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ALACHUA ‒ City of Alachua commissioners voted on Monday to approve an agreement with Kamal Latham to become the new city manager. This comes after current City Manager Adam Boukari tendered his resignation effective Aug. 5, 2021 to work in the private sector.

Lathan currently serves as assistant city manager, and Boukari recommended Latham for the position of city manager. Lathan will take over the new position on Aug. 5, 2021 with a salary of $144,000.

Over 20 people lined up at the commission meeting to speak and praise the experience and abilities of Latham. Many spoke about his intelligence, past achievements and his ability to listen to the opinions and input from the general public and his staff.

Latham has a strong political background and was appointed by both Presidents Clinton and Bush as a career diplomat with the U.S. Department of State. He has won numerous awards for advancing U.S. economic interests overseas, which has included work in China and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In 2013 he relocated to Gainesville to accept a position as Vice President of Public Policy with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce. He left that position in 2017 to accept a job as chief executive officer of the Economic Development Authority in the Virgin Islands. Latham resigned from that position in 2020 to return to the area and accept a position as Assistant City Manager for the City of Alachua.

Latham has won numerous awards for advancing U.S. economic interests overseas and holds a Master's degree in Public Policy from Harvard University. The Commission voted unanimously to approve the employment contract with Latham.

In other business, the City of Alachua Youth Advisory Council (YAC) received an award from the Florida League of Cities (FLC). YAC participated in the FLC 2021 Youth Council Community Service Contest and was one of five state youth councils to win.

The YAC gathered donated sports equipment for foster children within the surrounding communities. Working with the Guardian Ad Litem Program and the University of Florida baseball and softball teams, YAC members set up donation boxes at various businesses to collect the equipment and also arranged an event for the children to meet the University of Florida baseball and softball teams. The YAC was able to supply over 206 pieces of sports equipment for the event.

FLC Membership Relations Programs Coordinator Eryn Russell presented the YAC with a trophy and a check for $250. The City also honored the group’s efforts with certificates of appreciation.

The Commission approved to increase the City’s portion of a cost share agreement for protection of the Mill Creek Sink and Mill Creek Cave System. On April 7, 2017, the City of Alachua and the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) signed a Memorandum of Agreement for Cost Share Assistance to improve water quality recharging of the Upper Florida Aquifer at the Mill Creek Swallet. The agreement was amended to increase the amount from $1,400,000 to $2,045,899 in order to complete the construction phase of the project.

A program that was put on hold in summer 2020 due to COVID has been reauthorized. The City of Alachua will be conducting a summer camp for youth ages 5 – 13 and an arts and sciences summer camp for high school students to be held at Santa Fe High School. The $100,060 grant to fund the program comes from the Children’s Trust of Alachua County.

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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ In advance of the 2021 Hurricane Season, Alachua County Emergency Management (ACEM) is informing the public about a new resource for real-time weather information within the County. ACEM has installed three new WeatherSTEM stations funded by the Florida Division of Emergency Management. The newest stations are located in Archer (https://alachua.weatherstem.com/fswnarcher), Hawthorne (https://alachua.weatherstem.com/fswnhawthorne), and Waldo (https://alachua.weatherstem.com/fswnwaldo).

These WeatherSTEM stations provide real-time information on temperature, wind speed, lightning strikes, and more. Each station is also equipped with a live stream camera, enabling anyone to see current weather conditions at station locations.

The real-time weather data provided by these WeatherSTEM units will give Emergency Management vital information on wind speeds to better inform the public on current hazards. With WeatherSTEM stations located in the outlying municipalities, Alachua County has a better indication of exactly when tropical storm-force and hurricane-force winds have reached the area and the severity of those winds. This data will also serve as a key resource in ensuring first responders remain safe during tropical weather events.

For a list of all WeatherSTEM locations within Alachua County, visit https://alachua.weatherstem.com/.

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GAINESVILLE ‒ Alachua County residents can help take a step toward herd immunity now that 12- to 15- year-old children can get a COVID-19 vaccine locally. 

Anyone over the age of 12 can receive the Pfizer vaccine through the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County’s walk-up vaccination sites, which are run in collaboration with UF Health Screen, Test & Protect, or by scheduling an appointment. 

The Champions Club at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was busy on May 14 with parents and children who received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. 

Kelly Gurka, Ph.D., an assistant professor of epidemiology in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, waited in line with her daughters, Madeleine Gurka, 15, and Eleanor Gurka, 13. 

“We wanted to get them vaccinated so that they are not only personally protected against COVID-19, but also so that we can contribute to achieving herd immunity in our community,” Kelly Gurka said. 

Both of her girls said they were excited to get the vaccination. 

Children have a lower incidence of COVID-19 than adults and severe consequences of infection are rare, but their risk from the virus is not zero, Gurka said. Younger age groups can still contribute to community transmission. 

