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NEWBERRY – On Friday, the deadline to qualify for the 2012 City of Newberry Commission elections passed, marking the beginning of the local election season.

The election will take place on April 10, deciding a trio of local seats. A candidate forum will take place on April 5 at Newberry City Hall at 7 p.m.

Newberry commissioners Joe Hoffman, Lois Forte and Alena Lawson are up for reelection this year.

Hoffman will face opponents Tim Marden and Linda H. Woodcock. Forte will square off against Barbra Hendrix, and Alena Lawson will run against Monty Farnsworth.

At the end of Monday night’s commission meeting, Hoffman, who was sitting in as pro tempore for Mayor Bill Conrad, called for a clean election.

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GAINESVILLE – The City of High Springs’ proposed takeover of management of Poe Springs Park has been delayed, as a result of a construction issue over the park’s steps.

The matter was presented to the Board of Alachua County Commissioners on Tuesday by High Springs Vice Mayor Bob Barnas. Barnas said the delay is due to a permit issue with the completion of the steps.

During a Feb. 14 meeting, Barnas said construction was moving along and the city anticipated completion.

The commission appeared prepared to make a final vote on the agreement between the City of High Springs and Alachua County until the construction issue was presented by Barnas.

Although Barnas said the city wants to move ahead with the plan, the county commission opted to delay action on the agreement since a firm date for completion of the steps is unclear.

The Poe Springs Park agreement would place the City of High Springs in charge of day-to-day operations of the park such as daily staffing and maintenance.  According to the agreement, the park would be open Wednesday through Sunday, with Wednesday and Thursday being free admission days. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, High Springs will be charging $5 to $8 per vehicle, and $2 for individuals for entrance into the park.

The Alachua County Commission delayed the final vote of the agreement until the construction issue is resolved.

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2012_Youth_Fair_DSC_0036_3  Santa Fe High School senior and FFA member Catherine Bowman has been involved with the Alachua County Youth Fair and Livestock Show for seven years.  At Tuesday’s market sale, her Grand Champion goat sold for $12 a pound.

  GAINESVILLE – Some high school students work after school to raise money for college. Others seek help from relatives – near and far.

Catherine Bowman, senior at Santa Fe High School, shows and sells her livestock animals at the Alachua County Youth Fair and Livestock Show.  During the market sale on Tuesday, her Grand Champion goat sold for $12 a pound.

At 94 pounds, her college savings will get quite a boost. Last time she showed a goat, in 2009, it sold for $5.75 a pound.

Bowman has been involved in the Youth Fair for seven years, and her resume is pretty impressive: State Star Green Hand Finalist, National Conventions and more.

“I’m excited about my future,” Bowman said, “and my past agriculture and livestock experience through the FFA.”

Mike Anderson, President of the Alachua County Youth Fair and Livestock Show, believes the fair teaches children and young adults how to market themselves.

“It teaches them responsibility,” he said. “They have to take on an animal and raise it until it goes to the market.”

This year, the fair celebrates its 30th annual event. During the market sale, there was an estimated 114 animals involved. The animals present were meat animals only; the breeder animals had already been taken home.

Each year, the fair brings together 4-H and FFA youth in the community, allowing them an opportunity to demonstrate the dedication they put into raising their animals. Each youth is required to keep a record book on his or her animal. The book tracks the weight of the animal, the amount of feed it is given and time the youth spends with his or her animal.

Wendy Mathis, Santa Fe High School FFA member, said the project allows her to see aspects of livestock production firsthand. If she raises market animals, she said she gets to see the business aspect of production. But if she raises animals intended for breeding, she gets to see the reproduction side.

“I like animals,” said Ben Rhymes, FFA member and owner of a bluebutt hog. “It’s fun to raise them and watch how much they grow.”

Last year, he sold his pig for approximately $900.

Younger children can participate by showcasing their chickens or rabbits. For the first time, the fair auctioned off plants. The first plant to sell was two containers of African marigolds. They sold for $80. Anderson said showcasing the plants allows students who are unable to purchase or own livestock to participate.

“About everything that can be done in the agriculture industry is shown here this weekend,” Anderson said, referring to the five-day event. In addition to animals, that includes an eco-art contest, a power of wind workshop and cookie bake-off.

