ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ A fire erupted on I-75 as a semi car hauler, laden with vehicles, became engulfed in flames, bringing traffic to a grinding halt and sending plumes of smoke billowing into the sky.

Units from Alachua County Fire Rescue and High Springs Fire Department responded to a commercial vehicle fire on I-75 at the 398-mile marker southbound at about 10:45 a.m. on March 20, 2024. Also assisting were units from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Highway Patrol.

Units arrived to find a semi tractor pulling a car hauling trailer with heavy fire involving the trailer and multiple vehicles being carried.

The truck’s operator was able to separate the tractor from the trailer, limiting damage to the trailer and the vehicles being hauled. The trailer and three of the vehicles sustained heavy damage and one vehicle sustained minor damage, but no injuries were reported.

The I-75 southbound exit was closed at exit 399 and vehicles were rerouted around the area. Authorities reported that the incident prompted authorities to shut down several lanes of the interstate, diverting traffic onto alternate routes for approximately one hour to allow for operations and the clearing of debris. Fire rescue units responding to the scene included two fire engines, two water tankers and one District Chief.

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STARKE - Bradford County School District was awarded $4 million by Gov. Ron DeSantis to support expanding Santa Fe College’s Associate in Science in Nursing (ASN) program into Bradford County.

The “Bradford: Building a Healthy Future,” initiative was among nearly $223 million in projects funded by the Governor on Feb. 2, 2024, through the federally supported Multipurpose Community Facilities Program. The program provides for the construction and rehabilitation of community facilities for workforce development, educational opportunities and access to healthcare in small and rural communities for Floridians.

Bradford County received the maximum award. It was among 29 projects funded across the state, including community centers, health clinics, schools and workforce development programs serving 18 counties.

The school district’s collaboration with Santa Fe College will increase access to healthcare education in Bradford County as well as access to healthcare for county residents by addressing nursing shortages experienced locally and across the U.S.

“Nurses are an indispensable part of an effective health care system, and both locally and nationally, there is a need for trained, qualified nursing professionals,” Santa Fe College President Dr. Paul Broadie II said. “We are excited to partner with North Florida Technical College on this transformational opportunity to address the nursing shortage, while providing the citizens of Bradford County easier access to the training needed to enter this in-demand field.”

The program will be located at the school district’s North Florida Technical College in Starke. The award will allow NFTC to renovate, upgrading space for the nursing classroom, lab and office space, as well as the purchase of equipment. The award also supports remote instruction.

The program, which anticipates launching in 2026-27, will allow students to earn their Associate in Science degree in Nursing without having to travel to Santa Fe College’s Northwest Campus in Gainesville. Graduates from Santa Fe College’s program will have the opportunity to earn high paying jobs. The average pay for Registered Nurses is $71,922 annually.

The collaboration with Bradford County complements the college’s efforts to expand nursing education, including the Nursing ANEW program launched in 2022, which provides instruction on nights and weekends for working professionals.

“We are excited to continue to expand our partnership with Santa Fe College,” Will Harley, Bradford County Superintendent of Schools, said. “The ASN program will be a valuable bridge for our students at North Florida Technical College to continue their education and pursue jobs that provide a higher wage.

“I am so appreciative of all of those who worked on this grant to increase the opportunities to our community. We will be working hard to complete the necessary renovations so that the program can start as soon as possible.” 

“Bradford: Building a Healthy Future,” also includes support for the proposed telehealth access space for Bradford County students and citizens, increasing access to healthcare and fitness.

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NEWBERRY ‒ In a bid to strengthen community safety and enhance law enforcement accessibility, a new Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) precinct has opened in the heart of Newberry at 22211 W Newberry Road.

The local precinct aims to provide a centralized hub for law enforcement activities. The new location will facilitate quicker response times and increased vigilance in the area.

Additionally, residents will have the opportunity to engage with ACSO officers in a more informal setting, fostering open dialogue and mutual understanding, helping law enforcement better understand the needs and priorities of the community. Community engagement also plays a pivotal role in the fight against crime, as trust and cooperation are strengthened, residents are empowered to play an active role in crime prevention.

ACSO Sheriff Emery Gainey expressed enthusiasm about the inauguration of the new precinct, emphasizing its role in amplifying the presence of law enforcement within the community.

In a statement issued by ACSO, Gainey said, “ACSO is proud to partner with the City of Newberry - Government, and Ultimate Boat & RV Storage for our fourth precinct in the county. We look forward to building a stronger community that benefits all citizens.”

The precinct officially opened on Wednesday, March 27, 2024. The new precinct comes shortly after the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office opening another precinct in Gainesville’s Butler Plaza in January and one in Hawthorne in December 2023.

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ALACHUA ‒ On March 26, 2024, the Alachua Lions Club celebrated the 84th Cattlemen’s Banquet, holding its largest charity fundraiser of the year to a packed house at Valley View, just outside of Alachua.

The evening's program featured an array of entertainment, including a live music performance, a silent auction and the Cattleman of the Year award.

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.

When the doors opened to the main hall, guests were welcomed by Club President Paul Good. The Pledge of Allegiance ceremony was led by Lions Club District Governor Tony Esposito, the traditional singing of “God Bless America” was led by Alachua Lions Club member Bill Johnson, and the invocation was led by club President Good.

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.

Entertainment for the evening was provided by Newberry native and former UF graduate and football player Jimmy Getzen. Getzen was introduced by Lions Club President Paul Good along with longtime friend and former UF teammate Fred Abbott. Throughout his performance, Getzen took the opportunity to share personal anecdotes and insights. And his up-tempo vocals accompanied by guitar and frequent audience interactions were a hit with the crowd.

