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ALACHUA ‒ A new development in the city of Alachua is poised to bring over a thousand households as well as science and technology research companies to the area.

Concept Companies and The Roberts Company broke ground on The Convergence, a 420-acre development. Anchored by Momentum Labs, the development will be located adjacent to Progress Park and is designed as a hub for major science and technology research companies. The development will feature a mixed-use sustainable community with residential housing adjacent to high tech businesses as well as miles of adjacent nature trails, sports facilities and adjacent community recreation amenities.

The Convergence is strategically located near Sid Martin Biotech incubator in Progress Park and will offer incubator employees, as well as employees of already established life sciences, biomedical research, medicine, and chemical sciences companies, an opportunity to live close to their work. The development will also attract additional high-tech industry by offering expanded research and development facilities and commercial space.

Officials from Gainesville and the City of Alachua as well as business leaders gathered on a chilly Friday, Jan. 7, to witness the groundbreaking ceremony and to hear about the development.

To emphasize the collaborative nature of The Convergence, in addition to the groundbreaking, San Felasco Research Ventures, a joint enterprise by Concept Companies and The Roberts Companies, organized a community concert headlining local favorite Sister Hazel and gave away 1,200 free tickets to the general public. Georgia songwriter Carly Burruss opened the show as the sun set and the temperature dropped. Despite the cold, the audience continued to build as Sister Hazel took the stage for an almost two-hour show.

“Our goal is to create a collaborative community where people can come together and work on their projects, live in the same place and really do extraordinary science without sacrificing lifestyle,” said Brian Crawford, CEO of Concept Companies. “We’re estimating approximately 1,000 households and as much as three thousand square feet of commercial space. That commercial space is mixed use so there’s predominately research type space but also community space for retail and fitness centers,” said Crawford.

“The addition of this project within Alachua will strengthen research and business activity in our biotechnology sector,” said City of Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper, “With the combination of this new project and existing assets, our region is poised to become the epicenter of science, research and technology in the State of Florida.”

“It’s been a pleasure and an honor working with the City of Alachua on several critical projects in the region, including Copeland Park and Foundation Park,” said Crawford.

According to Crawford, they expect to start building homes and tech companies later this year. “There are lots of moving parts to a project of this size.”

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NEWBERRY – Greenfield East Pre-School is a step closer to expansion.  The City of Newberry Board of Adjustment (BOA) unanimously approved Resolution 2022-01 to allow expansion of Greenfield East Pre-School by special exception during a quasi-judicial public hearing.

Newberry planner Wendy Kinser-Maxwell presented the application to the BOA on behalf of applicant Jayme Tate, agent for GPS Newberry East LLC and the property owner.  Tate requested approval of expansion of the existing childcare facility on approximately 1.03 acres of land in Newberry’s Agricultural (A) Zoning District located at 21805 West Newberry Road.  

Greenfield East Pre-School has been operated as a childcare center since 2000, first under previous owners as “A Step Ahead Enrichment Center,” and then under the current ownership as Greenfield Preschool East since 2016.  Plans are to demolish a 460 square foot portion of the existing 2,550 square foot preschool and add approximately 3,600 square foot of new construction, resulting in a new preschool total square footage of 5,750.  The increased size will allow the school to expand its current ability to serve 58 children to 101.

On Jan. 3, the City’s Planning and Zoning Board unanimously voted to recommend approval to the BOA with one condition.  They requested that the applicant provide documentation from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) of compliance with state access requirements such as a traffic study, which may be applicable to the expanded childcare facility.

Kinser-Maxwell explained that a traffic study is not required as the preschool will not meet the FDOT threshold of 500 trips daily for a study to be required.

Existing ingress/egress points will remain the same with primary access on West Newberry Road and secondary access on Northwest 218th Street for emergency and parent parking access.  Greenfield East assists with maintenance of the Northwest 218th Street portion from West Newberry Road south to their access and will continue to do so. 

Tate said the preschool currently has a waitlist of over 100 children between the three Greenfield locations.  She expects the preschool east staff count will grow from 11 to approximately 20.  She also said she was attempting to break ground as soon as possible in order to build out Phase One of the project before Aug. 22, when school starts again.

Mayor Jordan Marlowe expressed concern about approving this application when the City hasn’t yet established requirements for the overlay district.  Planning and Economic Development Director Bryan Thomas and City Manager Mike New pointed out the difference between a special exception and other large-scale projects staff has asked developers to hold off on until the requirements are established.  Thomas said that construction would be on the back of the existing pre-school building and the front of the building would remain as it is.

Planning and Zoning Board Chair Naim Erched addressed the BOA and encouraged approval as a way to boost business growth in Newberry and support an existing business that is doing well in the community.

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• City of Alachua Honors Educator

•  Wilford Will Not Seek Reelection

ALACHUA – Students at W.W. Irby Elementary School will soon benefit from a Catalyst for Change grant.  Mayor Gib Coerper presented Irby Elementary’s Shernee Bellamy with a Certificate of Appreciation for winning the Catalyst for Change grant competition.

The competitive grant program is for teachers and schools to implement projects that increase student engagement and provides opportunities for K-12 students that focus on improving literacy and raising student achievement. 

Bellamy is a second year media specialist at Irby Elementary who has been teaching animation to first grade students.  “The biggest problem has been to be able to get current equipment and technology for the students to be able to create their animation projects,” said Bellamy.  “Now, with this grant money I will have the opportunity to take those stories online, which will allow them to flourish with their own mediums through the lens of Stop Motion Animation.” The grant funds will enable the students to bring their projects to life with current technology.

