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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The City of High Springs is poised to formally join the cities of Alachua, Archer and Newberry to approve an ordinance on second and final reading to litigate against one of Alachua County’s proposed Charter Amendments. The amendment titled, “County Charter Amendment Establishing County Growth Management Area,” if approved by the voters on Nov. 3, would limit each municipality’s right to home rule guaranteed to them by the Florida Constitution.

In addition, approval of the ordinance will allow the City of High Springs to use public funds to educate its citizens about the referendum. The City Attorney emphasized that although the City Commission approved Ordinance 2020-12, they are not allowed to use those funds to tell the voters how to vote. What it does allow the City to do is to explain how the amendment would impact their city should it pass.

In response to Alachua County’s proposed amendment, which is listed on the Nov. 3 ballot as, “County Charter Amendment Establishing County Growth Management Area,” the City of Alachua filed suit against the County seeking injunctive relief. The case, referred to as City of Alachua v. Alachua County, Florida, et al., was heard on Oct. 14 by Circuit Court Judge Donna M. Keim.

High Springs City Attorney Scott Walker reported to City Commissioners that the judge determined that the County’s Charter Review Commission should be added to the lawsuit. “Now the City of Alachua has amended their pleading to do that. Alachua County, the Charter Review Board and the City of Alachua have agreed that there would be a very abbreviated process to go to summary judgment hearing on Nov. 24.”

“If voters approve the amendment, the lawsuit will go forward. If the voters don’t approve the amendment, no further action will take place,” said Walker.

He said that voters are confused by the amendment because it doesn’t state how approval will impact Home Rule. In addition, state regulations indicate that amendments can’t be more than 75 words. “In English, it meets the criteria. In Spanish, it is 90 words,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how that issue will be determined.”

On Monday the City Attorney will file lawsuits on behalf of the cities of Archer and Newberry. “Micanopy may be interested, as might the City of Waldo and the Town of LaCrosse,” Walker said.

He asked the City Commissioners to also include in their motion to approve the ordinance their authorization to allow him to file suit on behalf of the City of High Springs.

Mayor Byran Williams had to leave the meeting, but rejoined later. Commissioner Scott Jamison was out of town. Therefore, neither one was present to vote on that issue during the Oct. 22 meeting. The remaining three Commissioners indicated they were not comfortable making that motion without the full Commission present. However, the consensus between them was that the missing commissioners would likely vote to take that action had they been available. The topic will be placed on the next meeting agenda for a future vote.

Commissioner Nancy Lavin moved and Commissioner Linda Jones seconded a motion to approve Ordinance 2020-12 allowing use of public funds to educate the public regarding the amendment. The motion received unanimous approval.

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NEWBERRY ‒ Newberry American Legion Auxiliary invited Newberry American Legion to join them in sponsoring a dinner in honor of the memory of Legionnaire Larry Spears who passed away July 2, 2020. Larry was a member of American Legion Post 16. He was diagnosed with melanoma cancer and was in the hospital six days before returning home to his loving family the last two days before he deceased.

Larry was originally from Ohio. He moved to Gainesville the latter part of the 1960s. He retired from the Knights of Columbus where he served as an insurance agent in St. Petersburg and was promoted to General Manager in North Palm Beach. Larry, his wife of 29 years, Betty Lynn Brown-Spears, a native Floridian, and his step-son, Zachary Hunter Brown, moved back to their home in Gainesville when he retired.

Larry’s family says it is an honor and a privilege to be invited by their Auxiliary and Legion to have dinner with the “Angels beneath my wings” and especially in the memory of their husband and father. Betty and Zachary say they are proud to be a member of the American Legion Auxiliary and Sons of the Legion, respectively, in Newberry.

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NEWBERRY ‒ Looking ahead to the state’s upcoming 2021 legislative session, which starts next March, the Newberry City Commission is considering funding priorities and compiling a list of requests. The priority list “provides delegation members with comprehensive information that allows them to focus their efforts on specific legislative priorities and initiatives related to the City,” said City Manager Mike New.

“Initiatives typically included in the agenda relate to general legislative policy, general government, community and economic development, job training and education and capital projects and appropriations requests,” New said.

New provided a list of 21 items compiled by staff members last year for consideration.

The top five items on the list include funding requests for infrastructure improvements such as a $1 million state appropriation for a wastewater force main extension east on State Road 26 to facilitate economic development. Newberry’s investment as of last year is $1.4 million for a water system extension and wastewater lift station.

