HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The High Springs Brewing Company was home base for robotics, art and music on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. Dozens of families took advantage of the sunny and windy afternoon to watch children and youth compete in robotics competition and enjoy the upbeat sounds of local teen music phenom Trevor Ellis. Adding to the eclectic mood of robotics and music, the nonprofit Good News Arts was on hand offering both children and adults opportunities to try their hand in arts and crafts activities.

Tucked a block off Main Street in beautiful High Springs, the High Springs Brewing Company provided an open-air setting and drinks for the day’s events. Pizza, wings, and more were scuttled from Prohibition Pizza located across the street by eventgoers throughout the afternoon.

Billed as a demonstration event, the robotics competition was organized by the local Swampbots Robotics Team. The Swampbots is a FIRST Tech Challenge Team (FTC) centered in Alachua County. Their middle/elementary team, the Frogmen coached by Jason Sweat, is part of the FIRST LEGO League.

The sole competition of the day was in the middle/elementary school division involving three teams: Frogmen, Inno Gators and Byte Force. After winning the first of three heats, the Inno Gators won the third heat to win First Place for the competition. The Frogmen scored Second Place and Byte Force finished in Third.

The Swampbots high school team put on several demonstrations showcasing robot building and agility exercises. And the pre-school team offered building activities to all competition visitors. All team coaches and team members were open to answer questions about robotics and team activities.

Throughout the afternoon, 15-year-old Trevor Ellis took to the stage to ply the crowd with a variety of music. Ellis has been playing musical instruments since he was a toddler. He was inspired by his family of musicians and began on the drums at the age of four. Singing both originals and covers while playing the acoustic guitar, Ellis was a crowd favorite between the breaks in competition. hiss parents and grandparents were present cheering him along.

Attendees also took the opportunity to visit the Good News Arts tables throughout the day. The local nonprofit had several arts and crafts activities set up throughout the venue and also hosted a silent auction of six handmade quilts crafted by regular attendees of Good News Arts. The proceeds of the silent quilt auction will benefit the upcoming 2024 Good News Arts Summer Camp. Located on Main Street downtown, High Springs, Good News Arts meets from 12 p.m. until 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Visit them online at goodnewsarts.com for more information about getting involved.

Sunday’s robotics event made for an entertaining and informative afternoon, bringing together music and arts with the world of science and engineering in a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ High Springs residents soon will be voting for their choice of candidates for High Springs City Commission Seats #1 and # 2. Candidates are incumbents Mayor Gloria James facing off against Steven Tapanes for Seat 2 and Commissioner Ross Ambrose vying for Seat 1 against Andrew Miller.

As the Nov. 7 election is the only election being held in Alachua County on this date, High Springs City Clerk Angela Stone will serve as the Supervisor of Elections.

For Vote-By-Mail ballots, the deadline to request a ballot to be mailed to voters is 5 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 26, and Vote-By-Mail ballots must be obtained directly from Stone for citizens who wish to vote by mail. Vote-By-Mail requests on file with the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections’ office will not automatically qualify citizens to receive vote-by-mail ballots in this election.

Voters who live in High Springs may request a Vote-By-Mail ballot in three ways: online, by email or by phone.

Voters may access the Vote-By-Mail Ballot Request Form online at highsprings.gov/elections/webform/ballot-request-form.

Voters may also email the City Clerk's Office at cityclerk@highsprings.gov or call 386-454-1416 option 6 to request the Vote-By-Mail Ballot Request Form.

Voters must sign the ballot request, and no electronic signatures will be allowed.

Voted ballots may be returned by mail or in person but must be received by 7 p.m. on election night, Nov. 7. Ballots may be returned in person to City Hall during normal business hours, Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. - 6 p.m. and on election day, Nov. 7 until 7 p.m.

City Clerk Stone urges voters to read and follow the instructions included with Vote-By-Mail ballots to ensure their ballots will be counted. Voters should complete and sign the ballot certificate envelope and the voter’s signature should match the signature on record.

