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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ The Alachua County Commission will conduct a virtual Special Meeting on Monday, August 3, 2020, at 1:30 p.m. At this meeting, the Commission will discuss the Alachua County CARES Act application process details.

Read the Alachua County CARES Act Funding Plan.

The public may attend virtually through Cox Channel 12, Facebook, and the County's Video on Demand website. For meeting audio-only, call 301-715-8592, and when prompted, use code 670 965 3024. The public may submit comments to the board through email (bocc@alachuacounty.us) or by calling into the public comment message line when prompted to call during the meeting. Public comment will be taken by telephone for all non-ministerial items on which the Commission votes. Once public comment is opened for an item under discussion, please call 929-205-6099 (enter meeting code 273 174 8038).

Callers will be put in a queue and prompted when it is their turn to speak. To avoid feedback, speakers must turn down their meeting sound when addressing the commission. The commission will allow up to a total of 30 minutes for citizen comments on each item opened for public comment. In addition, the Commission will open phone lines for one 30-minute public comment session for the public to discuss items not on the Commission agenda. The public is encouraged to submit any written or photographic documents prior to the meeting to bocc@alachuacounty.us.

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GAINESVILLE – City of Alachua Vice-Mayor Robert Wilford has been elected 2nd Vice-President of the Florida Regional Councils Association Policy Board.  He has served on the Policy Board since 2017, representing the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council.  Vice-Mayor Wilford is the Immediate Past Chair of the Council and has served on the Council since 2012, representing the City of Alachua.

The Florida Regional Councils Association is the statewide organization of the 10 regional planning councils.  The Association strengthens Florida’s regional planning councils, partners with government and the business community to enhance regional economic prosperity and improves the consistency and quality of regional planning councils programs to ensure they add value to state, regional and local initiatives.

The membership of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council includes local elected officials and gubernatorial appointees.  The Council, in partnership with economic development organizations and local governments, promotes regional strategies, partnerships and solutions to strengthen the economic competitiveness and quality of life of 12 counties and 40 incorporated municipalities in the north central portion of Florida.

The Council administers a variety of state and federal programs for North Central Florida including Alachua, Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor and Union counties. 

Programs include development of a strategic regional policy plan, technical assistance to local governments in development of comprehensive plans, land development regulations and grant management, and administration of hazardous materials programs and economic development programs. 

In addition, the Council staffs the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization for the Gainesville Urbanized Area, the North Central Florida Local Emergency Planning Committee, the North Central Florida Regional Hazardous Materials Response Team and The Original Florida Tourism Task Force.

Wilford has been active on the Council, and he has previously served as Chair, Vice-Chair and Secretary-Treasurer of the Council; Chair of the Finance Committee and Chair of the Program Committee.

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ALACHUA COUNTY – Alachua County Emergency Management encourages everyone to make hurricane season preparations. Residents and businesses are encouraged to sign up for emergency alerts at www.alertalachua.com.

Alert Alachua provides participants with critical information quickly in a variety of situations, such as severe weather, unexpected road closures, missing persons, and evacuations of buildings or neighborhoods. Users receive time-sensitive messages wherever specified, such as home, mobile or business phones, email address, text messages, and more.

A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and an NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
  • Food and water for pets
  • Medications/medical supplies
  • Items for small children/babies (diapers, formula, etc.)

View additional checklists and kit suggestions.

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NEWBERRY – Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell delivered a 2019 state of the City report on law enforcement at the beginning of the July 13 virtual City Commission meeting.

Darnell said the purpose of her presentation was to improve services and operations, enhance relationships with the community, identify gaps in services, develop short- and long-term goals and plan joint strategies for problem solving.

Darnell reported that the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) responded to 6,706 calls in Newberry during the 2019 calendar year, which was an increase of 951 over the previous year. Of those calls, 832 actual case reports were written with 217 of them as a result of major crimes committed within the city. The majority of those crimes were the result of domestic violence, which topped out at 120. Burglary of a Conveyance and Assault and Battery clocked in at 29 and 28 calls, respectively. A flurry of business, residence and other burglaries, along with eight stolen vehicles were also listed. Six sexual battery crimes were committed during that time period with one robbery at the bottom of the list of cases.

