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NEWBERRY ‒ City of Newberry Director of Utilities and Public Works Jamie Jones addressed the Nov. 23 City Commission meeting to explain why the Water and Wastewater System Development ordinance was before them for the third time.

Following the first public hearing and first reading of Ordinance 2020-23 on Sept. 14, a motion was made that the wastewater system development charges would be calculated based on water meter size. Second reading was approved on Sept. 28.

Subsequently, a scriveners’ error was found on page 18, the portion of the ordinance that was to have been underlined had been struck through instead. Following consultation with the City Attorney’s Office, it was decided that the correction should be made and the ordinance should be read on second reading again.

The ordinance was placed on the Nov. 23 Commission agenda. However, Jones said he noticed just before the issue was brought up again that the error had not been corrected.

Following discussion, Commissioners moved ahead with the ordinance, but would consider this first reading instead of second. The motion to approve was made by Commissioner Rick Coleman with the caveat that the scriveners’ error be corrected prior to second reading. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Monty Farnsworth and received unanimous approval.

In other City business, Planning and Economic Development Director Bryan Thomas addressed the issue of a petition brought by William and Janet Stewart to abandon a Public Utility Easement (PUE) that runs over, across and beneath their property. The couple lives on a 2.93-acre lot located at 26304 NW 3 Ave., Newberry.

“Several years ago, the alleyways that run across the property were abandoned by the City,” said Thomas. “However, the quit claim deed used to abandon the alleyways specifically retained the PUEs that also ran along the alleyways, which is standard procedure,” he said.

In 2015, the Stewarts built a house on their property. They ordered a construction survey prior to building. However, the survey failed to identify that there were PUEs on the property and the house was built approximately in the middle of the lot and, inadvertently, over the PUE.

“The couple now has a contract for sale of the property, but the title company informed them that the existence of the PUEs creates a ‘cloud’ on the title,” Thomas said. “The removal of the PUEs will allow them to obtain title insurance on the property prior to the sale closing, which is why the owners are petitioning the City to abandon the PUEs.”

The Stewart’s petition was sent to Utility Director Jones for review. “He confirmed that the PUEs on the Stewart property were not in use and would likely never be needed by the City for any utility services,” said Thomas.

Due to Jones’ assessment, Thomas said, “staff’s recommendation to the Commission is to approve the petition.” Draft Resolution 2020-50 had been prepared and was included in the Commissioners’ packet. “It is a petition to abandon Public Utility Easements over, across and beneath Parcel 02025-000-000,” explained Thomas. The City Attorney prepared a quit claim deed as well for the mayor’s signature.

Following a brief discussion Commissioner Farnsworth moved to approve the petition. Commissioner Coleman seconded the motion, which resulted in unanimous approval.

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NEWBERRY ‒ Dudley Farm State Park has been nominated to the National Historic Landmarks program according to the National Park Service. One of the five parcels that make up Dudley Farm is located within the City of Newberry.  At the Nov. 23 Newbery City Commission meeting Mayor Jordan Marlowe signed a support letter for the Dudley Farm nomination as a National Historic Landmark.

National Historic Landmarks (NHLs) are historic places that are considered national historic treasures that commemorate or illustrate the history of the United States. The Secretary of the Interior designates these places as exceptional because of their abilities to illustrate U.S. Heritage to the general public. There are currently almost 2,600 NHLs in the United States. Most NHLs are owned by private citizens, organizations, corporations, tribal entities, or federal, state, or local governments. The laws that govern property rights still apply to National Landmarks and actually help preserve the sites from demolition. Designation of a property as a National Historic Landmark does not give ownership of the property to the federal government or the National Park Service, but does allow the Park Service to offer advice and support to a place designated as a NHL. It also helps facilitate eligibility for grants, tax credits, and other opportunities to maintain its historic character.

Already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Dudley State Park is a unique authentic working Florida farm rather than a re-created farmstead. Florida Parks staff and volunteers in period clothing perform chores, raise crops and tend to livestockcracker cows and horses, bronze turkeys and heritage breed chickens. The 327-acre park has 18 original buildings built between the 1880s and 1930s that still existed, including the restored family farmhouse with original furnishings, kitchen, general store, post office and cane syrup complex. Some of the buildings were not part of the original farm but were relocated in the park to give a more complete picture of what life was like in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

After Florida became a state in 1845, settlers from South Carolina arrived seeking land for cotton production. Philip Benjamin Harvey Dudley and his wife, Mary, were part of that migration, settling in Archer in 1852 and purchasing the land that became Dudley Farm in 1859. The original homesite was a log cabin northwest of the present farmhouse. No remains of the original cabin still exist except for the possible location of a well.

