County Commissioner Mary Alford asks the board to begin discussing the four-laning of Archer Road going west


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – At the May 9 Alachua County Commission meeting, the board made some changes to their meeting rules, voted to ask the governor to veto an allocation for research into seasonal fertilizer restrictions, voted to send a Chair letter to the smaller municipalities asking for funding to develop a county-wide literacy plan, and voted to begin discussions that could lead to four-laning Archer Road going west in eight to ten years.

Thumb drives to be prohibited in County meetings

The changes to meeting rules were originally on the consent agenda, and during the adoption of the agenda, Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler said she’d had requests to pull the meeting rules from the consent agenda and put them on the regular agenda for discussion, but she thought it could be handled during “citizen comment.” 

During public comment on the adoption of the agenda, Jo Beaty asked that the item be moved to a different meeting, providing more time for citizens to review the changes, which were discussed at a lightly-attended Special Meeting on May 2. Beaty particularly objected to a prohibition on bringing in thumb drives with material to be displayed during public comment. 


Tamara Robbins said she believed that the prohibition on thumb drives arose because Commissioner Mary Alford didn’t want to see a video of a slaughterhouse. Robbins said she had asked County Communications Director Mark Sexton about the policy on bringing in videos that are loaded on portable devices, and she believed that request generated the rule change. Robbins said the County allows developers to bring in presentations on thumb drives and that she thought the rule discriminated against the public. 

Commissioner Ken Cornell said he thought there should be a way to allow the public to bring in material on thumb drives, “the same way we do it for developers,” perhaps by isolating the presentation computer from the network. 

Commissioner Mary Alford agreed that they should be able to come up with a way for members of the public to bring in material and that the reason she’d been concerned about the slaughterhouse video was a concern about “any video that might provide any sort of triggering type of presentation to anyone.” She said that might include “any type of violence or some aspect of racism or something that might be presented to the public at a meeting in a way that might not be appropriate.” She said free speech allows that sort of content, but she asked the public to be aware that whatever they show will be seen by a wide range of people, including children. 

Commissioner Chuck Chestnut thanked the citizens for bringing this to the attention of the board because he said citizens shouldn’t be excluded from bringing thumb drives if developers and other presenters can bring them. 

County Manager Michele Lieberman said that presentations that are part of the agenda come through County staff by email prior to the meeting and also that the computer used during citizen comment is “tied into all the equipment that you’re seeing, that operates your broadcast. So while this computer may be isolated from the network, it is tied into our entire broadcast system. So something introduced improperly into that system could bring down our system.” She said staff would make sure that anyone who is presenting to the board would not put a thumb drive into the system. 

County Attorney Sylvia Torres summarized the changes to the rules:

  • If a Board member or County Manager wants to cancel a Special Meeting within 24 hours of that meeting, the meeting they want to cancel will be held, public comment will be taken, then the vote on canceling the meeting will be taken. In emergency situations or if it is clear there will not be a quorum, the Commission Chair or County Manager may cancel a Special Meeting, even if it is scheduled to start within 24 hours.
  • Advisory boards and the County Commission may hold “remote workshops” (where no action will be taken) as long as a physical location is provided for the public to attend and the public has the option to attend remotely.
  • Some changes were made to the quasi-judicial statement that is read by the County Attorney at quasi-judicial public hearings “because it is cumbersome and legalese.”
  • Members of the public are explicitly permitted to use the microphone and overhead projector to present or support comments, but any time needed for setup will count toward that person’s time. 
  • Types of speech that are not protected by the First Amendment, such as fighting words, defamation, and obscenity, are prohibited. 

Cornell clarified that developers will not be able to bring a thumb drive, and Lieberman said she would make sure that staff and developers understand that would no longer be permitted and there would no longer be exceptions.

The vote to approve the agenda, including the rules, was unanimous. 

Request to the governor to veto a line item in the budget

During commission comment, Lieberman brought up a letter that Alachua County Water Resources Program Manager Stacie Greco had sent to commissioners the previous evening, asking that the board send a Chair letter to Governor Ron DeSantis, asking him to veto a line item in the budget that would prohibit local governments from adopting or amending urban fertilizer ordinances that include a blackout period and would allocate $250,000 to UF IFAS to study the effectiveness of seasonal fertilizer restrictions. Greco wrote that the Sierra Club is looking for local governments to add their names to a letter asking the governor to veto the prohibition and allocation. 

