company, Swamphead Brewery and Cypress and Grove supplied craft beers.

Miami Chef Joe Richard supplied all the southern fare food and Gainesville Event DJ's supplied music for dancing. Local artisit Kimberly Bossons provided a live painting experience at a side table while guests wandered aroung the tables featuring art for auction and enjoyed the food, drink and dancing. Over 90 people attended the event to support the gallery and raise money for its programs.

“It was a wonderful night that helped us raise close to $5,000 to keep the programs going,” said Caldas. “The money we raised will go toward supporting our programming, especially our free and low-cost arts education for all ages and our youth programming, which includes a free Summer Arts Camp for youth. We are extremely grateful for the support of the community to keep these programs alive."

More information on the classes, after school program and summer camp can be found by emailing goodnewsarts@goodnewsarts.com, visiting https://www.goodnewsarts.com or visiting the gallery to see the current exhibit by Paul Shortt. Shortt, called “Farewell to Adulthood” at 18555 Main Street in High Springs.

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ALACHUA COUNTY — The official candidate qualifying period for 2022 runs between noon on Monday, June 13 and noon on Friday, June 17. To qualify for county office and have their name appear on the ballot, candidates must file complete qualifying paperwork with the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office during this period. Candidates may pre-qualify by submitting their paperwork up to two weeks prior to the start of the qualifying period.
 
The following local offices are up for election in Alachua County:
  • Alachua County Commission – Districts 1, 2, and 4 (District 1 will be on the ballot this year due to the resignation of Commissioner Mary Alford. The person elected to this position will fill the unexpired portion of the term).
 
  • Alachua County School Board – Districts 1, 2, 3, and 5 (District 2 will be on the ballot this year due to a declared vacancy by the Governor last year. The person elected to this position will fill the unexpired portion of the term).
 
  • Soil and Water Conservation Supervisor – Group 1, 3, and 5 (Senate Bill 1078 requires all soil and water conservation seats to be on the ballot this year. This bill has not yet been signed into law by the Governor. An update will be provided if there are any changes).
 
For information about running for county offices, contact the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office at 352-374-5252 or visit VoteAlachua.gov.
 
The candidate qualifying period for City of Gainesville offices will also take place between noon on Monday, June 13 and noon on Friday, June 17. For City of Gainesville offices, complete qualifying paperwork must be submitted to the City of Gainesville Clerk’s Office.
 
The following local offices are up for election in the City of Gainesville:
  • Gainesville Mayor At Large Commission Seat
 
  • District 2, 3, and 4 Commission Seats
 
For more information about the candidate qualifying period for the City of Gainesville, contact Gainesville City Clerk Omichele Gainey at 352-334-5015.
 
The candidate qualifying period for judicial candidates was held during an earlier qualifying period. All county judicial candidates went unopposed. Candidates for federal, state, and multicounty offices will qualify with the Florida Division of Elections. For information on those candidates, visit dos.myflorida.com/elections.
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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ A homeless man was arrested at 10:35 a.m., Friday, May 20, in High Springs after he trespassed at a High Springs residence on three consecutive days.

The victim contacted the High Springs Police Department when she found the man had walked up to her front door, which was cracked open and stood there looking inside at her and her 11-year-old daughter. The victim and her daughter were alone in the apartment at the time.

Christian David Greenwald, 31, who is described as “homeless” on the arrest report, was arrested when the victim reported that he stood outside her apartment, which is located near Winn-Dixie, for three days in a row. He was trespassed from the location on May 19 by the High Springs Police Department.

Post Miranda, Greenwald reportedly said that he believes the victim is Taylor Swift and that she has his child. He was charged with trespassing and is being held on $25,000 bond.

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L-R: Grant Dougherty, Thomas Goss, Brianne Kilpatrick, Taylor Roberts and Erika Wells were awarded scholarships from the Alachua Business League

Article updated June 3, 2022

ALACHUA ‒ The Alachua Business League (ABL) has presented five students from Santa Fe High School $1,000 scholarships to Santa Fe College.  The ABL has been awarding scholarships through the Education Foundation of Alachua County since 2006. 

The recipients this year were Grant Dougherty, Thomas Goss, Brianne Kilpatrick, Taylor Roberts and Erika Wells, who were selected from 32 qualified applicants.

