W - safety patrolALACHUA – John Maloney watched from the audience as his stepdaughter, Kaylee Mines, followed in his footsteps and took the pledge.

Kaylee, a fifth-grader at Alachua Elementary, was one of almost 30 students to become a part of the safety patrol in Alachua during a ceremony, which took place at 9 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 20 at Alachua Elementary School. The students were called up in three groups and took the pledge to honor and uphold the responsibility given to them through this title.

The newest wave of safety patrols was sworn in by Joel DeCoursey Jr., chief of police at the Alachua Police Department.

“She has wanted this for over a year now, and it’s really something that makes her mother and I very proud,” Maloney said.

The main goal of the program is to maintain order in the school as much as a student can, DeCoursey said. There is a reason these kids were chosen and placing this kind of trust in them is only going to help them to grow, he added.

The young students pledged: “I promise to do my best to report for duty on time, perform my duties faithfully, strive to prevent accidents, always set a good example, obey my teachers and officers of the patrol, report dangerous student practices and strive to earn the respect of fellow students.”

It was really something special for Maloney to experience watching Kaylee become part of the safety patrol, just as he had done when he was in school, he said.

Alachua County has been a part of the program for over 35 years, DeCoursey said. It is a country-wide program as well, he added, and it acts as a reward for fifth-grade students who can meet the standard.

Kelly Maloney, Kaylee’s mother, was proud her daughter has been able to meet that standard and has a desire to help others.

“I know that they only pick the best students to receive this title,” she said, “and it will be great for teaching her how to handle this type of responsibility.”

Christine McCall was another mother on hand at the ceremony where her daughter, Allison McCall, also joined the patrol.  

To be selected, a student has to have good grades, act in a mature manner and do the right thing, McCall said. This will be something that teaches her to behave well when other people look up to her, she said.

Each student is assigned a post, and they ensure that the safety rules of the school are upheld in that area, said Eva Copeland, principal of Alachua Elementary.

One of the posts a student could receive is the car-pickup area. This is the zone where parents can get their children after school. A safety patrol would be responsible for making sure that each student got to his or her car safely at this post, but they would probably not open doors or load students, Copeland said.

DeCoursey has been involved with the program in the city for over 20 years and he has seen it be a tremendous help for some students. It gives them a sense of pride in something. They all had to work for this and seeing that work culminate in this reward really means something, he said.

There is an additional reward for the children. At the end of the year they will be going on a trip to Washington D.C. as a part of the program. About 1,300 students from around the county take the trip every year. It’s basically a bonus for them, DeCoursey said.

Most of them don’t really care that it is Washington D.C., they just enjoy the excitement of going on a trip, he said.

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ALACHUA – As many as 250-500 new jobs may become available in Alachua County if the former site for the company Medical Manager is leased by a new company.

The 16-acre property, still owned by Medical Manager’s developer, Mickey Singer, is available for lease, according to Michael Ryals of Bosshardt Realty.

“We hope to attract a business that will bring with it jobs, added revenues and some sort of business synergy to the community,” Ryals said.

[CW1] The 83,738 square-foot, five-building complex is located at 15151 NW 99th Street in Alachua. It is expected to lease at $83,738 per month.

Ryals is trying to attract the right company to this “gem in Alachua County,” as he describes it.

“It would be an ideal location for several different types of businesses. I could easily see it being used again by a technology company, like Medical Manager used it, a school or as a medical campus,” he said.

An improved economy is one reason the property is being put on the market to lease at this time.

“Now that the economy is recovering, it’s time to get active and get the property back into the pipeline,” he said.

The two-story buildings were constructed as Medical Manager grew from the years of 1993 to 2002. The smallest building in the complex was built first at 14,501 square feet. The largest building in the complex was built last at 21,044 square feet. The campus-like setting houses offices, large meeting rooms and features fully-networked computer wiring and a generator backup.

“Everything we built was top of the line,” said property owner Mickey Singer.

“Everyone says it is a gorgeous piece of property,” he said. The same architecture was used for all the buildings. “We wanted to build not only a beautiful work environment, but one that had optimal conditions for our employees.” The layout of the workspaces was carefully designed with employees in mind, Singer said.

“As our employees walked between the buildings, we wanted them to be able to experience the calming effects of the natural environment,” he said. “It is a unique setting for a business.” Everything in the building is modern, including the fiber optics.

Ryals agreed, noting how each building is interconnected by covered walkways through landscaped gardens with break areas and even ponds. Singer still maintains the property and landscaped gardens to the same standards as when Medical Manager occupied the buildings.

