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L-R: Aidan Collins, Hannah Collins, Olivia Huffer, Meghan Collins, Coach Joey Todd, Pete Collins and Head Archery Coach Robert Turner.

NEWBERRY – The Easton Foundations Regional Archery Center of Excellence has brought local, national and international attention to Newberry.

Robert Turner, head archery coach, explained at the City of Newberry Commission meeting last Monday how Easton-Newberry Sports Complex has developed since its opening three years ago, and is now a training facility for the community as well as international archers. “We have the best archery equipment in the country,” Turner said.

The Australia native is also working to increase the popularity of archery in schools, exposing students to the sport.

Commissioner Jordan Marlowe, an archery coach at Newberry High School (NHS), said the school is one of 60 schools in Alachua and Marion counties taking advantage of the program. The organization bought Newberry High School $5,000 worth of bows, targets and arrows, he said after the meeting.

And Easton has offered to pay for any school that wants to train a teacher to be a certified archery coach.

The archery club started two years ago and had 16 athletes last year. The team participates in the Easton Foundations’ Olympic Archery in School Mail-in Tournament.

The coaches submit the athletes’ peak scores and medals are given to the top 10 scorers in each division. NHS had the top boy athlete last year.

Turner said the next step is to have a local and national competition amongst the schools. Texas, New York and California schools also utilized a similar program.  Florida and California have the largest number of schools.

“We’re excited about archery in Newberry.” Turner said. “It was a big step for Newberry to take on this facility and invest money.”

Newberry went out on a limb and the risk paid off, he said, adding that Newberry offered a progressive look at sports and made an excellent decision to bring the facility to the community.

The complex is in the beginning stages to become a world archery training center with the World Archery Federation. There are only four such existing centers today, and Newberry would become the fifth.

Turner said they are also working with hotels to provide shuttles and a place to stay for traveling athletes.

Easton has a distinct tie to this year’s Olympics.  Eight teams from Chile, Canada, Romania and two other countries, as well as Team USA Archery have been on site earlier this year to practice. Turner said Olympic archers to keep an eye on during the games are Denisse van Lamoen from Chile and Crispin Duenas from Canada. Both athletes have trained at Easton.

“The Olympics is a big part of our history,” he said.

In addition to a 30-second commercial featuring the facility, which will air on NBC throughout the Olympic games, Easton will be hosting an Olympic party to celebrate the games and archery on Aug. 4 at 2 p.m.

“Movies like the ‘Hunger Games and ‘Brave’ are creating a boost for us, Turner said, adding that Easton will be viewed as a valuable training facility in the next three years.

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HIGH SPRINGS – Despite opposition by two City of High Springs commissioners, on Thursday, July 26, the Commission authorized High Springs Police Chief Steve Holley to expend funds on training for future emergency dispatch employees, as well as to provide salaries for those employees.  The Commission’s action authorized expenditures which were not funded in the City’s budget, and had not been approved by an amendment to the City’s budget.

High Springs currently contracts with Alachua County for emergency services through the Sheriff’s Office Combined Communications Center (CCC), but this is scheduled to end Oct. 1 when High Springs activates their emergency dispatch center.

“We’re trying to ram this thing through,” Commissioner Scott Jamison said. “This is all stuff we were trying to warn about, and now they’re here. We have to circumvent things. I don’t understand the willingness to do whatever has to be done to do this. It just doesn’t seem like good business.”

Recently the commission has made staffing changes, such as the termination of the former city planner and addition of a city engineer by first making adjustments to the City’s budget.

According to Holley, he required immediate approval because of time constraints related to having the city’s emergency dispatch up and running on schedule. Two employees were required to attend training at the Marion County Public Safety Communications on July 30 and first must undergo physical exams on July 30.

Holley estimated the cost for school, salaries and physical exams at $400 to $500.

“While we are working on the budget, we, as a commission, voted to go ahead with bringing on our own dispatch,” Vice-Mayor Bob Barnas said.

Barnas made a motion to give Holley the authority of the Commission to take all necessary actions to get the dispatch up and running by the Oct. 1 deadline. Commissioner Linda Gestrin seconded, and the measure passed 3-2 with Commissioners Jamison and Sue Weller voting against it.

Holley’s additional request follows his July 17 update about the CAD software, which he informed the Commission would cost $39,000 this fiscal year. To pay for the software, the City will be using money from its contingency funds. Jamison opposed using emergency funds to pay for the dispatch startup costs.

“This isn’t an emergency. This is a purchase of choice,” he said on July 17.

During the Tuesday, July 31 commission meeting, the commission approved by a 3-2 vote to hold two meetings to adopt an amended budget setting aside $167,200 in capital outlay costs for the Communications Department.

