ALACHUA – Alachua City Commissioner Ben Boukari, Jr. will be serving another term, after nobody else challenged him in the uncoming election.

Boukari said he likes to think nobody challenged him because people are generally happy with what they are doing on the commission. There might be minor disagreements, he said, but they work together for the good of the community.

The city’s qualifying period for the scheduled April 8 election ended at noon on Thursday, Feb. 20. Only Boukari’s seat was up for grabs.

Since there were no other races, the April election has been cancelled, according to a press release from the city.

There will be a swearing-in ceremony held on April 14 as Boukari enters another three-year term.

Boukari first ran in 2010, competing with activist Michael S. Canney. Boukari received 633 votes to Canney’s 248.  

#     #     #

Email cmckinney@

Add a comment

ALACHUA – Jim Handley, Executive Vice President of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, will be the keynote speaker at the Alachua Lions Club’s 75th Annual Cattlemen’s Banquet on Thursday, March 27, in Alachua. This popular event, the longest running, continuous Lions fundraiser in Florida, will move to a new and larger venue this year, Santa Fe River Ranch, to accommodate the nearly 400 attendees expected. Other new features this year include a social hour from 6 p.m. - 7 p.m., a live and a silent auction and corporate sponsorship tables. Live musical entertainment, then a traditional beef steak dinner and dessert bar will also be provided.

Jim Handley, fourth generation native Floridian from the Central Florida community of Sebring, Fla., currently serves as the Executive Vice President of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, Chief Executive Officer of the Florida Beef Council, Editor of the Florida Cattleman and Livestock Journal and Executive Director of the Florida Cattlemen’s Foundation. The headquarters office of these organizations is located in Kissimmee, Fla.

J.K. “Buddy” Irby will be the Master of Ceremonies. Irby is the Clerk of the Circuit Court and has served the people of Alachua County and the state in various capacities for 37 years. He is a graduate of Santa Fe High School and the University of Florida. Both his father and grandfather were long-time members of the Alachua Lions Club. Past speakers have included President Jimmy Carter, Florida Governors Bob Graham, Buddy MacKay, Lawton Chiles, Bob Martinez and Claude Kirk, U.S. Senator George Smathers, Congressman Cliff Stearns, Congressman Ted Yoho, and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. Lion Tommy Harris is chair of the Cattlemen’s Banquet.

Money raised by the Alachua Lions Club supports eye surgery, eyeglasses, and hearing aids for those in need, Alachua recreation programs, Alachua Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts, an early college scholarship program for a Santa Fe High School student, Food for Kids of Alachua program and tutoring of students at Alachua Elementary School. The Alachua Lions Charitable Foundation supports the work of the Alachua Lions Club.

For ticket information contact any Alachua Lion or call Lion Gunter Hirsch at 386-462-3702 or 352-538-9709. For program ads call Lion Gary Hardacre at 386-462-4582 or 352-214-2452. Ad deadline is March 1.

#     #     #

Email editor@

Add a comment

W - Alachua Renovations

CARL MCKINNEY/Alachua County Today

City workers clear a street before installing new trash bins. This was one part of the city's plan to make improvements to downtown Alachua.

Add a comment

GAINESVILLE –Sometimes parents might need a summer vacation too.

Any parent looking for ideas on how to keep their child busy during the summer can look into their options at the Summer Activities Fair.

Sponsored by the Westwood Middle School Parent Teacher Association, the event will showcase various recreational and educational programs available during the 2014 summer break.

Around 25 representatives for the various programs will be at the fair.

It will be held on March 8, from 9 a.m. to noon in the cafeteria for Westwood Middle School in Gainesville.

#     #     #

Email cmckinney@

Add a comment

W - PineWoodDerby 2 

Photo special to Alachua County Today

Local Cub Scout Pack 88 poses after the Pinewood Derby event. The three boys holding up certificates are the top three winnners. Jesse Chambers took third place, Timothy O'Quinn took second and Micah Hooper took the top spot.

Add a comment

W - Irby JumpRopeHeart

CARL MCKINNEY/Alachua County Today

A student leaps over her rope. The event raised around $2,000 by the time it was over. About five days later, the total was up to nearly $5,000.

ALACHUA –Caiden Flanigan was born with two holes in his heart. By now, at the age of 7, one of the holes has almost completely closed up. Caiden, a student of W.W. Irby Elementary School in Alachua, was the Heart Ambassador for this year’s Jump Rope for Heart event.

