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ALACHUA – Motorists driving through Alachua in the coming months will undoubtedly experience road construction in various spots throughout the city.

City of Alachua transportation infrastructure was the subject of discussion at a recent city commission meeting.  The commission authorized $247,000 in the City’s FY 2011-12 budget for street resurfacing of an asphalt overlay of existing roadways.  These funds will pay for $50,000 for resurfacing 1,000 lineal feet of streets within the city’s Community Redevelopment Area (CRA), $152,000 for resurfacing 3,000 lineal feet of streets outside the CRA and $45,000 for chip-sealing unpaved roads in Alachua.

Resurfacing a road involves putting an asphalt overlay on top of an existing roadway and comes at an average cost of $50 - $55 per foot of roadway. Street segments within the CRA to be resurfaced include 800 feet along NW 148 Place from State Road 235 to NW 142 Terrace or 875 feet along NW 145 Avenue from NW 142 Terrace to NW 145 Terrace.

Street segments outside the CRA to be resurfaced are 300 feet along NW 125 Street from NW 147 Lane to US Highway 441, 1,300 feet along NW 141 Street from NW 154 Avenue to NW 158 Avenue; 500 feet along NW 147 Avenue from NW 135 Terrace to NW 137 Terrace; 700 feet along NW 135 Terrace from US Highway 441 to NW 147 Avenue; and 450 feet along NW 137 Terrace from NW 147 Avenue to NW 146 Avenue.

Chip-sealing refers to covering unpaved roads with a gravel-type asphalt mix and costs significantly less than asphalt paving.  With chip seals, a thin film of heated asphalt liquid is sprayed on the road surface, followed by the placement of small chips, which are then compacted onto the asphalt, and excess stone is swept from the surface.

The cost for chip-sealing is significantly less than for asphalt paving at a cost of $85,000 per mile of chip sealing versus $300,000 or more per mile for asphalt paving.

The City of Alachua maintains six miles of unpaved roads. This year’s funding level will enable the City to chip-seal approximately 2,800 feet of unpaved road. Roads selected for the chip-sealing process are NW 150 Avenue from Burnetts Lake Road to NW 128 Street.

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GAINESVILLE – Tuesday, January 3, 2012 is the last day to register to vote or change party affiliation for the Jan. 31, 2012 Presidential Preference Primary Election.

Voters are encouraged to verify and update their registration status online at www.VoteAlachua.com by clicking on “My Voter Information Page”.  The Supervisor of Elections Office will be open from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. to accept voter registration applications. The Supervisor of Elections Office located at 111 S.E. 1st Avenue has an after-hours mail drop located at the main entrance. Voter registration applications received through the mail drop will be accepted up until midnight on the 3rd.

You may use the on-line application form at www.VoteAlachua.com to register to vote, update your voter information or update your signature. Be sure to fill out the form completely and check the correct box. You will then need to print the application form, sign it, and return it to the Elections Office. You may also register to vote in person at the Supervisor of Elections Office, by mail or at one of our scheduled community voter registration drives. For a list of other facilities in the county where voter registration application forms may be obtained or to view a calendar of our community voter registration drives, please visit our website or call the Supervisor of Elections Office at 352-374-5252.

To vote in the Presidential Preference Primary Election, mail-in applications must be postmarked no later than the Jan. 3 deadline.

You can also update your address, update your name or change your party affiliation by notifying the Elections Office by using a signed written notice that contains the voter’s date of birth or voter registration number.  If you have moved, you can update your address in person, by phone, by mail, by e-mail, by fax, or by a written signed notice provided that the change is made directly to the Supervisor of Elections in the county of your residence.  Otherwise, you will be required to make your change of address on a voter registration application form.

Florida is a closed Primary State.  In a Florida Primary Election, you may vote only for candidates of the political party in which you are registered, unless all candidates for an office have the same party affiliation and the winner will have no opposition in the General Election.

All registered voters may vote in non-partisan elections, on issues, and for any candidate in the General Election.

