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ALACHUA COUNTY - The Alachua County Clerk's Office can help those needing information on their fines and fees and whether the fines need to be paid to restore their voting rights.

Those needing this information can find out more information and fill out a request online.

Requests are processed in the order that they are received, with most completed within three to five business days. This information is only available for Alachua County cases. Information about cases in other counties is available at that county's Clerk's Office.

For more information, contact the Alachua County Clerk of the Court's Office at 352-374-3636.

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GAINESVILLELiterary heir Rick Smith will bring his father’s novel “A Land Remembered” to life with a multimedia expedition through Florida’s past at three Alachua County Library District branches on Wednesday, Feb. 26 and Thursday, Feb. 27.

In this program, Rick Smith will introduce you to his father and the life experiences that prepared him to chronicle the world of Florida pioneers. His show incorporates photos, videos, paintings, and music to enliven Florida history while telling Patrick Smith’s story. Rick Smith’s program titled “Florida is A Land Remembered” will be held as follows:

  • 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26 at the Millhopper Branch, 3145 NW 43rd, Gainesville
  • 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26 at the Hawthorne Branch, 6640 SE 221st St, Hawthorne
  • 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27 at the Newberry Branch, 10 South Seaboard Drive, Newberry

Patrick Smith’s best-selling novel spans the modern state’s formative years from 1858 through 1968. The acclaimed book follows the MacIvey family’s struggle from poverty to wealth over three generations as the family grapples with Florida’s untamed landscape. Often called “Florida’s favorite book,” the novel remains Patrick Smith’s crowning work. He passed away in 2014.

This program for teens and adults is free and open to the public. Rick Smith will take questions following the presentation and sign books.

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HIGH SPRINGS – Sometimes what seems like a logical and responsible decision can go horribly wrong and have a profound effect on a person’s life. 

The evening of Jan. 25 began on a festive note as Jessica and Rickey Haslam went to a party at a friend’s house. They had some drinks and to get a ride home with someone else and pick up their car the next day. They hitched a ride with a friend of a friend who they did not know but was heading their direction.
They climbed into the backseat of her truck and headed out. The Haslams describe themselves as headed down CR 138 at up to 80 miles per hour, and they both repeatedly asked the driver to slow down. As the driver came into an S curve on the road, both the Haslams knew that this curve had been the site of multiple accidents.
The driver did not negotiate the curve and lost control, slamming head on to trees and flipping the vehicle on its side. Amazingly, despite the massive damage to the car, both front seat passengers escaped major injury due to the air bags. The Haslams were not so lucky. Without seat belts or airbags, they were slammed around the back seat.
Jessica was the worst. Her liver was bleeding; she had head injuries and at least four broken vertebrae in her neck and back. Rickey broke his right wrist and hand. Both were taken to intensive care where Jessica remained for several days with Rickey sleeping by her bedside.
Jessica had to be put in a full body brace unable to sit up and is expected to wear the brace for at least two months. Her husband will need major surgery on his right hand and will be unable to work as a mechanic. The Haslams are in their 30s with three children. Both parents will be unable to work for several months to support the family, and they face major medical bills. Jessica's parents, Andy and Terry Phelan, are helping as much as they can with the kids and meals, but monetary resources are limited with no prospects for either of the Haslams to work, and the immediate future looks grim.
High Springs is a small community with many people who are willing to help when their neighbors need support. As word spread of the accident and the dire situation, the community pitched in.
“Not only did people we knew help out, but strangers also stepped up to offer support,” Andy Phelan said. “I was amazed at the huge outpouring of support that materialized in the community.” Within a week, a bank account was set up at Ameris Bank in the Haslam’s name to raise funds. Mike Loveday, who works at the bank and runs the High Springs Music in the Park series, provided funding from both sources and other people came by to add donations.
A Go Fund Me Account was set up by Sharon Yeago, which has raised $1410 so far. Other people organized a meal train for volunteers to take hot meals to the family since neither parent is able to cook. Volunteers have offered to do house cleaning and yard upkeep while they recover. Currently enough people have offered meals that the family is covered for several weeks.
Both the Santa Fe Bar and Rum 138 also offered support and will be holding fund raising concerts with the musicians at both locations donating their performances for free to benefit the family.
For anyone who would like to offer support, monetary donations can be made at Ameris Bank in High Springs in the Haslam's name or on the Go Fund Me page at https://www.gofundme.com/f/jessica-phelan-and-rickey-haslam. Those interested in volunteering to cook for the family can go to Mealtrain.com and sign up under the Haslam's name. On Feb. 16, the Santa Fe Bar will host a fundraising event with a raffle, live auction, food, and music provided by In The Moment. The event will start at 2 p.m. A week later on Feb. 22, Rum 138 Canoe Outpost and Gallery will hold a second benefit concert starting at 7 p.m. featuring music by In The Moment and Quartermoon. This event will have a $10 entry fee with all proceeds going to the family.
The accident was a heavy blow to the Haslam family, but the community has shown its compassion by coming together to help a young family in need. “There have been so many people who have come forward and offered to help and it's great to see that no one has to face trying times like these alone,” said Andy Phelan. “We are so grateful to everyone for helping this young couple.”