In what was a surprise to many, Commissioner Robert Wilford announced he will not seek reelection in April.  Reading from a prepared statement, he said it was a hard decision accompanied by reflection, prayer and conversations with his family.  Wilford plans to relocate to St. Augustine where most of his family resides, and where he plans to do volunteer work once they settle into their new location. Wilford closed his remarks by saying he tried to make a difference, and “the end of an era is the start of a new beginning.”

In other business, city staff is currently updating the City of Alachua Comprehensive Plan to reflect recent changes in state law. The amendment to the city’s plan adds a Property Rights Element, as required by changes to the State of Florida Community Planning Act, which became effective July 1, 2021.

The Property Rights Element specifies that the City of Alachua will protect and judicially acknowledged private property rights, will consider private property rights as part of the decision-making process, and that the property owner has the right to physically possess and control his or her interests in the property, including easements, leases and mineral rights.

The property owner also has the right to use, maintain, develop, or improve their property for personal use or for the use of any other person they choose and the right to privacy and exclude others from the property to protect the owner's possessions and property. State law requires the Property Rights Element and the City Commission unanimously passed the amendment.

The Commission approved a request to amend the land use designation on a proposed 160-acre development that is part of the larger 420-acre The Convergence development. The 160-acre land, owned by the University of Florida Foundation, Inc., is adjacent to the Sid Martin Incubator, which is owned by the University of Florida and is focused on providing space for bio and medical technology startup companies. 

The requested land designation changes are for the Cellon Creek development that will be located south of the intersection of Northwest U.S. Highway 441 and Southern Precast Drive and east of Cellon Creek Boulevard. The property is currently undeveloped and is comprised of cleared pasture, and some naturally wooded areas located in the south-central portion of the property and along the south property line. 

The proposed amendment would change the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) designations into a single designation of Corporate Park, which allows for a mixed usage of residential, industry and commercial. Currently the property is divided into Commercial, Community Commercial, High Density Residential and Moderate Density Residential. The Corporate Park designation allows for mixed use throughout the property, paralleling plans for The Convergence.  

Developers are recommending building a secondary road parallel to U.S. Highway 441 to connect it to Progress Park and The Convergence to limit traffic increase on that road due to the expected 1,000 new residential houses from both developments. 

In other business, the Commission considered and approved transmission and tariff agreements between Florida Power & Light (FPL) Company and the City of Alachua.  The agreements provide for the FPL sale and the City’s purchase of power and energy to meet the power supply needs of Alachua Substation No.1. The transaction agreement is to arrange and schedule transmission of purchased power over FPL lines, with the cost absorbed by FPL.

Power purchased by the City also travels over GRU transmission lines to connect to Alachua Substation No. 1.  The agreement with GRU to complete the transmission of FPL power and energy is expected to be completed and presented to the City Commission in February. 

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ALACHUA COUNTY – Wesley Glen Addison, 21, Alexandria Mariana Mihelic, 27 and Alan Bruce Manning, 27, have all been arrested in connection with a November theft from ArchAngel Gunsmithing and Outfitters, 25720 W. Newberry Road, Newberry, and a string of other vehicle, firearm and ATM thefts and burglaries that spanned at least four counties.

Addison was arrested on Dec. 15, and at the time, all details of the case were fully redacted in the court records because Manning had not yet been arrested. A number of documents are still fully redacted and the motion requesting that the records be sealed is also fully redacted. The warrant for that arrest lists five counts of grand theft of a firearm and charges for possession of burglary tools, armed burglary and using a vehicle in a burglary.

Additional charges in two more cases were added on Dec. 21. The arrest report in the first case alleges that Addison and Manning stole a car from a house in a neighborhood off Southwest 24th Avenue on Nov. 23 and then drove that vehicle to attempt to rob an ATM at the Renasant Bank, 4373 W. Newberry Road, Gainesville.

Both suspects were wearing masks in the ATM surveillance video, but they were wearing distinctive clothes that also appeared in social media posts made by the suspects. The GPS of the stolen vehicle showed that it was driven to Addison’s home in Alachua for a brief time, it was then driven around, including making a stop at the Renasant Bank. The vehicle was then abandoned near Manning’s house.

Other burglaries from vehicles in the same neighborhood were reported on that date and surveillance video from houses in the neighborhood shows two white men wearing the same distinctive clothing that is shown on the Renasant Bank video.

The arrest report in the second case alleges that on Nov. 9, Addison and Manning opened two vehicles parked at a home in Micanopy and stole a Ruger 22 firearm, a Gucci purse, cologne, a key fob, a cooler and about $300 in cash. They then walked behind the home and stole a four-wheeler. The total estimated value of the stolen property was about $5,570.

A sworn complaint in a fourth case, added on Jan. 3, adds charges for possession of burglary tools and burglary of an unoccupied structure for the ATM robbery at Renasant Bank. The complaint states that the two suspects were unsuccessful in getting any money from the ATM. License plate readers in the area of the bank noted a second car, a red sedan, near the stolen car at three different locations. That car is owned by someone closely associated with Addison, and Addison was driving it on Aug. 10 in Bradford County when he had contact with law enforcement there.

That sworn complaint also notes that on Nov. 26, Certified Hydraulics in Branford (Suwannee County) was burglarized and a work truck and tools were stolen at that time. That vehicle was equipped with a GPS transponder, and the transponder recorded everywhere the truck went after it was stolen. The stolen truck was driven to the VyStar Credit Union in Lake Butler (Union County), where video showed two male subjects attempting to rob the ATM by first using pry bars and then attempting to break the machine open with a tow rope attached to the truck.