Voters may vote in person on Tuesday, Nov. 7 from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Poll locations are Precinct 20, High Springs Civic Center, 330 NW Santa Fe Boulevard, and Precinct 60, First United Methodist Church, 17405 N.W. U.S. Highway 441.

For questions about voting, contact High Springs City Clerk Angela Stone at 386-454-1416 option 6.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ High Springs Assistant City Manager and longtime High Springs Fire Department Chief Bruce Gillingham will be leaving the City of High Springs. Gillingham tendered his resignation at the Oct. 12 High Springs City Commission meeting. His resignation is effective Oct. 31.

Gillingham will be leaving City government after 27 years to take what he explained as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that likely won’t be offered to me again.”

Gillingham is slated to become the Bureau Chief of Fire Prevention for the State of Florida under the State Fire Marshall’s Office. In that position he will oversee plan reviews, construction mining, boiler safety and regulatory licensing.

Speaking about his new career Gillingham said, “This is a big opportunity and I would like to see what level of change I can affect in this position.” He said he believes this is a good fit for where he is in his career.

During Gillingham’s tenure as High Springs fire chief, the department increased their minimum daily staffing multiple times. He also oversaw the addition and renovation of the fire station, obtained several grants for air packs, ventilation systems and other equipment. He was also responsible for upgraded services and skills of the department to include an Advanced Life Support element and hired qualified paramedics to staff it. He also worked with City government to obtain new state-of-the art trucks for the fire department.

Many citizens recall that he was the first one on the scene of the recent explosion at Air Liquide, as well as many other emergencies. He would often respond to calls at all hours of the day and night and would even jump on the truck to cover a shift if needed.

Gillingham said he believes it is time for a change at the High Springs Fire Department and for someone else to come in and look at the department with a different set of eyes. “Hopefully, we can find someone who matches my intensity of commitment to the High Springs community,” he said.

Although his job will be based out of Tallahassee, Gillingham said, “High Springs is my community and I will remain active here.”

Gillingham’s wife, Casey, and his four children still at home (three boys and one girl, ages 14, 12, 5 and 10 months, respectively) will remain in their High Springs home.

Due to the length of time he served the City of High Springs and the amount of vacation time accrued, Gillingham will be taking some time off prior to his last day.

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HIGH SPRINGS – Drivers who speed through school zones in High Springs may soon be on the receiving end of a ticket. The City of High Springs is considering the installation of a program called Redspeed to detect speeders, provide visual evidence and aid in enforcement of speed limits.

Randal Rhimes of Redspeed, a company that provides photo evidence for police departments, addressed the Commission on Oct. 12 about how Redspeed works to help enforce speed limits in school zones.

System cameras capture photos of license plates, the make and model of a speeding vehicle and mile-per-hour speed of the vehicle. Rhimes said the cameras work in the rain and wind and can also help identify vehicles that may be involved in amber or silver alerts. He said there would be no cost to the City to install this system and the program is “violator funded.” A percentage of the violators’ fees will go to the City.

The City attorney will be preparing an ordinance/agreement for the Commission’s consideration at a later meeting.

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

In other business, the Commission unanimously approved an agreement with Duke Energy for two electric vehicle charging stations in High Springs. The agreement is for 10 years with an option to extend for a longer period of time. The company will design, install, own, operate, maintain and support the electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE).

There is no cost to the City, however “the City would receive a small amount of franchise fees,” said City Manager Ashley Stathatos. The location has not been finalized, but two parking spaces on City Hall property near the caboose is the location under consideration.

Both parties may terminate the agreement with 30-days notice. If the City decides to terminate the agreement, before the end date, the cost of equipment depreciation will be charged to the City. “Upon expiration of the agreement, Duke, at its discretion, may transfer title to the City,” said Assistant City Manager Bruce Gillingham.

Currently, two electric charging stations on Main Street are not being used extensively, but Stathatos said they haven’t been there very long and people are just finding out about them. Google Maps will be listing electric vehicle charging locations on maps soon, so people traveling through High Springs will be aware of electric vehicle charging station locations.