“We know that severe outcomes associated with COVID-19 occur among children even though they are rare. There is an abundance of data to suggest that the vaccines are safe, with the administration of millions of doses to date and unprecedented safety monitoring,” Gurka said.

She said she is confident the vaccine’s short-term potential side effects are worth the long-term benefit. 

“I think vaccines are one of the single greatest public health achievements of our time,” Gurka said. “Most of us have not had to live with the vaccine-preventable diseases that our parents and grandparents faced because vaccines have been around since we ourselves were children.” 

Walk-up vaccinations are available throughout Alachua County. Children ages 12 to 17 years must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian to receive the vaccine. 

Michael Lauzardo, M.D., an associate professor of medicine and deputy director of UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, leads UF Health Screen, Test & Protect, which was created to track and respond to COVID-19 cases in the UF community. 

“The bottom line is that everyone who gets vaccinated is a dead-end and a stop to the spread of the virus, which helps us overall,” Lauzardo said. 

Clinical trials with children ages 12 to 15 years revealed that side effects were less common and the vaccine’s effectiveness was much higher than other groups, Lauzardo said.

“Since we want to stop the spread of the virus to our loved ones, we can take that extra step to protect them by getting our children vaccinated as well,” Lauzardo said.

Visit: https://coronavirus.ufhealth.org/vaccinations/vaccine-availability/ for more information on vaccine availability throughout Alachua County.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The Florida League of Cities has recognized High Springs Commissioner Ross Ambrose with a 2021 Home Rule Hero Award for advocacy efforts during the 2021 Legislative Session.

“On behalf of the League and its legislative team, it’s my sincere honor to recognize this year’s award recipients and thank them for their service,” said FLC Director of Legislative Affairs Casey Cook. “These local officials went above and beyond during the 2021 Legislative Session.”

“They made an extraordinary effort, were actively engaged and highly effective in their advocacy efforts,” said Cook. “Even with all the various challenges present this year due to the pandemic, they stepped up. They engaged with legislators, shared their stories and made their voices heard, and it made a difference.”

Home Rule is the ability for a city to address local problems with local solutions with minimal state interference. Home Rule Hero Award recipients are local government officials, both elected and nonelected, who consistently responded to the League’s request to reach out to members of the legislature and help give a local perspective on an issue.

“I think it is important that citizens retain local control versus having Tallahassee design one-size fits all solutions,” said Ambrose. “Local representatives need to use our elected voice to speak up when issues impacting our ability to govern are challenged.”

Ambrose has been a resident of High Springs since 2001 and is currently the managing partner of AAA Porta Serve, providing portable sanitation services to North Central Florida. Before being elected in November 2020, he served on the High Springs Parks & Recreation Advisory Board for 18 years and has been involved in a number of community organizations.

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NEWBERRY ‒ Newberry’s plans to implement an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system in the city are moving forward. On May 24, City Manager Mike New reported to the Commission on the system’s progress. “The project management team meets weekly for project meetings to ensure the project remains on track, plan work and address issues that arise as part of deploying the $1.2 million AMI system,” New said.

Items completed to date and purchase orders issued for network equipment amount to $152,000 and residential water meters comes in at $600,000.

The City tentatively plans to have public education and workshops by September in advance of the system coming online in parts of the city by October. Full deployment should be completed by March 2022, and final system acceptance and project completion is scheduled for May 2022.

Once completed, city staff will no longer need to ride around town to read meters, and property owners will also be able to better manage their usage.

“Although the project completion date is approximately five months later than originally anticipated due to COVID-19, the project is back on track now,” New said. The company installing the AMI system is planning to feature the Newberry installation at DistribuTech, an industry summit, as an example of how a small city is using AMI to better serve its citizens.

Avalon Woods

The Commission approved a development agreement between the City and M3 Avalon Woods. A second item under consideration dealt with amendments to the Mixed-Use Development. The property consists of approximately 196 acres and is located adjacent to the Easton-Newberry Sports Complex.

The City negotiated with M3 to allow Avalon Woods to use 10 acres of City property as part of their development with the caveat that the land would be developed as a playground. Currently, the City does not have funds allocated to outfit the playground. The developer agreed to install sidewalks on one side of the street, update the entrance to Newberry-Easton Sports Complex and provide additional signage. The developer also agreed to provide a lift station for the development.

In the second hearing, Dave McDaniel (M3) requested changes to the Mixed-Use Development to formally change the name of the project from Lexington Station to Avalon Woods. They also asked that the City allow the development to increase the number of residential properties, reduce the amount of commercial properties and reduce the lot sizes from 5,500 to 4,000 square feet to make the homes more affordable. The developer said fewer commercial properties in that location would reduce traffic flow on State Road 45. The project is expected to be built out by 2036.