Greco’s letter to the commission states, “Alachua County has a strong fertilizer ordinance, and it is important for other local governments to be able to do the same and for us to be able to make changes as needed. While [the Environmental Protection Department] is typically supportive of scientific studies, the fate of fertilizer restrictions should not depend on a fast-track study by the very institution that actively spoke out against our fertilizer restrictions in 2019.”

Cornell made a motion to both sign the Sierra Club letter and send a separate letter from Alachua County. The vote to approve the motion was unanimous. 

County-wide literacy plan

Cornell, who is on the board of the Children’s Trust of Alachua County (CTAC), also made a motion to send a Chair letter to the small cities in the county, asking them to join a county-wide literacy program. He said the County will contribute $40,000 to the effort. 

During public comment on the motion, Tamara Robbins asked whether the request was for funding support and said the letter should suggest an amount for municipalities to contribute: “I’d like to see it have more teeth in it so they actually see the importance of it and the relevance of it and the opportunity that comes with it.”

Cornell said the letter could mention the County Commission’s joint meetings with the school board and with CTAC and could suggest a “nominal amount. You know, I think $40,000 from us, if we can get the City to put something in, and the school board to put something in, even $10,000 from the small ones, I think that would be enough to do this project.” He said if each smaller municipality puts in $5,000 or $10,000, they should be able to get to $100,000, and he thought that would cover it. 

Chair Anna Prizzia said they had asked the Library District for $40,000 and had asked the school board to match the County’s $40,000, “so that’s already at $120,000. I think it’s like a $200,000 project.” Cornell suggested that the letter should state a goal of $200,000.

Wheeler asked, “What is the program? What are we funding?” Cornell responded that at the first joint meeting with the school board, the County Commission Chair said we really need a county-wide literacy effort, and through CTAC’s “listening project, it became clear that the whole community is interested in moving literacy forward. I know it’s one of the major priorities of the school board, when they talk about rezoning, shrinking the achievement gap, and their strategic plan–literacy is a big component of that.” He added, “We need to fund some experts to help us put together a plan.”

Prizzia added that the funding is for “all the experts who’ve been at the table, kind of working on literacy programs… to get together and put together a plan to make a roadmap for literacy that would outline the steps we need to take across the board and be sort of a living document that pushes us all in the same direction.” She said they keep hearing “again and again from the experts… that we have a lot of good projects that are very piecemeal and aren’t being worked together in a unified way, and it’s resulting in poor outcomes for our children.”

Wheeler said she thought the problem could be solved by educators, “the people that are actually trying to solve the problem” and that they shouldn’t be “paying money out for experts on the outside to come in and tell them how to do what it is they’re already doing or change what it is they’re doing.”

Prizzia said Wheeler was “misunderstanding,” that they weren’t trying to tell teachers how to do their jobs, but “what we have going on in the school day isn’t being coordinated with what we have in the after-school programs, isn’t being coordinated with what we have in the summer programs, which isn’t being coordinated with resources we’re giving for tutoring, which isn’t being–like, everyone’s using different tools.”

Wheeler asked again what the $200,000 would do, and Prizzia said it would go to “the steering committee of folks from the community, all the folks who’ve been working in literacy to get together and to develop a unified approach to literacy for our community.”

Wheeler responded, “And we’re going to be paying them to do that?” and Prizzia said, “Paying them to do that, yep. Otherwise, the professionals… can’t organize that, and the citizens and the organizations that we expect to just show up–I mean, how are they going to do all that work?”

Wheeler said that if they’re going to ask communities for money, they should tell them how it’s going to be spent, and Prizzia replied, “We have all of that. There’s a lot of it.”

The vote to approve the motion to send a Chair letter to the smaller municipalities was unanimous.

Four-laning Archer Road

Also during commission comment, Alford brought up the “need for the four-laning of Archer Road” and said that it was time to add it to the County’s five-year Transportation Improvement Plan, which is due in June. She said, however, that they had neglected to change the Comprehensive Plan, which only supports four-laning Archer Road to 91st Street. She made a motion to ask staff to come back with language to modify the Comprehensive Plan to include four-laning Archer Road to the county line; she said the four-laning is in the City of Archer’s Comprehensive Plan but not the County’s and added that the work would probably not be done for eight or nine years. 

Alford said the issue is “almost an urgent issue of timing because committees are meeting in the next week or two” and that Scott Koons, Executive Director of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council, “wants to be able to go to those and say that we have already made a motion to change our Comp Plan.”

