11
Sun, Apr
453 New Articles

ALACHUA ‒ It was a sunny day in Alachua as a group of military veterans marched through downtown proudly wearing insignia marking their branch of service and displaying the American flag. Veterans Day is observed annually on Nov. 11 to honor military veterans who have served in the five branches of the military. Originally called Armistice Day, it celebrates the exact time hostilities in World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. While Memorial Day is reserved to honor those that paid the supreme sacrifice with their lives, Veterans Day is to honor all who served in the armed forces.

After serving in the Marines from 1961-1981, George Gibbs is now retired and living in Alachua. Every day he goes to Gallop-In-Gary's on Alachua's Main Street for lunch. Over time he has established a strong friendship with the Greco family staff and chef and owner Larry Greco. Larry Greco, originally from Florida, joined the Marines in the early 1970s where he served two tours in Vietnam. After he separated from the military, he went to California and for some time worked as a LAPD police officer and then moved to New York where he opened a restaurant. After a successful stint as a chef in South Florida, he opened two Gallop-In-Gary's restaurants, eventually closed both, and since has opened a new location on Main Street in Alachua.

“These are the nicest people I have come in contact with and I wanted to do something to help their business for the future,” said Gibbs. “Help make people aware of the restaurant and the good people that own it. Many people live life and check out, but it’s important to help others in need, and God helps direct you to those you can help.”

With Gibbs providing a $1,000 donation, he and Greco teamed up to honor and support their fellow veterans with a free meal for all veterans on Nov.11.

“The $1,000 wasn't about us or the restaurant,” Greco said. “It was about giving veterans a place to feel welcome and get the recognition they deserve for their service.

“People don't realize that if it wasn't for the service of the vets there would be no holidays—they are what has preserved our nation. They don't get enough recognition for their sacrifice, especially the ones that didn't come back.”

Using word of mouth and social media, they spread the word to veterans throughout the county. Gibbs, a member of the veterans Gator Detachment Marines Corps League, approached the organization about participating with a color guard.

So, it was on a sunny Veterans Day that the Marine Corps League Color Guard marched up Main Street, stopping in front of Gallop-In-Gary’s to present the colors to Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper as the restaurant opened.

Singularly and in small groups, veterans began to filter in for lunch and a cake cutting. Two of the many who came by were Navy Nurse Virginia McCort who served from 1956 to 1958 and Fred Judkins, a Vietnam War veteran who was on the first helicopter into Laos. Over the course of the day they were joined by nearly 300 veterans who came and enjoyed a meal courtesy of two of their own.

#     #     #

Email rcarson@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ The High Springs Police Department (HSPD) was called to the scene of a two-vehicle crash on Wednesday, Nov. 11, at 11:16 a.m. The crash occurred at 19143 N.W. Highway 441 in High Springs.

High Springs resident Steven Arnold Hillard, 35, was driving a 1999 Jeep Cherokee as he crossed the northbound lane of U.S. Highway 441 near CVS Pharmacy. A 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe driven by 26-year-old Miranda Danielle Spangler of Lake Butler, was westbound on U.S. Highway 441.

Hilliard appeared to have a medical condition before the incident and does not remember what happened or why he crossed the road in front of the Hyundai.

He was transported to Shands UF due to his medical episode preceding the accident and was not cited for the offense of violation of the right-of-way. Both drivers were wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash and Spangler reported no injury following the incident.

In Alachua, the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) was called to the scene of a vehicle verses pedestrian incident on Thursday, Nov. 12, at 6:29 a.m. A silver Mitsubishi, driven by a 38-year-old male from Gainesville, was traveling south on N.W. U.S. Highway 441 when it struck a 40-year-old man from Alachua within the intersection of Northwest 147th Drive in the city of Alachua.

The pedestrian was pronounced deceased at the scene by Alachua County Fire Rescue.

The incident is still under investigation by FHP.

In LaCrosse, a 36-year-old Alachua woman lost her life in a crash on Sunday, Nov. 15, when she apparently ran a stop sign while driving a Dodge van west on Northwest 156th Avenue at County Road 231. The incident occurred just south of LaCrosse. The driver of the van, Kathrine L. Collins of Peggy Road, was pronounced deceased at the site.

The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) reported that 19-year-old Tyga J. Hunter of Gainesville was driving a Nissan truck north on CR 231 and hit the driver’s side of Collins’ van. Following impact, Hunter’s truck flipped over once and landed on top of a fence.

The Jaws of Life were required by Alachua County Fire Rescue paramedics to extricate Hunter from the truck. She was transported to Shands UF for treatment.

According to reports, northbound traffic was diverted and the southbound lanes of CR 231 were backed up for almost three hours while firefighters from LaCrosse, Waldo and Alachua County cleared the scene.

#     #     #

Email cwalker@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

ALACHUA ‒ The Alachua Police Department will soon be upgrading its communication systems. The City Commission approved up to $121,822 in the Alachua Police Department (ADP) budget for the replacement of the dispatch radio console. The new equipment will allow for technology advancements and better inter-agency communications with other law enforcement and first responders in the area. The new system would also help facilitate a faster response time for emergencies.