Dudley Sr. served the Confederacy during the Civil War as a captain of the Alachua Rangers 7th Regiment. After the war, he returned home to the challenge of managing a large cotton plantation. Dudley Sr. and his oldest son turned to grazing cattle, in addition to raising cotton and crops with hired help. Work also began on a road from the farm to Gainesville so cattlemen could drive herds to market. Another road intersected at the farm that connected Newberry, Archer, Jonesville and Gainesville. The old road is still visible today as the main path to the farmhouse. These roads and cattle production put Dudley Farm on the map as an important crossroads and commercial center.

When his father died in 1881, his eldest son Ben Dudley Jr., built the present farmhouse to accommodate his family that grew to eight girls and four boys. He also added a general store, kitchen, smokehouse, sweet potato storehouse, dairy and canning house, outhouses, corn crib and barn. All were constructed of heart pine from the property. The prosperous farm produced cotton, corn, rice, millet, rye, oats, sugar cane and sweet potatoes. Milk, butter, eggs, turkeys and sausage were taken to Gainesville to be sold. In the Reconstruction era, when jobs were scarce and poverty high in the decimated south, the farm laborers and tenant farmers were paid only with a "furnish" partly consisting of pork and sugarcane. But the farm prospered, and after Ben's death in 1918 his widow continued to work the farm along with her three sons.

Over the years, most of the siblings moved away to start their own careers and families. One son, Ralph Dudley stayed and continued to raise cattle, tobacco and vegetable crops until his death in 1967. The youngest of Ben’s 12 children, Myrtle Dudley, was the last to remain on the farm. She managed a small cattle herd and vegetable and flower gardens. As she got older, Myrtle carried out her mother’s wish to keep the farm intact by donating 24 acres to the park service in 1983.

In 1986, the state purchased an additional 232 acres to preserve the rural landscape that was part of the original Dudley land. The farm not only contained the buildings, but a wealth of documents and furnishings from the generations of Dudleys. One of the conditions of giving the state the property was that Myrtle would live on the farm until her death in 1996 at the age of 94.

Today, living history interpreters conduct daily farm work including the care of cattle, poultry, crops and building maintenance. Cane grindings take place in the fall as it did when the Dudleys lived here. A tour of Dudley Farm is a trip back in time to when Florida was a frontier. The park is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday with an entry fee of $5 per vehicle. COVID-19 has affected the park hours and opening. Effective Nov. 13, 2020 the park is open, but due to local orders, facial coverings or masks are required inside buildings for staff and visitor safety. The visitor center is closed. Picnicking and trails are available, but visitors are expected to maintain distances of at least six feet apart. The park is located at 18730 W. Newberry Road, east of Newberry.

On Dec. 10, the National Park System Advisory Board will review current nominations, including Dudley Farm, for designation as a National Historic Landmark, before making a recommendation to the Secretary of the Interior. The Secretary will make the final decision whether or not to designate the property as a National Historic Landmark. 

Both the City of Newberry and the Alachua County commissions are submitting letters of support of the designation. Newberry staff is also preparing a letter of support from Newberry’s Historic Architectural Review Board, which will be considered for authorization at their Dec. 7 meeting.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Following the City election, Commissioners held a reorganization meeting on Nov. 19 to seat the new Commission. Newly elected Commissioners are sworn in, the mayor and vice mayor are elected, committee members are appointed, check signers are established and Commission salaries are approved.

The Nov. 19 meeting began with Mayor Byran Williams calling the meeting to order. As there was no old business for the previous Commission to address, Williams adjourned the 2019-20 City Commission meeting.

Deputy City Clerk Angela Stone administered the oath of office to the newly-elected Commissioner Ross Ambrose and re-elected Commissioner Gloria James.

City Manager Joel DeCoursey, Jr. called the first meeting of the 2020-21 City Commission to order. Following roll call, DeCoursey accepted nominations for mayor, at which time Gloria James was nominated and subsequently elected mayor.