Emily Eubanks, of the Alachua County Farm Bureau, said the children at the fair are learning about self-motivation.

The Grand Champion steer sold for $4 a pound, which Eubanks said is the highest she can remember a steer selling for in a while. The Grand Champion hog sold for the same amount.

“These businesses are out here supporting our kids today,” Eubanks said. “I don’t know if it’s a reflection of the economy so much as it is a reflection that they believe in these kids.”

Each purchase by a business is tax deductible.

Kimberly Hall, a 16-year-old Santa Fe High School student and FFA member, has participated in the fair for three years. She works with goats because she feels they are easier to work with than the steers or hogs.

“I love it,” she said.

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HIGH SPRINGS – The city’s wastewater treatment system was a major topic of discussion at Saturday’s High Springs town hall meeting.

According to city officials, High Springs is $8.5 million in debt because of the sewer system, and all four city commissioners listed the sewer as one of their top four priorities for 2012.

Originally approved in 2001, construction on the final stages of the sewer has been delayed due to uncertainty about the return of the $1.6 million from the USDA, according to city officials. Those funds are needed to complete construction, said High Springs City Manager Jeri Langman.

The commission said that the system’s grinder pumps are failing at a rate of four a month to as many as four a week.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do about the grinder pumps,” Mayor Dean Davis said. “They are designed in such a way that you have to buy the parts from the people that you bought them from.”

Langman said the city will be testing two refitted grinder pumps from an Orlando company that rebuilds the pumps and sells them at almost 50 percent of the original cost. These refitted pumps are guaranteed for a year.

According to Davis, the rebuilt grinder pumps the city is currently purchasing cost $1,700. High Springs is in need of 21 new pumps.  According to Vice Mayor Bob Barnas, the city has already replaced 162 pumps.

The city may mail informational brochures about the pumps to educate residents about proper use. Langman said the grinder pumps are running out of their warranties, and fixing the pumps could eventually fall on the homeowners.

“Some issues are the grinder, some things are what you put into the grinder,” she said. Fried foods turn into butter inside the grinders, Langman said.

High Springs is looking into the cause of grinder pump failure to determine if it is because of a system malfunction, such as crushed pipe, by marking the locations of failed grinder pumps on a map. Langman said if the pump failures are centered in one area, it might be a sign of a larger problem than just individual broken pumps or maybe an educational problem in that area.

Davis said the debt on the sewer system is for a period of 40 years. The system currently has 1,069 users

“So, I think we’ve bought a used car that’s going to wear out before we get the debt paid,” he said.

Davis said sewer rates would have to be raised to $75, possibly $100.

“We’re charging $34,” he said. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where that’s going.”

Commissioner Linda Gestrin said she is worried about the lack of an emergency plan for the sewer. It’s on electricity, she said, and questioned what would happen if the power went out. She would like to see future discussion on the sewer involve an emergency plan.

The commission recently approved paying $29,760 to the engineering firm of Mittauer and Associates, Inc. to conduct a study of the wastewater system to determine the best course of action.

Saturday’s meeting was also an opportunity for the commission to discuss changing the High Springs City Charter.  Since 2001, the charter has been changed three times, Davis said.

“It’s filled with personal opinions,” he said. “The way they wanted it done; and they are no longer here.”

Davis said some people think the charter is fine in its current form.

But Gestrin said laws and regulations have changed in such a way that the current charter has become outdated.

Economic development and future planning topped all of the commissioners’ priorities over the coming year.  Commissioners said they would like to see budget planning for next year start early.

Discussion of the police dispatch service was mentioned briefly, and it was suggested by Barnas that the topic be added as a referendum to a future election ballot.

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HIGH SPRINGS – On Saturday, March 10, the City of High Spring Commission will be holding a Town Hall meeting at the High Springs Civic Center from 8 a.m. to noon.

During the meeting, city officials intend to discuss their goals on how to improve the city in the near term and in the future. Unlike regularly scheduled commission meetings, the Town Hall meeting has no set agenda of issues being considered for discussion. Because of this, commissioners are free to bounce around ideas about what they would like to see happen in the community.

Residents are welcome to attend, said Jeri Langman, the High Springs City Manager. The meeting will provide them a platform to express concerns about the city, as well as allow the public to comment on how they envision the city should move forward.