Previous to this year, Darnell said she would expect approximately 50 domestic violence calls per month. However, from January to July this year, the average has increased to 70 domestic violence calls per month. She pointed out that people are under much more pressure this year and many are out of work, which could be contributing to the dramatic increase in those types of calls.

Darnell also reported on solved notable cases, the first of which was recovery of a vehicle stolen from Citrus County and a subsequent arrest for grand theft auto, which also resulted in a possession of a controlled substance charge for the driver.

A second arrest was made for a hit and run crash involving a driver and passenger in which the driver who caused the crash left the scene without stopping to render assistance or alert law enforcement. The two injured parties were taken to the hospital and the perpetrator was located at his home and arrested.

A third was a burglary at Pro Pawn Shop in which six handguns were stolen. An off-duty school resource officer recognized one of the subjects from the video of the break in. Officers spotted the juvenile out walking with his family and observed him hand off a gun to his brother. Following up, that gun was confiscated and two more guns were found in the defendant’s home. The juvenile and a co-defendant were charged on multiple charges including Grand Theft of a Firearm, Burglary, Criminal Mischief and Carrying a Concealed Firearm.

During her presentation, Darnell also reviewed four of Newberry’s unsolved cases. The first involved a fire at Newberry High School in September 2019. That incident resulted in destruction of a forklift on the school’s baseball field. A second fire in a bale of hay three days later, also at Newberry High School, was quickly extinguished by a school staff member.

Another unsolved crime involved a construction site burglary in November by a couple who cut the lock on the fence, pried through a metal door and stole several copper wire rolls. Although videos of the suspects and likely vehicles were obtained, the crime remains unsolved.

The last crime she mentioned occurred in 2010. It was the murder of Lila Leach, who was attacked in her home and died of the injuries she sustained. A billboard at the entrance to Newberry offered an $8,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible. Darnell says the reward is now at $10,000. “Advances in DNA technology have narrowed the search for the perpetrator,” said Darnell.

Darnell showed photographs of Newberry residents who are on the Sexual Offenders/Predators List. Of the 19, two are females. One male is technically listed as a sexual offender, which is someone convicted of or who has pled no contest or guilty to a sexual offense involving a minor.

Darnell also talked about the various juvenile relations programs ACSO participates in with children. “Some of these programs have been put on hold during COVID-19, but Kickball with a Cop was one of the programs we were able to do with social distancing,” she said. “The kids had a great time and the deputies did, too. It was extremely hot, but they were rewarded with an ice cream truck at the end of that game.”

She also reviewed some of the City events ACSO participated in during 2019. They included Movie Night at the Park, Operation C.O.N.E. at the Criminal Justice Expo, Youth Dialogue at Newberry High School, the Newberry Christmas Parade, tree lighting and Newberry Toy Giveaway.

Although school is not in session right now, the School Resource Officers are staying in touch with the kids. “They visit with them at the end of the kids’ driveways and follow up when school officials are unable to locate the child or parent.” She said one officer was reading to the kids at night via social media. “The children really enjoy it and it’s good for them to see adults read,” she said.

She closed her presentation by reminding everyone that if they see suspicious activity, say something.

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ALACHUA – Dayna Miller, Municipal Marketer for Waste Pro and City Commissioner in Alachua, has been selected to join the Board of Directors of Recycle Florida Today, Inc. (RFT).

RFT is Florida’s premier recycling organization representing recycling and environmental professionals throughout Florida from both the public, private and non-profit sectors.

“I am proud to represent Waste Pro on the Recycle Florida Today board, the leading recycling organization in Florida,” Miller said. “RFT’s mission walks in step with the Waste Pro Way, and I am honored to have been chosen to be a part of such an influential organization in our industry.”