The two subjects wore some of the same distinctive clothes that were caught on the Renasant Bank ATM video and other clothes matched clothing worn in Addison’s social media posts. A tattoo seen on the VyStar video matched a tattoo in Manning’s social media posts. A red sedan similar to the second car observed in Gainesville was also seen in the VyStar video. The arrest report notes, “It is believed that a third occupant was inside of the red sedan acting as a lookout and chase vehicle operator.”

After leaving Lake Butler, the truck proceeded toward Gainesville and then stopped briefly near a church along State Road 121, where discarded tools were reported as having been found by a citizen on Nov. 26. The truck was then tracked to ArchAngel Gunsmithing and Outfitters in Newberry, where video surveillance showed the two subjects pulling the doors off that business with a rope tied to the stolen work truck, while armed with at least one handgun.

Five AR-15-style rifles, valued at more than $8,900, were stolen from ArchAngel. After leaving ArchAngel, the truck was driven to the area of Southwest 85th Avenue, where it was set on fire and completely destroyed.

On Dec. 7, another vehicle was reported stolen from a home off Northwest 78th Avenue in Alachua. A license plate reader in Flagler County gave an alert and deputies from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office pursued the vehicle. Four occupants fled after the vehicle was stopped and two black men were arrested. A handgun was found on the floor of the vehicle that matched a gun held by Addison in a social media photograph. A knit cap matching the one seen on the Renasant Bank video was also found in the vehicle.

Search warrants for Addison’s and Manning’s homes found clothing worn during the crimes and, post Miranda, Addison confessed to his role in the ArchAngel burglary and at least one of the vehicle thefts.

Warrants were issued for Manning’s arrest, and Mihelic’s arrest report alleges that both she and Manning knew about the warrants because Manning had spoken with the Sheriff’s office about the warrants.

Manning was arrested on Jan. 7 at Mihelic’s residence. The arrest report notes, “Mihelic was aware of this criminal investigation and pending charges, however she still chose to assist Alan Manning to evade arrest by allowing him to reside with her at her apartment.”

The report further states that Mihelic cooperated with investigators and confessed post-Miranda to acting as the chase vehicle and look-out during the ArchAngel burglary. She also allegedly helped transport the rifles stolen from ArchAngel, which were placed in the trunk of the vehicle she was driving. She allegedly followed Addison and Manning down a dirt road in Newberry, where they moved items from the stolen work trunk to the vehicle she was driving before setting the truck on fire.

Mihelic has been charged with armed burglary, five counts of grand theft of a firearm, using a vehicle to cause damage to a structure and unarmed burglary of an unoccupied structure. She is being held on $50,000 bond.

Addison and Manning both have documented criminal histories including burglary, vehicle theft and firearms possession for Manning and drug and property crimes for Addison.

Addison was on probation at the time of the alleged crimes. Addison is being held without bond on the ArchAngel robbery charges and on $400,000 bond on the charges related to the two vehicle thefts. Manning is being held on $155,000 bond on the various cases.

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L - R: Deputy Director of the Office of Ag Water Policy at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Chris Pettit; Florida Farm Bureau President Jeb Smith, 2021 CARES recipient Scott Emerson, Executive Director of Suwannee River Water Management District Hugh Thomas, Dean for UF/IFAS Extension Dr. Andra Johnson.

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BLAND ‒ Scott Emerson of Emerson’s Little Dam Farm, Bland, Florida, has been recognized as a 2021 CARES recipient. Florida Farm Bureau’s County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship (CARES) program publicly recognizes Florida farmers and ranchers who demonstrate exemplary efforts to protect Florida’s natural resources by implementing Best Management Practices. The program highlights the many ways farmers and ranchers use best management practices to leave the land and its resources in better shape for the next generation.

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ALACHUA COUNTY – The Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office kicked off its annual visits to the county's seven public high schools with a visit to Hawthorne Middle/High School on Wednesday, January 12. Students learned about the voting process and had an opportunity to pre-register or register to vote.
 
The Supervisor of Elections has conducted an annual school outreach program since 1993.
 
In Florida, prospective voters can pre-register to vote beginning at 16. When a pre-registered voter turns 18, his or her voter registration activates automatically.
 
As part of its annual school outreach program, the Supervisor of Elections Office will present to the following schools on the following dates:
 
  • Jan. 12: Hawthorne Middle/High School
  • Jan. 31: Eastside High School
  • Feb. 2: Buchholz High School (Virtual)
  • Feb. 3: Gainesville High School
  • Feb. 7: Newberry High School
  • Feb. 9: Loften High School
  • Feb. 10: Santa Fe High School
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LARGO, Fla. —  On Jan. 13, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced the launch of a free substance abuse curriculum for schools in the form of a ‘School Assemblies Toolkit’ through Florida’s The Facts. Your Future. campaign. This program directly engages youth in Florida to improve their understanding of the life-altering effects of drug abuse and empowers teens to reach their full potential.

“With the heartbreaking overdose death statistics we’re witnessing across the country, and as a mom of three, I want Florida’s youth to know they have the power to resist and overcome drug use and abuse,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “Our The Facts. Your Future. initiative is reinventing the way substance abuse prevention is taught in our schools. It’s not “Just Say No” — it’s “Just Say No and Here’s Why.” Together with community partners, schools can use this toolkit to give kids proper context and perspective on the dangers of drug use.”

The ‘School Assemblies Toolkit’ provides schools with free content to engage in Florida’s The Facts. Your Future. initiative through interactive, hands-on elements that can be incorporated throughout the school year. The toolkit contains materials such as fact sheets, conversation maps, and a school assembly template to guide schools in hosting their own events. Schools are encouraged to partner with local law enforcement and others in their communities to host dynamic, multimedia assemblies that will share real life scenarios and science-based facts about substance abuse. 