During public comment on the motion, both Kristen Young and Tamara Robbins said this was moving too fast, but Alford responded that it’s an eight-to-ten-year process, and “it’s got a long ways to go before we’re ever going to see anything happen.” She said she just wanted a vote to get proposed language from staff so they could have a discussion about what they would want along that corridor. 

Cornell said the motion lined up with the commitment the board had made in their joint meeting with the City Commission of Archer: “It’s not making the decision yet, but it is lining up what our intent is.” Cornell further clarified that the City of Archer wanted to make a legislative request for the Florida Department of Transportation to four-lane the road from 91st Street to Archer, “but the legislature is not going to fund that” unless there is some intention to four-lane the portion of the road inside 91st Street. 

Cornell said he would second “a referral to staff to bring back recommendations about four-laning that segment,” and Prizzia added “other efficiencies or safety upgrades to Archer Road” in the short term to the motion. The vote to approve the motion was unanimous.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ There’s a new restaurant in town as High Springs welcomes Prohibition Pizza. New to the restaurant business, owners Kelly and David Potter both had successful careers, Kelly in real estate and David as a contractor. Yet they had other career dreams they wanted to pursue.

Fueled by a love of cooking, after moving to High Springs the couple began a plan to open a restaurant. Kelly originally wanted to open a Mexican restaurant, but El Patio opened earlier and they saw no need for two Mexican restaurants in a small town. David’s love for Italian food, especially pizza, pushed them to a pizza culinary school in New York to become specialized chefs known as Pizzaiolos.

“We picked the New York school because we wanted to make traditional New York style, with handmade dough and all natural ingredients,” Kelly said. “But at the same time, while keeping the style authentic, we wanted to create original recipes as far as the toppings and decided to concentrate solely on specialized pizzas.”

After two years of planning and work, Prohibition Pizza held its grand opening on April 20. They restaurant celebration with an official ribbon cutting ceremony with the Potter family accompanied by High Springs Mayor Gloria James, Vice Mayor Ross Ambrose, Commissioners Tristan Grunder and Katherine Weitz and Chamber of Commerce President Sharon Decker. After the ribbon was cut, the large audience of residents and business owners were treated to cake. For people who had brought their dogs to the outdoor ceremony, Kelly had a special treat. Each dog got a large frisbee resembling a pepperoni pizza.

Kelly said they had been planning for over a year. Once they found a location and purchased the building, there was a lot of work to do in addition to building a kitchen from the ground up.

“With David's background in construction, we did much of the work ourselves with help from the family,” said Kelly. Although the building needed a lot of work, the couple liked the location, a block off Main Street and across from the High Springs Brewing Company. “Pizza and beer are a well-known combination, and we are happy to have a working relationship with the Brewery,” said Kelly. “We have applied for a beer and wine license, but we would prefer to keep the relationship as is for the benefit of both businesses.”

“We were amazed by the turnout and warm support of the community for our opening. We were even more amazed by the amount of business we got the first two days,” said Kelly. “Both days we ran out of dough to make pizza because our dough is made fresh daily and takes three days to rise properly.”

They did not expect to have over 1,000 customers the first two days, but have since adjusted for it. “Currently we only offer walk in orders or in house dining but will later do phone orders and possibly delivery,” said Kelly. “While we specialize in pizza, we also offer oven baked wings, salads, appetizers and desserts.”

Prohibition Pizza is located at 18559 N.W. 237th Street in High Springs They are open six days a week with the exception of Tuesday. More information on hours and a full menu can be found on Facebook at

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The City of High Springs has hired Amy Bohannon as the new CRA Director. She was introduced by City Manager Ashley Stathatos at the High Springs CRA meeting on April 27. The CRA meeting, with the City Commission, acting as Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Board, was followed by a regular City Commission meeting.

Stathatos also addressed the Board about hiring Sharon Yeago to review the City’s Farmers Market. While the city manager is authorized to hire Yeago without CRA Board approval, she explained why she selected Yeago for the relatively short-term project.

Stathatos pointed to Yeago’s history and experience saying that it was unlikely that anyone more qualified could be found. The city manager added that Yeago started the High Springs Farmers Market and several other farmers markets throughout the state and was well-versed in working with farmers.

Commissioner Katherine Weitz pressed the Board to a undergo a competitive hiring process by issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for the project. Her measure failed and was outvoted in a 4 – 1 vote to approve Yeago’s hiring as proposed by Commissioner Byran Williams.

