GAINESVILLE ‒ The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) is seeking any information the public may have about an unknown make and model silver colored SUV that caused a traffic crash on Friday March 24, around 10 p.m.

The crash involved a motorcycle with a male driver and female passenger and took place at the intersection of State Road 331, (Williston Road) and U.S. Highway 441 when the SUV turned left in front of the 2003 Harley motorcycle.

When the motorcycle rider took evasive action to avoid the SUV, control of the motorcycle was lost, causing both riders to be thrown across the roadway. The motorcycle driver sustained minor injuries, however the motorcycle passenger is in critical condition.

Anyone with tips or any other information about the driver and/or silver SUV that caused this collision is asked to call their local Crime Stoppers, *FHP or the FHP Regional Communications Center at 1-800-387-1290.

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L-R: Alachua Mayor and Lions Club member Gib Coerper and Lions Club member Ralph Cellon. Cellon was honored with the Lions Club International Melvin Jones Progressive award at the 83rd Cattlemen’s Banquet

ALACHUA ‒ On March 28, 2023, the Alachua Lions Club celebrated the 83rd Cattlemen’s Banquet, holding its largest charity fundraiser of the year to a packed house at Valley View, just outside of Alachua. Keynote speaker Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson delivered an enlightening overview of critical issues facing agriculture in Florida and around the country. His homespun delivery of childhood anecdotes about growing up on the family’s farm were both entertaining and informative. Wilton was introduced by State Representative and House Speaker pro tempore Chuck Clemons.

The annual Cattlemen's Banquet is the longest continuous Lions Club fundraising event in Florida, with all profits from the banquet supporting charitable sight, hearing, youth and community service activities. It all started 1940 when the Alachua Lions Club sought to bolster Alachua High School Future Farmers of America (FFA) students in their quest to raise a steer for auction. Lions Club members attended the auction and drove the bidding higher. Not only did their winning bid cover the FFA's cost, but it also provided additional funds to the FFA.

Each year the event grew, bringing many of the area’s cattle ranchers, politicians and residents to the event. For years the event was held at the Alachua Woman’s Club and attracted the attention of local and state officials as guest speakers including President Jimmy Carter, Florida Governors Buddy McKay, Lawton Chiles and Bob Graham. Eventually the event outgrew the Woman’s Club and was moved to a bigger venue at the Santa Fe River Ranch, and in 2022 the fundraising event was moved to an even larger venture at Valley View at Santa Fe River Ranch.

Last Tuesday was another fun filled evening of laughter and good food as nearly 450 people attended the event that was kicked off with a cocktail hour on the veranda overlooking rolling pastures dotted with sprawling oak trees. An event of this size takes months of planning as well as coordinating support from the 28 corporate sponsors who provided either funding or services for the banquet. The Alachua Woman’s Club, a longtime partner with the Alachua Lions Club, once again sponsored a Silent Auction. And, in keeping with tradition, the Santa Fe High School FFA Chapter was on hand to assist as guests helped themselves to the choice aged controlled steaks, loaded potato casserole, salad and dessert.

A number of county-wide politicians mingled in the crowd as well as city leaders, Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson, Jr., and Alachua Chief of Police Jesse Sandusky. When the doors opened to the main hall, guests were welcomed by Alachua Lions Club President Jeremy Thomas. The Pledge of Allegiance ceremony was led by Lions Club District Governor Charlie Largen, the traditional singing of “God Bless America” was led by Alachua Lions Club member Bill Johnson, and the invocation was led by Alachua Lions Club member Gladys McMillan.

Former City of Alachua Commissioner Ben Boukari, Jr., served as Master of Ceremony and offered good natured jokes, many directed at attending guests, who took it all in stride as an appreciative audience laughed.

A special recognition paid tribute to longtime Alachua Lions Club member Ralph Cellon as he was presented with the Lions Club International Melvin Jones Progressive award by Lions Club member Gunter Hirsch. This year’s Cattleman of the Year award went to Edward W. Jennings (Ed), IFAS County Extension Director and Extension Agent.

The books are closed on this year’s Alachua Lions Club Cattlemen’s Banquet, but it will undoubtably be back next year for another rendition of good food and good times for a good cause.

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NEWBERRY ‒ One local business will be receiving a $13,872 refund from the City of Newberry. The action was taken at the March 27 City Commission meeting to reimburse Newberry Town Center Fitness Center (Because It Matters). A resolution approved in 2019 provided a method that for development fees to be refunded to Commercial developers. The resolution approved at that time (Resolution 2020-29) provided criteria for refunds of commercial development fees up to a maximum of $30,000 per project, based on meeting three primary criteria. This action was taken in an effort to encourage commercial economic development in the city.