Mayor James assumed the gavel and accepted nominations for vice mayor. Commissioner Linda Jones was nominated and elected as vice mayor. James has served as vice mayor twice and mayor during the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Addressing the agenda under New Business, Ambrose was appointed chair to the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and Jones was appointed as vice chair.

Robert Riddle and Ronald Wilson were elected to serve on the Planning and Zoning Board. Suzie Clark and Candace Webb were elected to serve on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

Following the seating of the Commission each year, the Commission authorizes personnel to sign checks for the City accounts as well as for investment documents on behalf of the City. The City Code of Ordinances delineates signers as the mayor, vice mayor, city manager and city clerk.

Resolution 2020-M also received unanimous approval. This resolution sets the annual salaries for the commissioners, vice mayor and mayor for the coming year. No salary change was budgeted for these positions in the current budget. Commissioners and the vice mayor's salaries remain at $900 annually and the mayor's salary remains at $1,000 annually.

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ALACHUA ‒ It was a sunny day in Alachua as a group of military veterans marched through downtown proudly wearing insignia marking their branch of service and displaying the American flag. Veterans Day is observed annually on Nov. 11 to honor military veterans who have served in the five branches of the military. Originally called Armistice Day, it celebrates the exact time hostilities in World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. While Memorial Day is reserved to honor those that paid the supreme sacrifice with their lives, Veterans Day is to honor all who served in the armed forces.

After serving in the Marines from 1961-1981, George Gibbs is now retired and living in Alachua. Every day he goes to Gallop-In-Gary's on Alachua's Main Street for lunch. Over time he has established a strong friendship with the Greco family staff and chef and owner Larry Greco. Larry Greco, originally from Florida, joined the Marines in the early 1970s where he served two tours in Vietnam. After he separated from the military, he went to California and for some time worked as a LAPD police officer and then moved to New York where he opened a restaurant. After a successful stint as a chef in South Florida, he opened two Gallop-In-Gary's restaurants, eventually closed both, and since has opened a new location on Main Street in Alachua.

“These are the nicest people I have come in contact with and I wanted to do something to help their business for the future,” said Gibbs. “Help make people aware of the restaurant and the good people that own it. Many people live life and check out, but it’s important to help others in need, and God helps direct you to those you can help.”

With Gibbs providing a $1,000 donation, he and Greco teamed up to honor and support their fellow veterans with a free meal for all veterans on Nov.11.

“The $1,000 wasn't about us or the restaurant,” Greco said. “It was about giving veterans a place to feel welcome and get the recognition they deserve for their service.

“People don't realize that if it wasn't for the service of the vets there would be no holidays—they are what has preserved our nation. They don't get enough recognition for their sacrifice, especially the ones that didn't come back.”

Using word of mouth and social media, they spread the word to veterans throughout the county. Gibbs, a member of the veterans Gator Detachment Marines Corps League, approached the organization about participating with a color guard.

So, it was on a sunny Veterans Day that the Marine Corps League Color Guard marched up Main Street, stopping in front of Gallop-In-Gary’s to present the colors to Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper as the restaurant opened.

Singularly and in small groups, veterans began to filter in for lunch and a cake cutting. Two of the many who came by were Navy Nurse Virginia McCort who served from 1956 to 1958 and Fred Judkins, a Vietnam War veteran who was on the first helicopter into Laos. Over the course of the day they were joined by nearly 300 veterans who came and enjoyed a meal courtesy of two of their own.

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NEWBERRY ‒ The City of Newberry is moving forward with its wastewater treatment plant expansion. During the Nov. 9 City Commission meeting, Commissioners authorized City Manager Mike New to update the terms and conditions of the existing State Revolving Fund (SRF) grant/loan agreement.

New was also authorized to execute a task order with Woodard and Curran Engineering Consultants to perform the planning and engineering reports required to support a wastewater treatment plant expansion funding application.

Initially, Newberry sought funding to support an analysis to determine the feasibility of development of a regional wastewater treatment system in the lower Santa Fe River and Suwannee River basins. To fund the planning of the Regional Wastewater System, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) agreed to provide the City of Newberry a total of $275,000. Half of that funding, or $137,500, would be funded by FDEP through a grant program and the remaining 50 percent, or $137,500, would be funded through the SRF Loan Program. The City Commission authorized staff to move forward with this application on April 11, 2019 and the SRF documents were executed by FDEP on June 19, 2019.