“The resources in this toolkit are essential for helping schools prevent substance abuse among our youth,” said State Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo. “Giving students the facts through interactive assemblies will help ensure students know that engaging in substance abuse at a young age can severely impact their development, health, and futures. The First Lady’s initiative continues to evolve to address the health needs of Florida’s students at such a critical time in their lives.” 

“First Lady Casey DeSantis has devoted much of her time and effort traveling across the state speaking to parents, students, and survivors to better understand how Florida can help provide their children with opportunities for a better future,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “This toolkit is a direct result of her dedication to Florida’s 2.9 million K-12 public school students and will be a valuable resource for our schools to utilize in their efforts to educate students regarding the dangers of drug abuse.”

As Florida’s The Facts. Your Future. initiative expands, schools will be provided additional resources to engage and equip students with tools they need to make decisions about their health and future. 

Florida’s The Facts. Your Future. ‘School Assemblies Toolkit’ can be found here.

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JACKSONVILLE – Southeastern Grocers Inc. (SEG), parent company and home of Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie grocery stores, together with the SEG Gives Foundation, is hosting a community donation program in all stores to support the USO and their mission to strengthen America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation.

Now through Tuesday, Nov. 16, Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie customers are invited to support the USO by simply rounding up their grocery total to the nearest dollar or by making a donation of their choice at checkout.

Each cent raised will be donated directly to the USO to help military members and their families. To further support the men and women who have served, and continue to serve, our country each day, all stores will also offer an 11 percent discount to all veterans and active military service members this Veterans Day, Nov. 11, on all qualifying grocery purchases with a valid military ID.         
Elizabeth Thompson, Chief People Officer of Southeastern Grocers, said, “We admire and appreciate our military heroes who put their lives on the line for our country. This community donation program continues our longstanding commitment to the USO and their support of our military and their families who have selflessly sacrificed to keep our freedoms free. We are also honored to offer a Veterans Day discount in our stores to thank our veterans and active-duty military for their selfless service to keep us safe here at home.”

The Southeastern United States has one of the largest veteran populations in the country, with nearly four million veterans currently residing in the states that Southeastern Grocers serves. In addition to its partnership with the USO, Southeastern Grocers also supports local, regional and national military service organizations including Folds of Honor and its mission to provide educational scholarships to the spouses and children of America’s fallen and disabled service members. Since 2018, the grocer has donated nearly $4.1 million to Folds of Honor, equating to more than 815 educational scholarships to the children and spouses impacted by a loved one’s sacrifice for the United States military.

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TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is offering free admission to Florida State Parks for all visitors on Veterans Day, Thursday, Nov. 11, in gratitude for the courageous men and women who served in the nation's armed forces. 

“I salute all those who have sacrificed to protect our freedoms and way of life,” said DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “Florida's beautiful state parks provide an abundance of opportunities for reflection and recreation. I hope everyone enjoys Veterans Day in their favorite state park, and that we all take the opportunity to thank our veterans for their service.”

Additionally, veterans enjoy a year-round 25% discount on Florida State Parks annual entrance passes. Veterans who have service-related injuries, as well as surviving spouses and parents of veterans who died in combat, also receive a free lifetime pass that waives the entry fee to all Florida State Parks.   

“The Florida Park Service welcomes our nation’s veterans as visitors, volunteers and staff,” said Eric Draper, Director of Florida State Parks. “We are proud to offer free admission to our award-winning state parks in celebration of Veterans Day.” 

Florida State Parks is fortunate to have many veterans serving in a variety of capacities – from park managers to biologists. In fact, approximately 12% of the people employed by DEP’s Division of Recreation and Parks are veterans of the U.S. armed forces. 

Florida State Parks offers several remembrances to celebrate our nation’s service members. Among them are: 

The free admission offer does not include Skyway Fishing Pier State Park. All other use fees, such as overnight accommodations, will be charged as usual on Nov. 11, 2021.

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JACKSONVILLE – Governor Ron DeSantis On Nov. 4, 2021, announced $13 million in awards to the Jacksonville Aviation Authority new infrastructure at the Cecil Airport and Spaceport. This funding will support the construction of nearly two miles of roadway and extend the corresponding utilities to provide access to underdeveloped property located on the east side of Cecil Airport and Spaceport. This project will more than double the number of jobs available at the facility, bringing the total number of jobs at the airport and spaceport to 6,251. Of the $13 million in funding, $6 million is from the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, $4 million from the Florida Department of Transportation, and Space Florida is contributing $3 million. 

“We’re excited to announce a $6 million Job Growth Grant Fund award for Cecil Airport and Spaceport,” said Governor DeSantis. “When we’re making infrastructure investments, we want projects that are going to have a big impact and make a difference for the community – that is why we chose this project. With this investment, they will be able to double the number of jobs available and the economic impact that the airport and spaceport have on the community. There are a lot of great opportunities ahead at Cecil, and I know it will continue to be an economic driver for Northeast Florida.”

“I’m grateful to Governor DeSantis for continuing to support job growth in our state,” Mayor Lenny Curry said. “Not only is the Governor focused on investing in infrastructure for facilities like the Cecil Airport and Spaceport, but he’s also supporting workforce training programs in high-demand fields, like aviation. These initiatives will continue to move our state forward and provide more opportunities for our citizens.”

“Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, we are continuing to strengthen Florida’s infrastructure in order to attract new business and expand the state’s workforce by creating new opportunities for Floridians,” said Secretary Dane Eagle of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). “This award will support Cecil Airport’s development of existing infrastructure and allow them to access undeveloped property, which is necessary for future expansion and job growth.”

"This award is an example of how strengthening Florida's infrastructure reinforces our communities," said FDOT Secretary Kevin J. Thibault. "This investment will create high-quality jobs and generate equitable economic opportunity for Floridians while helping to spur innovation. Under Governor DeSantis' leadership, we are making lasting investments in Florida's future." 

“This project will open hundreds of acres at the Cecil Airport and Spaceport to the burgeoning aerospace marketplace,” said Frank DiBello, President and CEO of Space Florida. “Jacksonville’s profile in that marketplace highlights the expansion of the Florida Spaceports System, and further represents the evolution of the partnership between Space Florida and Cecil. We look forward to what’s next in the future for Northeast Florida.”

“This infrastructure project at Cecil Airport demonstrates what can happen when great leaders get together”, said Senator Aaron Bean. “Thanks to Governor Ron DeSantis, the industrial development within the aviation and aerospace sectors will bring significant, long-term job creation and capital investments to our area. With FDOT, Space Florida, COJ, and JAA investment into this project, the reality of a Cecil Spaceport is closer than ever.”

“I want to thank the governor for his incredibly generous investment in House District 15 and Northeast Florida,” said Florida House Representative Wyman Duggan. “This visionary investment in critical infrastructure for Cecil Spaceport sets the stage for transformational economic development activity in the commercial space industry in Northeast Florida.”

“Florida is a world leader in the aviation and aerospace industries,” said Florida House Representative Cord Byrd. “This investment in Cecil Airport by the State, City of Jacksonville, and Space Florida will keep Florida the gateway to the stars.”

The funding will allow for the design and construction of a utility corridor and roadway project at Cecil Airport and will facilitate the expansion of existing maintenance, repair, and overhaul facilities. This development will benefit multiple companies, as well as provide road access and fire suppression to Cecil Spaceport. In turn, this project will attract new aerospace and commercial space tenants, while continuing to support the growth of existing companies and bolstering the local economy surrounding Cecil Airport.

The Florida Job Growth Grant Fund is an economic development program designed to promote public infrastructure and workforce training across the state. Proposals are reviewed by DEO and EFI and chosen by the Governor to meet the demands for workforce training or infrastructure needs in communities around the state.

In 2020-21, $74 million in awards was appropriated for projects that focus on rapidly developing a highly skilled workforce and on infrastructure initiatives that attract businesses, create jobs, and promote economic growth. DEO and EFI are currently accepting proposals. For more information, click here.

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TALLAHASSEE – Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis has issued a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland following recent reports that the Biden Administration is proposing to pay $450,000 to each illegal immigrant that was separated from family members at the border under the Trump Administration. This proposal could equate to a payment of $1 million per family. If this proposal is implemented, the Biden Administration will pay more money to illegal immigrants than was paid out to certain 9/11 victims’ families and Gold Star families.

In the letter the CFO called on the federal government to return Florida taxpayer money as to not subsidize or incentivize illegal immigration.  
Read the full letter below: 
November 2, 2021
The Honorable Merrick Garland
U.S Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
 
Dear Attorney General Garland:
 
It has recently come to my attention that the Biden Administration is proposing to pay $450,000 to each illegal immigrant that was separated from family members at the border under the Trump Administration. This amount of money, divvied out to non-Americans, could equate to $1 million per family, with a total impact to American taxpayers of $1 billion. As Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal, I am disgusted with this proposal. Governor DeSantis said recently that this will be a slap in the face to every hard-working American that played by the rules - and I cannot agree with him more.
 
Americans are compassionate, but we should not pay cash to people who illegally came to this country. A country without a border isn’t a country. Now federal leaders are proposing to take away tax dollars from legal citizens and give it to illegal immigrants who broke the law. With over 3,000 migrants currently headed to America’s southern border, now is not the time to telegraph to the world that if you make it to America you may get a check from Uncle Sam for $1 million. It’s simply not worth a good editorial from the Washington Post, or a nice tweet from the New York Times, if your actions ultimately get more people killed.
 
This proposal is incomprehensible. Especially as we’re maxing out coverage for Gold Star families at $400,000, yet federal officials think illegal immigrants should get $1 million. You’re proposing to spend more money on illegal immigrants than on dead, American soldiers’ families for goodness sakes. It’s also more money than what was paid out for many 9/11 victims’ families, as well as the first responders that worked the disaster. The whole thing is disgusting. Whichever bureaucrat came up with this should be fired and whatever dollars ultimately go to illegal families should come out of their pay and benefits package. 
 
Ultimately, I do not believe a single dollar from Florida taxpayers should go to fund what I consider one of the most crazy proposals of all time. It’s crazy because you’re saying non-Americans are more important than the citizens you took an oath to support – and you’re also incentivizing bad behavior by immigrants that want to illegally make the trek to America. Too many of these immigrants will ultimately die, or will have what little money they have, stolen from them.
 
From where I am sitting, the State of Florida contributed more than $209 billion in 2020, in federal income taxes to the nation’s budget. These are dollars that legal citizens in Florida worked hard for.
 
So, if it is the Department of Justice’s intent to use dollars from Florida to both subsidize and incentivize illegal immigration to the United States, then I am demanding the federal government return those dollars back to Floridians. Yes, I am serious, I want the money back. Especially as Florida has paid the 4th highest amount in federal taxes. As you may know Florida pays 6% of federal income taxes, so if you choose to ignore this communication, then we will examine methods for withholding the roughly $60 million that is passed back to the federal government from Florida through the normal course of business. That would constitute Florida’s percentage of the $1 billion Americans are expected to pay.    
 
