HIGH SPRINGS – The City of High Springs has decided to test out a preview workshop that would be held on the Tuesday prior to a regular City Commission Meeting.

On Tuesday, the Commission held the first meeting of its kind and agreed that it went well.

During the meeting, the commission reviewed the agenda for the upcoming Thursday, March 8, meeting. On Thursday, under unfinished business, they will be looking at an acceptance of the 2010 and 2011 fiscal year audit.

For new business, the first item on the agenda will be a consideration of poll workers for the April 10, 2012, special city election. Both Mayor Dean Davis and Commissioner Linda Gestrin said they would like to see changes in the list of poll workers provided by City Clerk Jenny Parham.

The Thursday meeting will also include a discussion about reinstating the city’s police dispatch call center instead of contracting with Alachua County to handle calls to the police department. Police Chief Steve Holley estimated that it would cost the city $180,000 a year to run a call center in High Springs, compared to $6,000 to $7,000 per month, the equivalent of $72,000 to $84,000 annually, if the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office handled the calls.

Related to the reinstatement of the High Springs police dispatch, the commission will be talking about creating a committee that would handle renaming the streets as required by the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office for the Combined Communication Center to properly dispatch police.

Vice Mayor Bob Barnas wanted to know how many people the committee would be comprised of, and also wanted to see the applications of those interested prior to the Thursday meeting. According to Parham, five or six people have turned in applications.

Discussion about creating a City Charter Review Board will be conducted on Thursday.

The charter has been changed approximately five times in the past year, Mayor Davis said.

“It needs to be standardized,” he said.

The commission discussed briefly about how the review board would be implemented. Commissioner Sue Weller asked if the review board would function without comments or direction from the commission, but Gestrin said she would be in favor of providing the board with items that concerned the commission. It was decided that further discussion would take place during the regular commission meeting.

In addition, the commission will also discuss participating in a student exchange program with the University of Florida, authorizing a donation for the Babe Ruth 2012 World Series in Alachua, consider the need for a city staff engineer, and discuss adding a follow-up section on the agenda. They will also look at the need for updating the city’s website.

Weller said that the meeting was helpful, but that it didn’t provide an opportunity for citizens to comment. There were only two people at the Tuesday 3:30 p.m. workshop.

She said she would be interested in seeing how the regular commission meeting on Thursday plays out before making a final decision on the Tuesday workshop. If the commission ends up rehashing everything stated on Tuesday, Weller feels that the workshop would be unnecessary.

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2012_Youth_Fair_DSC_0036_3  Santa Fe High School senior and FFA member Catherine Bowman has been involved with the Alachua County Youth Fair and Livestock Show for seven years.  At Tuesday’s market sale, her Grand Champion goat sold for $12 a pound.

  GAINESVILLE – Some high school students work after school to raise money for college. Others seek help from relatives – near and far.

Catherine Bowman, senior at Santa Fe High School, shows and sells her livestock animals at the Alachua County Youth Fair and Livestock Show.  During the market sale on Tuesday, her Grand Champion goat sold for $12 a pound.

At 94 pounds, her college savings will get quite a boost. Last time she showed a goat, in 2009, it sold for $5.75 a pound.

Bowman has been involved in the Youth Fair for seven years, and her resume is pretty impressive: State Star Green Hand Finalist, National Conventions and more.

“I’m excited about my future,” Bowman said, “and my past agriculture and livestock experience through the FFA.”

Mike Anderson, President of the Alachua County Youth Fair and Livestock Show, believes the fair teaches children and young adults how to market themselves.

“It teaches them responsibility,” he said. “They have to take on an animal and raise it until it goes to the market.”

This year, the fair celebrates its 30th annual event. During the market sale, there was an estimated 114 animals involved. The animals present were meat animals only; the breeder animals had already been taken home.

