This information is public record and the booking report is provided by the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Department of the Jail.  The charges listed are at the time of arrest and and all suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. For more details on a specific inmate use the Sheriff’s Office inmate search (for inmates currently at the jail). More specific information on charges is available by searching court records.  Jail booking logs are removed from the Alachua County Today website after 30 days.

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ALACHUA ‒ It was an upbeat evening as the Alachua Chamber of Commerce hosted their 2024 Annual Gala on Wednesday, Jan. 24. Held at Alachua’s Legacy Park, large 3-D lighted marquee letters spelling Alachua glittered on stage as more than 550 people attended the Chamber’s signature event. The occasion recognizes the work and accomplishments of people, businesses, volunteers and sponsors and gives the Chamber an opportunity to share the year’s accomplishments and goals for the new year.

The evening kicked off with a 5:30 p.m. cocktail hour complete with beer provided by Burkhardt Distributors and wine provided by Bleaker & Flask. A surf and turf dinner service by Beyond Expectations started at 6:45 p.m. with dessert sponsored by Colliers International Real Estate.

Incoming Chamber President Adam Boukari handled the master of ceremonies duties and introduced the event’s title sponsor, Scherer Construction. Boukari said the company has been a valuable partner to the Alachua region for decades, adding, “Their footprint in Alachua is seen from every corner of the community.

Also recognized were the Chamber’s Sustaining Members who provide support to the Chamber on an ongoing basis. Those members are City of Alachua, San Felasco Tech City, Alachua Commerce Center, Scherer Construction, Campus USA, Fletcher Companies, University of Florida, Renasant Bank and Tower Hill Insurance Group.

“These companies have made multi-year commitments to our Chamber to strengthen our ability to support business development and economic prosperity,” said Boukari

Among elected officials attending were Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper, Vice Mayor Dayna Miller and Commissioners Shirley Green Brown, Ed Potts and Jennifer Ringersen. Also representing the City of Alachua were City Manager Mike DaRoza and Police Chief Jesse Sandusky. Also in attendance were Alachua County Manager Michele Lieberman, Alachua County Fire Chief Harold Theus and Alachua County Sheriff Emery Gainey.

The Gala’s Supporting Sponsor was RTI Surgical. “This Alachua homegrown company is making impacts on people the world over,” said Boukari about the global firm. “They believe deeply in corporate citizenship and serving the community where they work.” In addition to gala sponsors, multiple local businesses sponsored tables to the event.

The gala traditionally is a time for the Chamber to recognize people and organizations that have made significant impacts in the community. Kicking off the awards portion of the event was the Alachua Police Department Officer of the Year award. Recipient Thomas Stanfield is the department’s Public Information Officer.

The Chamber also recognized local businesses. Selected as its Small Business of the Year was Tina Ross of Alachua Flowers and Tuxedo Rental. Additionally, Waste Pro was selected Large Business of the Year and Chamber Volunteer of the Year was Shasta Schoellhorn

After serving three years as Chamber President, Mitch Glaeser delivered his final President’s Message. “There is no bigger cheerleader in our community than our outgoing president Mitch Glaeser,” said Boukari. – “He has charted our path toward prosperity, business growth and a shared vision.”

Glaeser recounted accomplishments that have been made over the past few years, crediting those longtime companies that continue to invest in the community and referencing new companies locating in Alachua and new jobs being created.

“The Gala caps off and highlights the momentum and exciting things that are happening throughout Alachua,” said Glaeser. “The quality of projects and jobs that those companies are creating is a huge benefit to all of our citizens who live here and enhances the quality of life we have come to know.”

Glaeser was recognized for his dedication and service to the Alachua Chamber of Commerce and was gifted with a Swiss-made watch, which was showcased at the 1889 World Fair held in Paris, France. Referencing Glaeser’s museum of entrepreneurship at his San Felasco Tech City office, Boukari said, “We hope that this watch will join your many other treasures of history and innovation on display in your museum and office and will serve as a wonderful reminder of the time you so selflessly gave to our Chamber and community.”