If it comes to it, we can discuss the issue in court, and I’ll be sure to invite Gold Star family members and 9/11 families to those court proceedings, so federal officials will be forced to look these men and women in the eyes and tell them that Joe Biden values illegal immigrants more than Americans who died for our country.
 
Sincerely,
 
Jimmy Patronis
Chief Financial Officer
 
c: United States Department of Homeland Security
    Department of Health and Human Services

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TALLAHASSEE — The State of Florida has issued a Consumer Alert about a cryptocurrency scam targeting Floridians through Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms. The bait-and-switch investing scheme hooks targets by first helping them earn profits, then encouraging the targets to transfer funds to a fraudulent trading platform where the money is stolen. The Florida Attorney General’s Office has received nearly 100 complaints regarding these types of scams, with a major uptick during the last month.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “The allure of quick profits has drawn millions to cryptocurrency trading—with many new investors joining the market daily. Where there is opportunity though, there are also scammers—baiting victims with early success, then prompting them to transfer their profits to fraudulent trading platforms. We are seeing an uptick in reports of cryptocurrency bait-and-switch scams, and I want Floridians to know how to avoid falling prey.”

According to the complaints received, once a victim clicks on an advertisement enticing investments in a cryptocurrency website, the victim is prompted to establish an account with a legitimate cryptocurrency exchange. Afterward, victims are directed to transfer earnings to other cryptocurrency websites that are fraudulent, imposter platforms. These fraudulent websites may only operate for a short time and then victims are blocked from signing in to investment accounts. Victims are also barred from contacting any financial or investment planner they were paired with earlier on in the process.

Attorney General Moody is providing the following tips to help Floridians stay protected from cryptocurrency scams:

  • Always be wary of unsolicited offers to invest;
  • Know that if scammers request payment in cryptocurrency for the right to recruit others into a program and promise rewards paid in cryptocurrency, it is a scam;
  • Be wary of fake cryptocurrency trading platforms that may resemble legitimate ones; and
  • Research before investing—never wire money or provide personal or financial information until properly researching a platform and an opportunity.


The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission created an Investor Alert guide to protect against fraud focusing on social media and investing. To find out more information, click here. The SEC also created a video that explains the risks of sharing information online, especially to unsolicited investment opportunities.

The National Attorneys General Training and Research Institute also provides information on internet privacy that encompasses social media, identity theft and many other risks associated with being online.

Attorney General Moody recently issued a Consumer Alert that provides additional tips to guard private information online. To view other recent Consumer Alerts, visit the Florida Attorney General's Consumer Alert webpage at MyFloridaLegal.com/ConsumerAlert.

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“I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” These words are as moving today as when first spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the passionate and influential civil rights leader who stood as a “pillar of hope and a model of grace” in his fight towards equality for all.

On January 17, we will reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. King, who, with his brave supporters, stood in strong opposition to racial discrimination, as well as the wrongful and unequal treatment of people who differed in national origin and religious beliefs.

The State of Florida continues to carry Dr. King’s legacy forward, committed to ending discrimination and ensuring all within our state have fair and equal access to employment and housing - because every person deserves to live the American Dream. The Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) was established in 1969 to enforce the Florida Civil Rights Act and address discrimination through education, outreach, and partnership. Annually, the FCHR recognizes and honors Floridians who advance civil rights throughout the state in the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

As we take this time to honor Dr. King, let us consider how we can improve our own communities. Everyone should have the opportunity to live the American Dream. Dr. King paved the way for our society to embrace equality, and it is our job as Americans and Floridians to ensure the civil rights of all people.

Angela Primiano, Vice-Chair

Florida Commission on Human Relations

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Floridians,

This week, I announced the new Mental Health Care Service webpage on the Department of Financial Services (DFS) website, which aims to provide resources and assistance to mental health services for consumers. This past legislative session, HB 701 was signed by Governor DeSantis and establishes new communication duties for health insurers and HMOs and creates reporting requirements for DFS.

I’m proud to provide Floridians with resources they need to seek vital treatment so they can live a healthier life. As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, mental health challenges are on the rise nationwide, especially within our first responder and front-line healthcare communities. Thank you to Governor Ron DeSantis, First Lady Casey DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for stressing the importance of mental health resources in our communities.

On Tuesday, I recognized, October 12th, as National Savings Day and urged Floridians to make saving a priority to secure their financial well-being. Saving is the cornerstone of a strong financial foundation. Setting money aside each month allows families to handle unexpected costs or prepare for future expenses, like college tuition. As your CFO, I remain focused on ensuring all Floridians have the tools they need to make their hard-earned money work for them. For information about financial literacy programs available through the Department, please visit Your Money Matters, which is a one-stop shop for tips and resources to help Floridians manage their finances wisely.

Lastly, in recognition of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, I encouraged Floridians to 'Be Cyber Smart' and raised awareness in an effort to stay safe and secure online. Recently, officials are warning consumers of a new scam where fraudsters are creating fake Google Voice accounts to scam people without being detected. Scammers are always searching for new ways to trick their next victim and using fake Google Voice accounts is their latest ploy. I encourage all individuals and businesses to take action today to 'Be Cyber Smart' and learn how to protect your identity online to ensure you don’t fall victim. Learn about the latest scams and report signs of fraud immediately at FraudFreeFlorida.com

Jimmy Patrons

State of Florida CFO

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With Memorial Day behind us and Independence Day on the horizon, I’m happy to report that our state parks have never been more popular.