Each year, the fair brings together 4-H and FFA youth in the community, allowing them an opportunity to demonstrate the dedication they put into raising their animals. Each youth is required to keep a record book on his or her animal. The book tracks the weight of the animal, the amount of feed it is given and time the youth spends with his or her animal.

Wendy Mathis, Santa Fe High School FFA member, said the project allows her to see aspects of livestock production firsthand. If she raises market animals, she said she gets to see the business aspect of production. But if she raises animals intended for breeding, she gets to see the reproduction side.

“I like animals,” said Ben Rhymes, FFA member and owner of a bluebutt hog. “It’s fun to raise them and watch how much they grow.”

Last year, he sold his pig for approximately $900.

Younger children can participate by showcasing their chickens or rabbits. For the first time, the fair auctioned off plants. The first plant to sell was two containers of African marigolds. They sold for $80. Anderson said showcasing the plants allows students who are unable to purchase or own livestock to participate.

“About everything that can be done in the agriculture industry is shown here this weekend,” Anderson said, referring to the five-day event. In addition to animals, that includes an eco-art contest, a power of wind workshop and cookie bake-off.

Emily Eubanks, of the Alachua County Farm Bureau, said the children at the fair are learning about self-motivation.

The Grand Champion steer sold for $4 a pound, which Eubanks said is the highest she can remember a steer selling for in a while. The Grand Champion hog sold for the same amount.

“These businesses are out here supporting our kids today,” Eubanks said. “I don’t know if it’s a reflection of the economy so much as it is a reflection that they believe in these kids.”

Each purchase by a business is tax deductible.

Kimberly Hall, a 16-year-old Santa Fe High School student and FFA member, has participated in the fair for three years. She works with goats because she feels they are easier to work with than the steers or hogs.

“I love it,” she said.

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HIGH SPRINGS – For residents looking to live out their lives in High Springs, and afterwards on to a final resting place in the local cemetery, burial sites are becoming an issue of concern.

Only four spaces remain in the cemetery, said High Springs City Clerk Jenny Parham. Currently there are 17 empty plots, but 13 are already reserved. During the Thursday, Feb. 23, commission meeting, the commission decided to look into expanding the cemetery by 300 to 350 spaces.

Prior to committing to the project, Vice Mayor Bob Barnas said it would be a good idea to review the survey prepared by Stacy Hall of George F. Young, Inc., which would show the layout of the property. The survey would include the location of trees, current plots and usable land for future spaces. The expansion of the cemetery will cost $6,000, if the city decides to move forward.

Commissioner Linda Gestrin said she would like to discuss the expansion in a workshop.

University of Florida engineering students have offered to conduct a no charge ground penetrating radar survey to show the subsurface makeup. If rocks are present, the city will be unable to use the land for future burial plots.

Money set aside for the project is strictly for cemetery development, Parham said. The spaces will sell for $600 each, which means the city will make back the money spent on the project with the sale of 10 plots. Add a comment

HIGH SPRINGS – On Saturday, March 10, the City of High Spring Commission will be holding a Town Hall meeting at the High Springs Civic Center from 8 a.m. to noon.

During the meeting, city officials intend to discuss their goals on how to improve the city in the near term and in the future. Unlike regularly scheduled commission meetings, the Town Hall meeting has no set agenda of issues being considered for discussion. Because of this, commissioners are free to bounce around ideas about what they would like to see happen in the community.

Residents are welcome to attend, said Jeri Langman, the High Springs City Manager. The meeting will provide them a platform to express concerns about the city, as well as allow the public to comment on how they envision the city should move forward.

Langman said the commission may decide to hold future workshops based on the topics discussed Saturday.

The City of High Springs usually holds one meeting of this kind a year, she added.

During the meeting, commissioners are not to take action on topics, other than discussion and to schedule follow up workshops if desired, said Langman.

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ALACHUA – The City of Alachua is moving forward with a grant proposal that would provide funds for the construction of three multi-purpose fields adjacent to the current city recreation facility.