Following discussion on school concurrency, Mayor Jordan Marlowe reminded Commissioners this project was originally approved in 2008 and that the school board has been aware of it for the past 13 years. Commissioners were also told that the proposed Mixed-Use Development amendments were consistent with the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Commissioner Rick Coleman moved to approve Ordinance 2021-14 on first reading. Commissioner Mark Clark seconded. The motion was approved in a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Monty Farnsworth dissenting.

Planned Development

The Commission approved on second reading a Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPA 21-02) to change the Future Land Use Map classification on 289 +/- acres from Agriculture to Planned Development. This amendment was heard on first reading on March 8, and sent to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) for approval. Receiving no comments (concerns) from the state and no questions from Commissioners or citizens, this item was unanimously approved.

Once CPA 21-02 was approved, CHW, acting as agent for Arpin Sr. & Bond & Gray & Gray & Schofield & Yarborough and Gravely Family Trust, owners, CHW requested the City rezone the same 289 +/- acres located at 23479 West Newberry Road from Agricultural (A) to Planned Development (PD). The Commission voted unanimously to approve the rezoning on second reading.

Annexation

An application for voluntary annexation of 59 +/- acres of land at or near 3200 N.W. 202nd Street received approval on first reading of Ordinance 2021-24. The annexation will help to reduce an enclave.

Comp Plan Amendments & Rezoning

Three Comprehensive Plan Amendments (CPAs), along with associated rezoning applications, were reviewed in separate hearings. All received unanimous approval by Commissioners on first reading, and as required by law, were sent to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for review and comment.

Vacating Roads

A petition to vacate the portion of Southwest Third Avenue from Southwest 252nd Street west to the CSX railroad right-of-way was approved by the Commission. New said he believed the land would be used to build a residence.

A second petition was submitted to vacate a portion of Northwest Second Avenue between Northwest 254th Street and Seaboard Coast Line (CSX) Railroad. Overhead utilities are located on this property and the City will retain the utility easement. This petition was heard on first reading. New said Pat Post and William Watson would be the property owners who would benefit from this action. Although this passed on first reading, Commissioner Monty Farnsworth voted against approval due to concerns that CSX may want that land sometime in the future.

Newberry City Hall will be closed on Monday, May 31, in observance of Memorial Day

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ALACHUA COUNTY – Good News Arts, Inc. invites the public to the current exhibition The Cursed Love of Having, featuring work by Georgia based artist Parker Thornton, on view through June 5. The free closing reception on Saturday, June 5 from 5-7p.m. will feature refreshments, seating and tents outside for safe social distancing outside of the gallery, and a free play and paint area for children. This is a solo exhibition of new work by Parker Thornton from her Georgia State University thesis work, which was unable to be exhibited in 2020 due to the pandemic. 

Located in High Springs, Good News Arts collaborates with local, regional, and national artists to provide creative education opportunities, exhibitions, and cultural programming to the community. Good News Arts also serves as a community center, free and accessible to all.

 The opening reception is Saturday, June 5, 5p.m. -7 p.m. at the First Avenue Centre, 23352 W HWY 27, Suite 80, High Springs, FL 32643.

The artist will host a special mold making workshop at Good News Arts on Thursday, June 3  at 6 p.m. Good News Arts classes and workshops are open to all ages, based on a pay what you can model, and all materials are provided to make arts learning accessible to all. For more details on the workshop please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 Learn more about Good News Arts and these events at www.goodnewsarts.com

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TALLAHASSEE ‒ Scientists in Florida have developed and tested a new kind of fishhook designed to improve fish survival and support sustainable recreational fishing.

Researchers with the University of Florida, U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have published their findings in the journal “Fisheries,” where they show that a modified version of a standard fishing hook allows anglers to catch and release fish successfully and without any direct contact with the angler.

Handling fish and exposing them to air can cause “discard mortality,” which is when fish die after they are caught and released, said Holden Harris, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station.

“Catch and release can help conserve fish populations, but it doesn’t ensure fish will survive after you let them go,” Harris said. “Handling a fish and exposing it to air can injure an already exhausted animal. That makes them more vulnerable to predators after they are released. Handling the fish with nets and hands also disrupts the mucus membrane covering their bodies, which exposes fish to infection.”

In their study, the researchers tested a “bite-shortened” hook, a standard barbless fishing hook modified to have a shorter point or “bite.” The bite-shortened hooks can be made easily with simple tools.

Earlier field trials with bonefish on Palmyra Atoll conducted by one of the study’s co-authors, Andrew Gude, manager of the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, found fish would “spit out” bite-shortened hooks once they were reeled in toward the angler and the angler gave slack in the fishing line.

The idea appeared promising and prompted the researchers at the UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station to begin more rigorous testing.

“In this study, we wanted to test the hooks systematically to see how they performed compared to other hook types for their ability to successfully stay hooked in the fish during the reel-in and then self-release from the fish once it was landed boatside,” Harris said.

Working off the coast of Cedar Key, Florida, the researchers tested three kinds of hooks: barbless, barbed, and bite-shortened. For the purposes of the study, they targeted spotted seatrout, a popular coastal sport fish.