Our beaches – two of which were recently named among the 10 best in America by beach guru Dr. Beach – and our springs have attracted a record number of visitors, and we expect that trend to continue in the weeks and months ahead.

Not only that, but our campsites are filling up too as more people discover the joys of camping and RVing.

As it turns out, now is a great time to plan an overnight stay. June is National Camping Month, and the Florida Park Service has just launched a new reservation system that provides our visitors with quicker, easier access to their favorite parks.

The new system shows clearly which parks and sites are available for camping and provides online users with a streamlined process for making reservations. Additionally, campers can now reserve same-day accommodations, which is something that we’ve been wanting to implement for a long time.

The changes will also be apparent at each park’s ranger station, as we’ve updated our point-of-sale system to be more modernized and, most importantly, faster. That means less time at the park gates and more time inside the park.

You might also notice welcome additions such as the ability to be notified when a site becomes available. And, in the future, we’ll be looking to add expanded reservation capabilities for Florida residents.

When thinking about your favorite parks, you might remember an unforgettable paddling adventure or boat tour. But take a moment to consider the park operations needed to offer our visitors the best experiences possible.

Food sales, camp stores, kayak rentals, ferries and trams are services that we could not provide if not for a specially selected group of businesses – many of them owned locally. These companies and their employees are a part of our park community, and they’re just as committed as regular park staff to making your visit safe and enjoyable.

The business that helps us with reservations is just one of our partners that help make 800,000 acres, 30 springs and 100 miles of beaches special places to visit.     

Eric Draper

Director, Florida State Parks

 

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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is on June 15. On this day, and throughout the month, communities, seniors, caregivers, governments, organizations, and the private sector unite to prevent the mistreatment of and violence against older people.

Social Security imposter scams are widespread across the United States. Scammers use sophisticated tactics to deceive you into providing sensitive information or money. They target everyone – even the elderly – and their tactics continue to evolve.

Most recently, Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has received reports of phone scammers creating fake versions of the identification badges most Federal employees use to gain access to Federal buildings. The scammers may text or email photos of the fake badges to convince potential victims of their legitimacy. These badges use government symbols, words, and even names and photos of real people, which are available on government websites or through internet searches.

If you receive a suspicious letter, text, email, or call, hang up or do not respond. You should know how to identify when it’s really Social Security. We will NEVER:

  • Text or email images of an employee’s official government identification.
  • Suspend your Social Security number.
  • Threaten you with arrest or other legal action unless you immediately pay a fine or fee.
  • Require payment by retail gift card, wire transfer, internet currency, or cash by mail.
  • Promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment.
  • Send official letters or reports containing your personal information via email.

We only send text messages if you have opted in to receive texts from us and only in limited situations, including the following:

  • When you have subscribed to receive updates and notifications by text.
  • As part of our enhanced security when accessing your personal my Social Security account.

If you owe money to us, we will mail you a letter with payment options and appeal rights.

We encourage you to report suspected Social Security imposter scams — and other Social Security fraud — to the OIG website at oig.ssa.gov. You may read our previous Social Security fraud advisories at oig.ssa.gov/newsroom/news-release. Please share this information with your friends and family to help spread awareness about Social Security imposter scams.

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The first drug developed to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD), the modern term for alcoholism, was disulfiram (Antabuse). Today disulfiram is still used, but as a second line William Garst HSdrug behind acamprosate (Campral) and naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol). Disulfiram works by blocking the enzymatic breakdown of alcohol and allowing a metabolite to build up in the blood, producing very unpleasant effects. People taking disulfiram will be deterred from ingesting alcohol because they know they will become very ill. The drug is used as an aid to help alcoholics overcome their cravings and addiction.

Disulfiram (a compound that contains sulfur) was first synthesized in 1881 as an industrial chemical, and in the early 1900s was introduced in the manufacturing of rubber. Adding sulfur in rubber manufacturing produces varying degrees of hardness in the final rubber compound.

During the late 1930s sulfur compounds, including disulfiram, were being investigated because of the antimicrobial effects of drugs containing sulfur, and the search was intense. Two scientists at the Danish firm of Medicinalco, Erik Jacobson and Jens Hald, began investigating disulfiram for treatment of intestinal parasites. This company had a group of employees called the “Death Battalion” who would experiment on themselves.

During this phase of testing the drug on themselves, they discovered they became ill after ingesting alcohol. This discovery was made in 1945, but a few years later disulfiram was considered to be used in the treatment of alcoholism as an aversive-reaction drug therapy. Jacobson and Hald’s work was finally published in 1948 and disulfiram was approved by the FDA in 1951.

The discovery of disulfiram led to a renewed interest in the metabolism of alcohol in the body. It was known alcohol was metabolized in the liver and broken down to acetaldehyde then to acetic acid and carbon dioxide by unknown enzymes. In 1950 it was discovered that disulfiram blocked the action of the enzyme that converts acetaldehyde, thus causing an accumulation of acetaldehyde in the bloodstream, which is the cause of the unpleasant effects.

Effects that occur when disulfiram is taken with alcohol include flushing, sweating, nausea and vomiting, chest pain, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness. One should not take disulfiram within 12 hours of alcohol ingestion or 14 days from the last dose of the drug. In addition, products that contain alcohol such as aftershave, cologne, perfume, antiperspirant, and mouthwash can produce unpleasant reactions for people taking Antabuse. Other products to avoid are paint thinners, solvents, and stains, along with dyes, resins and waxes, because even small amounts of alcohol absorbed through the skin can produce the effects.

