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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The High Springs City Commission unanimously approved an ordinance authorizing the use of public funds for the purposes of litigating and advertising to educate and inform the electorate about Alachua County’s Growth Management Charter Referendum. The referendum allows Alachua County to have zoning and land use control of a parcel of property, even after it has been annexed into a municipality. Municipalities contend that the Alachua County Charter Amendment is not lawful as it is an encroachment on Home Rule, which authorizes local governments such as municipalities to enact ordinances, codes, plans and resolutions.

Now that the election has passed and the results have been certified approving the charter amendment, the City of Alachua is continuing with its lawsuit seeking injunctive relief against the County’s Charter Amendment.

Meanwhile, the cities of Archer and Newberry have also brought suit on the same issue, which is assigned to Judge Brasington.

High Springs City Attorney Rich Maltby explained to High Springs Commissioners that there is the potential for combining the Archer/Newberry suit into the City of Alachua’s suit and having all three heard by Circuit Court Judge Donna M. Keim. A hearing is currently scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 16.

At that time, both the cities bringing suit and the County will present their cases in an attempt to win the argument.

High Springs’ City Commissioners will hear this ordinance on final reading Nov. 24. Should the ordinance be approved at that time, it is possible that the City of High Springs will join its sister cities in their suit to oppose the County’s amendment.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The City of High Springs is arrears in taxes to the tune of some $15,000. City Commissioners were surprised during their Nov. 19 meeting to find out that the City owes back taxes on 20 – 25 parcels of land in the amount of approximately $15,500. A letter received on Oct. 19 from the Alachua County Tax Collector’s Office indicating it was their final notice to the City prior to selling the properties at auction was a surprise to City staff, who say they never received previous notification of taxes due.

The city attorney recommended that the City pay the back taxes immediately to forestall any further action by the County. He indicated that further research may lead to the City being able to apply for refunds for some of the properties.

Apparently, some of the properties had been deeded to a developer who never developed them and ultimately gave them back to the City.

Commissioner Scott Jamison persisted that for the time those properties were in someone else’s hands, they should be paying the taxes on them. While all agreed to that logic, immediate action was required and further research on the part of the City would be required.

Ultimately, Jamison moved and Commissioner Linda Jones seconded a motion to pay the taxes. The motion received unanimous approval.

In another action, Commissioners unanimously approved Resolution No. 2020-N, which urges the Florida Legislature to approve Medicaid expansion for certain adults under the age of 65 in an effort to improve the health of all Floridians.

League of Woman Voters member Diane Imperio addressed the Commission and said that according to the Florida Policy Institute, Florida would see net state budget savings of roughly $200 million in Fiscal Year 2022-23 by expanding the Medicaid program.

She specified that nearly 10,000 adults in Alachua County between the ages of 19 and 64 have incomes below 138 of the federal poverty level and are uninsured. “More than 800,000 Floridians would be covered if Medicaid expansion is approved,” said Imperio.

The resolution urges the governor and legislature to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid in Florida rather than fund healthcare elsewhere.

Following Imperio’s presentation and response to questions, Commissioners approved the resolution and it will be sent to the governor and state legislature upon signing.

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 HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The High Springs Police Department (HSPD) responded to a delayed service call concerning a report of an indecent exposure incident on Nov. 15 at 8:43 a.m.

An investigation revealed that an unknown male parked his vehicle near a driveway at 16600 N.W. 222nd Street (Cedar Lane area), in High Springs. He exposed his genitals to the female victim as she was biking in the area.

The man has been described as a white 20 – 30-year-old male, approximately 5 ft.10-in. – 6 ft. in height and weighing approximately 185 pounds. He was described as “skinny.” He was completely nude wearing a black and red hat, sunglasses and dark shoes. The male was in a silver or gray square SUV, possibly a Honda Element or Ford Edge.

Anyone with information about this crime is encouraged to contact HSPD Detective Tracy Taylor at ttaylor@highsprings.us or at 352-955-1818. Anyone can also call Crime Stoppers at 352-372-STOP and remain anonymous.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The High Springs Police (HSPD) and Fire Departments (HSFD) were called to the scene of a one-person crash on Oct. 31, at 10:50 p.m. The incident occurred at 24300 W. U.S. Highway 27.

A 2001 Subaru Outback, driven by a 47-year-old Gainesville woman, had been traveling east on West U.S. Highway 27 when it struck the curb on the south side of the roadway. According to the HSPD, the vehicle may have been traveling above the posted speed limit of 35 mph.

Authorities report, “The Subaru flipped in excess of three times based on damage to the vehicle and debris from the accident.”

Upon arrival, HSFD firefighters found the vehicle on its roof. The driver had to be extricated from the vehicle and was transported by Alachua County Fire Rescue 20 to Shands-UF as a “Trauma Alert” for severe injuries. No other vehicles were involved and no property was damaged in the rollovers.

HSPD states the driver was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash and alcohol did not appear to be a factor in this case.

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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ A manual recount of the Alachua County Growth Management Area Amendment was completed on Friday, Nov. 13, at the Supervisor of Elections Office in Gainesville. Although figures were slightly changed, the result remained the same. Out of 128,692 votes cast during the Nov. 3 election, a slight majority of voters approved the amendment.

Initially, 64,462, or 50.09 percent, voted “yes” during the regular election to 64,230, or 49.91 percent, who voted against approval of the amendment.