Sitting as the City Commission, commissioners approved the solid waste franchise agreement with Waste Pro. The firm will begin picking up waste and recycling products on May 1. Commissioner Ross Ambrose abstained from voting on this issue as he had recently obtained a port-a-potty business that was under contract with Waste Pro.

In other City business, Commissioners voted to declare the fire department’s fire apparatus, Squad 296, as surplus property. Ambrose suggested that the equipment be donated to the Ukraine. Assistant City Manager Bruce Gillingham said he thought the most the City could get for the equipment was $5,000. The Commission approved to first try and sell the equipment locally. If that is unsuccessful, then the equipment could be donated to the Ukraine. Ambrose said there are companies willing to transport donated equipment to the area at no cost to the City.

In other matters, Commissioner Williams announced that Homecoming is scheduled for May 19-21. The Homecoming Banquet will be held on May 19 with events at Catherine Taylor Park on May 20 and a Mt. Carmel Worship service on May 21.

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ALACHUA ‒ This year’s Relay for Life brought crowds, fundraiser events and surprises to Legacy Field last Friday night, April 28. Relay participants, spectators and volunteers joined forces not for just a good cause, but also in remembrance of a loved one who lost their battle and for survivors who continue the fight.

During their lifetime, one in three Americans will be diagnosed with cancer. At the least, it means a life interruption to fight against a debilitating disease through treatment or surgery and the slow struggle to recover. Even if the cancer is defeated or put into remission, the specter of the disease remains, as does the fear it could return.

The American Cancer Society Relay for Life movement is the world’s largest peer-to-peer fundraising event dedicated to saving lives from cancer. For over 35 years, communities across the world have come together to honor and remember loved ones and take action for lifesaving change.

Funds raised through Relay for Life directly support breakthrough research, 24/7 support for cancer patients, access to lifesaving screenings, and much more. A Relay for Life event is a community of like-minded survivors, caregivers, volunteers, and participants who believe that the future can be free from cancer.

The City of Alachua began holding Relay for Life events in 2017 with the exception of a two-year hiatus due to the Covid Pandemic, returning in 2022. Since its return, the event has been held in Legacy Park Amphitheater field. This year, there were 28 teams that both fielded walking teams and make additional donations or have items for sale, ranging from baked goods, meals, drinks, handcrafts and stuffed animals.

The City of Alachua also sold tickets for gift baskets that raise additional dollars. Several booths offered games or raffles to raise funds. Some of the teams were also hosted by sponsoring businesses. This year’s sponsors included Waste Pro, Campus USA, UF Health, Sysco, Taylor's HVAC, Santa Fe High School, Santa Fe College, Target, Walmart, and others.

The Alachua Sherriff's Office also displayed their helicopter and SWAT armored vehicle. Two aerobics instructors also held a workout session for all the participants.

One of the favorite local events is sponsored by the Santa Fe High School FFA, who brings a pig to the event to be kissed by a city official who raises the most money for the cause. Everyone knows who the three officials are who are contending for the opportunity to kiss the pig. The surprise is who will be the big winner. This year’s competitors were Alachua Police Chief Jesse Sandusky, Alachua City Manager Mike DaRoza and High Springs Police Chief Antoine Sheppard. The winning candidate who raised the most money was Chief Sheppard who good naturedly kissed the pig as the crowd cheered him on.

The event is always held when the sun sets and darkness falls, representing the darkness of the disease. But, light shines on this darkness in the form of Luminaries, dedicated to the victims of the disease and to show that everyone stands together. The lights also represent shining a light on the darkness of cancer in hopes for a cure from the research this event helps fund.

Relay For Life is the American Cancer Society's signature fundraising event that represents the hope that those lost to cancer will never be forgotten, that those who face cancer will be supported, and that one day, cancer will be eliminated. Alachua’s Relay for Life at Legacy Park was organized to remember those lost to cancer, celebrate cancer survivorship and to raise money for medical research and programs conducted by the American Cancer Society.

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NEWBERRY – A request for a large-scale Future Land Use Map Amendment to change 128 +/- acres from Agriculture to Planned Development was considered and approved on first reading by the Newberry City Commission at their April 24 meeting. The property is located at the southeast corner of State Road 26/West Newberry Road and Southwest 242nd Street. The proposed project specifies 150,000 square feet of commercial use and 350 dwelling units.