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NEWBERRY — Dennis Dingman of Summit Professional Services, Inc., addressed the Jan. 27 City of Newberry Commission meeting to provide a status report on a Community Development Block Housing Rehabilitation Grant (CDBG). Out of 22 applicants requesting assistance through this grant, Dingman said 10 properties qualified.

Of the qualified applicants, five properties were identified as homes that could be rehabilitated and five more were identified as homes that needed to be demolished.

Due to a $25,000 shortfall in the budget from the State, Dingman said he then began talking with State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) Program administrators to determine if the City might be able to apply to their program for $40,000 in SHIP matching funds.

Florida Housing administers the SHIP Program, which provides funds to local governments as an incentive to create partnerships that produce and preserve affordable homeownership and multifamily housing. The program was designed to serve very low, low and moderate income families.

Because SHIP is in the business of keeping people in housing, they are only able to consider funding for rehabilitation and not for demolition. According to Dingman, SHIP only allows $20,000 per home and only to those homeowners who have not received SHIP funding in the past.

The application for this SHIP funding cycle must be in by Jan. 30 and awards are given on March 2.

Dingman suggested that seven of the 10 properties could be accommodated with the funding from the CDBG grant funds and the other three may be accommodated if funding from SHIP is awarded to the City.

The two lowest bidders to conduct the work on the properties are Johnson’s from Newberry and Florida Homes from Alachua, said Dingman.

In response to questions concerning whether the bidders would be able to stick to their bids or would end up needing additional funding because of price increases, Dingman assured them that both bidders were aware of their commitment. He did mention that change orders might be necessary if something previously unknown is found during demolition or construction that needs to be addressed. Otherwise, he said he has not had any problems with contractors previously and has worked with several around the state.

Some homeowners have expressed concern about where they would go during construction, should leaving their homes be required. Dingman assured commissioners that provisions have been made for storage and temporary housing, should that be the case. He also said he talks with the homeowners regularly to make sure they know exactly what’s going on and when.

At this meeting, the Commission approved Dingman to proceed with the seven homeowners for which he has funding and to come back to the Commission for approval for the other three property owners, should funding become available for their projects.

Approval was conducted by roll call vote and Commissioners Tim Marden and Monty Farnsworth provided the dissenting votes on this issue.

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HIGH SPRINGS — High Springs City Commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance on final reading to change language in the Land Development Code which would allow mobile food vendors to temporarily conduct business in allowable non-residential zoning districts.

There was a slight modification made from first to second reading of the ordinance to allow state permitted toilets to be used where flushable toilets may not be available.

Although time was allotted for a public hearing to allow for citizen comments, no one addressed the issue prior to the commission vote. The item has generated considerable controversy during previous meetings so the absence of input may have been unexpected.

One of the owners of the High Springs Brewing Company, a proponent of the change to the Land Development Code, addressed commissioners following their vote and thanked them for working together to resolve this issue.

Persons wishing to set up mobile food trucks must meet all other Land Development Code requirements and would be required to submit a site plan prior to setting up.

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HIGH SPRINGS – Since 2013, the North Florida Presidents Council (NFPC) and the Military Vets Motorcycle Club has held the annual Poker Run motorcycle charity event. The ride is to raise money for Herry’s Kids Pediatric Services. 

Each year motorcycle riders gather at the Gainesville Harley Davidson store to begin the charity ride. All motorcycle riders are welcome, not just club members. Each rider brings a new toy and pays a $10 entry fee, or $20 without a toy. The ride begins at 10 a.m. There are five locations for participants to stop during the day, and at each spot they will be given a playing card. The final location is the High Springs Lions Club, which also helps sponsor the event.
Each rider will have collected five cards, and the highest poker hand wins a cash prize. The toys and money raised from this event go to Herry's Kids, a nonprofit pediatric hospice that serves 12 counties in Florida. Herry’s Kids Pediatric Services provides specialized services to children and teens with life-threatening illnesses and offers grief support and therapeutic camps to young people who have experienced a loss. Herry's is a program with the Hospice of Citrus and The Nature Coast, a nonprofit organization that offers free programs and compassionate end-of-life services for terminally ill children and teens as well as their families.
This year, the NFPC was not involved and the Military Vets MC club (MVMC) and the High Springs Lions Club took over all duties to keep the charity event alive. Although this led to a smaller turnout and less money raised, both these organizations felt it was important to keep the event going to raise the money to help the cause.
On Jan. 29, members of the Lions Club and the MVMC gathered at the The Diner in High Springs to present a check for $8,200 to representatives of the Hospice of Citrus and The Nature Coast. A popular restaurant, The Diner has hosted the check presentation for the past three years and is one of over 20 businesses that that helps sponsor the event by contributing funds or services to make the Poker Run successful.
In the past, the Diner has arranged for a band and beer bar outside on their patio for the event. The cold rainy weather this year took its toll on attendance, and the event was moved inside with a much smaller but dedicated crowd.
For both the MVMC and the High Springs Lions Club, service to others and helping those in need is an important part of their mission, and the Poker Run represents the positive qualities of humanity.
Although the poker run could be considered a good day for a long ride and celebrations, the riders participate for another reason. The annual Poker Run is their chance to make life a little better for critically ill children and bring them joy while letting them know there are others that care.