However, since the execution of the SRF agreement, the planning study process has not moved forward due to lack of consensus on the part of other municipal stakeholders and the onset of the pandemic.

At the Nov. 9 meeting, staff requested that the Commission authorize the revision of the current SRF agreement schedule, the development of the capital facilities plan and the preliminary engineering report. The request was made since the current permit renewal process for the city’s wastewater treatment plant specifies the need for expansion in the next five years.

While the SRF study is focused on a regional plant concept, should that not prove to be feasible or gain support from other municipalities, the facilities plan and preliminary engineering report will provide the same information required to move forward with funding applications for the wastewater treatment plant expansion.

A proposal from Woodard and Curran to perform the required study is projected to cost $225,000. FDEP has again agreed to provide Newberry with the same amount as they agreed to previously, $275,000, with 50 percent, or $137,500, to be funded through a grant program and the remaining 50 percent, or $137,500, to be funded through the SRF Loan Program. This allows $50,000 in contingency funds should any geo-technical or other documentation become necessary to support the study.

The City of Newberry would be responsible for repayment of the SRF loan amount of $137,500 under the terms and conditions of SRF agreement. However, New said the funds would not be due until the project has been completed.

Commissioners unanimously voted to authorize New to revise the agreement with FDEP.

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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ The High Springs Police Department (HSPD) was called to the scene of a two-vehicle crash on Wednesday, Nov. 11, at 11:16 a.m. The crash occurred at 19143 N.W. Highway 441 in High Springs.

High Springs resident Steven Arnold Hillard, 35, was driving a 1999 Jeep Cherokee as he crossed the northbound lane of U.S. Highway 441 near CVS Pharmacy. A 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe driven by 26-year-old Miranda Danielle Spangler of Lake Butler, was westbound on U.S. Highway 441.

Hilliard appeared to have a medical condition before the incident and does not remember what happened or why he crossed the road in front of the Hyundai.

He was transported to Shands UF due to his medical episode preceding the accident and was not cited for the offense of violation of the right-of-way. Both drivers were wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash and Spangler reported no injury following the incident.

In Alachua, the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) was called to the scene of a vehicle verses pedestrian incident on Thursday, Nov. 12, at 6:29 a.m. A silver Mitsubishi, driven by a 38-year-old male from Gainesville, was traveling south on N.W. U.S. Highway 441 when it struck a 40-year-old man from Alachua within the intersection of Northwest 147th Drive in the city of Alachua.

The pedestrian was pronounced deceased at the scene by Alachua County Fire Rescue.

The incident is still under investigation by FHP.

In LaCrosse, a 36-year-old Alachua woman lost her life in a crash on Sunday, Nov. 15, when she apparently ran a stop sign while driving a Dodge van west on Northwest 156th Avenue at County Road 231. The incident occurred just south of LaCrosse. The driver of the van, Kathrine L. Collins of Peggy Road, was pronounced deceased at the site.

The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) reported that 19-year-old Tyga J. Hunter of Gainesville was driving a Nissan truck north on CR 231 and hit the driver’s side of Collins’ van. Following impact, Hunter’s truck flipped over once and landed on top of a fence.

The Jaws of Life were required by Alachua County Fire Rescue paramedics to extricate Hunter from the truck. She was transported to Shands UF for treatment.

According to reports, northbound traffic was diverted and the southbound lanes of CR 231 were backed up for almost three hours while firefighters from LaCrosse, Waldo and Alachua County cleared the scene.

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ALACHUA ‒ The Alachua Police Department will soon be upgrading its communication systems. The City Commission approved up to $121,822 in the Alachua Police Department (ADP) budget for the replacement of the dispatch radio console. The new equipment will allow for technology advancements and better inter-agency communications with other law enforcement and first responders in the area. The new system would also help facilitate a faster response time for emergencies.

The upgrade was put out for bid and TRI-CO Communications, Inc., a local Motorola Distributor, placed a bid to replace the dispatch radio console including hardware, software and installation at $97,673. The commission authorized the city manager to issue a purchase order to the firm in an amount not to exceed $121,822 to complete the replacement.

The other budgetary item on the agenda was amending the City of Alachua Fiscal Year 2019-2020 General Fund Budget and authorize the transfer of $22,209 from the General Fund Contingency to the Community Development and Planning Budget. The General Fund Community Planning and Development budget had an overage of $22,208 in operating expenses. The Commission approved the resolution.

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