At a public hearing held Feb. 21, city officials Adam Boukari and Diane Morgan presented details about the fields that will be constructed on the 105 acres purchased as part of the city’s Project Legacy agreement with Alachua County.

Morgan, the city’s grant specialist, said the grant is administered through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Land and Water Conservation Fund. If approved for $200,000 in grant funding, the city would provide matching funds of $200,000.

City commissioners gave final approval for the city to submit the grant application at the Feb. 27 commission meeting. Morgan will submit the document to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection by March 8.

Currently, the City of Alachua lacks adequate space for all area teams to practice effectively. Boukari said he has seen football teams meeting on the basketball courts because the football fields were being used.

“This project will provide needed capacity for local residents and local programs while ensuring there are available venues for attracting sports tourism,” Boukari said.

When the three new fields are constructed, the additional areas will create spaces for rugby, soccer, football and lacrosse teams to practice. The finished project will use about 20 acres of the 105 acres, said Boukari.

Labeled Project Legacy, the land to expand the Hal Brady Recreation facility was purchased in December 2011 after Alachua County agreed to provide $500,000 from Alachua County Tourist Development Council funds toward the purchase. The agreement requires that construction is completed by 2015.  The total cost to purchase the land was approximately $1.2 million. In addition to the money provided by Alachua County, the purchase was possible because of private donations and $500,000 from the county’s Wild Spaces, Public Places fund.

With the acquisition of the 105 acres the recreation facility was increased by five times its original size.

The fields will be designed for multi-purpose use, allowing for the property to be used for events other than sports, such as band performances and cheerleading shows. The city’s popular Fourth of July Celebration will not be affected by the future construction.

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ALACHUA – Celebrate Mother Nature – and get the children outside and away from the TV - this Saturday at Gaia Grove Eco-Camp and Learning Center with a tree planting party.

From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Gaia Grove will help children plant a fruit or nut tree and teach them how to take care of their tree, which will be labeled with their name.

Children are allowed to visit their tree anytime they want. They can also watch the growth of the tree online at the Gaia Grove website. When the tree ripens, participants and their families will be invited back for a harvesting festival.

Gaia Grove runs solely through donations and the work of volunteers, and is asking for a $20 donation per tree. For those that truly wish to participate, yet cannot afford to spend the $20, financial assistance through Gaia Grove’s Angel Sponsors is available.  This activity is sponsored in part by the High Springs Lions Club.

Located near Brooker, Fla., Gaia Grove aims to instruct the local community about sustainable living through eco-workshops held on the first and third Saturday of the month. The workshop includes a tour of the 92-acre farm and instructions on how to build eco-friendly projects, such as solar ovens and solar dehydrators.

Currently, Gaia is operated by Joanna Pakula, the founder; Bob Watson, the workshop instructor; and Mark Wooten, who has built his own off-grid home and continues to be an integral part of Gaia Grove.

For more information about Gaia Grove, visit the website at gaiagrove.webs.com. For those interested in participating in the event, contact Joanna at 352-562-3508 or Bob at 352-262-5068. Add a comment

Incumbent Hardacre unopposed

 ALACHUA – Three candidates have qualified to run for City of Alachua commission seat four, currently held by Commissioner Orien Hills.  Commissioner Gary Hardacre qualified for his current seat on the commission, but no one else stepped forward to challenge him.

Qualifying for Hills’ seat were Shirley Green Brown, Patricia Lee and Billy Rogers.

Brown is a speech and language pathologist with the School Board of Alachua County.  Lee is the executive director of CDC of Leesburg & Vicinity, a community development corporation.  Rogers runs Way2Be Music International, a music production services company.

The trio will square off in citywide election scheduled for April 10.

After serving five consecutive terms totaling 15 years, Commissioner Hills is not seeking re-election to his seat.

The Hal Brady Recreation Complex, the Cleather Hancock, Sr. Community Center and Plantation Oaks at Turkey Creek will serve as polling stations for the April election.

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