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MARIANNA, Fla. – Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested Eddie Earnest, 51, and Encarnacion Burch, 39, both of Marianna, for theft of copper from a utility or communications service provider.  The case was investigated by FDLE and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.  Holmes County Sheriff’s Office and Marianna Police Department also assisted. 

The investigation shows Earnest and Burch stole copper telephone communication wire strung between telephone poles, causing outages for numerous customers in Jackson, Holmes and Walton counties.  After stealing the wire, the suspects removed the copper, selling it to a second-hand metal dealer.

Known damages are around $5,000, but that number is expected to increase.  If you have additional information or believe you were a victim, please contact FDLE at (850) 595-2100.

Agents arrested Earnest and Burch Feb. 13, at Earnest’s residence on Mellow Trail in Marianna.  The pair was booked into the Jackson County Jail. 

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Fernandina Beach - The St Marys Tall Ships Alliance in cooperation with the City of Fernandina Beach is excited to announce the arrival and visit of the world-Famous Columbus Foundation Tall Ships " Nina and Pinta " into Fernandina Beach, Fla.   Tall Ships Nina and Pinta will be sailing into Fernandina Harbor Marina on April 23rd.   The Captain and crew have invited  the City official, media and the public to come welcome them into Fernandina Harbor Marina at 3 S. Front Street in Downtown Fernandina Beach, Florida. Arrival time is sometime between 1pm-4pm. ( Arrival time will be update on the 22nd at www.smtsa.org )  For additional information and question you can contact St Marys Tall Ship Alliance at info@smtsa.org or at 912-254-0110


The world's famous Columbus Foundation tall ships Nina and Pinta are the most historically accurate replicas of Christopher Columbus ships that have ever been built and are the only Nina and Pinta replicas that are in existence today. Both ships sail together in the western hemisphere as a sailing and floating museum with the purpose of educating the public and schools about the history of a Caravel Style sailing ship that were used by Columbus and other explorers during the 15th century. The Public can step aboard and be whisked back in time as they are surrounded by the design and material that was used for a historic Caravel style 15th century sailing ship.  You are able to step in time as you enjoy the exhibits aboard both ships that highlight the history of the age of discovery, navigation of that era, how the ships were build and will see what life was like aboard the Nina and Pinta over 500 years ago. The ships Guest are encouraged to take their time and experiences the history that  these amazing tall ships have to offer and to talk or ask any question with the ship’s crew members that will be available on deck.


Tall Ships Nina and Pinta will be open to the public for deck tours April 24th through May 3rd.  Public deck tours are available daily 9am until 6pm.  They will be offering self-guided deck tours and guided tours.  Self-guided are for individuals that arrive during open hours, pay to go aboard and take their time experiencing both ships.  Deck tours tickets are general admission (one price allows you to tour both ships) prices are $8.50 (for adults) $7.50 (for seniors) $6.50 (for ages 5-16) ages 4 and under are free.  Guided Deck tours are for groups of 15 or more paying guest. and a great educational event that is ideal for schools and organizations. For addition information please go to www.smtsa.org or contact St Marys Tall Ship Alliance at info@smtsa.org or at 912-254-0110


Groups will be assigned a tour guide to them. The tour will last an average of 30-45 minutes with time split between ships. Once the tours has ended guest are welcome to stay and take as much time as they would like to go back and review the exhibits that were discussed during the tour and are welcome to ask question to any of the crew members that is available on the ships deck.  Maximum number of people allowed in a 30-minute time slot is 100.  Groups with over 100 people will need to request an additional time slot.  Group need to reserve their visit prior to the ships visit at www.thenina.com , ninapintatour@gmail.com or call (787) 672-2152.  Groups receive a reduce ticket price of $ 5 per person.   Tall Ship Pinta will be available to be chartered for Dockside Corporate, or group events. Limits dates are available (April 24 - April 30). Reservations are required three weeks before prior to Nina and Pinta Fernandina Beach visit.  For addition information please go to www.smtsa.org or contact St Marys Tall Ship Alliance at info@smtsa.org or at 912-254-0110


St Marys Tall Ship Alliance's primary mission and purpose is to promote the world's historical tall ships along with promoting and organizing public tall ship events for the southern Georgia and Northern Florida coast.  The Alliance is a Georgia 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that celebrates the rich maritime history of tall ship that are still sailing today.  St Marys Tall Ship Alliance is an all-volunteer educational non-profit.