Langman said the commission may decide to hold future workshops based on the topics discussed Saturday.

The City of High Springs usually holds one meeting of this kind a year, she added.

During the meeting, commissioners are not to take action on topics, other than discussion and to schedule follow up workshops if desired, said Langman.

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HIGH SPRINGS – The City of High Springs has decided to test out a preview workshop that would be held on the Tuesday prior to a regular City Commission Meeting.

On Tuesday, the Commission held the first meeting of its kind and agreed that it went well.

During the meeting, the commission reviewed the agenda for the upcoming Thursday, March 8, meeting. On Thursday, under unfinished business, they will be looking at an acceptance of the 2010 and 2011 fiscal year audit.

For new business, the first item on the agenda will be a consideration of poll workers for the April 10, 2012, special city election. Both Mayor Dean Davis and Commissioner Linda Gestrin said they would like to see changes in the list of poll workers provided by City Clerk Jenny Parham.

The Thursday meeting will also include a discussion about reinstating the city’s police dispatch call center instead of contracting with Alachua County to handle calls to the police department. Police Chief Steve Holley estimated that it would cost the city $180,000 a year to run a call center in High Springs, compared to $6,000 to $7,000 per month, the equivalent of $72,000 to $84,000 annually, if the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office handled the calls.

Related to the reinstatement of the High Springs police dispatch, the commission will be talking about creating a committee that would handle renaming the streets as required by the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office for the Combined Communication Center to properly dispatch police.

Vice Mayor Bob Barnas wanted to know how many people the committee would be comprised of, and also wanted to see the applications of those interested prior to the Thursday meeting. According to Parham, five or six people have turned in applications.

Discussion about creating a City Charter Review Board will be conducted on Thursday.

The charter has been changed approximately five times in the past year, Mayor Davis said.

“It needs to be standardized,” he said.

The commission discussed briefly about how the review board would be implemented. Commissioner Sue Weller asked if the review board would function without comments or direction from the commission, but Gestrin said she would be in favor of providing the board with items that concerned the commission. It was decided that further discussion would take place during the regular commission meeting.

In addition, the commission will also discuss participating in a student exchange program with the University of Florida, authorizing a donation for the Babe Ruth 2012 World Series in Alachua, consider the need for a city staff engineer, and discuss adding a follow-up section on the agenda. They will also look at the need for updating the city’s website.

Weller said that the meeting was helpful, but that it didn’t provide an opportunity for citizens to comment. There were only two people at the Tuesday 3:30 p.m. workshop.

She said she would be interested in seeing how the regular commission meeting on Thursday plays out before making a final decision on the Tuesday workshop. If the commission ends up rehashing everything stated on Tuesday, Weller feels that the workshop would be unnecessary.

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ALACHUA – Celebrate Mother Nature – and get the children outside and away from the TV - this Saturday at Gaia Grove Eco-Camp and Learning Center with a tree planting party.

From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Gaia Grove will help children plant a fruit or nut tree and teach them how to take care of their tree, which will be labeled with their name.

Children are allowed to visit their tree anytime they want. They can also watch the growth of the tree online at the Gaia Grove website. When the tree ripens, participants and their families will be invited back for a harvesting festival.

Gaia Grove runs solely through donations and the work of volunteers, and is asking for a $20 donation per tree. For those that truly wish to participate, yet cannot afford to spend the $20, financial assistance through Gaia Grove’s Angel Sponsors is available.  This activity is sponsored in part by the High Springs Lions Club.

Located near Brooker, Fla., Gaia Grove aims to instruct the local community about sustainable living through eco-workshops held on the first and third Saturday of the month. The workshop includes a tour of the 92-acre farm and instructions on how to build eco-friendly projects, such as solar ovens and solar dehydrators.

Currently, Gaia is operated by Joanna Pakula, the founder; Bob Watson, the workshop instructor; and Mark Wooten, who has built his own off-grid home and continues to be an integral part of Gaia Grove.

For more information about Gaia Grove, visit the website at gaiagrove.webs.com. For those interested in participating in the event, contact Joanna at 352-562-3508 or Bob at 352-262-5068. Add a comment

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