The City will finance a Motorola console and APX 7000 radios for $128,000, which are required for the dispatch to become operational.  For this budget year, the City will pay $39,200 for the CAD software and $32,190 to add six staff members into the Communications Department.

Weller recommended again against moving forward with the local dispatch, instead offering that the City could hire a person to answer the 415-number and provide cell phones to officers to answer the number after hours.

“Even with drastic cuts in the budget, we are not going to be able to afford the dispatch,” Weller said. “We are in dire straits right now; we will be in dire straits this coming year. Unless you are going to cut out every other department, and you’re only going to have police and fire and no other services, then you might as well hand this over to the County at this point.”

Despite Weller’s expressed concerns and Jamison’s objections, by a 3-2 vote, the Commission approved the measures to move forward with the dispatch.

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Babe Ruth Softball World Series begins Saturday

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Area residents turned out for a community pep rally on the steps of Alachua City Hall in honor of the local Santa Fe team, which will be competing in the 2012 Babe Ruth Softball World Series.  Each girl was presented with a key to the city by Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper.

ALACHUA – For Alachua, the Bambino brings not a curse, but a blessing.

The 2012 Babe Ruth Softball World Series begins Saturday, Aug. 4, bringing 20 teams of girls 12 and under from around the country to compete at the Hal Brady Recreation Complex.

Hal Brady, City of Alachua Recreation Director, expects the tournament to give Alachua an economic boost.

“Without a doubt the tournament will bring money to the city,” Brady said.  “Many of the families are already in town and are staying in eight to ten of the hotels in Alachua and Gainesville.”

Brady estimated the tournament would bring about $1 million to Alachua businesses.  He also estimated that the tournament costs the city about $100,000 to put on, including $45,000 to Babe Ruth Softball for the right to host the tournament.

Much of the costs were paid for by corporate sponsors such as Wal-Mart and Dollar General as well as by donations from both the City of Alachua and the Alachua Chamber of Commerce.

Teams gained entry to the tournament either by winning a regional championship (as eight teams did), winning the Northern Florida state championship (as the team from Oviedo did), or by earning an invitation based on their ranking and performance in qualifying games.  The host team, in this case Santa Fe, also received an automatic bid.

Teams from California, Louisiana, Washington and Tennessee among others will compete in the tournament, the largest in the history of the Babe Ruth Softball World Series.

Brady noted that putting on the tournament is a community effort, and that the tournament’s success will be due in large part to the time commitment of many Alachua residents.

“There are hundreds of volunteers who worked on the project who got paid absolutely nothing,” Brady said.  “It really takes everybody to do it.”

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Wastewater and water rates to go up, electricity down

 ALACHUA – City of Alachua Public Services Director Mike New presented the proposed utility rates for the 2013 fiscal year at the city’s public workshop Monday, highlighting changes that will result in decreased rates for customers who use the city’s water, wastewater and electricity.

According to New, the proposed rates will add 0.1 cent per kilowatt-hour to electric bills.  However, the bulk power cost adjustment will decrease from 2.275 cents to 1.85 cents per kWh.  As a result, the bill for a customer using 1,000 kWh a month would decrease by $3.25 a month.

New said water conservation efforts have led to a decrease in consumption of the city’s water and wastewater, with the average residence using 700 fewer gallons of water and wastewater per month than in 2009.

Due to insufficient revenues, the proposed rates of these utilities will increase next year.  The proposed water rate would add 78 cents to the monthly bill of a residence using 6,000 gallons of water per month and $2.04 to a residence using the same amount of wastewater.

New noted customers receiving all three utilities from the city will see an average monthly rate decrease of 43 cents a month.

“We have 2,700 wastewater customers,” New said.  “Nearly every wastewater customer is also a water customer and an electric customer.  I would say more than 2,500 customers have all three services.”

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W_-_SSFCU_Babe_Ruth_Pep_Rally_DSC_0081_copyALACHUA – SunState Federal Credit Union and Alachua County Today newspaper are hosting a pep rally for the Santa Fe Babe Ruth 12U Softball team.  The pep rally has been scheduled for Monday, July 30 at 5:15 p.m. on the steps of Alachua City Hall.

The team of 16 girls is the host team for the 2012 Babe Ruth Softball World Series, which is slated to begin Aug. 2, and will bring thousands of people to the area.

But before visitors arrive, SunState and Alachua County Today want to send our local team into the playoffs with the full support of the community.

Each of the players will be presented with a World Series helmet and other items to show community support.

Robert Hart of SunSate Federal Credit Union said the pep rally is about making this a memorable year for the Santa Fe Babe Ruth 12U Softball team and to let them know the community is behind them.

“We want to send our girls into the World Series with as much fanfare as possible,” Hart said, encouraging others in the community to participate.   Other local businesses and the general public can take part in the celebration and rally in several ways, the easiest of which is to show up at the July 30 pep rally and bring friends and co-workers.   Hart even suggests folks make posters to hold up at the event.