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ALACHUA COUNTY - Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the appointment of five members to the Children's Trust of Alachua County (CTAC): Dr. Patricia Snyder, Nancy Hardt, Dr. Margarita Labarta, Dr. Karen Cole-Smith, and Charles "Lee" Pinkoson. These members were appointed by the Governor from a list of 15 candidates submitted by Alachua County's Board of County Commissioners.
In speaking of the appointments, Alachua County Commission Ken Cornell, Chair of the Children's Trust, said, "The Governor has appointed five excellent CTAC members. I am very glad to now have a full slate of highly qualified and devoted individuals who are ready to roll up their sleeves and make a difference in the lives of our children." He continued saying, "I want to thank all of those who were willing to serve and I encourage everyone to attend our meetings and stay engaged."
Governor DeSantis' CTAC appointments:
Dr. Patricia Snyder
Dr. Snyder, of Gainesville, is the director of the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies at the University of Florida. She earned her bachelor's degree in speech pathology and audiology from the State University of New York, her master's degree in special education from Millersville University and her doctorate degree in early childhood special education from the University of New Orleans. Dr. Snyder is appointed to a four-year term.
Nancy Hardt
Hardt, of Micanopy, served as a professor at the University of Florida's College of Medicine with specialties in obstetrics, gynecology and pathology from 1981 until her retirement in 2014. She earned her bachelor's degree from Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Virginia and her master's degree in gynecology and pathology from Loyola University Chicago. Hardt is appointed to a four-year term.
Dr. Margarita Labarta
Dr. Labarta, of Gainesville, recently retired as the president and chief executive officer of Meridian Behavioral Healthcare. Currently, she serves as chair for the Florida Council for Community Mental Health and as a member of Mental Health Corporations of America and the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology and mathematics from Barry University and her master's degree and doctorate degree in clinical and community psychology from the University of Maryland. Dr. Labarta is appointed to a four-year term.
Dr. Karen Cole-Smith
Dr. Cole-Smith, of Gainesville, is the executive director of community outreach at Santa Fe College. She earned her bachelor's degree in criminology and sociology from Bethune-Cookman University, her master's degree in sociology and criminology from Ohio State University and her doctorate degree in sociology and criminology from the University of Florida. Dr. Cole-Smith is appointed to a two-year term.
Charles "Lee" Pinkoson
Pinkoson, of Gainesville, served as an Alachua County Commissioner from 2002 until 2018. He served on the Florida Association of Counties' Board of Directors from 2002 until 2019. He earned his bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Florida. Pinkoson is appointed to a three-year term.
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Florida News Connection

January 31, 2020  


TALLAHASSEE - This week, Florida's Capitol was jam-packed with the sticky hands of children to force policymakers to take note of their needs.

The annual "Children's Week" kicked off last Sunday, with an event known as the "hanging of the hands" in the Capitol Rotunda. Tens of thousands of pieces of colorful "hand art" decorated by children and their teachers became the center of attention.

Speaking on The Rotunda Podcast, Alan Abramowitz - executive director of Florida's Guardian ad Litem program - says the artwork and having kids barnstorm the Capitol is an effective strategy.

"Every legislator, every policymaker will see those and know that our priority are children," says Abramowitz. "And it just so happens that this week is budget week, the budgets are coming out."

The Florida Senate released its initial budget of almost $93 billion yesterday. It includes across-the-board pay raises for state employees and more money for teacher salaries. The House is expected to release its full budget, as Abramowitz advocates for full funding for the state's children's programs.

To cap off Children's Week, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced the formation of a "Children's Corner" in the library of the governor's mansion on Thursday. Abramowitz says he sees a coordinated effort by the governor and the Florida Department of Children and Families' secretary to keep kids out of the foster-care system.

"The governor and Secretary Poppell have put together a package that doesn't just focus on foster care," says Abramowitz. "Because if a child enters foster care, they've already been abused, abandoned and neglected. They're looking at prevention. How do we keep families together?"

