Sun02012015

Last updateWed, 28 Jan 2015 11pm

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ATV benefits law enforcement

ATV 2

SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today

The City of Waldo bought this ATV Polaris with drug bust funds.

WALDO – The City of Waldo turned drug forfeiture dollars into a $9,500 red Polaris 500 All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) to help them monitor the back roads and wooded areas of their rural community. Waldo Police Chief Mike Szabo explained that they used these funds to purchase the vehicle in May 2011 and the two-seater has remained a very useful law enforcement tool.

On any given day you might see the red patrol vehicle parked in between brick buildings, tucked away and out of sight.

“Sometimes CSX Railroad will contact us and ask us to patrol their railroad tracks,” he said. “When we have to go back in the woods to areas impassible by other vehicles, this is what we take. We have used it during Click It or Ticket campaigns, along tree lined areas and trails, and sometimes along sidewalks next to parked vehicles,” he said.

In addition, the Alachua Police Department has borrowed it to use during their recent July 4th event.

“We send someone along from our department,” said Szabo, “but their department finds it useful to get into places where there is standing traffic or where normal patrol vehicles cannot go.”

The Polaris has been used by Alachua County and by Lake City during the Olustee Festival and Battle Reenactment in February.

The vehicle is something Szabo says their small city could never have afforded on their own, “but it has been really useful in a number of situations,” he said. “We are pleased to have it.”

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Taking back Turkey Creek

Developer wants other locals to revive golf course, initiate recovery

ALACHUA – A tee shot straight down the middle of the fairway will still put you in the rough at the Turkey Creek Golf Course in Alachua.

The once proud golf course community has seen their course of lush greens turn into a much thicker, unplayable course of lush untamed foliage since the closing of the golf course more than three years ago.

The gated community of 1,000 homes on U.S. Highway 441 has watched property values plummet over the last several years and some residents are fed up. One resident in particular said he has had enough and plans to lead the community in an effort to revitalize the property.

John Tingue is the man with the plan. A retired father of six and grandfather of 10, Tingue has been a resident of the Turkey Creek Community since 1997 and said he is ready to take a stand with the help of fellow Turkey Creek resident Forest Hope.

“We’re a wounded, but we’re not a defeated community,” Tingue said.

Tingue’s group, the Turkey Creek Member’s Club (TCMC), hosted five invitation-only meetings with the Turkey Creek Master Owner’s Association, the Alachua City Commission and the Alachua County Commission about its plan to restore Turkey Creek. The TCMC now plans to host a community meeting at 7 p.m. on July 29 at Cavalry Baptist Church located at 13920 NW U.S. Highway 441 in Alachua to discuss the plan with the Turkey Creek community as well as other interested parties.

“We have a whole new concept, a whole new plan for our community,” Tingue said. “We’re hungry for recovery.”

If the plan comes to fruition, Turkey Creek Golf and Country Club will acquire the property by Oct. 1, 2014, become the Turkey Creek Members Club and have a grand opening by June 2015.

“It’s less about the product and more about the people,” Tingue said.

In the presentation, Tingue shows the property value of two homes inside the community built in 2009: one for $305,000 and the other for $448,000. Over the last five years, the home’s values have dropped by $56,000 and $99,000, or 18 percent and 22 percent respectively.

One misconception Tingue wants cleared up is that Turkey Creek may be gated, but it is not a private community and the rejuvenation of the community will benefit more than just those living within the gates.

“There’s a lot of people today that want to have a facility to bring their families and friends to dine, to play golf, to go to the pool, play tennis,” Tingue said. “So outside of our community […] there was a huge interest [in the Turkey Creek Community].”

The TCMC has set up a website, FixUsFirst.org, for those interested in learning more about the plan or interested in becoming members.

“Whether it’s somebody that just wants to volunteer from $15 a month to somebody that wants to be a financial partner, which we’re seeking 10 of, which is $200,000,” Tingue said.

Alachua City Commissioner Ben Boukari, Jr., said that the City of Alachua will try to help the TCMC any way it can to get Turkey Creek back to where it needs to be.

“We’ve got to look at ways to see how we can help them,” Boukari said. “We’ve just got to be creative and look for ways to support them.”

Boukari, who has seen the TCMC presentation, said he likes the plan Tingue and Hope have in place for the future of Turkey Creek.

“I think it’s fantastic, I think it’s exciting, […] I spoke to Forest Hope several weeks ago and John Tingue and they were just saying ‘you know, look, we can’t wait for someone to come buy this course. We can’t let it go any further or any longer just sitting there, we’ve got to do something ourselves,’” Boukari said. “I think it’s a great plan and you know I’ve been around that golf course, I worked there back when I was in high school.”

Boukari also acknowledged that the success of Turkey Creek could have a large impact on the rest of Alachua.

“They’re 33 percent of our population, they’re part of our community, they make up our community,” Boukari said. “They’re our school teachers, and our students, and our shoppers, our business owners. Turkey Creek is Alachua.”

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City emergency communications costs $114k more than county services

HIGH SPRINGS – If High Springs shut down their emergency communications center and contracted with the Alachua County Combined Communications Center (CCC) for those services, it would likely save the city over $114,000 annually.

During an earlier presentation of the city’s proposed 2014/2015 budget, which included the costs associated with continuing to maintain emergency communication services locally, Commissioner Scott Jamison asked to see a comparison of what the budget figures would be if the city was to have the county provide those services.