They found that compared to the other hooks, bite-shortened hooks were just as successful at landing fish. However, bite-shortened hooks made it significantly easier for anglers to release fish without directly handling them. This video shows how an angler releases a fish in this way.

“We look at this as a new kind of fishing that might hold appeal for conservation-minded anglers who are concerned about discard mortality,” said Mike Allen, senior author of the study and the director of the UF/IFAS NCBS. A hook like this could ultimately allow fishing in areas where minimizing impacts to fish stocks is a high priority, he said.

While it is still too early to say what the environmental impact of these new hooks might be, Harris said he hopes this first study will inspire other researchers to keep testing the hook design and gather more data.  

“It would be great to know how these hooks perform with different fish species, different fishing techniques and in the hands of different anglers,” Harris said.

In the meantime, curious anglers can make their own bite-shortened hooks and try them out on th

water. Harris and his co-authors have produced a video demonstrating how to turn a standard barbless hook into a bite-shorted hook using tools found at the hardware store.

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TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Housing Finance Corporation (Florida Housing) announced the winners of their statewide art contest, inviting kids and teens age 5-18 to submit their visions on the theme: What does home mean to you? The contest aimed to increase awareness on the importance of having a safe and affordable place to call home, particularly leading up to National Homeownership Month in June. Florida Housing received more than 200 submissions from kids across the state who used their imaginations to illustrate beautiful designs showcasing what they notice most about their home life. An internal review committee has now selected the top 40 to be printed and prominently displayed in the Florida Housing Finance Corporation building in Tallahassee.

 
“As the state’s housing finance agency, we recognize the significance of having a place to call home and our goal has always been to provide every Floridian with that opportunity,” said Trey Price, Executive Director of Florida Housing Finance Corporation. “We hope this fun initiative emphasizes the continued need for quality, affordable housing in Florida and the significant role that this can play in a child’s life. On behalf of our entire team at Florida Housing, I want to thank all of the kids who participated in this contest for helping us share that important message.”
 
The winning artwork showcased a variety of heartwarming scenes: children spending quality time with their family, engaging in fun activities, or simply a picture of what their actual home looks like. A full slideshow
featuring all of the winners has been published on Florida Housing’s website. Each design will also be hung throughout the Florida Housing Finance Corporation building in honor of National Homeownership Month in June.
 
For more information about Florida Housing and to view the winners of this statewide art contest, please visit www.floridahousing.org/artcontest
 
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TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is holding Tag Your Reptile Day events throughout the state to offer pet owners an opportunity to have their pet green iguanas or tegus microchipped for free to help people come into compliance with new rules.

The FWC is partnering with zoos and veterinarians across the state to host Tag Your Reptile Day events at multiple locations. The regional event will be held June 5 at the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne. All tagging event locations will have PIT tagging services available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. No appointments are required. PIT tags are available on a first-come, first-serve basis while supplies last. FWC staff will provide information to complete the permit application process. View additional event dates and locations at MyFWC.com/ReptileRule.

Tagging or microchipping your pet is one if the simplest and most effective ways to keep them safe and protect Florida’s native wildlife. Owners may bring up to five pet tegus or green iguanas to any of the single day events. Pets must be in a secured carrier, wearing a leash or harness to prevent escape. Veterinary staff will microchip these animals while you wait. Thanks to the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida and other partners hosting events, this service is free to any pet owners who have these species as pets.

The rule changes to Chapter 68-5, F.A.C., took effect April 29 and specifically address 16 high-risk invasive reptiles including pythons, tegus and green iguanas that pose a threat to Florida’s ecology, economy, and human health and safety.

The new rules also include reporting requirements for permittees, biosecurity requirements to limit escape of these high-risk species, and additional language to clarify limited exceptions for possession of green iguanas and tegus for commercial sales or as pets.

People in possession of these animals have 90 days to come into compliance. The 90-day grace period ends July 28, 2021 and by that time all pet green iguanas and tegus must be permanently microchipped and owners must have applied for a permit. All other entities must come into compliance with the new rules by July 28 as well, including entities possessing the regulated species for research, educational exhibition, eradication and control, or limited commercial sale. Additionally, entities with these species will have 180 days to come into compliance with the new outdoor caging requirements. The 180-day grace period for upgrading outdoor caging ends Oct. 26, 2021.

More than 500 nonnative species have been reported in Florida. Approximately 80% of these species have been introduced via the live animal trade with more than 130 established in Florida, meaning they are reproducing in the wild. Since most nonnative fish and wildlife find their way into Florida's habitats through escape or release from the live animal trade, it is important to create regulations to prevent high-risk nonnative wildlife from becoming introduced or further established in Florida’s environment.

For detailed information on how these new rules will impact pet owners, commercial sellers, exhibitors, trappers and other groups, or to learn more about upcoming Tag Your Reptile Day events, visit MyFWC.com/ReptileRule.

