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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ Alachua County Public Schools announces that Alachua County children and their families are invited to attend the 22nd annual Stop the Violence/Back to School Rally on Saturday, July 31 from 10 a.m. to noon.

The event will be held at Citizens Park, behind the MLK Center off NE 8th Ave. and Waldo Road. The event is once again being organized by People Against Violence Enterprises (PAVE) and is supported by a wide variety of local sponsors, including primary sponsor Meldon Law.

Gun violence will be the main focus of this year’s rally.

“With the recent increase in gun violence in our community involving our youth, it’s necessary for us to wrap our arms around them like never before by working together in the area of intervention promoting gun safety,” said Reverend Karl Anderson, the founder of PAVE.

The rally’s keynote speaker will be actor Todd Bridges, who rocketed to fame as Willis Jackson in the popular TV sitcom Diff’rent Strokes and had many other roles on TV as a child. Bridges will talk about overcoming struggles with drug addiction and trouble with the law to again become a successful actor, director and producer.

The event will feature entertainment and other speakers, as well as information provided by community organizations about gun safety, counseling and other topics. Free COVID vaccinations and testing will also be available.

The first 3000 school-aged children in attendance will receive a free backpack filled with school supplies, provided by Meridian Behavioral Healthcare. Children must be present to receive the backpacks.

More information about the rally is available at 352-505-6839 or at www.pavingpeace.org

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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ More nurses will be deployed to Alachua County Public Schools this fall to support COVID mitigation efforts thanks to a new collaboration between the district and the Alachua County Health Department.

The Health Department has hired 30 nurses to work in local schools for the upcoming academic year. They will be joining the nurses who already work at each of the district’s schools.

The additional nurses will be taking on most of the COVID-related tasks at schools, including contact tracing, testing, vaccination support and education. During the last school year, much of that work had to be done by school administrators and other staff members.

“This will be an enormous benefit for our schools,” said Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon. “With this additional support, principals and other staff members can focus on the educational needs of students while still promoting the health of everyone at their school.”

Paul Myers, administrator of the Health Department, says the ongoing collaboration between his department, the district and other partners is critical to mitigating the impact of COVID. Those partners include the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners, the Florida Department of Health, the University of Florida and UF Health.

“We are collectively building upon the successful reopening of our local K-12 schools,” said Myers. “We have demonstrated that through coordinated efforts, the detrimental effects of COVID-19 can be minimized and the critical in-person instruction of our children can continue.”

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ High Springs, Florida has hosted visitors from all over the world as they discover and “Enjoy Our Good Nature” since 1892.­­ The city’s gateway signs welcome weary travelers, excited shoppers and explorers and returning residents alike.  This year, Heart of High Springs, Inc., a local 501c3 nonprofit, has revived a project that originally began in 2007, committing to updating these signs at gateways to the community and to work with the property owners and local government regarding easements for legal access ensure there is a long-term maintenance plan so the signs remain a positive reminder of the pride and investment in the community.

The primary Gateway Sign is located on the roadside of U.S. Highway 441 on property owned by High Springs Animal Hospital.  Secondary Gateway Signs are located along five additional gateway roadsides in cooperation with additional private property owners.  

High Springs-based creator, ThemeWorks, Inc. has been selected to partner with Heart of High Springs in this effort.  “We are very excited about this project.  It’s amazing how signs like these can really impact the way a community like High Springs is perceived, increase community pride, and really give visitors the sense of arriving in a special place,” said Ryan Kremser of ThemeWorks, Inc.

The signs will be durable and maintainable for many years and will be produced by ThemeWorks using the same high-quality materials and fabrication methods that they use when producing outdoor signs for the major Florida theme parks. Existing ThemeWorks signs that were similarly constructed and installed have continued to be useful for more than 20 years. The signs will be fabricated from PVC and marine grade aluminum and will be coated with high end outdoor sign paints with a UV clear coat.

Regarding maintenance, the biggest issue will be algae and lichens growing on the signs.  Occasionally washing the signs with some soapy water would be the best way to keep them looking good.  They should not be power washed because it could shorten the lifespan of the coatings.

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GAINESVILLE ‒ Santa Fe College Coordinator of the Academic Advisement Center, Thomas Beckwith, was honored as a “Best of State” winner by the Florida Academic Advising Association (FLACADA) for his session at the 2021 FLACADA conference entitled “The Benefits and Challenges of Being a Black Male Academic Advisor in an era where Black Lives Matter.”