“It is truly a campus,” Singer sad.  

Two weeks ago, Ryals brought in a group of business-minded community members to tour the buildings and grounds.

“We went to them for ideas on where we should focus our attention in marketing the property,” he said. Among those who toured the facilities were Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper, Alachua City Manager Traci Caine and Alachua Assistant City Manager Adam Boukari, as well as representatives from Innovation Square, the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Gainesville Council for Economic Outreach and the University of Florida.

Ryals said they are looking at real estate representatives on a national level who may have additional contacts in the U.S. and abroad for input. He also plans to research a state database, which is currently in the early stages of development by Enterprise Florida. When the listing is complete, business owners interested in locating in Florida will have a website to access available properties within the state that meet their requirements.

Medical Manager’s software was developed by Singer in 1979. “It hit the market in 1981, when the economy was going strong,” Singer said. Medical Manager went public in 1997. The company was sold in 2009 to Sage Software, one of the largest software companies in Europe.

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 [CW1]The # of sq. ft. & the monthly lease amount ARE correct. It’s $12/sq. ft. divided by 12 months.

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HAWTHORNE – A 16-year-old student was arrested Friday, Sept. 20, after bringing a gun to Hawthorne High School and Middle School.

At 7:42 a.m., the Alachua Sheriff’s Office received a call about a young man driving a maroon Chevy Impala that had pulled out and fired a gun on Southeast 152nd Street, according to reports.

Deputies responded to the call by searching the area, but were unable to find the vehicle or the young man.

Deputy Joshua Mitchell, the school resource officer, was waiting for the school bell to ring when he noticed the Chevy Impala sitting in the parking lot of Hawthorne High School and Middle School.

When more deputies got to the school, Mitchell confronted the 16-year-old suspect when he got out of the car to put a white gym bag in the trunk, according to reports.

Law enforcement identified the gun in the gym bag as a .380 caliber semi-automatic handgun.

The police discovered the suspect was a sophomore at the school. According to reports, the boy did not intend to use the gun while at school.

The suspect was arrested and taken to the Juvenile Resource Center where he was charged with possession of a firearm on school grounds, possession of a firearm by a minor and discharge of a firearm in public.

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ALACHUA – John “Jack” Parrish, once a member of the Alachua Police Department, is now a name that will exist in the hearts of many Alachua officers as a reminder of what it means to be a leader.

Parrish became the first Chief of Police for the Alachua Police Department in 1976 after he left the Florida Highway Patrol. From there, he changed a community by instilling a moral and professional code that would resonate for the next 37 years, according to friends and family.

Current Chief of Police, Joel DeCoursey, Jr., saw Parrish as a mentor. In DeCoursey’s office, in a chair pulled away from a table, sits Parrish’s picture, acting as a commemorative piece.

DeCoursey recalled Parrish as a gentle giant and a protector for the people who couldn’t protect themselves. His legacy as a protector, he said, will last for years to come.

While DeCoursey never actually worked with Parrish, he had a strong relationship with him. So strong that he was able to consult him when tough situations arose.

“He was a resource for the community,” he said. “If something was going on that I needed to know about, he would inform me. If there was something he could help me with, he would tap into his resources or his knowledge base.”

Parrish’s love for the Alachua community kept him involved even after his retirement, DeCoursey said. Since Parrish’s wife, Patricia Parrish, continued to work at the police department after her husband retired, this meant he would often come around the police building.

“He was one of those sounding boards, he and his wife, they were very supportive,” DeCoursey said.

Even on the days when he didn’t need to tell DeCoursey about something, he still would stop in and check up on the officers, mainly the new ones.

“He would always take a vested interest in who was hired and how the department was going,” he said.

He may have hung up his work boots, but staying away from his old life all together was just too hard, so helping the new guys out became a regular thing for Parrish.

However, as he got older, he spent less time at the department and more time with his wife traveling and fishing.

Parrish died earlier this month at North Florida Regional Hospital after a lengthy illness at the age of 73.

Many young officers didn’t know Parrish well, but the officers that did know him have heavy hearts, DeCoursey said.

The Alachua Police Department has been trying to help Parrish’s family in this difficult time. DeCoursey has been in touch with Patricia Parrish regularly to check on her and see if she needs anything. Some officers have even been taking shifts and personally going to her home to check in.

To remember Parrish, the department will be holding a memorial for him in the future. A time hasn’t been decided yet.