The project, known as Newberry Plaza, was brought before the Commission by CHW Professional Consultants on behalf of Glenn Thomas Arpin, Senior, Jennifer Gray, Johanna Yarborough, Mary Jane Schofield James, Michael Gray and Robyn E. Bond, owners.

This item was heard by the Planning and Zoning Board on April 3 along with a request that conditions be included for the rezoning application as it contains the development order. Those conditions require that the developer shall determine the financial feasibility of adaptive reuse of the historic house on the property or the developer should separate the land and house from development for inclusion to and/or access from an adjacent property.

Also, prior to the issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy for the 151st home, the developer should have the infrastructure in place for the planned commercial properties.

Newberry Principal Planner Jean-Paul Perez reminded Commissioners that as this request is a large-scale amendment, approval of the amendment on first reading should also include direction for staff to forward the application to the state for review.

In a quasi-judicial public hearing, the Commission considered a request on the same 128 acres to rezone the property from Agricultural (A) to Planned Development (PD) for Newberry Plaza.

Although the rezoning application was approved by the Commission, approval is contingent upon state approval of the large-scale amendment to the Future Land Use Map.

In other business, Newberry is looking at its inventory of unpaved, rural roads. Recently, there has been an up-tick in conversation about paving a 2.6-mile segment of Southwest 30th Avenue between U.S. Highway 27/41 and Southwest 202nd Street, although paving this segment of Southwest 30th Avenue is not in the City’s work queue for this fiscal year. Staff has considered the necessary steps and solicited a proposal to get the project started and has become aware that Southwest 30th Avenue is a road that the City maintains via “prescriptive rights,” which complicates the City’s ability to improve it.

The City does not have sufficient land rights to improve the road and also make it wider, which would be necessary to accommodate stormwater. City staff believes that the road needs to be a minimum of 60 feet wide to pave it and transition it into a collector street, which it is intended to be.

The City solicited a proposal for the Phase 1 work to survey the road and prepare deeds to convey the property from the adjacent landowners to the City. The work totals $125,600, or 2.8 percent of the estimated total construction cost of $5.3 million, which includes planning, survey, land acquisition, design, permitting, stormwater and road construction at $385 per linear foot.

City Manager Mike New said the project is anticipated to take 1 to 1½ years to survey, obtain land rights, plan, permit and design and an additional 9 – 12 months to construct. New said that obtaining land rights can be protracted if the adjacent property owners object and hold out, requiring the City to undergo a condemnation process. City staff indicated there is no intent at this time to compensate residents for land that is used for the project.

“Staff has unallocated $120,000 ARPA funds that could be utilized for this work,” said New, “but Commission direction/approval is required.”

The Commission approved moving forward with the project using ARPA funds.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Austin Paul Conner, 62, was arrested on Thursday, April 27, and charged with trespassing after disrupting a school function that he had been asked to leave earlier in the day.

At about 8:40 a.m., High Springs Police Department (HSPD) officers responded to the Deeper Purpose Kids Academy, 19930 North U.S. Highway 441, High Springs. The Academy had been placed on lockdown because Conner was walking around the fenced property. An officer reportedly informed Conner that he had been formally trespassed from the property and would be subject to arrest if he returned.

At 3:04 p.m., HSPD officers responded again to the preschool after a caller reported that Conner was back on the property, taking pictures of vehicles in the parking lot. Officers reviewed video surveillance and reported that Conner could be seen well onto the property, taking pictures. Officers again made contact with Conner, who owns Advent Health Medical Plaza, 19735 N.W. U.S. Highway 441. He has reportedly been engaged in a property boundary dispute with the preschool and told officers his attorney told him to take pictures of the parking lot.

Conner has no criminal history and was released on his own recognizance by Judge Thomas M. Jaworski following First Appearance the day after his arrest.

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NEWBERRY – Newberry City Clerk Judy Rice was presented with the 2023 Municipal Clerks Week Proclamation by Mayor Jordan Marlowe at the April 24 City Commission meeting.

Rice obtained the Certified Municipal Clerk (CMC) designation in 2008 and the Florida Certified Records Manager (FCRM) designation in 2016. In 2019, she received the highest accomplishment of Master Municipal Clerk (MMC) designation and in 2022 was awarded the Certified Supervisor Manager (CSM) designation from the Florida Center for Public Management, Florida State University.

Municipal Clerks Week is April 30 – May 6, 2023.

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