“Thomas has continued to show why SF stands for ‘Students First,’” SF Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Naima Brown said. “His dedication to our students, his innovative approach toward serving students and his constant focus on the network of support our students need is what makes him invaluable to our team and is one of the reasons why our students excel both in the classroom and in their careers.”

FLACADA serves as a statewide network of advisors, counselors and faculty who work to enrich the educational development of students. FLACADA’s national partner, the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), named Beckwith to its Emerging Leaders list earlier this year.

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NEWBERRY ‒ For those folks who have been cooped up inside for way too long, relief is just around the corner. The City of Newberry approved a special use permit to allow Vivid Sky Vertical, LLC, to hold an outdoor carnival and concert in August.

Eric Lenasbunt of Vivid Sky Vertical, acting as agent for property owner Pat Post, made presentations before the Planning and Zoning Board and the City Commission on July 12 to explain what is planned for the event and discuss the site plan.

A carnival by Florida Carnivals and More will be open all three days of the event, Aug. 20 – 22. Carnival hours are 3 – 11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sunday.

Doors open for the Friday and Saturday night concerts at 5 p.m. and music will run until 10:30 p.m. both nights. Saturday night’s closing event will include a 15-minute fireworks display.

Knockin’ Boots Saloon in Gainesville will be serving alcohol and food vendors/trucks and souvenir event sales will also be included onsite.

Lenasbunt said he would be contacting the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and will also have EMS services available. He also explained his parking plan for ingress and egress during the events.

The gate location is 28823 W. Newberry Road, but it is best described as being adjacent to the Gilchrist County/Alachua County Line on the southeast corner of West Newberry Road and Gilchrist County Road 20185 (Southeast 90th Avenue, Gilchrist County).

Approval was given for this event with several stipulations including proof of a valid liquor license, liability insurance for the outdoor carnival and two-concert event and also the policy must list the City of Newberry as an “additional insured.”

Lenasbunt was tight lipped about who would be performing at the concerts so that will have to be a surprise when the event is closer.

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ALACHUA COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County has rescinded a rabies alert for N.E. Gainesville. This was in response to a stray cat that tested positive on Friday, May 14, 2021.
 Although the alert is being rescinded, all residents and visitors in Alachua County should be aware that rabies is present in the wild animal population and domestic animals are at risk if not vaccinated. The public is asked to maintain a heightened awareness that rabies is still a concern.
 The center of the rabies alert was 3400 N.E. 53rd Avenue and included the following boundaries in Alachua County:
  • N.E. 15th Street, Gainesville
  • N.E. 39th Avenue, Gainesville
  • N.E. Waldo Road
  • N.E. 73rd Avenue
 An animal with rabies could infect other wild or domestic animals that have not been vaccinated against rabies. All domestic animals should be vaccinated against rabies, and all wildlife contact should be avoided, particularly raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats, and coyotes. Rabies is a disease of the nervous system and is fatal to warm-blooded animals and humans. The only treatment for human exposure to rabies is rabies-specific immune globulin and rabies immunization. Appropriate treatment started soon after the exposure will protect an exposed person from the disease.
 Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:
 Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets.
  • Keep pets under direct supervision, so they do not come in contact with wild animals. If a wild animal bites a pet, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact Alachua County Animal Services at 352-264-6880.
  • Call the local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from neighborhoods.
  • Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
  • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.
  • Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
  • Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas, where they might come in contact with people and pets.
  • Persons who have been bitten or scratched by wild or domestic animals should seek medical attention and report the injury to the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County at 352-334-7930.
 For more information on rabies, visit the Florida Department of Health’s rabies website, call the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County at 352-334-7930, or contact Alachua County Animal Control at 352-264-6880.

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NEWBERRY – The June joint meeting between the Newberry City Commission and the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners ended with a number of items delayed until the July 12 City Commission meeting. The five-page agenda listed 14 quasi-judicial public hearings, along with a petition to vacate an unused street, a presentation on the City Fire Department’s equipment replacement needs, establishment of the preliminary fire assessment rate for next year, construction plan approval of Phase One of Country Way South and appointment of a Florida League of Cities Conference voting delegate.

