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ALACHUA – A $1.8 million lawsuit against the City of Alachua by engineering firm Jones Edmunds & Associates, Inc. was dropped Feb. 14, 2013.

Jones Edmunds took a settlement from the City, ending a lawsuit that began Oct. 8, 2010.

The engineering firm sued the City of Alachua over a construction project aimed to improve the City’s advanced wastewater reclamation facility. The company claimed the City breached its obligation to the company by ordering changes to the design requirements for the project and failing to obtain an amendment to the agreement for those changes.

The City paid Jones Edmunds $1.275 million toward the amount due for engineering services. Jones Edmunds claimed that the City paid nothing for the additional services needed for the project to be built and accommodate the City-desired changes in the facility’s design.

The City offered a $125,000 settlement to Jones Edmunds in January 2013.

The settlement proposed utilizing funds from the City’s general and wastewater utility fund budgets and the wastewater utility fund contingency budget.

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HIGH SPRINGS – During the Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, High Springs City Commission meeting, City Attorney Scott Walker suggested the Commission consider formulating a Code of Conduct for Public Officials. The suggestion was made on the heels of Vice-Mayor Scott Jamison’s statement near the meeting’s end regarding negative comments and innuendo issued by another commissioner on that commissioner’s blog site.

Referring to the High Springs Personnel Policy and Procedure Manuel, Jamison suggested that public officials should be held to at least the same, if not to a higher, standard as the city’s employees.

Citing comments seen on Commissioner Bob Barnas’ blog, he said he believed the use of social media to ridicule, harass and intimidate certain High Springs citizens and public officials was a major concern. One example involved “a picture of a High Springs citizen posted on the blog and referred to as, “the bi-atch witch of the year.” The other, he said, is directed to a local businessman/lawyer and reads as follows; “He like Cheaper. He wants you to believe the Troiano ANALysis. He forgot that either Travis or Troiano was a liar.”

“Now, let’s understand what was written,” said Jamison. “A former commissioner and Chief of Police are called a liar. Why?” he asked. “Why are we willing to accept this type of behavior from our public officials?”

In addressing a separate, yet similar, incident, Jamison cited the use of City email to disparage him and two other commissioners. He explained, “The email in question is a reply from a commissioner to a citizen’s comments about the closing of the road through James Paul Park. Specifically, the email states, ‘No experts made this closure. Three commissioners did[;] that received donations from the Hewletts. There is why.’”

Jamison continued by saying, “For a sitting commissioner to suggest that I or any commissioner would be swayed by a donation is insulting, unprofessional and borders on slander. Each commissioner has the right to voice an alternative opinion, but not at the expense of impugning another commissioner’s character.” Jamison cited the use of the City email to make the allegation as a “far cry from a private social medium. What is transmitted on the City email is done so as a representative of the City. This is a whole different ballgame,” he said.

Jamison further queried how one commissioner’s comments might impact the City. “Are the posts on bobbarnas.com subject to public records request” or the Sunshine Law,” he asked. “Can the City be held liable for the posts on bobbarnas.com?”

Citing the City’s “Code of Ethical Standards, “Section 10.1 (C), (G) and (I) elaborating on the Creed for Public Employees and Section 10.3 regarding Personal Conduct, he asked, “What type of behavior do you expect from your public officials?”

“This isn’t an issue of free speech. What this is about is basic respect and decency. These…policy statements…describe the levels of ethical behavior, civility and professionalism that we require from our employees; shouldn’t we expect at least the same from our public officials?” he asked.

Earlier in the evening, during the Citizen Comments portion of the agenda, resident Suzie Ann Clark read a statement into the record in which she charged “cyber harassing and cyber stalking” on the part of one commissioner toward her. Identifying both terms as referring to abuse by adults toward adults, Clark said she “never thought I’d be saying this, but one of our publicly elected City Commissioners has been doing just that – cyber harassing on a blog that is both false and incorrect and cannot be responded to.”

“Between the name calling, false accusations and the posting of my business name and my picture, I personally feel threatened, and also feel like my business is being stalked. This same treatment, from this Commissioner, has been also extended to other High Springs citizens…” she said, naming some.

Clark said she wanted to put the record straight regarding the Monday morning Zumba class and the accusation that she was charging participants, even though the Civic Center had been provided to the class for free.

“False,” she said. Paraphrasing she said, a tip jar is out for anyone who wishes to help defray the Zumba instructor’s gas and time since she drives to High Springs from Gainesville as a favor to us to teach our previously-funded class. We all feel it’s better, health-wise, to keep this class going.

“I am requesting the City Manager, City Attorney and City Mayor to put an end to this. This harassing is causing substantial emotional distress and intended to threaten my business and my reputation, and serves no legitimate purpose,” she said.

Although neither specifically named the commissioner in question during their presentations, Jamison mentioned the name of the blog, bobbarnas.com, thus leaving no doubt to which commissioner he was referring.