During the July 24 commission meeting, those figures were provided to commissioners and showed a reduction in expenses of $114,715.

The topic of maintaining services locally or contracting with the county to take over emergency communications has come up off and on during the year. The last time it arose, commissioners agreed to postpone further discussion until budget planning for 2014/2015 to allow time for actual costs to be calculated.

According to High Springs City Manager Ed Booth, the cost of eliminating local communications services can be viewed in two categories. Information technology expenses would be reduced by $10,000 and police communications expenses would be reduced by $104,715, for a total reduction in city costs of $114,715.

The cost of having Alachua County take over those services again would be based on the number of calls handled by the CCC multiplied by the percentage of the population. Looking at the previous contract the city had with the county, the city was charged 60 percent per 1,000,000 citizens, based on a population of fewer than 6,000 residents.

The last year the county provided communication service to High Springs, which was 2012, costs were approximately $80,000, said Booth.

Concern has been expressed that if the city eliminated the service locally and engaged the CCC again, the county's costs to the city for those services would escalate when the population increases to 6,000. City Hall estimates a current High Springs population of 5,494 residents. However, it is unknown at this time how or if a population increase would affect costs for future CCC services.

Commissioner Bob Barnas said that all the signs in the city would have to be replaced to accommodate E-911 addressing if the county handled emergency calls for the city. He suggested the cost for all of that be built into whatever figures the county might charge to handle emergency calls for the city.

Actually, that is not the case, said Keith Godwin, Alachua County Director of E-911 Services and a resident of High Springs. “The signs are fine just as they are,” he said. “The county handles calls for the city's fire department and ambulance services without any problem right now. It would be no different for other emergency services,” he said.

Booth commented that he had been asked to provide both sets of budget figures, which he did. He also said he had already budgeted local emergency communications services into next year's budget.

“At this time, that's all I've been asked to do,” he said. “Unless a majority of the commissioners want me to do something else and give me further direction, that's where things stand,” he said.

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Local leader elected to lead power agency

ORLANDO – Managers and public officials from municipal electric utilities throughout Florida elected six of their own to lead a statewide power agency in 2014-2015. Elections for the Florida Municipal Power Agency’s Board of Directors and All-Requirements Project Executive Committee took place at the Agency’s annual meeting held on July 18 in Naples, Fla.

Members of FMPA re-elected Newberry Mayor Bill Conrad as Chairman of the Board of Directors for 2014-2015. This is his second term as Chairman. He previously served one term as Treasurer and has served on FMPA’s Board of Directors and FMPA’s Executive Committee since 2009.

Homestead Public Services Director of Electric Utilities Barbara Quiñones was re-elected Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors. She was first elected to fill an unexpired term as Vice Chairman in January 2014, and she has served on FMPA’s Board since 2009.

William Thiess, Director of Utilities for Fort Pierce Utilities Authority, was re-elected Treasurer. This is his second term as Treasurer. Thiess was appointed as his city’s alternate to FMPA’s Board of Directors in 2006 and as a member of the Board in 2012. He was also appointed as an alternate to the Executive Committee in 2006 and as a member of the Committee in 2012.

Lynne Tejeda, General Manager and CEO of Keys Energy Services, was re-elected Secretary. This is her second term as Secretary. She was appointed as her utility’s alternate to FMPA’s Board of Directors in 2005 and as a member of the Board in 2013. She has served on the Executive Committee since 2005. She is also Chair of FMPA’s Conservation and Renewable Energy Advisory Committee, of which she is a founding member.

FMPA’s Board of Directors makes policy decisions for the power supply projects of FMPA, except the All-Requirements Project. Each of FMPA’s 31 members appoints one representative to the Board of Directors, and Board officers are elected by popular vote of the members.

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LaCrosse to see road, pedestrian improvements

LACROSSE – Three Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) projects are expected to impact LaCrosse residents beginning in late 2015 or early 2016. The first is a 6-mile resurfacing project from LaCrosse to the Union County line, which is currently slated to begin fall 2015. Preliminary cost estimates for this project are in the vicinity of $3.25 million.

Another resurfacing project beginning at U.S. Highway 441 in Gainesville and continuing approximately 9 1⁄2 miles to LaCrosse on SR 221 is slated to begin in spring 2016. Preliminary cost estimates for this project are in the vicinity of $3.89 million.

While both projects are needed and will greatly enhance the safety of traffic and pedestrians along S.R. 221, the project that will have the most direct impact to the town's residents is part of the Transportation Alternatives Program. Project information was available to the public at an open house held July 14 at LaCrosse Town Hall.

At the meeting, FDOT representatives proposed enhancements which would add a new sidewalk to connect to an existing sidewalk and provide for the installation of pedestrian lighting on both sides of the roadway from N.W. 202nd Place to just south of the CSX railroad crossing. Welcome signs at both ends of town were also included in the project description.

Residents were encouraged to review the proposed plans, ask questions of FDOT staff and provide input into the project, which is currently scheduled to begin in early 2016. Project costs are estimated to be $971,000.

The enhancement project has been a long time in coming. Mayor Dianne Dubberly submitted an application for project funding to Alachua County in 2001.

“Eventually, our project worked its way up to the top of the list as other projects were scheduled to be completed,” said

Dubberly. Once the project reached that point, the county turned it over to FDOT to add to their project list.

“We are about half-way through their [FDOT's] 5-year plan,” said Dubberly. “I feel confident that this project will be completed as scheduled.”

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