Parrish’s love for his community is the reason that the Alachua Police Department has become so reputable and well-working, DeCoursey said. His work in growing the department and being a morally right leader are only two of the numerous everlasting effects he left on Alachua.

“He loved this community,” he said. “He loved the people in this community.”

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W - FloodARCHER – A deluge of controversy surrounds the City of Archer as the town debates how to address the issue of flooding near the retention pond in Holly Hills.

Holly Hills is prone to flooding because of its bowl-like shape. The city secured a grant in 2010 to renovate the nearby retention pond to help with the overflowing water, but some citizens in Archer want the city to do more to prevent floods from heavy rainfall.

“I really thought that this would fix the problem once and for all,” said Roberta Lopez, former mayor and city commissioner of Archer, in an email to the city manager. Lopez has been outspoken about getting the city to take action over the flooding.

The grant to fix up the retention pond was meant to help out with small rain events, and was never meant to be a solution for heavy rainfall, said City Manager Al Grieshaber.

“If Mrs. Lopez was led to believe otherwise, she was misled,” he said. “The City of Archer, at the present time, cannot eradicate flooding in heavy accumulation rainfall events,” he wrote in an email to Lopez. There was a 35 percent increase in rainfall this year, Grieshaber said. He quoted a statement from the engineers who worked on the pond, stating that complete mitigation of the flooding cannot and would not be achieved with the project. The grant came from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The most recent major flood in Holly Hills happened last month. “When you see the pictures, you’re not going to believe it,” Lopez said of the flood.  

Lopez started a petition to get the city to have engineers look at the retention pond to make sure it is working as intended. Alachua County recommended sending engineers to examine the pond, Lopez said. She spoke to Leslie McLendon, a planner for growth management with the county.

 McLendon said she was trying to offer suggestions, but it was not an official recommendation. She also suggested a silt buildup might be something to check for.

Blockage in the drain for the retention pond might be part of the problem, Lopez indicated in an email to City Commissioner Gabe Green.

“If you go over in that area and look you will see the drain in the retention pond on the east side, and you may see a lot of dirt in the bottom of it,” she wrote. However, retention ponds do not have drains, replied Grieshaber.

“Unfortunately, you have a gross misunderstanding of retention ponds or basins,” he wrote. “There are no drains in retention ponds, only inlets to allow the water to flow in to the basin and outlets or overflow pipes to channel the water from one retention area to another.”

“The operative word is retention,” he added. “The water is retained so it can naturally percolate into the ground.”

At the Sept. 9 commission meeting, the mayor, city manager, city commissioners and citizens discussed how to protect Holly Hills from flooding. There was agreement among the commissioners and city manager that there was a problem, but there were different ideas on how to solve it.

Archer needs to look outside the retention pond and find other solutions, Grieshaber said. He presented a plan to get grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to buy the homes in the affected area. FEMA would purchase the homes at a fair market value, but nobody would be forced to sell their house. The houses that are bought would be demolished, turning the property into empty space. Even if some residents held out and didn’t sell their homes, the extra space from the newly empty lots would provide more surface area for the water, lessening the severity of the floods, Grieshaber said. Due to the geographical limitations of the area, the retention pond cannot ever completely mitigate the flooding, he said.

Lopez opposed the FEMA solution. The city needs to do something now to help the people of Holly Hills, she said.

Commissioner Fletcher Hope urged the city to internally examine the issue.

“I think we need to act on this,” he said. “We have some liability.

Commissioner Doug Jones disagreed about trying to solve the problem internally.

“Leave it to the engineers,” he said. “It’s not going to be solved in a city commission meeting.” He suggested the city let experts find a solution, rather than the commissioners trying to make one themselves.

The city will have the retention pond inspected for silt buildup and other problems as a short-term answer, but for the long-term, Grieshaber said the city will be sending out letters to the residents of Holly Hills to gage whether there will be support for the FEMA plan.

The focus should be on an immediate solution, not a long-term plan like the buyout idea, Lopez said.

“We have got to take care of our citizens,” she said.

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ALACHUA – Schools will be combating the flu virus for its fifth year in a row this season for all grade levels from pre-kindergarten to the 12th grade.

Schools will be giving out free flu vaccines for students with consenting parents. The vaccine will be administered through a nose spray known as FluMist, which has been used each year for the last five years with few issues.

The program deadline has been extended to Sept. 30. Alachua County has extended its deadline because it has not yet met its goal of getting at least 70 percent of students vaccinated.

University of Florida pediatrician, Kathleen Ryan, encouraged vaccinating children for the flu to prevent it from spreading throughout the community.

