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ALACHUA and NEWBERRY – Two local cities displayed reservations regarding the County’s proposed amendments to its stormwater regulations at their respective commission meetings Monday, Aug. 22.

The Alachua City Commission heard an extended presentation from engineering consultant Rory Causseax of Causseax, Hewett and Walpole (CHW) that highlighted many issues CHW had with the County’s proposed Advanced Stormwater Treatment Design Manual, while the Newberry City Commission unanimously passed a resolution in opposition to the suggested changes.

“I’m happy to support our resolution along with nine other city managers within the County,” said Newberry Commissioner Tim Marden. “I believe when the DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] came to us before, there certainly was no negligible difference and impact on the stormwater…and I pointed out the fact that this only had to do with development and controlling development and controlling growth and had nothing to do with water.”

According to Causseax’s presentation in Alachua, the County’s stated purpose in proposing new stormwater requirements is in response to studies that have reported that current stormwater treatment requirements are insufficient in protecting groundwater from rising nitrogen levels.

High nitrogen levels directly impact water quality and can lead to overgrowth of algae.

“If there’s truth that nitrogen entering the groundwater shows up in a spring,” said Causseax, “then really the regulations we’re heading to now [state] we need to remove nitrogen to a level 25 times higher than is in the current regulations.”

Causseax noted, however, that the source of 73 percent of nitrogen found in the Santa Fe River stems from agriculture, such as with the use of fertilizer and presence of animal waste. Of the remaining nitrogen, 17 percent comes from septic tanks, nine percent from land development and only one percent from wastewater treatment plants.

“I make these points because really, the regulations the County is looking to propose regulate development,” Causseax said. “They do not regulate agriculture – agriculture is above that level of legislation – and they are not specifically regulating wastewater, as well. So the regulation that’s in play regulates what now is nine percent of the nitrogen loading to the Santa Fe River.”

Causseax also stated that the County’s proposals would impact even less than the nine percent of nitrogen coming from developments, as the proposals would not reduce nitrogen from existing developments but only impact new developments or redevelopment of existing sites.

Causseax said that, even despite the small amount of nitrogen that would be removed under the proposed County regulations, everyone wants clean water, but the cost of the County proposals was prohibitive. As a specific example, he stated that reduction of nitrogen from agricultural sources – if enforced by the State – would cost $1.03 per pound removed, while the County’s proposals would cost $4,989 per pound removed if applied to a Dollar General site located off Archer Road or $6,391 per pound removed if applied to the Oakmont Phase 2 development.

“What would be the effect if all new development in Alachua County fell under this regulation?” Causseax asked. “We might move the needle 1 percent, 2 percent. That’s moving in the right direction, but it’s not moving very fast, and if it were cost effective, one might could get behind it, but the exorbitant amount of cost makes it hard to understand that this is the only way we can get cleaner water.”

Alachua commissioners echoed Causseax’s concerns, as well as those mentioned by Newberry Commissioner Marden.

“It seems they’re [the County Commission] trying to rush this through quite a bit without the full knowledge of what this actually means,” said Mayor Gib Coerper. “We met with the new Suwannee River Water Management head, Mr. Noah, and I asked him the specific question if they were on board with this…and he said “No, not at all.”

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Alachua Pub Ser Ops GB IMG 1203

 

Photo special to Alachua County Today

 

City of Alachua elected officials and staff were joined be representatives from the construction and architect firms in turning the soil marking the official start of the project. L-R: Assistant City Manager Adam Boukari, City Manager Traci Gresham, Commissioner Gary Hardacre, Commissioner Ben Boukari, Jr., Vice Mayor Robert Wilford, Mayor Gib Coerper, Commissioner Shirley Green Brown, Concept Construction President Brian Crawford and Walker Architects Senior Designer Joe Walker.

 

ALACHUA – Construction began in August to ultimately combine the City of Alachua’s five public services divisions under one roof. Different divisions are currently housed separately, but often need to interact and communicate with each other directly.

When the new Alachua Public Services Operations Center is completed in July 2017, the facility will allow the divisions to be more efficient and provide a good home base for field personnel, say City administrators.

More than 30 personnel from the Water, Electric, Meter Reading, Facilities and Public Works Divisions will be housed in the facilities section, while main parts and infrastructure items will be located in the warehouse.

“We discussed this in our strategic planning meetings, and it's great to see it finally come to fruition,” said Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper. “They will have the materials, vehicles and equipment they need in one place, which should streamline their work considerably,” he said.

City Manager Traci Gresham agrees. “The facility is a great opportunity for the City to consolidate several operational locations that will encourage collaboration and realize operational efficiencies.”

The building, which will cost $4,026,911, is being built by Concept Construction, a Gainesville area builder. Walker Architects, another area business, designed the building.

“The new building will also be the primary facility for storm or disaster response for the City,” said Assistant City Manager Adam Boukari. “The city has in place very good response plans for storms or natural disasters. This facility will allow us to improve upon the plan and facilitate a more efficient response,” he said.

