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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ High Springs is just coming off the traditional Pioneer Days festival, which was held only weeks ago. But one city commissioner is already looking forward to another celebration of a historic nature. At the May 13 City Commission meeting, Commissioner Byran Williams reminded everyone that next year will be the 130th anniversary of the founding of High Springs. Although he took a bit of kidding from the other commissioners, he swore that he was not a member of the first city commission.

Looking toward the future, City Manager Ashley Stathatos recapped the Strategic Planning Session results and reviewed a list of items identified as most important. City staff and citizens agreed on a number of the items they believed were most important.

The fire and police departments are requesting replacements and upgrades necessary to have both departments continue to adequately serve the growing community. Assistant City Manager Bruce Gillingham addressed a resolution establishing the estimated assessment rate for fire services for the next fiscal year and proposed an increase from the current $155 per year per residence to $223, which translates into a 44 percent increase. “That’s 19 cents a day,” said Gillingham.

He listed the replacement of Engine 29, Squad 29 and the brush truck that was purchased in 1997, which he said is no longer operational. He reminded Commissioners that they could set an amount at the beginning of the budgeting process and that the City could reduce it later in the process if necessary. “However, if we set the amount too low, we can’t increase it.” Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the proposed $223 amount.

In other business, the Commission approved two items on second reading. An ordinance was passed that will close a loophole developers have used to bypass procedures in the past. That ordinance also includes changes to the City’s Land Development Code to modify the approval level of certain site and development aspects of the approval process to properly allocate which items should go before the Commission for approval.

The second item receiving a second hearing was an ordinance establishing a Communications Service Tax on all communications services within the City. This change will bring High Springs in line with other cities in the area and helps to diversify the City’s income stream.

The Commission also approved an extension to the agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for the infiltrative wetlands project for wastewater treatment and disposal. Approval extends the current agreement one more year to June of 2023. Gillingham said there was no change to the dollar amount of more than $1.7 million.

Commissioner Ross Ambrose described a request by the Florida League of Cities (FLC) to have the mayor sign a letter requesting the governor veto legislation relating to Home-Based Businesses (HBB). Ambrose said CS/HB 403 is scheduled to be signed by the governor in the morning. The FLC maintains that the legislation strips regulation authority away from local government regarding city regulation of home-based businesses. “The homeowner doesn’t even need to live in the home for the business to be active,” said Ambrose.

Ambrose said business activities could take place in a residential area in the middle of the night if a similar business in the same city is open 24 hours a day. Since all City Commissioners were against this bill, no motion was required to approve the signing of the letter and sending of it to Tallahassee, said the city attorney.

In other news, the Commission voted to approve three proclamations. The first declared the week of May 16 – 22 as “National Public Works Week” in High Springs. The second declared the month of May as “Alachua County Public Schools, Teachers and Staff Month” and the third declared the month of May as “Military Appreciation Month.”

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