The evening also saw the 2024 Board of Directors installed. Members include Mitch Glaeser, Ed Potts, David Pope, Elliot Welker, Zak Seymoure, Neil Burk, Jerry Smith, Jovante Hayes, Joe Hancock, Flo Hester, Shasta Schoellhorn, Michele Lee, Shelley Vickers, Kyla Frye, Steve Szabo and President Adam Boukari.

Always a highlight of the evening, the live auction led by Ben Boukari, Jr. Boukari didn’t disappoint as he auctioned off a sports theme package consisting of a football signed by over a dozen Heisman Trophy winners including the University of Florida’s Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow and dinner for 10 at Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille.

With the combination of award presentations, the live auction, insights offered by local business leaders, and a comedy act by stand-up comedian and actor Brad William, the gala delivered a diverse agenda for those in attendance and a night to remember.

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NEWBERRY ‒ Alachua County Sheriff Emery Gainey delivered his 2023 update on Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) 2023 responses to Newberry calls at the Jan. 22 Newberry City Commission meeting.

Sheriff Emery GaineyGainey highlighted some memorable cases in Newberry during the year beginning with a September shooting in which no one would identify the shooter. He mentioned a March case in which two counts of sexual battery to a juvenile were prosecuted. A wide-reaching narcotics distribution case netted a large amount of marijuana, fentanyl, cocaine, mushrooms, three illegal firearms and $13,870 in cash. He also mentioned the December apprehension of the porch pirate in Country Way.

During 2023, ACSO responded to 5,983 calls for assistance in Newberry. Of those, 732 were for traffic stops, seven were for stolen vehicles, 54 were domestic violence cases with 29 of them being for domestic battery. He listed 118 traffic crashes, 121 juvenile-related issues and 2,267 calls for increased patrols.

Comparing that the county-wide calls for service he listed 83,617 calls with 230 of them for stolen vehicles. Burglaries numbered 848; stolen cars numbered 472 with a large quantity of stolen firearms also being stolen from vehicles. Gainey asked the public to remove their firearms from their cars or invest in bolted-in lockable safes for cars to help keep firearms out of the hands of criminals. Calls for armed disturbances came to 132, domestic violence calls county-wide were 1,407 with 560 domestic battery cases. Calls related to alarms of all kinds came in at 2,001.

During 2023 10 persons were shot, 75 death threats were made and 179 death investigations were undertaken. He said death investigations were not necessarily criminal investigations.

Speaking about staffing, Gainey said when he joined ACSO in October there were 248 openings available, which he said was 26 percent of the Sheriff’s office personnel. Gainey said that when he left in 2007, ACSO had three traffic squads with a total of 19 people. Currently, only four individuals, including one supervisor, are working traffic. “On any given day one of them may be pulled to work a zone,” Gainey said. “We are extremely short staffed and are working to hire people at all levels.”

Gainey also said that that the Gainesville Police Department is down 56 officers and the University of Florida Police Department is down a few as well.

During the past four months ACSO has hired 104 people, however through attrition and retirement, the net result is an increase of 66 employees. Seventeen staff have been hired for the Communications Center, 22 for the Department of the Jail and 22 more for law enforcement. Gainey said that some of those are going through the nine-month training course so are not yet active police officers.

Even with the staff shortages at ACSO, Gainey said three accreditations have been earned by the Department of the Jail, the Communications Center and law enforcement.

Gainey said shootings, the majority of which occur in Gainesville, are a major concern. Rival gangs and retaliations are often the cause of the shootings. Gainey also pointed to narcotics violations, especially with fentanyl.

Asked about the proposed ACSO substation space in Newberry, Gainey said he was looking forward to being able to set that up. He listed officers that could be contacted for traffic issues and suspected methamphetamine or other suspected drug issues.

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HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs Briarwood development may be stalled as it appears that High Springs Mayor Katherine Weitz may have thrown a monkey wrench into the project even though the Commission voted 3-1 to approve the Phase 1 Final Plat at its Jan. 25 City Commission meeting.