Vacating Right-of-Way

Commissioners unanimously approved Ordinance 2023-13 on first reading to vacate the southern half of Whitlock Street and internal alleys within Columbia Heights subdivision. The two applicant-owned parcels are located just north of Tractor Supply and south of 210th Lane, Boat Ramp Road.

Should the ordinance be approved on second reading, the applicant can submit a replat for their property to remove the old lot lines and create one usable commercial parcel. Once the replat process is complete, the applicant can submit a site plan for Plan Board and City Commission review.

Business Impact Estimates

In other business, the Commission approved Ordinance 2023-12 on first reading, which creates a local business impact estimate ordinance in compliance with Florida Statutes that requires municipalities to prepare business impact estimates prior to adopting ordinances that impact business owners. The law also provides a procedure to challenge ordinances that are adopted by local government, while also setting challenge and waiting periods.

Fee Schedule for Services

City staff recently conducted a survey of fees charged by other area cities for services provided by their Police, Fire and Public Works departments. A list of proposed fees was presented by Stathatos, which will be voted on by the Commission at a later date. Assistant City Manager Bruce Gillingham said that the fees for the Fire Department were based on Alachua County’s fees for the same services.

In other City business, Gillingham said that the reimbursement for Hurricane Ian would be nearly $44,000 and should be received in the next couple of weeks. “The cost for Hurricane Idalia was in the vicinity of $63,000,” Gillingham said. He said he expected reimbursement from FEMA to be $43,000 - $53,000.

Sally Milner, President of the GFWC High Springs Womans Club, presented a $550 check to High Springs Police Chief Antoine Sheppard to help pay for a police dog. The cost for a trained police dog is usually in the range of $8,000 - $10,000. Milner said while they couldn’t pay the entire fee for a police dog, she hoped the amount donated would go toward that cost.

The next City Commission meeting is scheduled for Oct. 26.

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NEWBERRY ‒ Newberry City Commissioner Mark Clark and former City Commissioner and State Representative Debbie Boyd joined an ad hoc committee formed in February to work on Newberry Veterans Memorial. The project is designed to honor all veterans and Boyd characterized the group as “very passionate about the project.”

Local artist Paula Willis worked with the committee to formulate a conceptual design and the committee considered five locations for the Veterans Park. A presentation was made to the City Commission on March 27 by Boyd with full committee attendance. Boyd’s research was turned over to Newberry City staff, and design planning and engineering began.

Boyd recommended a location at the southwest corner of Lois Forte Park. “We found this to be the best location because the City has plans to reconstruct Northwest 260th Street, sewer, water and restrooms are already available and the location is accessible,” said Boyd. “In addition, that location will be highly visible from the west-bound pairs when State Road 26 is reconstructed. There is also plenty of parking and room for veteran-related events at that park.”

The committee turned their attention to fundraising with a goal to raise $100,000 - $150,000 for the project. “The City of Newberry is a very committed major partner and has approved $350,000 of Wild Spaces Public Places funding towards it,” said Boyd. “Because of additional funding opportunities available over the next year, it was recently decided to give the project another year and now plan to dedicate Veterans Park on Veterans Day 2025.”

The Denim & Diamonds Gala is the committee’s first fundraising event and is scheduled to take place on Friday, Nov. 17, from 6 – 10:30 p.m. It is being held to honor veterans and to benefit the Veterans Park project.

The Gala will take place at Clark Plantation with the venue and resources donated by Libby and George Bridges. Celebrations Catering will be catering the event and WCJB Anchor David Snyder will be master of ceremonies. Purple Star recipient Joel Rousseau will be the guest speaker and Josh Taylor will be the disc jockey for the event. “We have a great line-up of participants to make the Gala a fun evening of dinner and dancing,” said Boyd.

This is a reserved ticket event with capacity set at 200 seats, and online ticket sales have been suspended because sales are at capacity. Anyone interested can request “will call” for tickets that may become available.

Boyd said the committee has received $51,300 in sponsorships for the Gala and memorial with additional donations promised from some of the sponsors after the first of the year.

Revenues and expenditures are handled through the City of Newberry. The Gala does not yet have a bar sponsor and the City has a policy that it will not spend taxpayers’ dollars on alcohol. The Commission voted to allow the purchase of alcohol directly by the committee with funds donated to the event.