Party changes must be submitted no later than 29 days prior to a Primary Election.  The deadline to make a party change for the Presidential Preference Primary Election is Jan. 3, 2012.

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Alachua_Parade_DSCF5278_copyAlachua's 34th Annual Christmas Parade offered an eclectic mix of floats, people, cars and an assortment of animals, including horses, dogs and llamas.

ALACHUA – Threatening rain and overcast skies were no match for the excitement and buzz of activity in downtown Alachua Saturday afternoon.  With the city’s annual Christmas parade slated to begin at 2 p.m., crowds began gathering around noon along Main Street in spite of the gloomy forecast.  While an occasional rain shower has fallen during previous parades causing umbrellas to launch, this was not the case Saturday afternoon as the event remained rain free.

This year’s parade theme of a “Good Life Community Christmas” offered participants a seemingly infinite range of ideas to use in decorating the colorful floats that lined up at the top of Main Street.

Starting at 2 p.m. the series of floats, people, cars and an assortment of animals, including horses, dogs and llamas, headed down Main Street as hundreds of excited spectators perched on street curbs and folding chairs waited for the show.

Former Alachua mayor Jean Calderwood, who served as the parade’s Grand Marshal, headed up the procession of 50-plus registered parade entries.

This year’s parade featured a float design contest with prizes for not-for-profit and for-profit entries.  As each participant reached the intersection of Main Street and NW 148th Place at the flashing yellow light, they paused under the watchful eyes of parade judges who jotted down scores.  Announcing each parade entry as they passed by, City of Alachua Vice Mayor Ben Boukari, Jr. served as the Master of Ceremonies.  Along with Boukari was Alachua recreation director Hal Brady and chamber of commerce member Gussie Lee, who joined in engaging participants in good natured banter as they passed by.

Excited children waited in anxious anticipation for the candy that is traditionally tossed from parade participants.  Red and white striped candy canes, green and red peppermints and a variety of other colorful candy were soon in the hands of youngsters who dashed from their perches to retrieve the sweets.  While cheery elves handed out red and white balloons to children, one woman walked through the crowd serving hot coffee to adults.

To the delight of spectators, the parade lasted well over an hour.  And unquestionably, the crowd’s favorite appeared at the end of the parade.  Perched high atop a fire truck and dressed in his trademark red suit, a jolly Santa delivered a hearty “ho-ho-ho” and a “Merry Christmas” before dashing off.

While the parade may have been over, judges Randy and Antoinette Hunt, and Alachua’s city decorator Diana Felver, weren’t finished, as they continued to deliberate their decision for the float decorating contest. In the non-profit category, 1st Place was awarded to the Santa Fe Pop Warner Football and Cheerleaders, 2nd Place was awarded to Standing United as Americans and 3rd Place was awarded to Tacachale.  In the for-profit category, Matchmaker Realty claimed 1st Place and Dollar General claimed 2nd Place with 3rd Place going to Marlowe Smith Electric.

A partnership between the Alachua Chamber of Commerce and the City of Alachua, this marked the parade’s 34th year.

*****For more photos of the parade visit us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ACTNEWS

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Cogle-and-Kim-White_MBF_IMG_2681-250x165Christopher R. Cogle, M.D., an associate professor of hematology and oncology in the UF College of Medicine, talks with Kim White, who is being treated for a blood disorder known as MDS. (Photo by Maria Farias/University of Florida)

GAINESVILLE — A group of life-threatening blood disorders collectively called myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS, may occur four times more often than reported by national cancer registries, according to new research from the University of Florida based on data from Medicare claims.

MDS occurs when the body’s blood factory does not produce healthy red or white blood cells or platelets. Getting a more accurate picture of the disease could lead to earlier diagnosis for patients and better guidance for public health policy. The findings, reported in the November issue of the journal Leukemia Research and in an earlier issue of the journal Blood, indicate that more women than men are overlooked.