At the Jan. 25 meeting, City Manager Ashley Stathatos said the Final Plat application had been subject to review by City staff, engineers and planners and that the City recommended approval of the application as it met all of the requirements set forth in the Developer Agreement previously approved by the City.

JBPro engineer Chris Potts, who is representing the developer, reviewed the permits required by agencies such as the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC).

At the meeting, Mayor Weitz pulled out a full set of drawings submitted by the applicant and asked questions about gopher tortoises in the vicinity of the property. Assured by Potts that work was not being conducted anywhere near the gopher tortoises, Weitz rolled up the oversized drawings, and said, “So the gopher tortoises are o.k. That’s important.”

Vice-Mayor Tristan Grunder moved to approve the final plat, with a sunset date of three years to loop water lines into Phase 2. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Byran Williams. Mayor Weitz attempted to add a caveat that the developer ceases all construction on the property until he obtained and complied with the Fish and Wildlife Commissions (FWC) application to remove the 22 tortoises that had just been found on the property the previous business day.

Potts had previously said that work was not taking place near the gopher tortoise sites and would not be until such time as the gopher tortoises had been relocated. He also said that a permit was being prepared for the FWC, and could not be submitted until there was actual approval of Phase I. Plans were in place to move forward with relocation per state guidelines.

Both Grunder and Williams said that Weitz’ caveat simply “muddied the waters.” The city attorney advised Weitz that she needed a second to her caveat, which she did not receive. Ultimately, Williams called the question three times before the motion on the floor to approve was voted on. Grunder’s motion to approve with the sunset date included was approved in a 3 – 1 vote with Weitz casting the dissenting vote.

The following morning, on Jan. 26, it was reported to the City that FWC received a complaint from the Mayor of High Springs alleging that the gopher tortoises were not being protected. FWC subsequently contacted the project’s environmental consultant about the matter who advised engineering firm JBPro to cease work until further research and communications with the FWC occurred. Alachua County Today reached out to both FWC and JBPro but received no response.

Special Election

In other business, the City Commission has set the special election date and the qualifying period to fill High Springs City Commission Seat #2. The seat was recently vacated by Steve Tapanes who declined to fill out a financial disclosure Form 6 required by the state. The individual elected will fill out the remainder of Tapanes’ three-year term. The election date is set for Tuesday, March 26.

Candidates may qualify to run for election by filing with the Office of the City Clerk in High Springs during regular hours from 7:30 a.m., Monday, Feb. 5 – 6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 8.

The qualifying fee is $111.24 and candidates will be required to fill out Form 6 to qualify. For further information on the election, interested parties may call the City Clerk’s office at 386-454-1416, Ext. 6 during normal business hours.

City Manager Candidates

Commissioners turned their attention to filling the city manager position by selecting their top five candidates. From the original list of 16, the commission selected Timothy Day, who lists city manager/interim city manager experience in Bowling Green and Greenville, Florida; Fred Ventresco of Pinetops, North Carolina, with experience as a town administrator, Jeremy Marshall, who listed city administration/manager experience; Jeff Shoobridge of New Port Richey, Florida, who listed experience as a council member and as a town administrator; and David Wisener who lists economic development experience for the City of Alachua.

Commissioners will hold private meetings with each candidate before further narrowing the pool to two or three finalists. At that time, the commission plans to hold an open interview with those finalists.

The next scheduled High Springs City Commission meeting is Feb. 8.

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NEWBERRY ‒ A 50-year-old Newberry man was arrested on Saturday, Jan. 20, and charged with using a debit card belonging to a 75-year-old woman to make purchases and withdraw cash for his personal use.

HopkinsOn Dec. 4, 2023, the victim had approximately $7,000 withdrawn from her account. According to the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO), the money was stolen incrementally during October and November of last year. The victim has mental deficiencies due to age and lives alone. However, her sister has power of attorney and reported the thefts.