“The City has received a qualified development fee refund application that is complete and ready for evaluation and award,” said Newberry Planning and Economic Development Director Bryan Thomas.

In order to meet the criteria, the applicant must build in the Florida Vernacular Architectural Style, create new jobs and create capital investment. According to Thomas the NTC Fitness Center is designed substantially in the Florida Vernacular Style, has created a total of 14 full and part time jobs and provided capital investment in the project at $800,000.

The current budgeted amount per year for this program is $50,000, but Mayor Jordan Marlowe said he believes the Commission should increase that amount during this year’s budget cycle.

In other City business, the Commission approved the final plat for Lakota subdivision. The site consists of 45 +/- acres and is located at the northwest corner of Southwest 15th Avenue and Southwest 170th Street. Planned are 15 lots at an average density of one dwelling unit per three acres which is consistent with the special exception approval of a small-scale rural subdivision. Construction plans were approved by the City Commission on Feb. 27.

In other business, the mayor will assume duties of chair of the Board of Adjustment (BOA) as Ordinance 2023-19 was approved on first reading. Previously, the BOA members elected their chair and Pro-Tempore. Between this hearing of the ordinance and second reading, the Commission asked that the Pro-Tempore designation be changed in the ordinance to be the same person as the City Commission’s Pro-Tempore.

In other matters, the Commission changed the appointment schedule for the Planning & Zoning (PZ) and Historic Architectural Review Boards (HARB) to mirror the election cycle of the City Commission to a two-year cycle and to assign the ex officio (nonvoting) mayor position to act as the chair of each board.

Unchanged from the current practice, each PZ Board member will automatically also serve as a member of the HARB and two additional HARB members may be appointed by the Commission to fill the need for a specific area of expertise. Under this plan, the current PZ and HARB members would serve the balance of their current appointments without interruption.

Turning to other business, the Commission considered establishing a Newberry Historic Society to help property owners maintain their historic properties so they don’t fall into disrepair as the recently considered house on church property across from City Hall. Mayor Jordan Marlowe said he believes the group should have some affiliation with the City. Commissioner Tim Marden said he would like to see one person from the Commission and one person from staff involved in the group. Peggy Loy said she has had requests for a walking tour and believes this aspect could be part of the Historic Society. Marlowe said he would work with Thomas on a suggested program for Commission consideration.

Items not on the agenda were briefly mentioned at the end of the meeting. Those items included establishing the most efficient way to get roads paved, requesting School Board members consider additional schools for the Jonesville area residents, April 1 Newberry High School Prom and Spring Festival, lowering speed limits or establishing speed bumps to slow traffic, consideration of lowering impact fee amounts and adding to solar farm buffer zones.

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Photo by VIVIAN ARNDT/Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe congratulates Oak Hill Middle School students Dylan Lamb and Aurora Aguero on winning nationals in the VEX IQ Robotics Competition and qualifying to go on to international competition in April.

NEWBERRY ‒ Spring is in the air and so are the festivals that celebrate them. This weekend it was the Newberry Main Street Organization’s 2023 Spring Festival that brought the people out in full force.

“We are thrilled with the turnout this year,” said Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe. “Just this year we have doubled the number of vendors participating in our festival.”

Tents stretched as far as the eye could see down Seaboard Drive, the smell of BBQ beckoned and the mood was lighthearted. In addition to the many booths showcasing crafts, woodwork, jewelry, and plants, there was a big focus on activities. Camel rides, pony rides, a petting zoo, and a children’s train delighted young and old alike and provided many picture-worthy moments.

Two bands, The Hogtown Slayers Band and Midnight Blue, kept the crowd entertained under a huge spreading oak offering shade from the warm sunny weather. This event was from 9-4 and if you missed it, keep your eye on The Newberry Main Street Organization website for more events in the future at

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Photo by VIVIAN ARNDT/Artists from Scotland begin projecting images on to walls on the first night of painting.

HIGH SPRINGS ‒ High Springs has a colorful and blended past. Unlike the small peaceful town of today, known for its antiques and springs, the town was once a major shipping hub. Prolific phosphate mines dotted the region, as well as row crops such as watermelon and tobacco, all waiting to be exported. This led to a large and mighty railroad presence. The manpower required to work the rails and run the trains contributed to the building of boarding houses, bars, and even a two-story hospital for the burgeoning population, all before the turn of the century.