“The reason we aim for that 70 percent is because there are modeling studies, computer mathematical models that show that if you can immunize 70 percent of children in the community,” she said, “you can protect the entire community from the flu.”

This process is referred to as community immunity or herd immunity. The idea behind it is to protect older and younger citizens from picking up the virus from children that are in school and are exposed to it regularly.

In the five years that the FluMist has been used in Alachua County schools, Ryan said she has seen more and more parents opt to give schools permission to vaccinate their children.

While Ryan said that high school students are the hardest to get vaccinated at school, there are still around 15 to 20 percent of high school students that receive the vaccine through their doctors rather than the school.

Unfortunately, some parents will not be giving their children the FluMist vaccine due to health issues.

One parent said that since her daughter is asthmatic that she can’t receive the vaccine in the FluMist form, but will most likely be taking her to get the actual shot.

Children with active asthma and other respiratory diseases cannot be given the FluMist vaccine, Ryan said, but she advised they go to their pediatricians to get the shot.

“We encourage them to do that because they really should have follow up with their doctor, especially because they have a chronic illness and they need to get the vaccine,” she said.

At Irby Elementary, the FluMist will be given out at its Health Fair Day where students from first grade and up have their height and weight measured and have their vision and hearing tested.

Health Fair Day has been set up so that children will have updated physicals without interrupting too much of class time.

Nurse Melissa Lopez at Irby Elementary said the Health Fair would last until noon and health screenings would take 20 minutes for an entire class. Once health screenings are done, Lopez would then go down the line of children and give them the vaccine.

Lopez also encouraged the vaccine because it can help keep both children and parents healthy and productive. By receiving the vaccine, children will be less likely to get sick and require their parents to stay home from work with them. This can also cause the spread of the virus.

“Last year, we probably had like five students that had the flu viruses,” she said. “In the years past, we’ve always had more. It’s been up in the 30s. By getting as many children vaccinated as possible, the community can drastically reduce the number of cases, she added.

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W - waterdogs DSC 1378HIGH SPRINGS – Spanning from Miami to California, the Irish Water Dogs, a network of outdoors enthusiasts, is now headquartered in High Springs.

The headquarters was moved from Jacksonville to High Springs about two months ago, and the organization held an open-house event on Saturday, Sept. 7, celebrating the official opening of the branch that came to town in February.

Irish Water Dogs organizes kayaking trips and other nature excursions. The group was founded by David McDaid about seven years ago as a commercial venture. The nonprofit division, Irish Water Dog Warriors, was created later specifically for connecting veterans with the outdoors.

“The quiet that nature provides, the stillness,” said Water Dog kayaker and army vet Clinton Williams, “it’s a very grounding experience.”

The open house went on from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with snacks and beer brewed by the Jacksonville chapter master.

Appalachian music filled the room as the three-piece band from Jacksonville, Streak of Lean, played in the corner while people mingled.

As the chapter grows, founder David McDaid hopes to bring in more local musicians for the gatherings.

F.E. Lam, a detention officer for the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, got involved with the Irish Water Dog Warriors about two months ago. Lam, who served in the army for 21 years, said he has seen the Warriors program improve the mood of the veterans that go.

“I’ve seen a lot of positive changes,” he said.

McDaid said the trips to the rivers and springs are therapeutic for the former service members. People with post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues benefit from the outings.

Japa Magyer, videographer for the Irish Water Dogs, said the trips help the veterans bond with each other, loosen up and be more open.

“When they get there, they’re kind of uptight,” he said. They start relaxing as the day goes on, he added.

High Springs Mayor Sue Weller came to the event at about 3:30 to support the group and call out the winners of the raffle.

“The Irish Water Dogs – their mission is something that really blends in with what High Springs is all about,” she said. “It’s not just fun and games. It can be used to soothe the soul,” she said of the program.

At about 4 p.m., the winners of the raffle were called. There were 20 winners, with the prize ranging from gift baskets, cash, shirts and even a rifle.

Over 100 people showed up for the open house, McDaid estimated. The turnout shows how interested the citizens of High Springs are in the organization, Weller said.

McDaid plans to grow the High Springs chapter, capitalizing on the unique geography and natural beauty of the area.

Anybody interested in joining a trip can check in with the High Springs chapter for information on upcoming gatherings. The Warriors division of the Irish Water Dogs meets on the first Sunday of every month. Each chapter is sustained largely by that community, and individuals or businesses can donate or sponsor their chapter, McDaid said.

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