The victim provided the defendant, Avery Donnell Hopkins, with her debit card and PIN to purchase one item. According to the ACSO, “The defendant ‘befriended’/conned the victim and received permission to intermittently sleep at the victim’s home over the next few months.” Hopkins maintained possession of the victim’s debit card. The victim’s sister learned of the transaction and called ACSO.

When law enforcement arrived at the victim’s home, they found the defendant there. Before uncovering the extent of the crimes, the deputy asked the defendant about what had occurred. The defendant told the deputy that he did take the money so he could reinstate his driver’s license.

It was discovered that the defendant allegedly made 18 fraudulent transactions at the Family Dollar in Newberry totaling about $1,000. For every transaction at Family Dollar, Hopkins made a small purchase of $2 - $15, and requested $50 cash back, the maximum cash-back allotment at the store.

In addition, Hopkins allegedly made 16 fraudulent withdrawals at ATMs in Newberry totaling about $6,000.

Although Family Dollar’s videos were purged or inoperable during the alleged transactions, the ACSO deputy subpoenaed Capital City Bank for their ATM video associated with the withdrawals. Of the 16 ATM withdrawals, 15 withdrawals occurred at Capital City’s ATMs in Newberry. Capital City’s footage showed Hopkins making all the withdrawals. In some of the withdrawals, Hopkins was viewed holding a red Wells Fargo card.

The money the defendant withdrew from the victim’s account was not used for the victim’s benefit and she did not give Hopkins permission to use it, thus establishing probable cause for the charges.

Hopkins has several convictions for possession of cocaine and a guilty conviction for petit theft first offense.

Bail was set at $110,000 by Judge Sheree Lancaster.

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The king and queen of Hoggetown lead a royal procession through the fair. / Photo by PRISTINE THAI

GAINESVILLE, Fla. ‒ Charismatic caravans, custom-made corsets and common camaraderie brought thousands to the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire on its opening day Saturday.

The fair’s 37th iteration played out at Depot Park in downtown Gainesville, welcoming a horde of guests for the first half of its weekend-long festivities. It also ran Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with armored combatants, folk performers and magical comedians entertaining the crowds.

This year’s fair, dubbed “Hoggetowne Goes Downtown,” is the third to be held in-person after the revelry went remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also the third to be held after the fair’s long-standing home became unavailable for use.

“The pandemic hit at the same time that we started having to look for new venues,” said Shawn Bauldree, a teacher at O2B Kids who has performed annually at the fair since its inception. “It was just devastating.”

For decades, the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire was held at the old Alachua County Fairgrounds, near the Gainesville Regional Airport.

“It felt like you were in a forest,” Sarah VanSchoick said of the traditional location. VanSchoick works in government contracting for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and she has attended the fair every year since 2001. “It was a cozy atmosphere, and it really felt like a little village there.”

But after the old fairgrounds were leased to the U.S. Army Reserve in 2020, the fair’s organizers have struggled to find a new venue for an event that typically spanned 100 acres.

The past two years, the fair was located at a field on Southwest Archer Road near the Haile Plantation community. Bauldree recalled the hourlong traffic jam that dampened festivities and frustrated patrons.

“I had people come up and yell at me for the traffic problems at the new venue,” she said. “It broke our hearts.”

Bauldree said that a suitable venue would be at least 90 acres with good road access. After their primary and backup location plans went awry this year, the fair’s organizers settled for Depot Park, which is only 32 acres.

“We’re coming back on borrowed land,” Bauldree said, “and it’s not ideal. I know Gainesvillians are worried about it not being as good as before.”

However, frequent fairgoers say they aren’t fazed by the location, intending to make the most out of the event no matter the circumstances.

“I know traffic is going to be congested, and I know people are complaining about it,” said Dawn Brower, a business owner who has gone to the fair since its first year. “But in my opinion, if you’re going to complain about it, just stay home and let other people enjoy it.

