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HIGH SPRINGS – The City of High Springs is postponing the purchase of a security system for City Hall. The City had asked for bids on an access control system and received a total of nine bids, which Emerald Data Partners founder Eric May said was surprising during a time when everything was locked down due to COVID-19. May said all but two of the submittals met the bid requirements. The range of bid amounts is $16,504 - $45,000.

May, a former High Springs City Commissioner, pointed out that this was a security issue that the City has wanted to address for some time. He has been working with the City to provide technology consulting services, strategy, data backup and disaster recovery services and was asked to spearhead the search for a structural security system for City Hall.

Although the bids were ranked and May reviewed the pros and cons of the top submittals, the High Springs City Commission declined to act on the bids at this time. That decision was made following a question to the Finance Director by Commissioner Scott Jamison as to whether the purchase had been included in this fiscal year’s budget.

Learning that it had not, Commissioners asked if the item could be re-bid for the next fiscal year’s budget or whether some of the bidders would extend their bids. May said it was unlikely they would extend their bids into or past October, the beginning of the City’s next fiscal year’s budget. May had said previously that the City had no idea what the costs might be for such a system. “Now that the City has received these bids, a reasonable amount can now be budgeted for the next fiscal year,” said May.

Commissioner Nancy Lavin moved and Commissioner Gloria James seconded a motion to table the issue until the next fiscal year. The motion was unanimously approved.

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HIGH SPRINGS – After 41 years at the High Springs Day Care Center, 61-year-old Director Tammy Fleming formally retired on June 30. “I have seen children and their children come up through this center,” she said. “It’s like having grandchildren after all this time.”

The Day Care Center has been in place for 48 years. Fleming is a widow and her husband was a retired police officer from New York. Fleming said her son went to school there and he will be 43 in July. He now has three boys of his own who are six, 18 and 21 years old.

She is planning a trip to visit them in Stone Mountain, Georgia when the threat of COVID-19 has passed. “My son and grandchildren have been asking me to come and cook some of their favorite dishes when I get there,” she said.

“My niece lives in Kentucky and she has kids of her own, too. I just plan to travel a little bit and visit family,” she said.

The Day Care Center has been serving about a dozen children from the age of two – 12 years old. “I will surely miss them,” she said. “I have loved these children [at the Day Care Center] as my own for 41 years and I just want to spend a little bit of time with my own kids now.”

Due to the pandemic, there will not be a retirement party to celebrate her departure. “I was honored in January and that is just fine with me,” Fleming said.

At the time of her retirement, Fleming said the Day Care Center doesn’t have a replacement for her. Although the City owns the building, there is a Board of Directors who oversees the school.

Board member Cassandra Davis said children who go on to school after they leave Fleming’s care are well prepared and that Fleming put in a lot of her own volunteer time at the day care center. “It has been really great working with Tammy. She has been extremely good with the children, very dependable and has served the community well.”

“We are sorry to lose her, but we will look for a replacement to help fill her shoes,” Davis said.

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HIGH SPRINGS – Probably unknown to many Alachua County residents is an enterprising woman who has quietly become a successful artist. She has become an Etsy store owner, blogger and sometime contributor to Somerset Studio, a magazine featuring paper and mixed media art. Her creations sparked such interest that Somerset’s staff contacted her requesting that she write articles to correspond with her unique artwork and color techniques.

Lisa Mallette is a 59-year-old crafter living just outside of High Springs. She has built up quite a following while creating art journals, scrapbooks and Midori Travelers Notebooks, among other fascinating book-related items. Her Etsy site, Studio Rose Boutique, currently boasts 1,256 followers. “The main reason I decided to start my own shop is that I no longer had room to store everything I created,” Mallette said.

Midori Traveler’s Notebooks began with a bound notebook developed by Atshuhiko Iijima, who brought his prototype to a tradeshow in Tokyo in 2005. His creation was a hit, and since then, several companies have created their own version of Iijima's design, usually in leather. Still, few notebooks are as creatively designed as Mallette’s.

Born of creative parents, Mallette found her love of books at the age of four when her father taught her to read. “Books became my very favorite things,” Mallette said. An extremely shy and introverted child, she said, “I relished immersing myself in personalities, experiences and conversations that reality didn’t afford me.”