Another fundraising opportunity

The Veterans Memorial Committee has a Memorial Brick Campaign to create another community investment opportunity to help raise funds for the Newberry Veterans Memorial. Engraved Memorial Bricks are available for purchase now, will be available for purchase at the Gala and will continue to be available through construction of Veterans Park. Each brick will be incorporated into the Veterans Park as a lasting legacy to honor veterans and commemorate their service. The committee hopes to sell as many bricks as possible prior to construction so that each brick can be incorporated into the final memorial.

More information can be found on the Veterans Memorial Bricks at NewberryVeteransMemorial.com/The-NVM-Project/MemorialBricks or by contacting Debbie Boyd at 352-339-6626 or Mark Clark at 352-317-3482.

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Photo special to Alachua County Today / Alachua Recreation offers Dance About every Monday.

ALACHUA ‒ The City of Alachua Parks and Recreation Department has geared up for months of activities citywide. In their own words, check out what exciting events are in store for area residents.

The Alachua Parks and Recreation Department has tons of activities and events for everyone. The premier event in October is the going Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month. Alachua Parks and Recreation Department is recognizing Breast Cancer Awareness month by painting field lines and goal posts with pink decorations inside Legacy Park, supporting those diagnosed with breast cancer.

These past few weeks Parks and Rec has hosted several events and games at Legacy Park Multipurpose Center. Our most recent exciting event held was in honor of breast cancer awareness. Welcoming Blossoming Butterfly, a non-profit organization devoted to helping those diagnosed with breast, ovarian or uterine cancer, held their first annual Alachua County Alumni basketball tournament.

Blossoming Butterfly is also holding future fundraising events such as the Blossoming Shades of Pink fundraiser scheduled for Jan. 20, 2024 and Pink Fest on June 1, 2024. More information can be found on the organization's website for donations and locations of event. Visit https://www.blossomingbutterflyinc.org/  

And there’s always more exciting fun held at Legacy. Every Monday, Dance About goes from 4-6 p.m. for any kids grades K-8 interested in dance. Coupled with an open gym, volleyball tournaments begin soon, too.

Additionally, there are some thrilling events coming up as well. As usual, the monthly Crafty Gemini will be sharing her creative skills, hosting a senior craft day at Legacy Park Multipurpose Center in Room 1 on Oct. 26 at 12:30 p.m.

Later next month, Just Between Friends, Florida’s largest children’s sale, comes back from Nov. 9-12. Additional information about the sale can be found on their website at https://gainesville.jbfsale.com/

Don’t forget, around the same time from Nov. 11-12 there's the Music Festival on Main.

Come and enjoy fall with us!

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ALACHUA COUNTY, FL – Alachua County Animal Resources reminds residents to license their pets each year. Purchasing a license tag and attaching it to a pet's collar is one of the most important things residents can do as responsible pet owners. In addition, displaying a current Alachua County tag on a pet's collar makes it easier for animal resources officers and shelter employees to locate a lost pet's owner information.
The required pet licenses can be ordered online. Pet owners can license multiple pets at the same time and upload the required documents. A $2 convenience fee applies for each transaction. All major credit cards are accepted. The new pet license tags are not only stylish and durable but also offer a range of optional free features, including online pet information storage.
License fees for cats, dogs, and ferrets are $25. Alachua County pet licenses are valid for one year from the date of rabies vaccination and will expire on the anniversary of the rabies vaccination. All dogs, cats, and ferrets over four months old must have their rabies vaccinations and be licensed with Alachua County.
Pet parents may also license by mail. To license by mail, pet parents can mail a copy of their pet's current rabies along with a check payable to "Alachua County Animal Resources Licensing" to:
Alachua County Animal Licensing
C/O PetData
PO Box 141929
Irving, TX 75014
Pet parents may also license in person at participating veterinary locations.
"Required pet licensing is easier than ever," said Alachua County Animal Resources Director Julie Johnson. "Your lost pet's current license could be their ticket home."
For more information, visit the Alachua County PetData website or call 866-201-2447.

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