The governor's proposed budget provides more than $1.2 billion dollars in funding, an increase of just over $132 million over Fiscal Year 2018-19 for early childhood education. The budget plan released Thursday is a first step. Senate and House negotiators will hammer out a final budget before the session ends March 13

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 TALLAHASSEE – At the direction of Governor Ron DeSantis, the Department of Education released the proposed Florida B.E.S.T. (Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking) Standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics, and announced that Common Core has been officially eradicated from Florida classrooms. The Commissioner is recommending that the State Board of Education formally adopt these standards February 12.

“Florida has officially eliminated Common Core. I truly think this is a great next step for students, teachers, and parents,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “We’ve developed clear and concise expectations for students at every grade level and allow teachers the opportunity to do what they love most – inspire young Floridians to achieve their greatest potential. These standards create pathways for students that lead to great college and professional outcomes and parents will now be able to reinforce what their children are learn in the classroom every day. Florida’s B.E.S.T. Standards were made by Florida teachers for Florida students, and I know they will be a model for the rest of the nation.”

“Governor DeSantis made it very clear that we had to reimagine the pathway to young Floridians becoming great citizens, and we’ve done exactly that with the B.E.S.T. Standards,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “Florida will be the first state in the nation with an ELA booklist that spans grades K-12, the first state in the nation with a civics booklist embedded in its ELA standards, and a state that has dropped the crazy math. Florida has completely removed ourselves from the confines of Common Core.”

The Florida B.E.S.T. Standards are posted at http://www.fldoe.org/standardsreview.

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HOMOSASSA, Fla. – Today, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is celebrating the historic 60th birthday of Lucifer (Lu), the resident hippopotamus.

Lu is a longtime resident of Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, with fans around the world. For his special day, a celebration was held this morning where visitors, staff and volunteers joined together to sing Lu Happy Birthday as he enjoys his specially-made birthday cake. 

“We’re proud that Lu calls Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park home,” said Florida Park Service Director Eric Draper. “He is an impressive sight and a valuable partner who helps engage visitors in learning about wildlife.”

"Lu is an iconic part of our park and all of Citrus County. He is loved by all and has been an inspiration to generation after generation," said Park Manager Tricia Fowler. "We could not be prouder to celebrate 60 years with Lu and the happiness that he has brought to the community and countless visitors."

In the afternoon, another celebration took place during the park’s alligator and hippopotamus program, providing park visitors another opportunity to join the birthday celebration of Florida’s only resident hippopotamus. A giant birthday card was available for visitors to sign to wish Lu a happy birthday, and the card was presented to Lu during the second ceremony. Lu's fans can also send him a birthday greeting on his Facebook page.

Lu, an African hippopotamus, was born at the San Diego Zoo on Jan. 26, 1960. Like all hippos, Lu is a vegetarian and his diet consists of alfalfa hay and assorted vegetables and fruit. Hippos typically live from 40 to 50 years old. At 59, Lu is the oldest hippo in North America.

A fixture at Homosassa Springs since 1964, Lu was a movie and television star with the Ivan Tors Animal Actors troupe, which wintered at the park while it was in private ownership. His credits include the 1960s movies "Daktari" and "Cowboy in Africa," and television specials such as the "Art Linkletter Show" and "Herb Alpert Special." 

For more than five decades, Lu has been a mainstay among the animals at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. When the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service purchased the attraction in 1989, the state planned to shift the emphasis of the park to native Florida wildlife and find homes for all of the exotic species, including Lu. Public support, however, led the state to grant Lu special Florida citizenship in 1991. Since then, he has become an icon at the park, attracting visitors from around the globe.

For more information about Homosassa Springs State Park, visit the park's webpage

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When I started graduate school at Florida State University, I had never seen a sawfish in the wild but I was excited to be part of the recovery of a species I had been so awestruck by in aquariums.

The smalltooth sawfish, the only sawfish found in Florida, has been protected in Florida since 1992 and became federally listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2003. Little was known about the species when it became listed but since that time, scientists have learned a lot about its biology and ecology.

As sawfish recovery efforts continue, we expect there to be more sawfish sightings, especially in Florida. This includes anglers who may accidentally catch one on hook-and-line while fishing for other species.

Sawfish encounters

Sawfish can be encountered when participating in a number of activities including boating, diving and fishing. Further, the species may be encountered by waterfront homeowners and beach goers in the southern half of the state where juvenile sawfish rely on shallow, nearshore environments as nursery habitats. When fishing, targeting sawfish is prohibited under the ESA, though incidental captures do occur while fishing for other species. Knowing how to properly handle a hooked sawfish is imperative as sawfish can be potentially hazardous to you. One of the first things that stood out to me while conducting permitted research was the speed at which a sawfish can swing its rostrum (commonly referred to as the saw). For creatures that glide along the bottom so slowly and gracefully, they sure can make quick movements when they want to. It’s best to keep a safe distance between you and the saw.