Also, on the list is to support funding for the Florida Jobs Growth Grant Fund program and support an application from Newberry requesting $4.5 million in funding for Phase 1 infrastructure in the Newberry Ag-tech Innovation Park.

The City is also requesting an allocation of $30 million in funding for the construction phase of Florida Department of Transportation’s State Road 26 Modification Project – Newberry, which has completed the Project Development and Environmental Study (PD&E) phase, and is now in the design and property acquisition phase.

Also included is to support funding for grant/loan programs in Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) for expansion of wastewater treatment facilities. Newberry anticipates a $4 million grant application for construction of advanced treatment effluent facility that will reduce nitrogen loading by more than 90 percent.

The City is also supporting funding for grant programs such as the springs and river management grant programs that focus on reducing nutrient loading on the aquifer from wastewater treatment facilities. Newberry anticipates a $2 million grant application for construction of advanced treatment effluent disposal system that will reduce nitrogen loading from City treatment facilities by more than 90 percent.

Commissioners will review these previously identified items and add or modify this list for the next legislative session.

The Commission also heard presentations at the Oct. 12 City Commission meeting, which included Alachua County Commission District 3 candidate Anna Prizzia, advocates for health care legislation, and another on behalf of the One Mill tax for schools.

Alachua County Health Care Advisory Board member Brendan Shortley and League of Women Voters of Florida’s Diane Dimperio addressed health care for Floridians and advocated the passage of legislation to expand Medicaid during the 2021 sessions of the Florida Senate and House of Representatives. The duo also earlier had delivered the same presentation to the High Springs City Commission.

A third presentation was made on behalf of the One Mill tax for schools, which also was delivered to the High Springs Commission earlier.

Newberry City Commissioners proclaimed Florida City Government Week of Oct. 19 – 25, Red Ribbon Week, Oct. 23 – 31 and American Pharmacist Month during the entire month of October.

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MICANOPY ‒ The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) was called to the scene of a tractor-trailer crash in the northbound lane of Interstate 75 on Monday, Oct. 26. with a guardrail A traffic alert was sent out at 4:30 p.m. asking drivers to avoid the 377 mile marker area north of Micanopy as Alachua County cleanup and removal of the overturned tractor trailer was in progress.

According to FHP, the tractor-trailer’s right front tire blew out, and in an effort to avoid hitting other vehicles, the driver steered left into the guard rail where the tractor-trailer overturned onto its left side.

The driver, a 63-year-old man from Porterville, California, received only minor scratches in the incident.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Traffic was backed up on U.S. Highway 441 at Northwest 202nd Street in High Springs on Friday, Oct. 23, due to a two-vehicle crash.

At 11:10 a.m., Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers were called to the scene of a crash between a yellow box truck, driven by a 70-year-old Citrus Springs man and a white 2019 Toyota Tundra, driven by a 50-year-old Alachua man.

According to the FHP, the driver of the Toyota was traveling north on Northwest 202nd Street. The 2013 GMC 3500 was traveling west on U.S. Highway 441. The driver of the Toyota failed to stop at the stop sign at U.S. Highway 441 and entered the intersection. At that time, the Toyota was struck on the right side by the yellow truck.

After the crash the Toyota overturned several times as it traveled northwesterly. Both vehicles came to a final stop on the grass shoulder of the north side of U.S. Highway 441.

Crews from High Springs Fire Department (HSFD) Engine 29 and Squad 29, plus Alachua County Fire Rescue (ACFR) Forest Park Engine 80 extricated the injured driver of the yellow box truck using the Jaws of Life. The six firefighters were able to remove the injured driver in approximately 12 minutes by removing the bottom hinge of the front driver’s side door. Also on hand was a crew from ACFR Rescue 24 (Jonesville).

ShandsCair flew to Fellowship Baptist Church at 16916 N.W. U.S. Highway 441, where law enforcement from the High Springs Police Department and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office had established a landing zone, to pick up the driver of the yellow truck. ACFR crews transported the driver to the helicopter and a second ACFR crew drove the other driver to the hospital.

Both men were listed by FHP as having serious injuries. According to the FHP, both men were wearing seat belts at the time of the crash.

Initially, the northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 441 were blocked, followed by the southbound lanes for a short time while the helicopter landed and took off again. It is reported that fire crews were on the scene for approximately 45 minutes.