Hart is preparing goody bags with an assortment of knick-knacks and memorabilia for each of the players.  Anyone with items to contribute should contact Robert Hart by calling SunState Federal Credit Union at 386-462-3900.

The team includes players from across the area including Alachua, High Springs and Gainesville.

The pep rally is free and open to the public.  All in the community are encouraged to show their support by showing up on the

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HIGH SPRINGS – As the November election draws closer, it won’t be long before campaign signs dot the streets of High Springs.

During the week-long qualifying period, which ended Friday, July 27, new names appeared on the candidate forms, as well as several familiar ones.

After serving one term, Mayor Dean Davis does not intend to run again. Though he doesn’t plan on remaining on the commission, Davis said he would be willing to help any time he could.

“I feel like we need to get some younger folks in there to do the job,” he said. “I think we accomplished a lot of the things that we wanted to do, but, you know, you always wish you had done a better job.”

Pat Rush will compete against former Vice-Mayor Byran Williams for Seat 4, which Davis currently occupies.

Rush has a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and is currently employed by the University of Florida.

“The city of High Springs needs greater focus on the needs of its citizens,” he said. “The people of High Springs know what they want, but have become frustrated by the fact that their city does not respond to their interests.”

Rush hopes to rein in spending, adding that the City’s debt, lack of money and sloppy bookkeeping is inexcusable.

Williams previously served for seven years on the commission, and is the pastor at Montgomery United Methodist Church.

“I always like serving the community,” Williams said. “This is my home. I just want the best for the City of High Springs.”

If elected, Williams intends to bring economic development back into the area, as well as work to get the City moving forward again.

Vying for Seat 5, newcomer Edward Riess will run against current Commissioner Scott Jamison.

Jamison won Seat 5 in an April special election when he squared off against Ann Carter. During the April election, a total of 503 residents cast their votes to select former commissioner Eric May’s replacement after he resigned in January.  Jamison has a bachelor’s degree in Public Recreation and additional credits to teach. “When I ran the first time, one of the questions they asked at the candidates forum was if I would run again, win or lose and I said ‘yes.’ Ultimately, I’m keeping my word,” Jamison said.

Alachua County Today attempted to contact Riess, but was unable to reach him at the phone number provided to the City of High Springs.

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W_-_Newberry_Chocolate_1_IMG_2526_copyTen-year-old Parker Stevens, right, reacts to the unexpected bitter flavor of Mayan chocolate, a not-so-sweet member of the chocolate family.

 NEWBERRY – It didn’t take too long for a handful of attendants to volunteer at the Newberry Branch Library when chocolate was involved.

Newberry residents got the chance to taste and interact with the sweet candy at the library on Wednesday when Gainesville chocolatier Kay Owens and her assistants presented The Mystery and History of Chocolate, a production that has been traveling around Alachua County libraries this past month.

The presentation at the Newberry branch was one of the smaller performances, Owens said, but she still thought the show went well and the kids seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Tuesday’s presentation at the Millhopper Branch Library on Tuesday brought in over 60 spectators, she said. The opening presentation at the Alachua County Library Headquarters earlier this summer drew over 100.

“We’ve been drawing big crowds,” Owens said.

The informative performance was interactive and asking for several volunteers from the audience. Newberry’s 10-year-old Parker Stevens raised his hand high when the crew asked for a brave volunteer.

He was called to the front of the room to try Mayan chocolate, an early chocolate that contains cornstarch and very little sugar. Parker said his favorite type of chocolate was the type that was mixed with peanut butter. One spoonful of the special Mayan chocolate and the look on his face changed to one of disgust.

“Oh, my gosh,” he said, “it tasted like oatmeal.”

The first chocolatiers, the Mayans, didn’t have sugar and milk to mix in to the now traditionally sweet confection, Owens explained to the audience.

Even adults enjoyed and learned from the show.

“I didn’t realize they discovered it,” Melissa Bass said of the Mayans. The 33-year-old Newberry resident is no stranger to chocolate. She had stayed at The Hotel Hershey in Pennsylvania, where they had chocolate scented body wash and shampoos in each room.

Another spectator and volunteer, West Palm Beach 16-year-old Gaby Gianoli, first attended one of the performances this week because her sister, 21-year-old Francesca, was one of Owens’s assistants.

Gaby attended both the show at the Millhopper library as well as the performance at Newberry’s library. She was in town for a month, but was more than happy to go to the performances, where chocolate was given out at the end.

“I got lucky that she does this,” Gaby said of her sister’s work with Owens.

Besides educating the audience about the history behind chocolate and advocating the preservation of cacao trees, Owens also makes chocolate.

Owens said she plans on opening up her own chocolate shop called Drenched in Chocolate this September in the Millhopper area in Gainesville.

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