“The data from the cancer registry is showing us a partial picture of MDS,” said Christopher R. Cogle, M.D., an associate professor of hematology and oncology in the UF College of Medicine’s department of medicine. “State cancer registries, which feed the national registries, need more resources so they can more comprehensively capture this disease and others, such as skin and gastrointestinal cancers.”

MDS is a hard-to-diagnose disease that presents itself in a wide range of ways. On the less severe end of the spectrum, it shows up as a low blood cell count, and, at the other extreme, as leukemic growths inside the bone marrow.

Seventy percent of people with MDS die of complications related to a low blood cell count. Even with low-grade disease, the average person’s survival after diagnosis is about five years.

“For those diagnosed in their 60s, we know we can do better than that,” said Cogle, a member of the UF Shands Cancer Center whose clinical and research program has been designated a Center of Excellence by the MDS Foundation. “At best, we can double survival time — but we have to know who the patients are so we can offer them the right treatment.”

Cogle and colleagues at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa noticed that their clinical practices received many referrals from local physicians trying to figure out the cause of low blood cell counts. MDS diagnoses in those cases occurred almost exclusively on an outpatient basis. But such cases are not captured by registries, which get most of their data from hospitals and laboratories.

“There was a discord between where we saw the disease and where the registry data came from,” Cogle said. “There was a mismatch between clinical practice and the data, so we tackled that discrepancy and tried to make sense of it.”

The researchers devised a new algorithm that made an allowance for the difficulty in diagnosing the disease. Previous studies used MDS insurance claims to estimate the number of cases. But that approach is error-prone because MDS is often coded as different diseases, such as leukemia, aplastic anemia or even vitamin deficiencies, before the true diagnosis becomes clear.

In the new calculation, the researchers counted only patients who had had at least two MDS insurance claims at least 30 days apart. They also included blood count and bone marrow biopsy confirmation in the one-year period before MDS insurance claims. They excluded people who were making a Medicare claim for the first time, because those people might have been diagnosed previously, while covered by private insurance.

The UF and Moffitt researchers found that in the 65-and-older age group there were 75 new cases per 100,000 people each year — almost four times the accepted estimate of 20 per 100,000 that is based on the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results cancer registry. That registry shows an overall estimate for all age groups of 3.3 new MDS cases in every 100,000 persons each year.

So who are the people being left out of the traditional database? It turns out that more women than men were omitted, and those people generally had a lower grade of disease and lower medical expenses. Cancer registries indicate that the average age of diagnosis is 71 to 76, but the researchers will use their new calculations to find out whether people are getting diagnosed at a younger age.

The researchers say the MDS underestimate prevents people with the disease from getting available care. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for example, uses the low estimate of the number of people affected by the disease as part of the rationale for not paying for bone marrow transplants in MDS patients, except in approved clinical trial settings.

The low estimates also hamper research efforts that could lead to new treatments.

“These data bring the realization that the incidence of MDS is much greater than previously recognized, and that emphasizes the need for greater research funding for the disease,” said senior author Alan F. List, M.D., executive vice president and physician-in-chief at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute.

A better estimate of MDS cases could also help to galvanize funding agencies to invest more resources into patient education about the disease and about treatments.

“They can let the public know about the significance of a low blood count — not to sit on it, but to go out and get a diagnosis,” Cogle said. “If you have MDS, we have ways to help you.”

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HIGH SPRINGS – Just days before the September shooting deaths of Trenda and Anthony Hogg, High Springs police officers were called to the family’s residence, a report shows.

On Sept. 11, Police arrested 58-year-old Russell Dewayne Hogg, charging the High Springs man with killing his wife and son just hours earlier on that same day.

High Springs Police Department (HSPD) records obtained by Alachua County Today reveal that on Sept. 9, two police officers were dispatched to the Hogg home at 240 SW Poe Springs Road, just two days before the fatal shooting, which left Trenda Hogg, 48 and her 22-year-old son, Anthony Wayne Hogg, dead.