Barnas attempted to get Mayor Sue Weller to silence Clark during her presentation and started to walk out of the meeting during Jamison’s comments, but returned to his seat and requested the opportunity to comment following Jamison’s comments. Mayor Weller adjourned the meeting with Barnas vowing to comment at the next meeting.

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Axogen Edward - W - Axogen NERVE G 20121226181637

Alachua based AxoGen specializes in products for peripheral nerve damage repair. Edward Bonfiglio received an implant of AxoGen’s Avance® Nerve Graft in 2009 following an injury to his sciatic nerve after coming under fire while serving as a Navy Corpsman in Afghanistan in 2009.

ALACHUA – An Alachua-based company is helping wounded warriors to feel again.

Bioscience company AxoGen develops and markets a full suite of surgical products for surgeons and hospitals to help patients with nerve injuries.

The company, located at 13859 Progress Blvd., specializes in products for peripheral nerve damage.

Peripheral nerves carry signals to and from the brain to allow a person to feel sensations or move muscles. When a peripheral nerve is damaged the signal transfer is reduced or completely stopped.

Peripheral nerves can be injured in many ways including traumatic injuries such as kitchen knife lacerations, falling through plate glass, car accidents and major military injuries. Peripheral nerves can also be damaged by nerve compression like in carpal tunnel syndrome.

AxoGen’s products can be found in trauma centers, hospitals, military facilities and surgical centers throughout the United States and Canada. It is currently expanding its prominence in the European market.

The company had a humble beginning.

It was founded in Gainesville in 2002 by Jamie Grooms and John Engels. They started the company in a room next to the garage of Grooms’ house, working to develop patents and prove the science.

Since then, the company has grown to three product brands – Avance® Nerve Graft, AxoGuard® Nerve Connector and AxoGuard® Nerve Protector – with over 50 full-time employees. The company is publicly traded on the OTCBB exchange and has reported revenue of $5.6 million through Q3 2012.

“AxoGen has developed a strong team of employees fully committed to making a difference in the lives of people with peripheral nerve repair injuries,” said CEO Karen Zaderej. “We come to work each day believing in what we do and doing our very best for the doctors who use our products to help their patients.”

The company relocated to Progress Corporate Park in 2007.

The University of Florida’s Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator was an ideal environment for an early stage company, Zaderej said.

“We found the well-designed lab space, access to shared equipment and proximity to a community of similarly situated companies to be very attractive for AxoGen,” Zaderej said.

AxoGen is involved with the “Thank a Wounded Warrior” program, which provides signed thank you cards for injured U.S. military personnel being treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

It also supports entities such as the American Society of Surgery of the Hand with educational grants.

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W - EggDrop

While typical Easter egg hunts feature colorful eggs hidden in the grass by the lovable Easter Bunny, Saturday’s egg hunt in Alachua featured a high flying Easter Bunny delivering eggs by helicopter. Buzzing the Christ Central Alachua property off U.S. Highway 441, the famed bunny made four aerial deliveries for children of different age groups.

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Restaurants bank on variety to increase business

W - Alachua Main Street DSCF7588

 

D.W. Ashton Catery (above) is just one of several eateries on Alachua’s Main Street that is aiming to serve up flavor and variety to satisfy diverse appetites and boost business in the downtown area.

ALACHUA – Monday and Tuesday afternoons for D.W. Ashton Catery now stray from the typical catering routine. Instead of prepping for orders or serving clients, D.W. Ashton invites the public in for lunch service in its reopened café.

D.W. Ashton, along with veteran and new businesses on Alachua’s Main Street, aims to revitalize the area after an economic downturn.

Hoping to bring more attention to Main Street, D.W. Ashton owner Mary Nell Combs restarted her café service. Visitors now have a lighter lunch option when visiting the eatery. Soups, salads and sandwiches are served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“We provide quaint dining at a reasonable price, and hopefully it will bring people,” Combs said.

Originally, D.W. Ashton Catery, formerly called P’diddles, provided both catering and lunch services regularly, but as the catering business took off, juggling both became too much. Combs said the decision to close the café, located at 14816 Main Street, was a hard one, but she had a stable business catering for clients like the University of Florida football team.

However, as the economic climate changed Combs began to worry about the health of Main Street. Restaurants such as Saga, Los Avena and The Ivy House closed. The street saw less and less traffic.

Combs saw it as a sign of the times and decided to fight it.

“No one should feel like it’s competition,” Combs said. “It’s variety. I think more cafes would be great. We all feed off each other.”

Though the café has only been open a short time, Combs has already seen new faces in her restaurant and on Main Street.

“It’s nice to see old friends, but it’s great to see new faces,” She said.

Another restaurant Main Street business owners hope will bring more people to the street is The Sandbar Seafood and Steak, which will be occupying the empty space at 14841 Main Street.

The Sandbar will offer surf and turf cuisine. Co-owner Dean Waters also hopes to bring residents to Main Street by adding to the variety of dining.

“I believe we’re bringing something to Alachua that they don’t have,” Waters said.

Waters chose Alachua, Main Street in particular, for his business location because he liked the area and said everyone gave him a warm welcome.