For over 20 years, Irby Elementary has participated in Jump Rope for Heart, which is dedicated to raising money and awareness for healthy hearts and healthy living. This year, it took place from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 14.

“It makes more people aware,” said Catherine Flanigan, grandmother of Caiden. “These diseases can affect children, they can affect adults.”

Many parents volunteered to help with the event, which couldn’t have taken place without them, said Ray Crone, physical education teacher at Irby.

“It’s a community event,” he said. “It’s not just for the school.”

Jump Rope for Heart has been around for 35 years. This is Irby’s 21st year participating. It aims to promote health awareness and live a healthy lifestyle by exercising, eating well and getting adequate sleep, in addition to raising money.  

The goal this year was to raise $8,000 for the American Heart Association. By raising money, students had a chance to earn tiny rubber ducks as trophies. The top duck, earned once a child reaches $75 in donations, is Mr. Cool, the P.E. duck. The students went on a mission to gather funds from local residents. They then assembled at the school’s bus depot for a one-hour jump rope marathon.

Last year’s biggest earner, Ava Adams, who raised $1,264, has a cousin who had to have heart surgery when he was only a 4-month-old. Adams, who had raised $540 at the time she spoke to Alachua County Today, said she thought of her cousin when she was jumping rope.

The event started out with a 20-minute long-rope jump across all grade levels. Then, students switched to shorter ropes. Finally, there was a first-grade and second-grade competition to see who the best at each grade-level was.

Callie Callaway was the top first-grader, with CJ Ramsey being the best second-grader.

The students get excited about Jump Rope for Heart, Crone said.

Heavyn Kies was so eager for the occasion that she started practicing as soon as she woke up that morning.

“She made my day,” Crone said. “She couldn’t wait to get here.”

“It was wonderful to see all the boys and girls excited,” said Valdenora Fortner, principal of Irby.

“They truly understand they were doing it to help people with their hearts.”

Not every child got to be in the big competition. Qualifying competitions were held, and only the best could be in Jump Rope for Heart.

By the time the children were done jumping rope, the school had raised over $2,000, though it was still accepting donations. The latest figure given to Alachua County Today by crone was around $5,000.

“Even though we are short of the $8,000, I would think that raising nearly $5,000 is an accomplishment in this economy,” he said.

Whoever raises the most money gets the honor of throwing a pie in Crone’s face.

The event is usually held on a Wednesday, but bad weather prompted the school to postpone it until Valentine’s Day.

The children grasped the impact of what they were doing, Crone said.

“We were helping kids who have sick hearts,” said Zoe Jeter, 7.

#     #     #

Email cmckinney@

Add a comment

NEWBERRY – The Gainesville Sports Commission (GSC) is in the process of ironing out a contract with the City of Newberry to run Nations Park under the proposed title “Sports Venue Enterprises.” This subsidiary of GSC could operate and manage Nations going forward. The contract is similar to the one already in place with Nations, but with a few modifications.

One change is that the city is required to post $100,000 for the first year’s operating expenses. The hopeful expectation is that the county will release the rest of the 1 percent bed tax, about $75,000, that was dedicated toward the project from the beginning.

The city also signed a contract with Coca Cola that will provide operating revenue for Sports Venue to run the park, worth around $40,000 for the first year.

Lou Presutti, who was once a major player in the park’s operation, will be a tenant under the new contract, essentially an organization that comes in and puts on tournaments. The United States Specialty Sports Association (USSA) will be a tenant, along with other interested parties, such as female softball and little league baseball. Tenant revenues will be contributed to Sports Venue Enterprises for operation as well.  

USSA has already booked up the spring, selling out the first of three tournaments. Saturday, Feb. 22 is the first tournament, with about 80 teams signed up and ready to play. The second and third tournaments take place in the first and second weeks of March.

“That’s a lot of people the park is already projected to bring in. Quite frankly, we are wondering where everyone will park,” said Commissioner Joe Hoffman at the workshop meeting.

As far as the timeline, for everything to be locked down with Nations, City Manager Keith Ashby said he is optimistic.

“I think the pace is right,” he said.

“Any new business takes a lot to get off the ground. This one is getting under its feet, and we are seeing the tournaments come in.”

There will be another negotiation session to tighten up the language so the commission knows exactly what the City’s obligations and liabilities are before it approves the contract and sends it on over to the GSC’s board to be approved.

#     #     #

Email cgrinstead@

Add a comment

More Articles ...