Police officers responded to the home at least twice that day because of a domestic disturbance, the report states.

One of the officers wrote of the Sept. 9 incident that when he arrived at the Hogg home, another HSPD officer was already there and, “Russell, Trenda, and Anthony Hogg were in the street yelling and screaming at one another.”

Apparently at the center of the dispute was a 2005 Ford pickup truck registered to Russell or Trenda Hogg, but driven by their son, Anthony.

Russell Hogg was reportedly angered when Anthony Hogg attempted to leave in the truck, which officers noted had an expired tag.

The HSPD officer wrote, “All parties separated.  There was no physical violence.”  The officer also reported that he was dispatched to the home again, but the disturbance was “simply verbal.”

A source has reported to Alachua County Today that during the Sept. 9 incident, officers handcuffed Russell Hogg, but never charged him, allegedly because family member weren’t interested in pursuing the matter.

Since his Sept. 11 arrest, Russell Hogg’s case has been working its way through the court system.  Most recently, the State Attorney’s office has indicated that, beginning Dec. 21, it will be conducting interviews with witnesses related to the case.

The State is taking depositions from 22 people.  The list includes nine Columbia County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies, four Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) deputies, two HSPD officers and seven others connected to the case, including at least one Hogg family member.

A case management conference has been set for Jan. 19, 2012 in Gainesville for the Hogg case.  Russell Hogg has filed a waiver of speedy trial.

The State, meanwhile, has reported to the court, that it has provided evidence to Hogg’s defense attorney.  Among the evidence are CDs and DVDs containing photos, 911 audio, an interview with Hogg and in-car video from several officers.

The State is seeking the death penalty against Hogg, who has been charged with premeditated murder.

In the week following the September shooting, a grand jury indicted Hogg on two counts of first degree murder, one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and two counts of aggravated assault with a firearm.

Hogg is being held without bail on the murder charges and on $100,000 for each of the other three charges.  His legal counsel submitted a plea of not guilty on his behalf on Sept. 22.

According to an ACSO arrest report, just before 1 p.m. on Sept. 11, Russell Hogg pulled into the driveway of the family home at 240 Poe Springs Road in High Springs.  He allegedly exited his vehicle, pulling out an AK-47 rifle and pointed it at his son stating, “I told you I was going to kill you,” to which Anthony Hogg replied, “shoot me then.”

Russell Hogg reportedly fired two rounds at his son, striking him in the torso.  The report states, “[Russell Hogg] then walked up to him and shot one round to his face.”

Upon realizing Anthony Hogg had been shot, Trenda Hogg ran outside where “Russell [Hogg] pointed the gun at her and fired several rounds at her,” the arrest record states.

Russell Hogg then threw the gun down and an eyewitness grabbed the gun and threw it under the house to prevent further access to it.  Russell Hogg then got into his car and left, officials report.

Two witnesses told investigators that Hogg stated his intentions to commit the crime beforehand.  “Russell was at their home and made the statement he “was going over to kill them.”  After the shooting, Russell Hogg allegedly returned to the witnesses’ home where he stated, “I told you I was gonna’ kill them,” the report states.

Columbia County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Russell Hogg on U.S. Highway 441 a short time after the shooting.

Hogg made several statements acknowledging that he killed his wife and son, according to Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sandra Myers.

Among his statements to investigators was that, “Tony [Anthony Russell] had gotten too big for his britches,” and that if he could have whipped his son, he would have, “rather than having to kill him.”

Myers wrote, “Russell [Hogg] also stated that it hurt him to see his wife laying there barely breathing because he did not want her to die.”

“I just killed my family and the bread winner of the home,” Russell Hogg allegedly said.

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HighSpringsDSCN1360_copy  Before dashing away to prepare for Christmas, Santa Claus greets youngsters at High Springs' twilight parade Saturday night.

HIGH SPRINGS – By the time Santa arrived, Olivia Grinstead was exhausted. The four-year-old had spent an hour waving enthusiastically at all the well-wishers in the 15th Annual Twilight Christmas Parade in High Springs on Dec. 10, and her arm was tired.