Other drugs can produce adverse reactions, commonly called the “antabuse-like reaction.” The most notable of these drugs are metronidazole (Flagyl, an antibiotic), griseofulvin (an antifungal), and some cephalosporin antibiotics. If a drug is known to have this side effect, it should be pointed out to the patient by the prescriber and the pharmacist. Always read the drug information given to you when starting a new medication that tells you about side effects that may occur and how to avoid them.

Substance abuse of any kind is not good, but alcohol abuse has been especially devastating to society, families, and individuals because of the convenient availability, relative inexpensiveness, and its association with festivities. In addition, the abuse of alcohol leads to lack of inhibitions and unpredictable behaviors, which are many times violent and destructive. When people take disulfiram, they are acknowledging their problem, and they know that very unpleasant reactions will occur if alcohol is consumed, thus it helps to deter the first drink.

The history of disulfiram is still being written. Currently, it is being studied to treat certain cancers, parasitic infections, HIV, and Covid-19.

Stay informed and stay healthy.

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William Garst is a consultant pharmacist who resides in Alachua, Florida. He received his B.S. in Pharmacy from Auburn University in 1975. He earned a master’s degree in Public Health in 1988 from the University of South Florida and a Master’s in Pharmacy from UF in 2001. In 2007, he received his Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Colorado. Dr. Garst is a member of many national, state, and local professional associations. He serves on the Alachua County Health Care Advisory Board and stays active as a relief pharmacist. In 2016, he retired from the VA. Dr. Garst enjoys golf, reading (especially history), and family. He writes a blog called The Pharmacy Newsletter (https://thepharmacynewsletter.com/). William Garst can be contacted at communitypharmac
ynewsletter@gmail.com.

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When learning the ropes — and rods — of saltwater fishing, thorough preparation involves more than just a rich arsenal of gear and the appropriate attire. Open-water fishing is challenging and requires technique and prior research.  

If you’re embarking on an open-water adventure for the first time, keep the following saltwater fishing tips in mind.  

Research Your Destination

The key to discovering a spot rich in saltwater fish is ample research. At least a week before your trip, you’ll want to read up on fishing reports, tide charts and weather forecasts.  

For instance, while a rainy morning might deter most anglers, it can also surprise you with better catches — if you know where to look. 

Some areas are more crowded with fishing enthusiasts during different times of the year. Consider whether you are traveling in the spring, summer, fall or winter and do the appropriate research. You can get some ideas of  where to go at MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “Where to Saltwater Fish.”

Think About Your Target Species

The type of catch you’re after will dictate where you anchor your boat. Targets, such as yellowfin or other tunas, for instance, are surface feeders. Thus, you’ll want to be on the lookout for weed lines and baitfish breaking the surface.  

On the other hand, some species including groupers and snappers are bottom feeders and prefer structures including reefs and wrecks. Angling for these species can require special equipment, such as a fishfinder, circle hooks, dehooking tools, descending devices and more. MyFWC.com/FishHandling explains much of this fishing gear.    

Stay up to date on the latest regulations for saltwater fishing at MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “Recreational Regulations” or by downloading the Fish Rules app on your smart device. Learn about fish identification at MyFWC.com/FishingLines or by visiting MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “Fish Identification.”

Use a Bathymetric Map

When it comes to open-water angling, you can never underestimate the usefulness of a map. Bathymetric maps are a type of underwater topographic map that indicates specific depths. Space between lines on the map illustrates whether an area is close to a steep slope, drop off, flat or shoal. Lines that are close together indicate a rapidly changing depth in the area. 

Keep in mind that bathymetric maps can be challenging to find at your local angling shop. If you have trouble coming across a bathymetric map, you can rely on other tools, such as nautical charts or satellite images.    

Speak to the Locals

While ample internet research might suffice, nothing quite compares to gathering input from local anglers. When you have a specific target species in mind, drop by the local bait shop for advice. Or join an online group focused on fishing in your area of interest. 

Some angling hot spots have knowledgeable fishing guides who can direct you to the ideal area for your specific catch. Hop on a trip for a chance to see the area up close with an expert who can teach you how to catch your target species. 

Alternatively, you can venture out into the ocean yourself and observe where other anglers are setting up shop. Just be sure to mind your distance and not crowd other anglers. Learn more about angler etiquette at MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “On-the-Water Etiquette.”

Make the Most of Angling Technology

Nowadays, you won’t find any shortage of state-of-the-art angling technology available online and at your local bait shop. Make sure that a reliable fish finder is part of your staple arsenal.  

Fish finders use sonar to locate fish within your chosen area. When an echo transmits back to your device, it indicates the presence of fish immediately under or around your vessel. Some wireless fish finders are Bluetooth compatible and will quickly pair with your Android or iOS device.  

You'll want to consider other staple needs for open-water fishing: GPS, VHF 2-way radio, flares, noise-making device, first aid kit and life jacket for each person on board. Wearing a life jacket while on the water is a simple way to prevent you from drowning if you fall overboard due to a boating accident. Learn more about boating requirements and safety at MyFWC.com/Boating. Find more tips and tricks at MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “How to Saltwater Fish.”

The Bottom Line

If you have recently taken an interest in saltwater fishing, knowing how to target your intended catch will go a long way in the open water. Make the most of your day out by researching your destination beforehand, coming well-equipped, and learning how to identify different kinds of saltwater fish. Consider sharing your catches with scientists through the iAngler app and submitting catches for recognition at FWC’s CatchaFloridaMemory.com

About the Author

Kenneth is an expert at saltwater fishing and the founder of Perfect Captain. He has been angling for over two decades and hopes to provide accessible resources for fishing rookies and veterans.

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