If you happen to catch a sawfish while fishing, do not pull it out of the water and do not try to handle it. Refrain from using ropes or restraining the animal in any way, and never remove the saw. It is important that you untangle it if necessary and release the sawfish as quickly as possible by cutting the line as close to the hook as you can. Proper release techniques ensure a high post-release survival of sawfish. Scientific studies show us that following these guidelines will limit the amount of stress a sawfish experiences as a result of capture. Note that a recent change in shark fishing rules requires use of circle hooks, which results in better hook sets, minimizes gut hooking, and also maximizes post-release survival. 

In addition to capture on hook-and-line, sawfish can easily become entangled in lost fishing gear or nets. If you observe an injured or entangled sawfish, be sure to report it immediately but do not approach the sawfish. Seeing a sawfish up close can be an exciting experience but you must remember that it is an endangered species with strict protections.

If you are diving and see a sawfish, observe at a distance. Do not approach or harass them. This is illegal and this guidance is for your safety as well as theirs.

An important component of any sawfish encounter is sharing that information with scientists. Your encounter reports help managers track the population status of this species. If you encounter a sawfish while diving, fishing or boating, please report the encounter. Take a quick photo if possible (with the sawfish still in the water and from a safe distance), estimate its length including the saw and note the location of the encounter. The more details you can give scientists, the better we can understand how sawfish are using Florida waters and the better we can understand the recovery of the population. Submit reports at SawfishRecovery.org, email sawfish@MyFWC.com or phone at 1-844-4SAWFISH.

Sawfish background

Sawfishes, of which there are five species in the world, are named for their long, toothed “saw” or rostrum, which they use for hunting prey and defense. In the U.S., the smalltooth sawfish was once found regularly from North Carolina to Texas but its range is now mostly limited to Florida waters.

In general, sawfish populations declined for a variety of reasons. The primary reason for decline is that they were frequently caught accidentally in commercial fisheries that used gill nets and trawls. Additional contributing factors include recreational fisheries and habitat loss. As industrialization and urbanization changed coastlines, the mangroves that most sawfishes used as nursery habitat also became less accessible. For a species that grows slowly and has a low reproductive rate, the combination of these threats proved to be too much.

Engaging in sawfish recovery

During my thesis research, which focuses on tracking the movements of large juvenile and adult smalltooth sawfish, each tagging encounter is a surreal experience.

The first sawfish I saw was an adult, and what struck me the most was just how big it was. I also remember being enamored by its mouth. Like all other rays, its mouth is on the underside of its body. The mouth looks like a shy smile and I found it almost humorous how different the top of the sawfish was compared to the bottom. After seeing my first baby sawfish, the contrast seemed even greater. It’s hard to believe upon seeing a 2 to 3 foot sawfish that it could one day be 16 feet long! No matter the size, anyone who has encountered a sawfish will tell you it’s an experience like no other.

The hope is that one day the sawfish population will be thriving once again, and more people will be able to experience safe and memorable encounters with these incredible animals. Hopefully, we can coexist with sawfish in a sustainable and positive way in the future.

For more information on sawfish, including FWC’s sawfish research visit:
MyFWC.com/research, click on “Saltwater” then “Sawfish.”

For more information on smalltooth sawfish and their recovery watch:

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Sadly, 10 law enforcement officers have already died in the line of duty this month in the United States.

In addition to two dying in vehicular crashes related to crime, three were mercilessly killed as a result of gunfire by cowards who had no respect for human life or the rule of law.

Please let us never forget the bravery our men and  women in blue display each day for EVERY American as they don their uniform and leave for duty. Unfortunately, they do not know if they will return home to loved ones at the end of their shift.

As Americans, we take for granted:

- When turning on the faucet, without thinking, we expect clean water to pour out.

- When flipping a switch, without thinking, we expect the room will be illuminated.

- When purchasing something to eat from a grocery store, restaurant, or fast food establishment, without thinking, we expect these edible products will not be contaminated.

- When sending our children off to school each day, without thinking, we expect they will be educated by qualified and dedicated teachers.

- When resting our heads on the pillow at night, without thinking, we expect our faithful members of the armed forces will protect us from the bad guys of this world.

- When venturing out into the community, without thinking, we expect our highly trained and brave police officers will keep us safe from harm.

It is acceptable to expect these things we take for granted because our forefathers believed each American was special and declared every citizen had certain unalienable rights.

Let us remain steadfast in never forgetting, and do think about and honor, the tremendous sacrifices America’s men and women in blue make by courageously: “putting others above self.”

Robert Wilford

Alachua, Florida

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 The GFWC High Springs New Century Woman’s Club Members would like to thank the residents of the community, visitors as well as the merchants for their wonderful support throughout the year.

Through your generous donations of money and time, the Club was able to support more than 70 local, state and national organizations to help people in need.