“I’m happy that the organizers are doing it for the community. We’re going to be there, we’re going to be happy, and we’re going to enjoy whatever it is they have to offer.”

VanSchoick said that she is optimistic about the fair’s proximity to downtown Gainesville, and she thinks it will be a much better location than last year’s.

“Change can be hard,” she said, “but I’m embracing the unique aspect of it. Most fairs are held in a pretty isolated environment. I think there’s a lot of opportunity with Hoggetowne being held so close to downtown, with the breweries and other local businesses participating.”

Because this year’s fair lasts for only one weekend instead of the typical three, admission is free, drawing in new attendees. UF freshman student Evangeline Limber said this greatly influenced her decision to go for the first time.

“I’m the stereotypical broke college student,” she said, “so it was great for it to be free. I didn’t really mind the smaller venue.” Limber plans on attending again, depending on how much admission costs next year.

Event Coordinator Lili Tzou said that the average fair day typically has about 5,000 guests, with peak attendance hovering around 8,000 people. Saturday’s crowd count was an estimated 10,000 attendees, she said. Despite some logistical roadblocks, Hoggetowne remains a highly popular event.

For Bauldree, the medieval fair is “like a big family reunion,” with her fellow performers and vendors as well as the Gainesville community. She said that she looks forward to commemorating the fair’s history and sharing the festival joy with everyone.

“I’ve dedicated part of my life to Hoggetowne all these years,” she said, “because there was someone who created the magic for me when I was a very lonely teenager. It doesn’t matter if you’re 100 years old or 2 years old; there is something for you at the fair.”

And most of all, Bauldree said, she believes in the fair’s resilience.

“To me, this is a legacy. We will build it back again to be bigger and better. We’re not giving up.”

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 6, 2024) – As of February 1, Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) stopped paying the City of Gainesville for services the utility received in fiscal year 2022. This leaves the city with a revenue shortfall of $1,447,252 in the middle of the current fiscal year and is a departure from the methodology that formed the foundation of this year’s balanced budget.

As GRU and the city outlined in agreements that underpinned this year’s city budget, the $1.4 million was payment for work done two years in arrears by staff from departments including the Clerk’s Office, the City Auditor’s Office, the Office of Equity & Inclusion and the Office of Communications & Marketing.

The issue was addressed at today’s meeting of the Gainesville City Commission’s Finance Committee, where members approved a recommendation from Gainesville City Manager Cynthia W. Curry to rebalance the budget by using the city’s contingency funds and set-asides. This would preserve the budgets of impacted departments at their adopted levels for the remainder of the fiscal year despite the loss of payment for shared services.

The recommendation to manage the revenue reduction involves the following budget line items:

  • $600,754 from the operational contingency fund – 100-percent reduction
  • $250,000 from the set-aside for at-risk youth – 100-percent reduction
  • $150,000 from the set-aside for gun violence prevention – 100-percent reduction
  • $511,501 from the $630,872 personnel contingency fund – 81-percent reduction

“The fiscal year 2024 budget includes contingency reserves and set-asides for other projects,” said City Manager Curry. “These funds can be tapped to compensate for the payments no longer being received from Gainesville Regional Utilities. However, it is unfortunate we have to move into our reserves and use funds for programs and causes that are very important to our community.”

This mid-year budget reversal is the latest challenge for a commission already making substantial reductions. Following the city’s appearance before the Florida Legislature’s Joint Legislative Auditing Committee (JLAC) in February 2023, Gainesville City Commissioners lowered the Government Services Contribution (GSC) by $19 million, a reduction of 55 percent from the prior fiscal year. This led to changes in fiscal year 2024 that included city departmental consolidations, a slew of new operational efficiencies, and the elimination of 125.5 full-time equivalent employee positions.

Commissioners are expected to vote on the recommendation at the February 15 Gainesville City Commission meeting. However, these reductions in revenue will continue to drive budget discussions for fiscal year 2025, as the commission and staff will face hard decisions about funding levels for departments that will no longer provide shared services to the utility. 

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