Following the manual recount, total votes counted were 128,873. Of those 64,569, or 50.10 percent, voted “yes” to 64,304 voters, or 49.90 percent, who voted against approval of the amendment.

Tropical Storm Eta temporarily delayed the beginning of the recount, which was previously scheduled to begin on Thursday, Nov. 12.

As a countermeasure to the amendment passing, the cities of Newberry and Archer each filed a complaint against the County and the Charter Review Board to rule the amendment as unlawful.

“I would like to thank the roughly 65,000 voters who stood with the municipalities and cast a vote in favor of allowing them to control their own futures,” said Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe following the recount.

“I hope that the [Board of County Commissioners] BOCC will reconsider all of their policies that are really just attempts to seize control and power away from its citizens and the cities that are trying to live peacefully within this county. I am hopeful that the courts will also stand with the municipalities and the principal of checks and balances between governments,” said Marlowe.

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NEWBERRY ‒ The City of Newberry has approved three voluntary annexations of some 20 acres, which are contiguous to the municipal boundaries of the City of Newberry.

All three were originally heard in quasi-judicial public hearings during the Oct. 26 Commission meeting and were approved on first reading at that time.

A letter notifying the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) of the City’s intent to annex these parcels was sent to BoCC Chair Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson on Oct. 2.

The County’s response was received Oct. 22 from Alachua County Growth Management Director Mari K. “Missy” Daniels stating, “County staff reviewed these annexations and found no issues as far as compliance with statutory form requirements.”

During the Nov. 9 City Commission meeting all three annexation ordinances were heard again in quasi-judicial public hearings. The ordinances were presented at this meeting by Principal Planner Wendy Kinser-Maxwell.

In all three cases Kinser-Maxwell told Commissioners that all were found acceptable with regard to Section 171.044, Florida Statutes. Following each presentation, she recommended approval of the ordinances.

The first, referred to as Ordinance No. 2020-27, consists of 9.64 +/- acres, and is owned by Merrill Joshua, 12607 S.W. 28th Place, Archer.

The second, referred to as Ordinance No. 2020-28, consists of 2.98 +/- acres, and is owned by BMB Squared LLC, 14260 W. Newberry Road, PMB 346, Newberry.

The third, referred to as Ordinance No. 2020-29, consists of 7.5 acres +/- acres, and is owned by Tiffany Marie and Jonathan Andrew Castle, 2801 S.W. 298th Street, Newberry.

In all three hearings, no comments were offered by members of the public.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ On a cool and sunny Oct. 31, over 150 cars assembled near the new Market Pavilion on Main Street and Railroad Road in downtown High Springs. For the past 27 years, the High Springs Rotary Club has been hosting an annual car show in downtown to raise funds for humanitarian projects. This year, the club debated whether to hold the contest at all due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Options considered included a virtual car show, but that garnered little interest from potential participating car clubs. In the past, the show had featured 100-120 cars from all over Florida and participation by almost two dozen car clubs.

The Rotary Club of High Springs opted to carry on the tradition to raise funds for their projects. “We weren't sure how well it would work, how much participation we would have or how big an audience we would get,” said Gary Imler, treasurer of the club. “It's not a cheap endeavor to put on and takes a lot of manpower to do it right, but we decided we had to try so we could raise money for our drive to give a free dictionary to every 3rd grade student in Alachua.”

The first Rotary Club was founded in Chicago on Feb. 23, 1905 by Paul P Harris. The club was founded with the stated purpose of bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian service and to advance goodwill and peace around the world. Today there are over 35,000 member clubs worldwide, with a membership of 1.2 million individuals. The international organization uses its fundraising to promote literacy and education in developing countries, provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene projects, improve health conditions, grow local economies, fight disease and promote peace and conflict resolution.

The High Springs Rotary Club has existed since the 1920s and is one of five Rotary clubs in Alachua County. The High Springs club has been involved with funding the local Boy Scouts since 1926, and they also work with several charities and outreach programs, including St. Madeline's Church Outreach Program to provide food and shelter to those in need.

The main fundraiser event for the High Springs chapter is the annual car show. “We felt it was important to put it on, not only to raise project funds but also to give people a chance to get out for some outside activity and fun,” said Imler. “We felt it was both a fundraiser and a fun raiser for the public. We couldn't have asked for better weather and participation. Despite our concerns, it turned out to be one of the biggest car shows we have had.”

Entrants in the car show pay a registration fee to enter their car and additional money is raised with a 50/50 raffle, food sales and drawings for prizes. “Every penny of profit goes toward the dictionary for 3rd graders project,” Imler said. “It’s a huge undertaking and our club only has four active members so we couldn't have pulled it off without sponsors and volunteers, as well as the help of the other Alachua County clubs.”

The show featured a wide variety of vintage, classic and sport vehicles ranging from early Model T's to souped up Mustangs and Camaros as well as a category for motorcycles. Prizes were awarded for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place and several special awards. The top three winners were Doug Mill's 1974 stock mustang; Mike Powell's modified 1967 Mustang and Brett Harder's 1979 Honda XLM 100 motorcycle.

“We had a good steady crowd all day and the car participants were very happy with the way it turned out,” Imler said. “People were just happy to be able to get outside on a sunny day and enjoy the car show. We took a chance and it all worked out.”

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