The Beginning

Time marches on, and in this present-day era of great growth, the close-knit community of High Springs looked for a way to honor its history by incorporating the stories of the past into its present and future. The means to do this became the telling of stories, through a series of murals painted on walls throughout the town. Murals that are not only scenic but specifically designed to tell the story of how High Springs came to be, artfully weaving history into the modern day and the town's reputation, as both a gateway to the springs and a destination point for those seeking small locally-owned specialty shops, carrying unique one-of-a-kind items.

This project was five years in the making, involving a tireless commitment to not just the project itself, but to the stories that were waiting to be told. Beginning Wednesday, March 22 through Sunday, March 26, artists from all over the world came to town, some camping, some staying in local bed and breakfasts and motels, and some enjoying the hospitality of host families. After a welcome dinner, the great paint-out began.

The Painting

As the sun set, the artists perched high in the air on scaffolds, carefully stenciled the artwork being projected upon the wall. Over the next four days, 150 artists painted the stenciled walls on 11 separate murals. Murals telling the stories of the indigenous early people, the first settlers, civic leaders, the railroad, and the springs.   Along with the art appearing on the walls, personal stories began to emerge, such as the story of The High Springs Speedway, a great local event at which records in racing were set in the 1960s. Delores Barber, age 94, and her husband founded the Speedway and she got to see it come back to life on a wall, as well as meet the artist, Sam Sanfilippo from Pinson, Alabama who painted it. “It is moments like these that mean the most to us as artists<” Sanfilippo said. “Making a difference and a connection through art.”

Artists took breaks from painting, stealing small moments of time to enjoy the atmosphere and the cuisine generously supplied for them by local restaurants and businesses. Doug Hancock, the Project Coordinator of this weekend's event said, “I deeply appreciate that the community of High Springs has come together with such love for the visiting artists ‒ the artists tell me they definitely felt that love from the community.”

Festival on the Green

Like draws like, and local artists from the area also set up their art under tents for the public to see and purchase, creating a “Festival on the Green” on the grassy space where the railroad tracks used to be. The festive atmosphere was further enhanced by a car show and strolling musicians for the enjoyment of the crowds that came out to witness the “Walldogs Dive into High Springs” event.

This was the first time the Walldogs organization has ever done an event in Florida, one which might not have ever happened without the chance meeting of local High Springs resident Nancy Lavin and Hancock of Alachua, who happened to be a Walldog himself. That sidewalk conversation five years ago led to the formation of “The Heart of High Springs,”, a non-profit organization that raised donations for this event. “This is a project of the heart for sure, and it is wonderful to see it unfolding now,” said Lavin.

The weekend event has passed. The scaffolds are gone, and the paintbrushes have been washed and packed away, but the inevitable camaraderie that results in the coming together of people united in a common creative event, remains.

Artists from four countries and all over the U.S., as far west as Oregon and as far north as Pennsylvania, have boarded their respective planes and headed home, hopefully, enriched by knowing the profound impact they leave behind. Their tireless hours of talent, which they donated free of charge, are left to tell the unique character of this small town for years to come.

Ross Ambrose, treasurer of “The Heart of High Springs” said, "It was so nice to see the opportunities for local businesses and individuals who stepped up in huge ways to make this possible, as well as volunteers on every level. I am so proud to have been a part of this.”

As for local residents, they have new friendships with these artists who welcomed them to paint alongside, and who they shared meals and conversations with for these all-too-brief few days. They also have the distinction of being the first town in Florida to host a Walldogs mural event.

High Springs made history this weekend by telling its history.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ City Commissioners voted to revise language in the Utility District ordinance, heard on first reading during the March 9 meeting, to remove the requirement that property owners along County Road 236 hook up to City water and sewer lines. This action was in response to rumors that the City of High Springs is attempting to force CR 236 residential property owners to hook up at a cost that one woman said would be $12,000 - $15,000.

The proposed ordinance change removes the requirement that residential property owners hook up to City utility lines.

City Manager Ashley Stathatos and Assistant City Manager Bruce Gillingham stressed that even if residential property owners’ septic tanks failed, the County Health Department would not require those property owners to mandatorily hook up to City lines.

“Connection is voluntary for any property owner who would like to hook up. However, multi-family [apartment complexes] and commercial uses are required to connect and abide by the City’s ordinances as they pertain to water and wastewater,” Stathatos said.

This proposed ordinance was put forth primarily for discussion and direction to staff to include the proposed changes in the Utility District ordinance, scheduled for discussion at the April 13 Commission meeting.

Alcohol Sales

The Commission considered lifting of restrictions on off-premises package sales and on-premises consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Concerns expressed by citizens included an increase in drunk drivers, crashes, DUI arrests, deaths on the roadways and drunks stumbling through people’s yards and vomiting, etc.