A Groundbreaking Ceremony took place on Thursday, Aug. 25, at the facility location, 13144 N.W. 104th Terrace, just off of U.S. Highway 441, in Alachua.

Mayor Gib Coerper, Alachua City Manager Traci Gresham, Boukari and Alachua City Commissioners were on hand to welcome various business leaders, members of area Chambers of Commerce, design and construction team members and interested members of the public.

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IBack to school Irby MG 1382  ALACHUA COUNTY – Students were back to the books, back to the buses and back to climbing the learning curve Monday morning  for the start of the 2016-2017   school year.
  While students may have prepped for a few days leading up to the start of school, teachers, administrators and the School Board have been at work for weeks and months in getting ready for and planning out the new year.
  Among the key dates on the calendar for this school year:
  Nov. 21 through 25 will mark the district’s Thanksgiving break;
  Dec. 19 through Jan. 2 will mark the winters break;
  March 20 through March 24 will be spring break; and
  June 2 will be the final day of classes.


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W - HS Park Picnic Table IMG 2545

HIGH SPRINGS – The City of High Springs has been working diligently to improve its parks and playground equipment for the past few years. Its efforts to obtain grants to help pay for those improvements are bearing fruit.

City grant writers have submitted grant requests to the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP) to help bring playgrounds and playground equipment up to a higher, safer standard in High Springs.

An FRDAP grant in the amount of $150,000 has been awarded to the City, along with a 25 percent match by High Springs, to create a handicapped accessible playground at the Civic Center.

“Although anyone can use the playground,” said City Manager Ed Booth, “it will be designed as a state of the art facility to better accommodate anyone with physical limitations.”

This playground will extend the recreation area at the Civic Park when it is completed.

Three other FRDAP grants in the amount of $50,000 each have been awarded to the City to improve playground equipment at the Civic Center Recreation Center and Park located on U.S. Hwy. 441 between Northwest Second Street and Fourth Street; Catherine Taylor Park, located adjacent to Lee's Preschool on Southeast Douglas Street between Adams and Taylor Avenue; and Walter Howard Park, located on Northwest 13 Street and Second Ave.

The only remaining task to bring the first two parks up to standard is some rubber matting, said Booth.

Walter Howard Park improvements have not been started.

“We still need to go out for bid on that park,” said Booth.

The Land and Recreation Grants staff administers grants to local governments through the FRDAP and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. These are competitive, reimbursement grant programs which provide financial assistance for acquisition or development of land for public outdoor recreation. Eligible participants include all county governments, municipalities in Florida and other legally constituted local governmental entities, with the responsibility for providing outdoor recreational sites and facilities for the general public.

In addition to the FRDAP grants, the City was also recently awarded Suwannee River Water Management District grants to improve the city’s centralized sewer and water systems.

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HA National Night OUt K New 6962

  HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs' National Night Out (NNO) was a major event for children and their families Tuesday, Aug. 2.  
Although the event was scheduled to run from 6 – 8 p.m., several hundred people began showing up at 5 p.m. and children's face painting had to be stopped at 8:30 p.m. due to lack of light.  
  “It was a great success,” said High Springs Police Department Sgt. Adam Joy, the event organizer.  “A lot more people came out this year.  The High Springs Country Inn donated 400 bottled water and Gatorade drinks, but we ran out and had to get more.”
  He estimated more than 500 people flocked to Citizen's Field to take part in NNO fun and games.
  According to the National Night Out website, this event is an “annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make neighborhoods safer, better places to live.”
  NNO is held the first Tuesday of August in neighborhoods across all 50 states, United States territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide.
“Several civic clubs, organizations and businesses donated time, money and effort to make this a memorable night for kids and their families,” said Joy.
Game booths were set up by the GFWC High Springs New Century Woman's Club and Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe with prizes awarded to participants.  The High Springs Masonic Lodge took photos and created free identification cards for kids.  Global Impact Charities gave away school supplies.
  Kids were treated to free hamburgers, hot dogs and buns provided by the High Springs Police Department, the Woman's Club and Winn-Dixie Supermarket.  The High Springs Fire Department and the High Springs Lions Club handled grilling duties.
Jumping Jack Bounce House and jumbo slide were provided by the High Springs Chamber of Commerce and were available for kids with energy to burn.  The Chamber also set up a coloring table for kids to color and play, while music was provided by Music in the Park's Michael Loveday.
  Gift certificates for raffle drawings were provided by Alice's Parkside Restaurant, Great Outdoors Restaurant and Pizza to Go.
Fire trucks and police cruisers were provided for kids to crawl through and see up close.
“All in all,” said Joy, “it was a great success and the kids really seemed to have a good time.”


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W - HS Linda Jones

HIGH SPRINGS –Linda Jones will fill High Springs City Commission Seat #3, previously held by Sue Weller.

Prior to the end of last Thursday's qualifying period end time of 6 p.m., Weller withdrew her name, thereby leaving Jones with no opposition and the City with no need for an election.

Most recently, Jones was active on the City's Charter Review Board, which she said rekindled her interest in the workings of her city. She also has been active in the Edgemoor Home Owners Association.