Thank you to Barbara Llewellyn from the “Observer,” Bryan Boukari and Carol Walker from “Alachua County Today” and the “Suwannee Valley Times” for posting our information in their newspapers and for everyone sharing it on Facebook. You all helped to make 2019 a very successful fundraising year for the Club. 

Carole Tate, President

GFWC High Springs New Century Woman’s Club

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I get asked all the time, "Why don't you live in Gainesville?"

It's a valid question; I'll give you that. I go to UF and work in Gainesville. I have to get out of bed 30 minutes earlier to leave for school than I would if I lived in Gainesville. If I want to go home before I go to work, I spend like $12 in gas just to make the back-and-forth trip.

Driving home to change before going out on the weekends takes so much time that I often just end up staying home most of the time. All these things may seem like deal breakers to most, but they're only minor sacrifices to me.

I love living in High Springs. I grew up here on a dirt road with nothing to do but get in trouble. I climbed trees, stared at the stars, stole my momma's cigarettes and spent so much time outdoors that the five-minute walk home felt like an eternity in the infinite darkness of night.

I love the trees, the smell in the air and the kind people.

In Gainesville, you struggle to find a parking spot that won't get you towed. In High Springs, you can double park and not feel guilty.

In Gainesville, you're constantly stuck in traffic. In High Springs, the only traffic you worry about is foot traffic at the Farmer's market.

In High Springs, you don't worry about car washes because you prefer dirt roads. Rain washes your car.

It's just so peaceful here. I know Alachua's starting to get bigger with new restaurants and franchises opening up left and right, but there's still this serenity about the area. A small town atmosphere that makes you wish your grandparents’ house was right around the corner so that you can pick up some freshly baked cookies before you start your day.

I live five minutes from my parents’ house and I raid their house whenever my roommates and I are low on groceries. They don't care; they just enjoy having me around. In all honesty, I don't visit as much as I should. My dogs about have a heart attack every time I stop by. I just know that it would be much worse if I lived in Gainesville.

That's High Springs, though. It's close to home. It's close to my family. It's close to my heart.

No matter where I go, I'll never forget my time here. This is where I grew up. This is where I became who I am today. 

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Dear Most Holy Father:

    Thank you for attempting to humanize the office of pope.

    The majority of Catholics have blindly viewed pontiffs as God-like and incapable of making mistakes because of being infallible.

    Your actions, so far, do give me hope. I pray you will lead us toward renewal (retaining the good stuff), reformation (discarding the bad stuff), and rebirth (uncompromising justice and renewed spirituality).

    I first contacted John Paul II in 1993, and again in 2002. I contacted Benedict XVI several times during his papacy.

    I challenged them to reform an indifferently corrupt and a conspiracy-driven theocracy for the innumerable crimes the hierarchy had committed for centuries.

    Mandated priest celibacy, the murder of Joan of Arc, persecution of Martin Luther, imprisonment of Galileo, unjust inquisitions and crusades and the coddling of clergy sexual predators are examples of the church’s abuse of power.  

   The current crisis is attributable to the disreputable leadership of John Paul and Benedict for not putting the needs of victims first over predator priests.

    John Paul and Benedict shamefully elected to shelter sodomizers and the institution of Catholicism itself above all else.

    I urge you to stand on your perch at Saint Peter’s this Ash Wednesday and declare:

    We, the popes, cardinals, bishops and priests of the Roman Catholic Church have been grievously and sinfully wrong since the very beginning of the church’s history in protecting predator priests at the expense of the victims of clergy sexual abuse. Humbly, we openly admit our culpability, and, in professing our shame, ask for forgiveness from God and all humanity for the unspeakable crimes we have committed against victimized children and their families for nearly 2,000 years.”

    One critical action you need to take is to stop the canonization process for John Paul which will be the ultimate “Conspiracy of Catholicism.”

    There are a number of reasons this unworthy pontiff should not be canonized.

    John Paul had numerous opportunities to thwart the church’s sexual abuse scandal. He did virtually nothing to rid the church of sexual predators.

    In 1985, there was a major crisis in Lafayette, La. A priest was sentenced to 20 years in prison for molesting dozens of children.

    This scandal provided John Paul an excellent platform to become a hero for Catholicism by laicizing predator priests and by setting a “zero tolerance” standard for known sexual predators.

    He failed to do so. Instead, he became a co-conspirator with bishops everywhere by harboring clergy sexual abusers who were moved from parish to parish to sodomize other children. Is this action worthy of sainthood?  

    In the early 1990s, John Paul was given another opportunity to take action. Clergy sexual abuse allegations were surfacing all across America, especially in Massachusetts.

    John Paul chose to ignore the severity of an ever-increasing scandal by not calling Cardinal Law to task for sheltering known clergy sexual predators in the Boston archdiocese. Is this action worthy of sainthood?