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Alachua ‒ For the past 20 years, the First United Methodist Church has been selling pumpkins during October at a field fronting U.S. Highway 441 on the west side of Alachua. Various pumpkins of all sizes and colors are arranged in artful displays, which also include activity areas, mainly directed towards children's activities. It has become a tradition for many families to celebrate the Halloween season.

But this year, there was a question of whether there would be a pumpkin patch due to the pandemic. Pastor Augie Allen, became the new pastor at the church in July. One of the first decisions he made was whether to hold the annual event. “We discussed whether we could safely do this and follow the CDC guidelines,” Allen said. “We felt we could safely do it since the pumpkin patch and the children's activities were all held outdoors and could be spaced far enough apart for social distancing.”

This year’s pumpkin patch once again featured the maze, hayrides, bean bag toss and a photo area. Missing from the annual affair is the fall fest event, which was cancelled due to crowd size and limitations on food.

Each year the church sells around 20,000 pumpkins ranging from 50 cents to $26, as well as homemade pumpkin bread. Setting all this up is a group effort for the church with everyone pitching in on unloading, making displays or manning the pumpkin patch. Twice a week, the youths in the church come out and “roll” each pumpkin so it does not go bad from sitting on the same side.

The pumpkins come from the Navajo tribes in New Mexico where the climate is ideal for growing large pumpkins. A commercial business working with the tribes imports the pumpkins to various churches and stores. The churches keep 40 percent of the profits and the tribe gets 60 percent. The First United Methodist Church uses profits to fund mission work for up to 40 members to go to various low-income areas in the Appalachians every year to help rebuild houses in need of major repairs the owner can’t afford. They also use the money to fund a camp for the deaf, mainly children, in the Dominican Republic.

“I have four kids of my own, and I know how hard this lockdown time has been for families,” said Allen. “We felt we needed to give them some place and activity to do outside the house that feels normal.”

There was concern that attendance would be down due to worries over the spread of the coronavirus, but just the opposite happened. “First half of the month was the busiest we have ever had. I guess it just goes to prove that people really want to have a sense of normalcy with traditional activities,” said Allen.

The pumpkin patch has become a familiar fall pastime as generations of families continue to enjoy the thousands of pumpkins and activities offered by the church.

“The Pumpkin Patch has a history in this city and for some people it is an annual event. We had a couple that came last year while the wife was pregnant,” said Allen. “They took a photo to commemorate the birth of their child and she delivered the next day. They came back this week with their baby to commemorate the first birthday of their child.”

Allen reports that both attendance and sales are up this year and they expect to sell out.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The City of High Springs Commission is considering recommendations about expansion of the water treatment facility (WTF) and of the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP).

Tim Norman of Mittauer & Associates addressed City Commissioners during the Oct. 22 meeting to formally request that the City consider recommendations on ways in which the two major projects might possibly be funded.

At earlier meetings and workshops both projects had been identified as necessary if the City is to continue to grow and provide adequate services to citizens. The WWTP expansion will also provide a higher level of treatment and aquifer recharge, all of which are important elements in reaching springs restoration goals.

Norman said his recommended actions would not obligate the City to move ahead with these projects using the suggested funding options, but rather would help provide the City with additional information and options.

Authorization to submit a request for inclusion to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) State Revolving Fund on behalf of the water treatment plant will also allow the engineering firm to begin work with City staff and FDEP to refine the City’s primary needs.

In the case of the wastewater treatment plant expansion, the current cost estimate to accomplish that work is $5.8 million. Norman received authorization from the Commission to submit funding applications to the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) for the FDEP Springs Funding and Alternative Water Supply Funding programs. This is the preferred funding choice because these programs can provide up to 100 percent grant funding, thereby assisting with the City’s goal of keeping citizens water and sewer rates reasonable..

Although the applications are submitted to SRWMD, they actually make recommendations for approval to FDEP, the agency making the final decision.

“The project received approval last year,” said Mittauer’s Vice President for Community Development Gregory Lang. “However, the water system improvements request for inclusion was withdrawn by a staff member no longer with the City. “We’re resubmitting the application in the hope that it will be approved for funding,” he said. All funding programs are competitive and although High Springs has demonstrated need, there is no guarantee that any specific application will be funded,” said Lang.

As a fallback to FDEP Springs and Alternative Water Supply funding, Commissioners also authorized a request for inclusion to the FDEP State Revolving Fund for low interest loan funding.

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