Although the stories she read captured her imagination, she became enamored of the actual physicality of books as well. “The hard, protective cover, the delicate pages and the scent of fresh ink intoxicated me to the point that at the age of six, I created my first book," Mallette said. "I folded and stapled paper cut from a brown grocery bag, then wrote and illustrated an unintentionally hilarious story about a girl who fell in love with the local delivery man.”

Through the years Mallette said she has tried a vast number of creative hobbies including clay sculpture, knitting, decorative painting, doll making, decoupage, papier-mâché, wood-burning, jewelry design and sewing. But, her first love has always been paper in its many forms, "so that has kind of stuck," she said.

About 10 years ago, Mallette took an online course and learned to make her own travel journal. At that time, she used a simple long-stitch binding and covers that she recycled from old hardcover books. "It was the creative outlet I felt I'd been born to," she said. "I enjoy the very technical work of cutting and sewing the pages together and absolutely love designing a beautiful cover.”

Mellette’s style is fanciful, feminine, vintage chic, with lots of lace and embellishments. “I don’t consider a design truly finished until I’ve paid it at least three visits, adding more embellishments each time,” she said. Her motto is, “More is more!”

Mallette comes by all of this creativity honestly. “My mother was an excellent writer and a wiz at the sewing machine. Mom used to take me shopping for patterns and fabric, after which a new dress or blouse would seem to magically appear,” Mallette said. “My dad started his career as a designer of business furniture. I remember walking with him through the local mall when I was about eight. He stopped in front of a hair salon and pointed inside. ‘See those chairs?’ he said. ‘I designed those.’"

While others create books, notebooks and travel books using a single cloth cover, Mallette's books are unique. Her covers use a multitude of different mediums and are likened to a quilt in some ways. She may use various pieces, patterns and styles of material, laces, pictures, beads, flowers and anything else she thinks may suit her design to create her unique book covers. Each cover is stitched and bound along the outer edges for longevity, beauty and strength.

Not to be outdone by the covers, the inside pages are beautifully made as well. Designs, artwork, floral borders and lined colored paper fill her books, making it a joy for people to want to write on those pages and keep them for a lifetime.

“Over the years, I've expanded into blank coupon books for gift-giving, and other related items as the ideas flow and the mood grabs me,” she says. A favorite saying about her creations is, “One of a kind, one at a time.” "I never make the same design twice, and I love creating custom orders.

“I think everyone should have a hobby that so completely absorbs their focus that they lose track of time and barely stop to eat or sleep. There's no better feeling!”

Many rubber stamp artists, which is another art form she explored, had beautiful blogs, and Mallette was inspired to start her own. “Pinterest and Instagram were only just getting off the ground back then, and blogs were still the best way to share your creative work. Stumped for a name, I wrote down a bunch of my favorite words on scraps of paper, shuffled them into an envelope and drew out two at a time. After a few rejected pairings, I pulled out the words ‘studio’ and ‘rose,’ and thus Studio Rose was born. To this day, my best friend insists I should have gone with one of the earlier options, ‘Free Pie.’”

Mallette and her husband met and married in Iowa. Tired of the cold Iowa winters, they longed to move to a warmer climate. Initially, the couple planned to move to Georgia, but read a book called, “Move South Now” that touted Florida.

“It wasn't a stretch, then, to travel a little further south than we'd originally planned. In 1989, we lucked into a place in the country near High Springs and have lived here ever since,” she said. Devoted cat people, the couple recently adopted their fourth one after being shown photos by a friend who volunteers at a local shelter.

Although Mallette said she started her Etsy shop because she ran out of studio space for her creations, she explains that currently, there is little more than a small path wide enough for herself and one cat. Although Mallette's creativity knows no bounds, her studio space may have its limits.

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NEWBERRY – The Newberry City Commission recently approved two ordinances to annex a total of some 128 acres of land into the City of Newberry. Unanimous approval on first reading of Ordinances 2020-13 and 2020-14 followed two public hearings during a Special Commission meeting held on May 26.