    In 1995, Law’s Secretary for Ministerial Personnel was commissioned a bishop by John Paul.

    This egregious action was effectuated despite the pope knowing this monsignor was aware of a number of priests in his archdiocese being sexual predators. In 1998, this bishop was promoted to head his own diocese.

    He was probably rewarded for being the proverbial “corporate man” in shielding Law and the Vatican from being fingered as co-conspirators in the rape of innocent children. Is this action worthy of sainthood?

    Thousands of allegations were made around the world in 2002 against priests and bishops alleging sexual misconduct.

    This crisis was again prevalent in the Archdiocese of Boston. Law was unscrupulously transferred to the Vatican instead of keeping him in Boston to face the music.

    This convenient relocation allowed Law to escape possible legal action in America since he maintained dual citizenship status in America and in Vatican City.

    Rewarding Law for failing to protect children from harm was the ultimate “Conspiracy of Catholicism” committed by John Paul during his inglorious tenure. Is this action worthy of sainthood?

    Allowing Law to run and hide in the Vatican is the clincher in insisting the canonization process for John Paul cease immediately.

    A number of saints of the church had checkered pasts prior to becoming truly repentant for their sins and crimes.

    Saints Paul and Augustine are wonderful examples of sinners who displayed outward signs of repentance prior to being canonized.

    To the contrary, John Paul went to his grave never publicly displaying sorrow for his grievous sin of indifference in allowing children to be raped by clerics and by not laicizing known sexual predators.

    Does John Paul’s lack of contrition make him worthy of sainthood? 

    I implore you to let God be the supreme impartial judge in determining John Paul’s worthiness of being declared a saint.

    The church must not perpetuate “The Conspiracy of Catholicism” by canonizing a dubious leader of the world’s Catholics, one who never asked for forgiveness for the heinous crimes he committed against humanity.

     I still love my church and its sacred traditions, participate in the sacraments, contribute financially to my parish and other Catholic charities, and proudly “cross” myself in public whenever prayers are said at meetings and other events.

     On the other hand, I have very little respect for the church’s hierarchy, notwithstanding my belief in many of the church’s doctrines and beautiful traditions.

     Hopefully, you can improve my less than flattering opinion of the Vatican and the bishops of the church.

     Taking a bold step into the future by leading a spiritual rebirth of a broken “Christian” church thereby erasing “The Conspiracy of Catholicism” once and for all may just do it.

     I pray that you will have the courage to take this step.

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Keeping frail elderly loved ones at home can be extremely difficult; not only in terms of ensuring they receive the proper medical and personal care they need – which can often be a weekly or even daily necessity – but it can also prove difficult in terms of managing and maintaining a healthy balance with a career and personal life.

Many of us have struggled with this challenge, yet know it is a  more acceptable alternative than placing our mother, father or other loved one in a nursing home.  However, there is now an alternative that, if introduced, will provide much-needed assistance to families that are caring for a loved one by providing comprehensive in-home care to frail seniors at risk for nursing home placement.  This alternative is called a PACE program, or Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly.

PACE programs are innovative managed care programs focused on providing all health care and other supportive services to keep those 55 years or older, who are very frail and at risk for long-term nursing home placement, living as independently as possible, for as long as possible.

During the 2013 Legislative Session, Haven Hospice is hopeful that the Florida Legislature will support the implementation of PACE programs in Duval, Alachua and Clay counties.  Many wonder why a hospice provider would operate a PACE program as they are two very different services.  The reason is simple, hospices are often best equipped from an operational standpoint to run PACE programs; and, at Haven, we truly believe that this valuable and unique managed care program will have a positive impact on the welfare of Florida seniors and their families, as well as providing significant saving to the state Medicaid budget.

If introduced, this valuable program would provide the entire continuum of care and services to seniors, including adult day care that offers primary care (dental and eye care; podiatry care; physical, speech, occupational and recreational therapies; nutritional counseling and meals; social work services; nursing and personal care); primary medical care provided by a PACE physician, who is familiar with the history, needs and preferences of each PACE participant; home health care and personal care to maintain the senior’s independence in their homes; all necessary prescription drugs; respite care and hospital and nursing home care when necessary.

In PACE programs, care and services are centered around an Adult Day Health Care Facility, which will strive to retain the focus on care and socialization by aiming to limit participants’ time in transport to or from the PACE facility.   Moreover, under this unique program, health care providers and professionals are allowed the freedom and flexibility to plan and provide the most appropriate services, allowing each participant’s care to be specifically tailored to suit their needs and circumstances.

We are hopeful that members of the Florida Legislature will consider supporting the unique and valuable PACE concept this session, that will have a significant and positive impact on frail seniors and their loved ones.

Tim Bowen is President of  Haven Hospice.

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