Waters hopes to contribute to the Alachua community with The Sandbar and by hiring local residents.

The restaurant plans to open March 4.

Though it is too early to see how the café has affected Combs’ business, the opportunity for reinvention has been positive.

“When you’re in the restaurant business you have to recreate yourself,” she said.

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W - Youth Fair DSCF7621

Carson Willis shows her steer at the Alachua Youth Fair Livestock Sale and Auction.

GAINESVILLE – After a year of working with his steer, Briar Mitchell got 16-month-old Ace to stop head-butting him.

Nine-year-old Briar, member of the Archer Trailblazers, was able to control his steer at his first Alachua County Youth Fair Livestock Sale and receive $4.50 per pound. Ace was the second best steer at the sale.

Briar was one of the hundreds of kids who were selling their market animals at the charity sale held by the Alachua County Youth Fair and Livestock Show Association on Tuesday.

Chenoa Dixon, fair board president, said this annual auction is a way for kids to raise money for their hard work. Children who participate range from ages 5 to 18 years old.

The animals brought to the auction are market and breeding animals such as steers, hogs, goats and rabbits.

“All the market animals get sent off to be harvested and breeding animals continue to be raised,” Dixon said.

After 35 years, the auction continues to bring the community together.

“Exhibitors work on this program all year and come and show off their skills,” Dixon said.

Those skills include how the kids raised their animals so they can behave and remain calm in front of a big group of people, she said. They also show what they have learned and market their animals by recruiting sponsors, family, friends and different companies to come out to the auction to support them.

This year, there were more than 300 exhibitors and more than 500 animals. Of those 500, 126 were market animals, which were all sold. Market animals included hogs, goats and steers, Dixon said.

The grand champion market animals were a 1,135 lbs. steer that was sold for $6 per pound, a 100 lbs. goat sold for $10 per pound and a 279 lbs. pig sold for $4 per pound.

Whitney Jerkins, member of the Santa Fe FFA, had the highest bid of $12 for her 210 lbs hog.

The average sale per pound for the animals is $3 to $5 but it depends on the type of animal, Dixon said.

Although the attendance for each auction seems to be a large group, Dixon said it’s always the same companies and exhibitors and she said it would be great if more people participated.

“The fair really depends on the community and their support,” she said.

Three large companies that regularly attend the event are Santa Fe Ford and Power Sports, Florida Farm Bureau General Insurance and Rays Metal Works, Inc., said Cindy Sanders, extension director.

Some of the other buyers that attend the event are returning exhibitors. Since kids are allowed to sell their animals from age 5 until their last year of high school, former sellers support the current participants by bidding.

Richard Feagle, Archer Automotive and Tire owner, used to bring his two sons for about eight years when they were young to show their own hogs and steers. During Tuesday’s auction, Feagle was in the audience as a buyer. He has been a buyer for eight years and purchases hogs and steers. This year he bought five hogs.

Jason Breeden is also a former exhibitor when he was a child, and now his kids participate in the sale.

His kids, Garison Breeden, 11, and Kayley Breeden, 13, both sold steers this year.

Jason Breeden said this event helps the children learn about responsibility, among other things.

“It’s a good learning experience for the kids,” he said.

A returning participant, who has been involved in the auction before, said this was her last year. Tori Banner, 17, from Micanopy Friendship 4-H Club, sold her steer for $2 per pound.

Banner said she started showing animals when she was 10 years old. The first animal she showed was a goat.

“This is my last year,” she said. “I’m excited and it mean I’m going to miss it but I’m excited to move on. It’s bittersweet.”

Some of the kids not only take away money from the event but life lessons through the work they have done all year with their animals.

Fifteen-year-old Wyatt O’Grady, also from the Micanopy Friendship 4-H Club, said he learned to treat animals with respect.

“It teaches you disciple and makes you a better person,” he said.

O’Grady sold a market goat for $3.25 per pound.

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HIGH SPRINGS – Michael Eugene O’Steen, 58, of High Springs was hit and killed at 6:30 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2013, when a vehicle heading east on U.S. Highway 441 collided with him. The accident occurred in the 600 block near the Springs Diner as driver of the vehicle, Laura Rodriguez, also of High Springs, was on her way to work in Alachua.

High Springs Police Chief Steve Holley and Officer Ryan Scott, the City’s traffic homicide investigators, were on the scene and reported that O’Steen was wearing neutral colored clothing at the time of the accident. As of press time, it remains unclear whether O’Steen was attempting to cross the highway or was walking along the road.

The accident is still under investigation, but no charges have been filed in the case.

A High Springs resident for several years, O’Steen is survived by his two sisters, Elizabeth Ann Langford of High Springs and Rose Hanson of Lake City; two children, Melissa, 24, of Gainesville and Brandon, 28, of High Springs and ex-wife, Cathy O’Steen, also of High Springs. His brother, Eddie O’Steen is deceased.

Funeral arrangements are under the care of Evans-Carter Funeral Home of High Springs.

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