Additional information about nonnative species in Florida can be found at MyFWC.com/Nonnatives.

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TALLAHASSEE ‒ Representative Geraldine F. Thompson (D-Windemere), and members of the Gator Caucus of the Florida House of Representatives, initiated the presentation of a resolution to honor George H. Starke, Jr. who was the first African American student to attend the University of Florida when he enrolled in 1958. 

He was born in Orlando in 1931 and graduated from Orange County Public Schools before enrolling in Morehouse College in 1949. Starke left Morehouse when he was called into the United States Air Force during the Korean War. He later returned to Morehouse where he joined Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and completed his bachelor’s degree in 1957. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Morehouse alumnus, delivered the commencement address during Starke’s graduation exercise.

In 1958, when he was admitted to the University of Florida Law School, Starke became the first African American student accepted to the University of Florida in its 105-year history. Members of the Florida Highway Patrol escorted him to class as a precaution that was later proved warranted when James Meredith, who became the first African American student admitted to the University of Mississippi, was shot by a sniper. During his classes, Starke was separated from his classmates by an empty row of seats. He learned that his name was mentioned at a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan and he was warned by university officials to not travel through the Ocala National Forest due to Klan activity.

Following many challenges, Starke withdrew from the University of Florida before completing his juris doctorate. He moved to New York where he began a career in investment banking with Wall Street firms. He returned to Orlando in 2015 and has been honored by the University of Florida by presenting him its Distinguished Alumnus Award, the honorary Doctorate of Laws and induction into the Florida Blue Key honor society. The Florida House and Senate honored him on April 15 for the important role he played in the desegregation of institutions of higher education in Florida. Mr. Starke, who is approaching his 90th birthday, observed the House session remotely while members of his family were recognized in the Capitol in the House Gallery.

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Nationally, EPA Awards $10.5 Million to Clean Up 473 School Buses in 40 States

ATLANTA – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded a total of $360,000 to replace 18 older diesel school buses in Florida. The new buses will reduce pollutants that are linked to asthma and lung damage, better protecting health and air quality in communities across the country.

"The rebates provide children with a safe and healthy way to get to school by upgrading older diesel engines in our nation’s school buses," said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Through the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, EPA is equipping local school districts with cleaner-running buses, helping them along the route to healthier kids and communities.”

"By promoting clean diesel technologies, these rebates help to reduce the impacts of diesel emissions as children ride to and from school," said EPA Acting Region 4 Administrator John Blevins. "Diesel Emissions Reduction Act funding helps to improve air quality and human health while advancing innovation and creating jobs."

Florida 2020 DERA school bus rebate recipients are:

Okaloosa School District                        5 buses                        $100,000

School District of Lee County                 10 buses                       $200,000

Volusia County School Board                 3 buses                        $60,000

Nationally, EPA awarded $11.5 million to replace 580 older diesel school buses. $10.5 million to replace 473 older diesel school buses. The funds are going to 137 school bus fleets in 40 states, each of which will receive rebates through EPA's Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) funding.

The 2020 Rebates are the first year in which EPA is offering additional funds for alt-fuel and electric bus replacements. This year, five fleets plan to replace 16 old diesel buses with electric buses.

Applicants scrapping and replacing diesel buses with engine model years 2006 and older will receive rebates between $20,000 and $65,000 per bus, depending on the fuel type of the replacement bus.

EPA has implemented standards to make newer diesel engines more than 90 percent cleaner, but many older diesel school buses are still operating. These older diesel engines emit large amounts of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, which are linked to instances of aggravated asthma, and other health effects or illnesses that can lead to missed days of work or school. 

Since 2008, the DERA program has funded more than 1,300 projects across the country, reducing diesel emissions in more than 70,000 engines. A comprehensive list of the 2020 DERA School Bus Rebate recipients can be found at www.epa.gov/dera/awarded-dera-rebates.

For more information about the DERA program, visit www.epa.gov/dera

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~Fees changing for overnight reservations and camping utility use~

TALLAHASSEE – In order to continue its tradition of award-winning visitor experiences and affordable nature-based recreation, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) state park system will implement changes to its fee schedule for camping/cabin reservations and related utility fees beginning Wednesday, May 5, 2021. 

Currently, fees are collected for making, changing and canceling reservations. There will be no change in these fees under the new fee schedule, and they will continue to be collected at the time reservations are made, changed or canceled. Utility fees, which are currently collected from day campers using park utilities, will be extended to cabin stays and overnight campsites using electric and water. The fee will be assessed daily.

The Florida Park Service has not increased any fees since 2009. Subsequent increases in utility fees are proportionate with increasing costs of electric power, water, sewer and utility maintenance. The increase in revenue will enable Florida's award-winning state parks to continue providing high-quality recreation in an unmatched natural setting. 

Entry fees for Florida’s state parks and trails will remain unchanged.