Ordinance 2020-13 consists of five parcels totaling 123.81 acres, four of which are owned by Cate and Broome, LLC (121.62 acres). The fifth and smallest parcel, which is owned by Deborah DeWitt, consists of 2.19 acres. All property in this annexation is contiguous to the municipal boundaries of the City of Newberry.

Ordinance 2020-14 was submitted for voluntary annexation by Copeland Nathan Dwayne and Cami Lee Fielding. The property consists of 5.01 acres. All property in this annexation is also contiguous to the municipal boundaries of the City of Newberry.

Notification of annexation is routinely sent to the Alachua County Board of County Commission (BoCC). As of the date of first reading of the two ordinances, no comment had been received by the City from the BoCC.

Public hearings and second and final reading of both ordinances are proposed for the June 8 Newberry City Commission meeting.

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ALACHUA – Local pastors in Alachua are leading by example. With the country facing the COVID-19 pandemic, strained race relations, protests, unemployment, police practices and political division, the resulting stress and division has hit communities across the nation.

Pastor Adrian Weeks of Alachua’s Saint Matthew Baptist Church was concerned about the effect this was having on his fellow citizens and the community.

In talks with several other area pastors, the idea of leading by example through a show unity was born. Out of their discussions, it was clear that the churches, regardless of the religion or sect of Christianity or ethnic makeup, they all stood together for the same ideals.

Weeks’ inspiration was a March for Unity, that instead of protesting, was promoting unity in the community and using prayer as a symbol for the positive.

“In the church, the way we handle crisis is to come together and listen to others’ views and concerns with an open heart and mind,” Weeks said. “We decided to hold a prayer march that would bring people, not only from the various churches, but all people that want to see our country change for the better.”

With the help of several other pastors, including Doug Fenton from First Baptist Alachua, they gathered support from the community and city government.

“The emphasis is that we may all come from different backgrounds and belief systems, but we can all march together for unity and peace,” Weeks said. In the span of two weeks he had gathered enough support and cooperation from the city and had reached out to numerous groups in the community.

On Sunday, June 28, people gathered at Maude Lewis Park in Alachua. Diversity was the key element, not only by the participation of various churches but also by citizens as well. All were there to promote positive ideas.

At 2 p.m. they marched down Northwest 141st Street to Main Street as Alachua Police Department officers stopped traffic at the U.S. Highway 441 intersection to allow them to pass. The group gathered at the Skinner Field baseball field that had been set up with properly distanced chairs and room for people standing to spread out to hear speakers.

Several pastors led prayers in response to current struggles including businesses, government, the COVID-19 crisis and the protests. Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper followed with a call for unity. Keynote speaker State Representative Clovis Watson, Jr. delivered a powerful message of unity, understanding and cooperation. Other government officials, including Alachua City Commissioners Dayna Miller and Shirley Green-Brown as well as Alachua Police Chief Chad Scott offered remarks. The crowd was enthusiastic and positive, applauding each speaker

Describing the purpose of the event, Weeks said, “We wanted a variety of speakers from different backgrounds to show the unity of the community and that we can all work together for the good of our nation.”

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HIGH SPRINGS – The City of High Springs is moving forward with a utility infrastructure project that will take septic tanks offline and connect them to a centralized sewer system. Commercial Industrial Corp., based near Ocala, received approval to perform work associated with the City’s Phase A2 Gravity Sewer Extensions project.

The project consists of constructing approximately 3,955 linear feet of eight-inch PVC gravity sewer lines, 16 precast manholes, sewer services, sewer hookups and septic tank abandonments, along with rock removal and associated restoration of the sites. Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) is funding the project, which is estimated to cost more than $733,000 to complete.

Although Gainesville-based D.E. Scorpio Corp. submitted a bid of $687,000, which was the lowest bid received by the City, Don Kellogg of Scorpio said their firm anticipated using All South Construction, LLC, as a subcontractor on the project.

The bid documents, which were prepared by Tim Norman of Mittauer & Associates, the City’s engineering firm, called for submitting firms to have successfully completed, “as prime contractor, a minimum of three projects involving gravity sanitary sewer within the past five years, each having a minimum contract value of $500,000 with at least one project having a contract value in excess of $1 million.”