Formerly a Gainesville resident, Jones moved to High Springs with her husband nine years ago.

“I used to attend many of the city commission meetings until other family-related duties took up more of my time,” said Jones. “Now I'm excited to be able to be more active again. I guess the Charter Review Board got my juices flowing again. I had to do more background research in order to recommend changes to the Charter. It was very interesting and exciting for me.”

Jones said she has no particular agenda except to help the City of High Springs move along smoothly and progress in ways in which the citizens want to see their city grow.

Jones' work experience has been in Gainesville with two different engineering firms. She worked her way up through the ranks during her 15 years at CH2M Hill, followed by 20 years at Jones Edmunds.

Husband Bob Jones was a teacher at Gainesville High School for 37 years. Both are retired now and are enjoying living in High Springs along with her son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.

“I know I have big shoes to fill with Commissioner Weller stepping down from her seat,” said Jones. “I have never served as a commissioner before, but I think the City is doing a very good job and I'd like to be part of that.”

Jones will be sworn into office during the November reorganization meeting.

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Barnas 2Headshot

  HIGH SPRINGS – Legal fees assessed against former High Springs City Commissioner Robert J. Barnas continue to mount as Paul Regensdorf, attorney for Sharon Yeago, filed a motion for additional fees with the Florida Elections Commission (FEC).
  By a unanimous vote of the FEC Tuesday, Barnas was assessed an additional $68,720 in attorney's fees.  That amount brings the total owed to Yeago and her attorney to $116,596.95.
  The fees stem from a case in which Barnas originally filed a complaint against Yeago with the FEC on April 1, 2013.  Noting that Yeago was acting as spokesperson for Concerned Citizens for a Better High Springs, a group also known as Concerned Citizens, he filed it against her personally. 

  Barnas' original complaint charged that the group was formed to oppose a High Springs Charter amendment referendum and to support certain candidates running for commission seats in the Nov. 6, 2012 general election.  
  Barnas alleged at that time that such activity had violated various provisions of Chapter 106, Florida Statutes, since Concerned Citizens did not register as a political committee or appoint a treasurer, a registered agent, file reports of financial expenditures, nor keep records.
  The FEC summarily dismissed Barnas' original complaint against Yeago as being “legally insufficient” and, in July 2013, Yeago filed a counter petition against Barnas to attempt to recover attorney's fees and costs challenging Barnas' tactics in filing his original complaint.  
  Yeago argued in her counter petition that Barnas maliciously filed the complaint knowing that its allegations were false or that it was filed with reckless disregard for the truth.  
  Hearings were held in Tallahassee to consider Yeago's petition to be reimbursed for attorney's fees and expenses for the legally insufficient case brought by Barnas against her.  Following those hearings, Administrative Law Judge Diane Cleavinger wrote a detailed 27-page Recommended Order (RO) in support of Yeago's claim against Barnas and awarded $46,876.95 in attorney’s fees and costs.  
After receiving the RO ruling in Yeago's favor, Barnas submitted 55 pages of exceptions and challenges.  FEC members reviewed all of Barnas' exceptions and objections in Tallahassee in October 2014 and at a second hearing in Tallahassee on Feb. 24, 2015.  
Following this extensive review, the FEC substantially upheld the RO and rejected the bulk of Barnas' exceptions.
As Barnas has not complied and paid the amount approved by the Administrative Law Judge and the FEC, the Department of Legal Affairs is authorized by Florida Statutes to take on the task of forcing compliance with the Administrative Law Judge's order, a process that will ultimately further increase the amount owed with additional court costs and attorney fees.  
Regensdorf said his recent motion to the FEC was seeking additional attorney’s fees against Barnas for the rest of the proceedings since the 2014 administrative hearing.
“This would include the fees for the time spent finishing up the Department of Administrative Hearing proceeding, getting it enforced by the FEC, and defending the later appeal to the First District Court of Appeals, which Ms. Yeago also won,” Regensdorf said.
“They orally voted unanimously to grant my motion and award me and Ms. Yeago 100 percent of the additional fees requested.”
  In Tuesday’s vote, the FEC first awarded an additional $23,080 to Yeago and her attorney for legal work performed between April 24, 2014 (the end of the Administrative Hearing before the Administrative Law Judge) and March 25, 2015 (the date the FEC entered its Final Order against Barnas on all of the facts.)
  Then an additional $46,640 was assessed against Barnas for the legal work performed between March 25, 2015 (the date of the Final order from the FEC) and March 8, 2016, when the First District Court of Appeals denied all of the post-decision motions that Barnas and his attorney filed.  
These were the appellate fees only and included 116.60 additional hours of legal work.
  Barnas and his attorney were not in attendance at the Aug. 16 hearing and submitted no argument in writing.  Although Regensdorf must wait to have a formal written order entered, at which time he says “Barnas could appeal,” he said he is not overly concerned.  
  “Without coming [to the hearing] and making objections or arguments, there’s not much to argue,” he said.


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