The parade is sponsored by the High Springs Chamber of Commerce to bring people into town and do something fun for the community, said Donna Mogler, chamber president. The parade featured 36 floats plus four groups from Alachua, said event manager Sandra Webb, with participants from Hardee’s Restaurant to Hare Krishnas turning out to march.

The winner of the parade was the Santa Fe High School Raider Regiment Band, sparkling with Christmas lights strung up their pants legs. Coming in second was the High Springs Girl Scouts, followed by the Santa-hat-clad High Springs Community School band.

The theme was based around pioneers, and many groups took it to heart. Tractors and wagons took over High Springs, making their way from Second Avenue and Second Street all the way to the railroad tracks on Main Street.

Lights flashed as participants waved at children, yelling “Merry Christmas!” and handing out candy. Vendors sold light-up toys and local foods, with many children tugging at the legs of their parents to bring home a holiday treat.

The chamber of commerce started taking applications in September in order to ensure they had time to assign floats and give the participants numbers. On the day of the event, members arrived at 3 p.m. and worked until 9 p.m., Mogler said.

“It’s a long day,” she added.

“We walk the whole parade at the very end, all the way up to our Christmas tree,” she said. “Then Santa gets to meet all the kids.”

The youngsters ran up to Santa Claus while he was still on the float, reaching for his hand and they followed as quickly as they could. Haley Rondello, 6, thought the whole thing was great. What was her favorite part?

“I loved the candy!” she said, sucking on the last bit of a candy cane.

***For more photos of the parade, visit us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ACTNEWS

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ALACHUA – A water line that is to serve the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC), better known as the biomass electric generation plant, will likely cost about $1 million, City of Alachua officials say.

On Monday, Alachua commissioners approved the ranking of proposals by engineering firms, which are seeking the contract to design and engineer the construction of more than 10,000 feet of pipeline that would connect the city’s water reclamation facility to the proposed biomass plant.

City of Alachua Public Services Director Mike New said the cost of design and construction of the pipe would likely cost between $1 million and $1.2 million.

The controversial biomass plant would involve the burning of tree and limb debris from the North Central Florida region to generate electricity.  To operate, the plant would also require some 1.4 million gallons of water per day, of which roughly 600,000 gallons would be provided by the City of Alachua.

According to a memorandum agreed to by the City of Alachua, Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU), GREC and the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD), the biomass facility must use as much reclaimed water as is available to meet the 1.4 million-gallon-per-day demand.

Each day, meanwhile, the City of Alachua outputs about 600,000 gallons of water reclaimed through the city’s wastewater treatment plant.  The water is not considered drinkable or for human consumption, but it can serve numerous other purposes in lieu of being sprayed out on an open field.

To meet its full estimated 1.4-million-gallon-per-day demand, the GREC facility would utilize water wells at the generating station site to provide the balance of water needed for operations.

Before the Turkey Creek Golf & Country Club closed earlier this year, it used about 200,000 gallons of the city’s reclaimed water daily for irrigation, New said.

The proposed connecting pipeline would likely connect to an existing reclaimed water line near Smyder Motors on U.S. Highway 441, travel under the highway, along NW 126th Avenue, under railroad tracks and then terminate at the site of the biomass plant to be located on GRU’s Deerhaven property, New said.

All of the costs for engineering and constructing the pipeline are to be paid and approved by GRU before any services commence.

New also noted that the City of Alachua has not yet set rates for the reclaimed water which would also be billed to GRU.  New said a reasonable rate would likely be about 60-75 cents per 1,000 gallons of reclaimed water provided.

The memorandum dictates that the City must complete construction of the pipeline and be ready to provide reclaimed water by Jan. 1, 2013.  Given the commission’s approval Monday, New said the City would seek an engineering proposal from the top-ranked engineering company, Causseaux, Hewett, and Walpole, Inc. of Gainesville.

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