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NEWBERRY ‒ Contravious Alexander Bedford, 30, was arrested Sept. 27 and charged with burglary, theft, property damage and battery after allegedly trying to force his way into the same Newberry residence twice in two days.

The first 911 call was at 8:52 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 26, when Bedford’s former girlfriend reported that Bedford had knocked on the door of the home. She said she leaned on it to hold it closed because it hadn’t been fully repaired following a previous incident in which Bedford had kicked the door in and had broken the door handle.

The victim was reportedly on the phone with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Combined Communications Center when Bedford allegedly pushed into the home, grabbed the phone out of her hand and threw it into the yard. The victim said that she gathered her children and put them in her car. Before she was able to get into the vehicle, Bedford threw a cup of juice on her. She said that she and her children locked themselves in her car until Bedford left.

An Alachua County Sheriff’s deputy who responded to that call reported that the front door was damaged and there was sticky juice on the victim’s car. Because Bedford had already left, the deputy completed a sworn complaint.

On Sept. 27 at 10:15 a.m. the next morning, the same victim called 911 again, and a deputy again responded. This time, Bedford was still at the residence. Spontaneously he said that he had been at the residence the night before and was just trying to gather some property and leave.

Bedford was arrested on the charges from the previous night. A small foil pouch was found in his pocket, which, Bedford reportedly said was “molly.” The substance tested positive for MDPV, a DEA federal schedule I drug.

Bedford was charged with burglary, theft, property damage over $200, obstructing communication with law enforcement and battery in the Sept. 26 incident, with bail set at $90,000.

He has also been ccharged with burglary and possession of a controlled substance in the Sept. 27 incident, with bail set at $75,000.

Bedford has four felony convictions, two of which were violent, and has served two state prison sentences, with his most recent release in 2014.

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GAINESVILLE – Santa Fe College is collecting supplies this week that are needed for people who were severely impacted by Hurricane Ian.

Santa Fe is partnering with Lake City’s Florida Gateway College to send the needed supplies to sister Florida College System institution State College of Florida – Manatee Sarasota. There are at least 50 employees of that college who have lost everything in the aftermath of the hurricane.

“The Santa Fe College community has always risen to the occasion to support those in need,” Santa Fe President Paul Broadie II, Ph.D. said. “I encourage everyone who has the ability, to support our effort to provide aid to those in need.”

All week long, Santa Fe is collecting valuable supplies that can be used to support communities impacted by the storm. The following items are needed: toothpaste, toothbrushes, paper towels, diapers, soap, socks, bleach, cleaning supplies, hand wipes, hairbrushes, T-shirts, flashlights, batteries, sunscreen, feminine products, deodorant, dog food, cat food and tarps.

On Monday, Oct. 10, Florida Gateway College will be bringing one of their semi-trucks in the college’s CDL program to Santa Fe College to collect the additional supplies before heading to the area impacted by the storm.

Santa Fe College will put updates on the college’s SF Alerts page – sfcollege.edu/alerts – with information on drop-off locations on the Northwest Campus and Santa Fe centers across Alachua and Bradford counties.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ This past weekend the High Springs BMX track became the first track in Florida to host the Southeast Region Gold Cup Series finals competition on Sept. 23-25. The national DK Bikes sanctioned competition brought BMX riders from throughout the southeast including Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and the Carolinas, with nearly 700 riders and over 2,000 spectators, making it the largest Gold Cup event this year.

To reach the Gold Cup finals, riders count their best two scores from Gold Cup Qualifiers in a region and by racing both Saturday and Sunday of the Gold Cup Championship Final in that same region. In addition to awarding a Gold Cup jacket and #1 plate to the winner in each pointed age and skill level, winners are also awarded Gold Cup #2 and #3 plates.

The off-road bicycle competition includes up to eight riders on a serpentine single lap clay track that includes jumps and large banked turns. The bikes are single gear, with two classifications based on either a 20- or 24-inch wheel size. Since the 1960s BMX has gained popularity around the world and in 2008 it was officially sanctioned as an Olympic sport.

The High Springs track was built in 2002 by the City of High Springs and a partnership with local volunteers to provide youth and family-friendly sporting in the area. The track is managed by John and Laura Pringle who are both BMX racers along with their two daughters. But to Laura Pringle it's not the competition that's important. It's the family orientated spirit among the BMX community.

“Many times, the parents will come to watch their kids race and wind up doing it themselves,” said Pringle. “You don't see too many sports where parents participate with their kids.”