Although Kellogg pointed to several jobs that involved work on sewers as part of their projects, they were unable to demonstrate projects that satisfied the bid requirements.

Although Norman said he had never worked with All South Construction or Scorpio, he maintained that they might be qualified, but didn't demonstrate it in their bid documents. Also, concern about rock removal equipment, which Norman said he knew Commercial Industrial had used on an earlier project, was not addressed by Scorpio. Due to those reasons, Norman recommended the City go with Commercial Industrial Corp. even though they were not the lowest bidder.

The majority of Commissioners agreed with Norman’s assessment and voted 4-1 to approve Commercial Industrial Corp.’s bid of $733,798, which was $46,791 higher than Scorpio’s bid. Commissioner Nancy Lavin provided the dissenting vote.

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ALACHUA –For the third time, the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) has awarded its highest honor – the Randall M. Whaley Incubator of the Year award – to UF Innovate | Sid Martin Biotech.

“Being named the best incubator on the planet is amazing. Receiving this award three times in a decade speaks volumes to the tremendous resource we have here in Florida with the Sid Martin Biotech incubator,” said David Norton, UF’s vice president for research. “The University of Florida is an international leader in translating research into relevant impact. The award reaffirms this.”

At a ceremony during InBIA’s annual conference, taking place this week online due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sid Martin Biotech Director Mark Long accepted two awards on behalf of the 40,000-square-foot business incubator located in Alachua. The facility, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, earned both “Rural Incubator of the Year” and the “Randall M. Whaley Global Incubator of the Year.”

“This is unprecedented and will stand as a record for quite some time,” Long said after he learned about the awards. “No university program in the United States has won more than two awards in any category, and no program around the globe has won more than a single Randall M. Whaley award.”

Each year, the InBIA awards winners in 11 categories (based on programs offered or specific type of incubator, such as food, biotech, etc.) Those 11 winners then compete for the InBIA’s most prestigious awards, the Dinah Adkins Incubator of the Year Award or the Randall M. Whaley Global Incubator of the Year award.

“This is an honor, yes, but a well-deserved one. Sid Martin Biotech has incubated – successfully – 108 startups since it opened in 1995,” said UF Innovate Director Jim O’Connell. “Most of those graduates are thriving, most contribute to the state economy. Great credit to Mark and the UF Innovate incubation team. It’s all about their attitude and intimate understanding of their business.”

The InBIA is a global network of incubators, accelerators, and other entrepreneurship centers representing 62 countries. It is the largest member-based entrepreneurial support network in the world and the go-to organization for those dedicated to nurturing startups in their communities.

Sid Martin Biotech is noted for its success in nurturing startups. Its companies have raised more than $8.8 billion in funding and created more than 8,000 high-tech jobs. More than 82 percent of Sid Martin companies are in operation five years post-graduation.

 “Sid Martin’s reputation is built on the success of the companies that graduate from the program, the amount of funding the companies acquire, and what the program offers,” said Assistant Director Merrie Shaw, who has been with Sid Martin since 2005. “Clients have access to shared common scientific equipment, lab space, conference rooms, greenhouses, a vivarium, advisors, the UF library, and more -- all in one location. That’s extremely rare.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t include the amazing staff that we have had and currently have,” Shaw said. “You have to keep the client happy and create a place conducive to their research needs, and the team does that well!”

Sid Martin Biotech won the Biotech Incubator of the Year and the Randall M. Whaley Global Incubator of the Year in both 2013 and 2017. UF Innovate | The Hub, the second of UF’s incubators, won Best Mixed-Use Incubator of the Year at InBIA last year.

“I am proud to be a part of the outstanding staff at Sid Martin, and I would like to thank each one of them for helping UF achieve credibility as the top ‘best practices’ incubator in the world,” said Long, who also directs The Hub. “I would also point out, in particular, that Merrie Shaw is the common element in all three awards, having served at UF Innovate | Sid Martin Biotech over the timespan of the awards given.”

This year’s InBIA conference was held June 23-25 virtually. The organization mailed the awards to winners in advance of the conference but they were announced during a virtual ceremony on June 25.

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