Miller is heavily involved in organizations in the Alachua-Gainesville area, including the Gainesville Elks Lodge and the Alachua Lions Club, for which she serves as immediate past president and first vice president, respectively. She will serve as President of Alachua Lions Club effective June 25. She additionally serves as Vice President of Keep Alachua County Beautiful. In 2012, she spearheaded the creation of Waste Pro’s company-wide community watch program, Waste Pro-Tection, which allows Waste Pro drivers to alert first responders if they see suspicious activity or encounter an emergency situation while on their routes.

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HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs Police were called to the scene of a crash involving three vehicles at 3:53 p.m. on July 15. The crash site was 17572 N.W. US Highway 441, High Springs. All three vehicles involved in the incident were traveling north on U.S. Highway 441.

In the lead was a 2018 Ford truck driven by Jon R. Lowell of High Springs. Lowell attempted to make a U-turn in the designated median turn-around area and was struck from behind by Joshua S. Jones of Ft. White. Jones was driving a 2012 Ford four-door vehicle.

Maverick L. Gaddy of Branford, who was driving a 1995 Saab, struck Jones’ car causing what police termed “a chain reaction of the vehicles striking each other.”

When High Springs police officers arrived on the scene the crash had caused a complete road blockage.

A minor injury to Jones’ left arm was sustained in the crash. Gaddy was issued a citation for careless driving. Jones was issued two citations, the first of which was for no proof of insurance and the second was for an expired registration of more than six months.

High Springs police reports do not include information regarding seat belt usage and there was also no information regarding suspected alcohol use of the drivers.

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NEWBERRY – The Newberry City Commission is taking steps to stimulate economic development through refunds of commercial development fees.

At the July 13 commission meeting, Planning and Economic Development Director Bryan Thomas reminded the commission that the subject has been brought up previously and they had asked for staff to come back with real world examples of how an economic stimulus program might work.

Some of the purposes behind implementing the incentive program include “encouraging quality commercial development in Newberry, expanding the City’s tax base, providing additional employment opportunities and, hopefully, to encourage upgrading historical commercial buildings in the downtown historic district,” said Thomas.

The proposed development fee refund program will consider refunds reserved for new commercial construction or expansion of existing businesses. The actual amount of the refund will be negotiated between the developer and City staff, subject to approval by the Commission.

Refund consideration will be based on the development meeting or exceeding design standards, the number of new jobs the project will create, the capital investment on the part of the developer and whether renovation of historic commercial structures are part of the development plan.  

According to Thomas, a developer may receive up to 100 percent refund on the first $10,000 in development-related fees, up to another 50 percent refund on fees over $10,000 and up to $50,000 for a maximum potential refund of up to $30,000.

Fees that would be eligible for refund are planning, building permits water and wastewater connection and development fees. All development fees would be paid in advance by the developer and then refunded after the project has been completed and reviewed for compliance by the Land Development Regulation (LDR) administrator.

The program is limited annually to $50,000, unless additional program funding is approved by the City Commission. “This program has been budgeted for this year for $50,000,” said City Manager Mike New.

Thomas reviewed pending projects and discussed ways in which reimbursement for refunds of commercial development fees might work.

Using the Fitness Center Project at Newberry Town Center as an example, Thomas said the total project value is just under $800,000. He listed each of the related fees and dollar amounts for a total of $23,432 for all development fees.

Applying the proposed qualification criteria to the Fitness Center Project, the developer would be eligible for fee reimbursement on three out of four criteria. Because the project will be built at Newberry Town Center, the project automatically incorporates the Florida Vernacular Architectural Style. The project will also result in new jobs in the city and the project will also result in a capital investment in Newberry at nearly $800,000. The one qualification the project does not meet is in the area of upgrading historical commercial buildings in downtown Newberry.

The developer in this case could be refunded development fees totaling $16,716, which some may consider a worthwhile inducement to build in Newberry.

The City would recoup tax revenues to reimburse City coffers in three to four taxable years.

The Commission will make the program retroactive to the beginning of this fiscal year as the funds were already included in this year’s budget.

A second amendment to the program provides it is not available to not-for-profit projects as the City would have no way to recoup the costs for its citizens.

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