The new fee schedule is as follows.

 Reservation Fee 

Non-refundable reservation fee per reservation for reservations online or using the call center; fee collected at the time of reservation; reservation fees do not apply to primitive sites. (No change in fee.)

 $6.70

 Cancellation Fee

Cancellation fee assessed for each reservation cancelled; visitors canceling on the day of arrival assessed a cancellation fee and the first night’s use fee. (No change in fee.)

 $17.75

 Transfer Fee

Visitors charged a transfer fee when making reservation change. (No change in fee.)

 $10.00

 

 Utility Fee

Non-registered, day-use sites per unit per day, all campsites with electric and water service and all cabins. Does not apply to primitive tent sites or to sites that do not use electric.

  $7.00

Park fees are deposited into the State Park Trust Fund and appropriated annually to support park operations and maintenance. Utility fees help cover increased utility costs, repairs and improvements. Improvements include repairing or upgrading electric connections, and improving and operating wastewater and water systems, including connection to municipal water and wastewater systems.

“Utility payments and improvements are a large and growing cost of park operations,” said Eric Draper, director of the Division of Recreation and Parks. “We are proud of continuing improvements to campgrounds and cabins to make overnight stays comfortable by providing safe and reliable electric, sewer and water service.”

Under Rule 62D-2.014(2)(d), Florida Administrative Code, user fees become effective after they are advertised in a statewide news release, and, if requested, are reviewed at a public hearing and approved in writing by the Secretary of the department. Copies of the current fee schedule may be obtained from state park offices or by writing to the Division of Recreation and Parks, MS #500, 3900 Commonwealth Blvd., Tallahassee, FL 32399-3000. The current fee schedule and additional fee information can be found at FloridaStateParks.org/fees.

If requested, a public hearing on the proposed fee schedule will be held via electronic teleconference on April 30, 2021, at 10 a.m. Interested parties who wish to receive a copy of the proposed fee schedule, request a public hearing or participate in the electronic teleconference should contact Bryan Bradner, Assistant Director, Florida State Parks, at 850-245-3046 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For more details on prices for individual state parks or general information about the Florida state park system, visit FloridaStateParks.org.

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Remember the old adage “April showers bring May flowers?” In Florida, April is typically a dry month when water demands are higher due to springtime planting and low rainfall amounts. For 22 years, April has been recognized as Water Conservation Month in Florida, a designation to heighten public awareness about the many ways we can reduce our water use until summer thunderstorms arrive.

Each spring, a renewed focus on our lawns and landscapes make it an ideal time to inspect our automatic sprinkler systems and timers. The St. Johns River Water Management District’s seasonal “Did You Set It and Forget It” message is a timely springtime reminder to give your automatic sprinkler system a checkup for leaks, timer adjustments, replacing the rain sensor battery and other maintenance.

The District’s annual Water Less outdoor water conservation campaign promotes easy ways to make water conservation part of your regular routine at home.

Consider this: More than half of all residential water is used outdoors for lawn and landscape irrigation. Studies show that up to half of that water can be saved and isn’t necessary for native and Florida-friendly plants to thrive.

Individually and collectively, you make a big difference when you take control of your water use. In fact, between 2010 and 2019, gross per capita water use in the St. Johns District decreased 12 percent, from 132 gallons per person per day to 116 gallons per person per day.

Changing old habits doesn’t have to be hard. Just follow our five easy ways to save water outdoors: Adhere to the District’s watering restrictions. Give your sprinkler system regular checkups and turn it off if there is rain in the forecast. Use water-efficient smart irrigation technology and replace thirsty landscape materials with drought-tolerant “waterwise” plants. Our waterwise plant database at www.sjrwmd.com/water-conservation/waterwise-landscaping is simple to access and use, too.

Year-round water conservation is an important way to help meet the state’s water supply needs, and you can still maintain a healthy and beautiful Florida landscape.

We’re grateful to all those helping us raise awareness of the small behavior changes that can lead to big water savings. I ask you to spend a few minutes visiting the District’s water conservation campaign website, WaterLessFlorida.com, to learn how you too can make a difference.

Ann Shortelle, Ph.D.

Executive Director

St. Johns River Water Management District

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In the early 1900s on the south side of Chicago at a local tavern called the Lone Star Saloon, a well-to-do customer walked in and ordered a drink. The bartender prepared the drink as usual, but covertly included William Garst HSan additional substance to it. He then nodded to the barmaid and prostitute, “Gold Tooth” Mary Thornton, who served it to the unsuspecting customer, who was soon rendered unconscious. He was then robbed, and other local patrons dumped him in the alley at the back of the Lone Star. After a considerable period of time the stranger woke groggy, confused, and unable to remember what happened. This scenario played out many times, but finally the saloon manager was caught. His name was Michael Finn (nicknamed Mickey) and the substance added to the drink was chloral hydrate. Thus, chloral hydrate knockout drops became known in American vernacular as the “Mickey Finn” or “Mickey” for short.