Pringle says they have been successful in helping expand the sport in the region since the track opened and lobbied to bring the Gold Cup series to the High Springs track. “We’ve been working for about six years with the sanctioning body, the Gainesville Sports Commission and Visit Gainesville,” said Pringle. “There are 22 sanctioned tracks in Florida and over 40 in the southwest region.” She said many of those tracks were competing to host this event and High Springs offered a central location for the region. “BMX riders and families are willing to do a day’s drive to compete in the larger events,” said Pringle.

Pringle credits partnerships with making High Springs the site of the Southeast Region Gold Cup Series finals. “We couldn't have made this happen without the support of all the community volunteers, along with the City and the High Springs Parks and Recreation Department who provided the infrastructure and extra land for this big event.”

Pringle says the event is a positive contribution to the local economy, bringing revenue for businesses with the influx of visitors. The City provided parking for a $20 fee and a $75 weekend camping area fee for the event. In addition to generating business for local businesses, the track had two food concession trailers on site, Kickstand Cafe and Char Bar, which offered breakfast, lunch and dinner options.

Competitions started Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Sunday with final winners announced at the end of the day on Sunday. “It turned out well and bigger than we expected,” said Pringle. “It was also a great opportunity for the BMX community from all over the region to get together to compete, have fun and make new friends.”

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HIGH SPRINGS – Deeper Purpose Community Church is deploying on Oct. 6 a team of staff and volunteers to the hard-hit areas of South Florida..

They began collecting bottled water/drinks, feminine hygiene products, non-perishable food and snacks for kids, diapers, formula, blankets, socks and underclothes of all sizes, soap and light medical supplies on Sept. 30.

“Call to find out the many ways in which donations can be made to help support the families who are going through this rough time right now,” said Pastor Adam Joy. “We are so much better together.”

Every donation will certainly help the many families who are in shelters and have lost everything. Monetary contributions are also appreciated.

For questions or to make donations, contact Deeper Purpose Community Church at 386-454-5300 or 352-474-9040.

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NEWBERRY ‒ The Newberry City Commission has given the go ahead to a property zoning change that will allow 124 acres to be used as a limestone quarry. The City Commission at its Sept. 26 meeting approved an application for a large-scale amendment to the Future Land Use Map by eda consultants, inc., agent for Cates & Broome, LLC and Cates and Broome Partnership, owner. The action changes 123.9 +/- acres from (County) Rural/Agriculture to (City) Mining. The Commission also approved on first reading the application to rezone the same property from (County) Agriculture to (City) Agricultural (A).

The property is an abandoned mining site, which was annexed into Newberry on June 8, 2020, and is located on the east side of Northwest County Road 236, between Northwest 22nd Avenue and Northwest 46th Avenue. The site will be the future limestone quarry for Limestone Products, LLC once the southern site has been exhausted of resources. Representing the owner, eda consultants say the quarry will not increase demand on public infrastructure.

The property is the site of a small cemetery and a protected gopher tortoise population. The developer will fence off the cemetery and will be required to relocate the gopher tortoises to a suitable location. Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe said there are three visible gravestones on the property. City of Newberry planner Jean-Paul Perez recommended that a historical resource survey would be the best way to determine the number of graves in that area and to possibly identify who was buried on the site.

A special use permit must be approved by the Newberry City Commission prior to the commencement of any mining operation. “The special use permit request has been submitted and will be brought before the Planning and Zoning Board and the City Commission once the future land use and zoning have been established,” said Perez.

The Commission approved the large-scale amendment change on first reading and also approved transmitting the document to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) for review, as is required by the State of Florida with all large-scale amendments of 50 acres or more. A second and final hearing by the Newberry City Commission will be scheduled at a future commission meeting.

In other City business, the Commission set the final Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget at $33,946,148 and adopted the final millage rate of 5.9244, which is the same as the roll-back rate. The roll-back rate calculates taxable property values in relation to the total revenue they generate. If the tax rate generates the same total revenue one year as it did in the previous year, then the rolled-back rate has been applied

In other budget-related actions, the Commission approved rate increases on second and final reading for electric, water, wastewater and development fees. Residential electric rates were increased by approximately 1.5 percent on the customer charge, for an average residential impact of $1.55 per month. Non-residential rates are proposed to be adjusted in a similar fashion. The rate increase will take effect Jan. 1, 2023.

Changes to the wastewater rates represent a 2.5 percent increase in the consumption charge while changes to the water rates represent a 4.5 percent increase in the consumption charge.