The Alachua Business League's mission is to promote business-to-business support by being involved in the community and providing networking events for local businesses.  The ABL also organizes the Alachua Main Street festival in the fall, which is scheduled for Nov. 13, 2022.

 

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NEWBERRY ‒ Alachua County’s proposed one percent Sales Tax Referendum took center stage in discussions between the City of Newberry and the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) during their joint meeting Monday, May 23. Having already presented the issue to three other municipalities with lukewarm receptions, county commissioners came armed with facts and figures to ask Newberry’s Commissioners to back the referendum.

Assistant County Manager Gina Peebles introduced the sales tax referendum, which ties together funding for the popular Wild Spaces and Public Places (WSPP) and the unpopular tax for roads.

In past years, Alachua County has asked voters to support a referendum for roads on two occasions, which was defeated both times. However, when they asked the citizens to approve the Wild Spaces and Public Places (WSPP) Referendum with a one-half percent sales tax in 2008 and again in 2016, it was approved.

Dec. 31, 2024, the WSPP one-half percent sales tax sunsets and many municipalities have expressed a desire to continue it. Funds from WSPP have been used throughout the County to improve recreation facilities and to support other related projects.

Voters will be asked on Nov. 8, 2022 whether they would like to extend the WSPP half-cent sales tax along with a half-cent sales tax dedicated to infrastructure through 2032.

The proceeds from the surtax will be split between the County and the municipalities, with each entity required to allocate half to WSPP projects such as parks and recreation, open space and natural resources; the other half will be allocated to other infrastructure projects including road improvements as defined in Florida’s statutes. Up to 15 percent of the non-WSPP half of the surtax may be used to fund economic development projects to improve the local economy.

Allowable projects can include but are not limited to land acquisition; land improvement; costs related to constructing or improving public facilities that have a life expectancy of five years or more; and land acquisition for a residential housing project in which at least 30 percent of the units are affordable to those with a household income not exceeding 120 percent of the area median income.

The county will get over half the funds and the rest distributed to municipalities based on population. The County will also allocate $6 million (half for WSPP projects and half for other infrastructure projects) of its share of the tax to the City of Gainesville “for uses… that Alachua County finds, in its sole discretion, have countywide significance.” Gainesville will have to submit a detailed request for each project.

Another $6 million will be allocated to all the municipalities, including the City of Gainesville. Each municipality can submit detailed requests for funds, but the ordinance does not address how the requests will be prioritized. This will be a one-time allocation of a total of $12 million, not an annual allocation.

The county estimates that the surtax will raise about $49 million in the first year, with almost $28 million going to the county, $17 million to the City of Gainesville, $1.35 million to the City of Alachua, $895,000 to Newberry, $861,000 to High Springs, $189,000 to Hawthorne, $156,000 to Archer, $124,000 to Waldo, $87,000 to Micanopy and $51,000 to La Crosse.

Alachua county residents have long complained about the condition of the county-maintained roads. Alachua County Commissioner Chuck Chestnut said that citizens have told the county to improve the roads with the existing money they are receiving each year. He said they have done so as much as they could, but that more funds are required to maintain the roads properly.

Peebles said the county can only have one surtax at a time, which is why the county commission is proposing a one-half percent sales tax for WSPP and another one-half percent sales tax for roads and infrastructure maintenance.

Alachua County Public Works Director and Engineer Ramon Gavarrette said that the cost for road work has increased by 30 – 40 percent and that many of the roads are failing. If this referendum passes, he said the county commission is targeting $50 million per year for roads, which will come from several sources.

Newberry City Commissioner Rick Coleman said his constituents were concerned about the county taking land off of the tax rolls and using the citizens money to do it.

Mayor Jordan Marlowe expressed concern that if voters buy into the system proposed by Gavarrette and he moves on to another city, someone else who comes into the job may throw out the old plan for a new one. Marlowe doesn’t want to keep developing plans—he wants the county to have a plan and stick to it. Coleman said buying land is not right, but something has to be done about the roads.

Newberry City Commissioner Tim Marden said the county’s priorities haven’t been right, but Marlowe pointed out that this is not the same county commission Newberry has dealt with in the past and pointed to several successful joint projects this county commission and the city have been able to accomplish recently.

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