The story of chloral hydrate began many years earlier in 1832, when Justus von Liebig synthesized chloral hydrate in his laboratory. Von Liebig was a German scientist who made major contributions to agriculture and biological chemistry. He was one of the principal founders of organic chemistry and considered the “father of the fertilizer industry.”

Chloral hydrate is considered the first “sleeping pill” because it has very few actions other than causing drowsiness and sleep. However, more than being the first in the class of drugs known as hypnotics, it was the first completely synthesized and widely used drug. Presumably it never existed on earth in any form until it was made in the laboratory, and in the early 1800s this was a big accomplishment because up until that time all drugs were from a natural resource and no one believed that a chemical outside of nature would have effects on a living being.

In the 1850s it was discovered that chloral hydrate could be converted into a sweet-smelling liquid called chloroform, the fumes of which could render a person unconscious. The substance was used to sedate people for surgery because it could be administered by being inhaled into the lungs. However, it was difficult to use during surgery and too much could be given resulting in many accidental overdose deaths.

Chloral 

hydrate is a solid at room temperatures, but quickly dissolves in alcohol to form an easily administered liquid. Thus, during the 1800s chloral hydrate became a popular “party drug” and was known to be the first “date rape” drug.

Today chloral hydrate is still available but only as a compounded medicine (made in a pharmacy) from crystals because it is not produced commercially any longer by a pharmaceutical company. Barbiturates (phenobarbital) in the early 1900s, and benzodiazepines (Valium and Librium type drugs) in the 1960s replaced the use of chloral hydrate for use as sedation medications, though as late as the 1990s it was still used in hospitals to sedate children before a procedure. It is rarely used anymore, but when used must be compounded by a local pharmacy or hospital pharmacy.

In an earlier column I noted that the difference between a harmful substance and a beneficial medicine is the dose. Too much of the substance is harmful, but the right amount can have beneficial effects. In this case, the difference between a substance used for harm and a beneficial medicine is the intent of the use.

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 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Each year, thousands of Florida children enter foster care due to domestic violence.

And each October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, children's advocates like me remind the public that this scourge devastates children, families and communities – and we must respond.

For children, witnessing intimate partner violence can cause lifetime harm. It makes them more prone to addiction and at greater risk for dating violence, academic problems, post-traumatic stress disorder, aggression, and chronic physical health and developmental problems. They find it harder to interact well with peers, partners and, ultimately, with their own children.

They worry about the safety of their parents – which no child should have to do. Yet millions of children witness the abuse of a parent or caregiver each year. And males who batter their wives batter their children 30 to 60 percent of the time.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement data for 2019 show 105,298 domestic violence incidences and 66,069 domestic violence arrests. That year, according to the Department of Children and Families, there were 87,546 allegations of household violence or intimate partner violence received by the Florida Abuse Hotline.

In the Eighth Judicial Circuit, which includes Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union Counties, there were 169 dependent children from violent homes in the system as of August.

We also know violent households often involve substance abuse or mental illness as well, and that the combination heightens the harm done by each. What's more, child witnesses of intimate partner violence are at increased risk to become abusers or victims themselves.

So the cycle must be broken, and that is what we are trying to do at the Guardian ad Litem Program. We know the single most critical factor in how children weather their exposure to domestic violence is the presence of at least one loving, supportive adult in their lives.

Guardian ad Litem volunteers represent abused and neglected children in dependency court. We know their challenges. We also know children can recover from trauma given the right services and supports, and we advocate for trauma-informed, evidence-based screening, assessment and treatment.

We also work to support the child's relationship with his or her non-offending parent. For most children, a strong relationship with that parent is a key factor in helping them heal.

And as their advocates, we work to tell children the violence is not their fault and to show them they are lovable, competent and important.

Help us break the cycle.

To learn more about the Guardian ad Litem Program or become a volunteer, please contact Riley Ashmore-Volunteer Recruiter at (352) 384-3167 or visit www.GAL8Circuit.org.

To get help, call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1119, or find your local domestic violence program at www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/domestic-violence/map.shtml. Florida's 41 certified domestic violence centers served more than 10,000 victims between March and June 2020, and they remain open and available to serve.

Angela Armstrong, Guardian ad Litem Circuit Director

for Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union Counties

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During this very stressful time—not only in Alachua, but all over the world—we have been forced into situations that we have never faced before, and I would like to say, “thank you” City of Alachua and “The Goodlife Community” for your patience, understanding, and most of all, your great common sense.  

I’m so proud to be your mayor and want to say, “Please keep up the wonderful work you have accomplished so far.”

Gib Coerper

Mayor, Alachua, Florida

Editor’s Note: High Springs Fire Chief Bruce Gillingham is also the Emergency Management Coordinator in High Springs, a position he has held for nine years, and he is the key contact between the City and other agencies regarding the Coronavirus. He meets remotely with Alachua County Department of Health three times per week, the Department of Health EMS twice weekly and the Florida Fire Chief’s Association weekly. He is knowledgeable about the Coronavirus pandemic, and periodically he will be writing about the pandemic and updates on best practices.