Also approved on second reading were increases in development fees for water and wastewater. The proposed rate increase is 12.5 percent bringing the water fee to $866.50 and the wastewater fee to $4,158.

Development fees are collected to offset the impact development has on the utility infrastructure. These fees are charged against new construction at the time of permit issuance to offset the cost of new infrastructure needs of the utility. The City Commission last increased fees in 2007.

Commissioners approved on second and final reading the Municipal Services Benefit Unit (MSBU) fee in a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Tim Marden in dissent. Alachua County levies a $20.47 one- time annual fee per household for providing solid waste services to the City. The MSBU rate for residential customers in FY 2022-23 is the same rate as levied in the previous two years.

The Commission, anticipating impacts by Hurricane Ian, declared a state of emergency due to the likelihood that the area would receive high winds and significant rainfall.

City Manager Mike New said the resolution authorizes the City to waive certain requirements in an emergency situation such as the competitive bid process prior to hiring a company to assist in repairs. In the meantime, Newberry city employees have been patrolling the area to eliminate potential hazards due to high winds and are asking residents to remove potential flying debris from their yards. New said Easton would be set up as a pet friendly shelter, sand will be available at the Public Works Building and city staff will be going home early on Tuesday afternoon to address their own hurricane preparedness measures. He also announced that the City would be closed on Thursday. Assistant City Manager Dallas Lee suggested residents check at the City’s website to view changes, updates and any other hurricane-related information.

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ALACHUA ‒ Shoppers and visitors in downtown Alachua will soon find parking more convenient. On Sept. 26, City of Alachua officials, staff and local business owners gathered in a dirt lot behind Conestoga’s Restaurant. They were there for a groundbreaking ceremony for a new paved parking lot for downtown businesses, customers and visitors.

Located between Main Street and Northwest 142nd Terrace, part of the dirt lot had been used for parking on a patch of land the city has owned for many years. But the spaces available were limited and the lot was on uneven ground with the surrounding land owned by various businesses and individuals. The project comes after numerous property owners in the project’s vicinity donated land and the City of Alachua’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) purchased a closed former daycare facility.

Crediting local property owner support, CRA Coordinator Lindsay Rizzo said, “Their generous contributions are at the forefront of what made this project come to reality. Each of these property owners donated a portion of their land to create a parcel large enough to accomplish this impactful project. There has been a need for additional parking in the downtown area to support these business owners for a long time”

Rizzo says the new parking lot will transform the back of buildings along Main Street as well as enhancing curb appeal with new landscaping. It will enhance access to Main Street via a winding sidewalk between two historic structures with subtle overhead lighting. “It will create a charming walking experience and create a cohesive aesthetic to blend with other projects we have been working,” said Rizzo. “The CRA is very proud to break ground on a project that is much more than just a parking lot.”

The project will also improve the infrastructure and functionality in the downtown area with underground utilities running behind the historic buildings. “This will create open space without poles and wires for businesses to have outdoor dining and cafe spaces,” said Rizzo. “An underground water retention basin will relieve some of the water flow issues during significant rain events and it will enhance safety with a well-lit parking area.”

Funding for the project comes from the City of Alachua general fund, the CRA tax increment financing fund, and the United States Department Agriculture Rural Development. Andrews Paving will construct the parking lot, but due to supply chain issues that still exist, there is no set time for its opening.

“It is with 10 years of forethought, planning and great diligence that we were able to break ground on this parking lot and it will add to the access to all the stores on Main Street,” said Rizzo.

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NEWBERRY ‒ Justin Lee Rimes, 24, was arrested Wednesday, Sept. 21, and charged with carjacking and battery after allegedly stealing a pickup truck.

An Alachua County Sheriff’s deputy responded early Monday morning to a report of a carjacking in High Springs. The victim said a friend of his had come to his house recently with Rimes and that he had given the two men a ride to Lake City in a pickup truck owned by his father.

The victim said that during the drive, Rimes started yelling at him and hit him in the face. The victim said he stopped the truck and got out in High Springs and Rimes got into the driver’s seat and drove away. The victim called 911 from that location.

License plate readers showed that the truck had been driven to Marion County.

The victim identified Rimes in a photo line-up as the man who took the truck. The next night the friend and Rimes returned to the victim’s home in Newberry with the truck and a deputy responded and took Rimes into custody.

Rimes has been charged with battery with bodily harm and carjacking without a weapon. He has two pending criminal cases in Marion County, including a grand theft auto charge. He has an out-of-state criminal history in Tennessee, including a warrant for driving without a valid license. He is being held on $90,000 bail.

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