Fire Chief Ben Buckner explained the need to replace the department’s aging 22-year-old quint. The apparatus serves as a fire pump, water tank, carries fire hoses, includes an aerial ladder device to reach the tops of tall buildings and roof tops and carries ground ladders.

In related business, commissioners set the preliminary fire assessment rate for fiscal year 2022 at $195 for residential properties. The rate is not final, and the Commission has the opportunity to lower the rate prior to setting the final fiscal year 2021-22 budget.

In other city business, applications by Causseaux, Hewett and Walpole, Inc. dba CHW, agent for Lexington Parke of Gainesville, LLC to amend the boundary of the City’s Economic Development Overlay Area boundary of the Comprehensive Plan was approved. Also approved was an application to amend the previously approved planned development known as “Sandia Town Parc” and an application to rezone 311.81+/- acres from Agriculture to Planned Development.

Three hearings were conducted on second and final reading to change the Future Land Use Map classification of the previously annexed properties. All three property classifications were changed from County Rural/Agriculture to City of Newberry Agriculture to bring them into conformance with the City’s Official Zoning Atlas.

The first property, owned by Justin and Susanna Richardson, consists of approximately 19.4 acres and is located on the east side of Southwest 250th Street, approximately .62 mile south of Southwest 46th Avenue.

The second property, owned by Emil and Deborah Hodge, consists of approximately 13.7 acres and is located on the north side of Southwest 15th Avenue, approximately .4 mile east of Southwest 226th Street

The third property, owned by Emmel Family Partners, Ltd., consists of approximately 80.87 acres and is located approximately .5 mile north of State Road 26/West Newberry Road and approximately 1.3 miles west of Northwest 202nd Street.

All three properties were then rezoned from Alachua County Agriculture (A) to City of Newberry Agricultural (A) in three separate hearings.

An application by Herb and Jeanie Marlowe, owners, to amend the Future Land Use Plan Map classification from low-density residential (1 – 4 Dwelling Units/Acre) to Medium Density Residential (less than or equal to 8 DU/Acre) on 2.08 acres was approved. The property is located at 24916 S.W. 4th Avenue, 24928 S.W. 4th Avenue and 24902 S.W. 4th Avenue. The property is located on the north side of Oakview Middle School.

Once the Future Land Use Map was changed, Newberry Principal Planner Kinser-Maxwell presented a second application to rezone the property from Residential-Single Family (RSF-1) to Residential, Multiple-Family (RMF-1) on the same 2.08 acres. This application also received approval.

Two separate hearings of Ordinance 2021-27 and 2021-28, which are contiguous, were heard and both received approval. The first property consists of approximately 40.3 acres and the second property consists of approximately 7.66 acres. Kinser-Maxwell said enactment would take place on July 26 of these two ordinances.

A public hearing was conducted on first reading to de-annex a parcel of land, which was earlier annexed into the City under a barrage of criticism by Alachua County. The property is referred to by the City as the “windmill” property because of its configuration. The de-annexation, when finalized, will resolve a conflict between the City and County. Planning and Economic Development Director Bryan Thomas presented this item and indicated that the property owner would not be able to reapply to the City later because the properties between the city limits and the subject property are now in the County’s Growth Management Area.

A legislative public hearing of Ordinance 2021-25 resulted in approval to vacate a portion of Northwest 2nd Avenue between Seaboard Coast Line Railroad and Northwest 254th Street. Property owners Pat Post and William Watson will each receive 25 feet of property from this transaction. City Manager Mike New said one of the property owners will have a utility easement on their property.

Construction plan approval for Phase One of Country Way South subdivision received approval, but not without a concern expressed regarding early morning traffic impacts as drivers attempt to exit Country Way. This subdivision is expected to build 41 houses. Engineer Allison Fettner was on hand to answer questions. A round about was discussed as one option for the City to look into with the Florida Department of Transportation.

In other business, Commissioner Mark Clark was elected to be the voting delegate at the Florida League of Cities 95th Annual Conference Aug. 12-14.

City Manager New announced a series of workshops, many of which are part of the budgeting process. The final workshop on the Visioning process will take place in August, but dates are not yet firm.

A new law passed by the State Legislature requires that a property rights element be added to all Comprehensive Plans in Florida. Until that element has been added and approved by the state, all amendments to Comprehensive Plans will be on hold.

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