“Uncharted territory.” “Unprecedented times.” “Flatten the curve.” All phrases we have heard way too often. COVID-19 has changed life as we know it. Businesses have closed. There are now lines at grocery stores and millions out of work. To a certain extent, a modern day Pearl Harbor: “A [time] which will live in infamy.” (President Franklin Roosevelt)

As we continue to learn about this deadly virus, I encourage us all to do our part. The Stay-At-Home order is in place to protect your family and mine. Unless you need to travel for essential purposes, such as grocery shopping or going to an essential job, try to stay home. The only way to prevent the spread of this virus is to wash our hands often, wear a mask when in public and maintain social distancing.

As a department, we are taking extra steps to ensure our firefighters remain healthy and safe. Our lobby remains closed and new cleaning procedures, both for equipment and our personal gear, are in place.

While we manage a new normal, we are also trying to focus on a certain area of our community that is impacted the most by COVID-19—our seniors. Those are the people who may live alone, and who now find themselves in near total isolation with the cancellation of countless services and programs once available to them.

We recently launched the Caring Card Drive. With the help of members of our own community who are creating thoughtful and encouraging “caring cards,” we plan to deliver these cards to those in need in an effort to bring a moment of joy, and to remind them they have not been forgotten. This is the perfect activity to do with the kids. Cards can be big or small, simple or elaborate. Cards can include a saying, positive words, a poem or whatever card creators think fits best. A bin has been positioned outside of the main High Springs Fire Station lobby as a drop off location for cards. The address is 18586 N.W. 238th Street, High Springs.

In closing, let us remember to all do our part. We are in this together and we will persevere.

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During this time of crisis, America’s courageous patriots in uniform still deserve our utmost respect and admiration for keeping us free and safe from the bad guys of this world.

They are fulfilling an undying and faithful commitment to ‘'duty, honor, country” for every American no matter how they look or what they believe.

Today, these military heroes are joining countless millions of other American heroes in the brutal war against an adversary we call “Coronavirus or COVID-19.

The list of these patriotic heroes is long and consists of American warriors from every walk of life. They include:

  • Doctors, nurses, and other medical workers and support personnel,
  • Hospitals, nursing homes, and pharmacies,
  • Law enforcement and first responders,
  • Truckers and warehouse stockers,
  • Supermarkets and local grocery/convenience stores,
  • Restaurants and fast food chains who are finding creative ways to feed us and provide some degree of normalcy in our lives,
  • School systems for developing creative methods to teach our children,
  • Volunteers who are courageously putting others above self,
  • Corporations and small business who are “retooling” operations to make respirators, masks, and other personal protective equipment,
  • City, county, state, and national government bodies,
  • Broadcast and print media outlets, and
  • The millions of Americans who are faithfully committing to “social distancing” to combat the spread of this insidious and deadly disease.

Got the picture? We are all in this battle together. Sadly, just like every other war: “Some are giving some while others are giving all.”

Let us continue together as “One Nation Under God” in faithful commitment to “duty, honor, country” in fighting this war against humanity.

I am confident we will defeat this brutal enemy and come out stronger with renewed respect for one another. I know we can do it; I have to believe; I can do no other.

God Bless America!

Robert W. Wilford

City of Alachua

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TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Housing Finance Corporation (Florida Housing) announced the winners of their statewide art contest, inviting kids and teens age 5-18 to submit their visions on the theme: What does home mean to you? The contest aimed to increase awareness on the importance of having a safe and affordable place to call home, particularly leading up to National Homeownership Month in June. Florida Housing received more than 200 submissions from kids across the state who used their imaginations to illustrate beautiful designs showcasing what they notice most about their home life. An internal review committee has now selected the top 40 to be printed and prominently displayed in the Florida Housing Finance Corporation building in Tallahassee.

 
“As the state’s housing finance agency, we recognize the significance of having a place to call home and our goal has always been to provide every Floridian with that opportunity,” said Trey Price, Executive Director of Florida Housing Finance Corporation. “We hope this fun initiative emphasizes the continued need for quality, affordable housing in Florida and the significant role that this can play in a child’s life. On behalf of our entire team at Florida Housing, I want to thank all of the kids who participated in this contest for helping us share that important message.”
 
The winning artwork showcased a variety of heartwarming scenes: children spending quality time with their family, engaging in fun activities, or simply a picture of what their actual home looks like. A full slideshow
featuring all of the winners has been published on Florida Housing’s website. Each design will also be hung throughout the Florida Housing Finance Corporation building in honor of National Homeownership Month in June.
 
For more information about Florida Housing and to view the winners of this statewide art contest, please visit www.floridahousing.org/artcontest
 
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