Reasons to consider the change included restaurants serving Sunday brunch to be able to serve mimosas and other alcoholic beverages, people going to the springs would be able to buy beer at Winn Dixie and other jiffy stores rather than driving to Alachua to buy alcohol, increased support for small businesses in the city and increased traffic for business owners on Sundays.

Following discussion Police Chief Antoine Sheppard was asked to consult with Alachua’s police department and other policing agencies to determine if there is an increase in crime or drunk driving because of relaxed alcohol sales. No decision was made on this issue at this meeting.

Solid Waste

In an about face, the Commission has rescinded a resolution which approved the termination of the solid waste franchise agreement with GFL Solid Waste Southeast LLC, opting instead to approve Resolution 2023-E authorizing the City Manager to execute an Agreement to mutually terminate the solid waste franchise agreement between the City and GFL.

The termination date of the agreement is May 1, 2023. The parties agree that GFL shall retrieve all their carts, containers, bins and dumpsters on or before May 7.


The City received a resignation from Plan Board member John Walsh, creating a vacant seat set to expire in 2024. An application was received from Richard “Mark” Bertocci for the seat, and the Commission appointed him to fill the vacant position.

The Commission also voted to appoint former City Commissioner Sue Weller as liaison to the High Springs Chamber of Commerce. In the past, other commissioners had appointed themselves as liaison. However, this is the first time the Commission formally appointed an individual to the position.


The Equal Justice Initiative, “EJI”, Community Remembrance Project, collaborates with communities to memorialize documented victims of racial violence and foster meaningful dialogue about race and justice. The High Springs Subcommittee Chairperson Veloria Kelly provided an overview of the organization and what they are doing.

Kelly invited City Commissioners, staff and citizens to participate in a Soil Collection Ceremony at 10 a.m. on April 22 at Catherine Taylor Park, 18100 Douglas Street. She also explained that they are looking for quilters to help work on Remembrance Quilts. Anyone interested in either of these projects or participation in any EJI events can contact her online at

Other City Business

In other City business, edits to the Commission Orientation Guide were discussed briefly. Gillingham said this was something that had been started earlier, but went by the wayside as other important issues were addressed. This is an attempt to get this back on the front burner to help incoming City Commissioners understand how the City operates.

Discussion on providing sponsorship money to the High Springs Robotics Team ended with a vote to provide $2,500 to the group out of the Commission’s Promotional Activities line item. The money will go towards the team’s participation in an invitational competition in Long Beach, California. To date $14,250 in donations has been raised for the trip.

Commissioners were asked to provide a list of items they would like to have included on the April 20 agenda for the joint meeting between the City and Alachua County Board of County Commissioners.

Commissioner Byran Williams announced they had 28 volunteers for the recent Farm Share distribution in High Springs. They fed 331 households and 1,121 individuals during that event.

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ALACHUA ‒ Perfect weather and a full schedule of baseball drew crowds to Alachua's Hal Brady Recreation Complex on Saturday for the Babe Ruth 37TH Opening Day Jamboree. Seven games were played at Hal Brady, and one at Copeland, from Tball up to Seniors division. The aroma of BBQ, the crack of bat on ball and clouds of spring pollen were all in the air as parents, fans and children gathered to celebrate America's favorite pastime.

Dignitaries present for the opening ceremony were Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper, Vice Mayor Jennifer Blalock, and Commissioners Shirley Green Brown, and Dayna Miller were joined by Chief of Police Jesse Sandusky, City Manager Mike DaRoza, Parks and Rec Director Damon Messina and Finance Director: Rob Bonetti. City of High Springs dignitaries included Mayor Gloria James, Chief of Police: Antoine Sheppard and Assistant City Manager: Bruce Gillingham. Also present were Santa Fe Babe Ruth Board members and special guests Santa Fe High School Junior Varsity and Varsity Baseball.

High Springs Boy Scouts Troop #69 served as Color Guard and Rachael Goll of Canvas Church sang the National Anthem. Preston Howell offered the invocation.

Getting the games underway, the ceremonial First Pitch was thrown by Hall Brady, Alachua’s former recreation director, to catcher Lucas Moore.

The Hal Brady Award was presented by Will Moore to recipient Paul Buchner.

Teams were sponsored by Alachua Plumbing, Rosenboom Construction, El Toro, Q&D Painting, Stellar Services, Lawful Defense, North Florida Buildings, Piesanos, SIMED Health, Rex and Brody Foundation, Gemini Water, Drummond Realty, Keim Clearing LLC, Keim Clearing LLC, Digestive Disease Associates, Campus Scooters, and Gator Drain.

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