Alachua Lions Club2Web Inset

Alachua Lions Club Perry WebThis year’s Cattleman of the Year award went to Samual Pratt Perry, posthumously. Perry was an African American cowboy born and raised in Alachua County. The award recognizes Perry for his contributions to the cattle industry. The award was accepted by his two sons.

An event of this size takes months of planning as well as coordinating support from 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 the 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.

The curtains have come down on this year’s Alachua Lions Club Cattlemen’s Banquet, but it will undoubtably be back for the 85th such event of good food and good times for a good cause.

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ALACHUA ‒ In an effort to protect citizens from falling victim to a scam, the Alachua Police Department (APD) is issuing a warning to the Alachua community regarding individuals impersonating officers and falsely claiming that individuals have outstanding warrants for their arrest. These imposters are demanding immediate payment through various means via transfers, gift cards, or bitcoin to settle these fictitious warrants.

The scam typically involves fraudsters posing as law enforcement officers contacting individuals via phone calls or emails. They use tactics aimed at creating a sense of urgency and fear, informing the targets that they have warrants for their arrest due to various reasons, such as unpaid fines or missed court appearances. To avoid imminent arrest, the scammers instruct victims to make immediate payments to resolve the warrants.

Legitimate law enforcement officials will never demand personal information or payment over the phone and will always provide proper identification when conducting in-person visits.

In a statement issued by APD on April 2, 2024, Chief Jesse Sandusky said, “Please be aware that the Alachua Police Department will not contact you by phone to inform you of a warrant for your arrest, nor will we ask for payment over the phone or through unconventional methods like gift cards or bitcoin.”

Authorities emphasize that these communications are entirely fraudulent, and individuals should not comply with any demands for payment. Legitimate law enforcement agencies do not request payment over the phone or through unconventional methods like gift cards or cryptocurrency.

APD advises that if you receive such a call, do not provide any personal or financial information. Hang up immediately and report the incident to APD at 386-462-1396.

Authorities are calling on residents to help spread awareness of these scams, especially to vulnerable populations who may be more susceptible to manipulations by these impostors.

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ALACHUA ‒ The Alachua Commission Chamber was standing room only on March 25, 2024, as parents and friends of Irby Elementary students came to witness a presentation of certificates.

In a display of creativity, Alachua’s City Hall foyer was transformed into a colorful gallery showcasing the imaginative works of young artists from Irby Elementary School.


The artwork, created by students in Mrs. Chapov and Mrs. Fischer's 1st grade classes, was in recognition of January’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.


As each student’s name was announced, the child walked to the front of the commission chambers to receive his or her Art Certificate from Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper.

After the last child was awarded, all the young artists and the City Commission posed for a group photograph as parents proudly took pictures of the memorable event.

Organized by the Deputy City Clerk’s Office in collaboration with local schools, Art in City Hall aims to highlight the importance of arts education in fostering self-expression and imagination among young learners.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The Newberry City Commission on Feb. 26, 2024, approved a number of land-related ordinances. The Commission unanimously approved a large-scale change to the future Land Use Map on 161 +/- acres owned by Whitehurst Cattle Company from Alachua County Rural/Agriculture to City of Newberry Agriculture. The property is located east of County Road 337/Southwest 282nd Street.

This matter was earlier approved by the Newberry City Commission on first reading, and the amendment was forwarded to the Florida Department of Commerce for review. The state offered no comments or changes to the proposed action which allows the City to consider it on second reading.

The zoning change aligns the existing and proposed uses with City of Newberry zoning districts and changes the zoning to Agriculture, which allows one dwelling unit on five acres of land.

Zoning Change - Marlowe

Also unanimously approved by the Commission were two actions related to three parcels of land annexed into the City owned by Herbert A. Marlowe, Jr. The first was a Future Land Use Map classification amendment to the Comprehensive Plan from Alachua County Rural/Agriculture to City of Newberry, Agriculture on 29 +/- acres of land.

The second action aligns the existing and proposed uses with the appropriate City of Newberry zoning districts and changes the zoning to Agriculture, which allows one dwelling unit on five acres of land.

Zoning Change to CI

The Commission approved on first reading a small-scale Future Land Use Plan Map amendment changing 3.67 acres from Agriculture to Commercial. The property, owned by Intellectual Partners LLC, is located on the south side of West Newberry Road/State Road 26 and partially bordering the west side of Southwest 218th Street.

Intellectual Partners LLC recently purchased the property and also owns All Florida Enterprises, a fence installation supply company, which is leasing its current location about a half mile to the west of the property on SR 26. Plans are to move the business to the new site.

In a second related action on the same property at 21831 West Newberry Road, the Commission approved rezoning from Agricultural (A) to Commercial, Intensive (CI). CHW’s Gerry Dedenbach, representing Intellectual Partners LLC, addressed concerns regarding spot zoning and other aspects of CI zoning. He said that other businesses planning to locate in this industrial park area would be required obtain a special use permit from the City of Newberry. This matter will come before the Commission again for second reading.

Abandoning Alleyways

Commissioners unanimously approved first reading of an amendment to the downtown plat addition, providing for closing, abandoning, releasing and vacating of public alleyways as part of the plat entitled Original Newberry Chapman and White’s Addition. This amendment affects a series of downtown plats found in Ordinance 25-14.

The next Newberry City Commission meeting is scheduled for March 11.

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