The upgrade was put out for bid and TRI-CO Communications, Inc., a local Motorola Distributor, placed a bid to replace the dispatch radio console including hardware, software and installation at $97,673. The commission authorized the city manager to issue a purchase order to the firm in an amount not to exceed $121,822 to complete the replacement.

The other budgetary item on the agenda was amending the City of Alachua Fiscal Year 2019-2020 General Fund Budget and authorize the transfer of $22,209 from the General Fund Contingency to the Community Development and Planning Budget. The General Fund Community Planning and Development budget had an overage of $22,208 in operating expenses. The Commission approved the resolution.

#     #     #

Email rcarson@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Following the City election, Commissioners held a reorganization meeting on Nov. 19 to seat the new Commission. Newly elected Commissioners are sworn in, the mayor and vice mayor are elected, committee members are appointed, check signers are established and Commission salaries are approved.

The Nov. 19 meeting began with Mayor Byran Williams calling the meeting to order. As there was no old business for the previous Commission to address, Williams adjourned the 2019-20 City Commission meeting.

Deputy City Clerk Angela Stone administered the oath of office to the newly-elected Commissioner Ross Ambrose and re-elected Commissioner Gloria James.

City Manager Joel DeCoursey, Jr. called the first meeting of the 2020-21 City Commission to order. Following roll call, DeCoursey accepted nominations for mayor, at which time Gloria James was nominated and subsequently elected mayor.

Mayor James assumed the gavel and accepted nominations for vice mayor. Commissioner Linda Jones was nominated and elected as vice mayor. James has served as vice mayor twice and mayor during the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Addressing the agenda under New Business, Ambrose was appointed chair to the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and Jones was appointed as vice chair.

Robert Riddle and Ronald Wilson were elected to serve on the Planning and Zoning Board. Suzie Clark and Candace Webb were elected to serve on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

Following the seating of the Commission each year, the Commission authorizes personnel to sign checks for the City accounts as well as for investment documents on behalf of the City. The City Code of Ordinances delineates signers as the mayor, vice mayor, city manager and city clerk.

Resolution 2020-M also received unanimous approval. This resolution sets the annual salaries for the commissioners, vice mayor and mayor for the coming year. No salary change was budgeted for these positions in the current budget. Commissioners and the vice mayor's salaries remain at $900 annually and the mayor's salary remains at $1,000 annually.

#     #     #

Email cwalker@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The High Springs City Commission unanimously approved an ordinance authorizing the use of public funds for the purposes of litigating and advertising to educate and inform the electorate about Alachua County’s Growth Management Charter Referendum. The referendum allows Alachua County to have zoning and land use control of a parcel of property, even after it has been annexed into a municipality. Municipalities contend that the Alachua County Charter Amendment is not lawful as it is an encroachment on Home Rule, which authorizes local governments such as municipalities to enact ordinances, codes, plans and resolutions.

Now that the election has passed and the results have been certified approving the charter amendment, the City of Alachua is continuing with its lawsuit seeking injunctive relief against the County’s Charter Amendment.

Meanwhile, the cities of Archer and Newberry have also brought suit on the same issue, which is assigned to Judge Brasington.

High Springs City Attorney Rich Maltby explained to High Springs Commissioners that there is the potential for combining the Archer/Newberry suit into the City of Alachua’s suit and having all three heard by Circuit Court Judge Donna M. Keim. A hearing is currently scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 16.

At that time, both the cities bringing suit and the County will present their cases in an attempt to win the argument.

High Springs’ City Commissioners will hear this ordinance on final reading Nov. 24. Should the ordinance be approved at that time, it is possible that the City of High Springs will join its sister cities in their suit to oppose the County’s amendment.

#     #     #

Email cwalker@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

NEWBERRY ‒ The City of Newberry is moving forward with its wastewater treatment plant expansion. During the Nov. 9 City Commission meeting, Commissioners authorized City Manager Mike New to update the terms and conditions of the existing State Revolving Fund (SRF) grant/loan agreement.

New was also authorized to execute a task order with Woodard and Curran Engineering Consultants to perform the planning and engineering reports required to support a wastewater treatment plant expansion funding application.

Initially, Newberry sought funding to support an analysis to determine the feasibility of development of a regional wastewater treatment system in the lower Santa Fe River and Suwannee River basins. To fund the planning of the Regional Wastewater System, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) agreed to provide the City of Newberry a total of $275,000. Half of that funding, or $137,500, would be funded by FDEP through a grant program and the remaining 50 percent, or $137,500, would be funded through the SRF Loan Program. The City Commission authorized staff to move forward with this application on April 11, 2019 and the SRF documents were executed by FDEP on June 19, 2019.

However, since the execution of the SRF agreement, the planning study process has not moved forward due to lack of consensus on the part of other municipal stakeholders and the onset of the pandemic.

At the Nov. 9 meeting, staff requested that the Commission authorize the revision of the current SRF agreement schedule, the development of the capital facilities plan and the preliminary engineering report. The request was made since the current permit renewal process for the city’s wastewater treatment plant specifies the need for expansion in the next five years.

While the SRF study is focused on a regional plant concept, should that not prove to be feasible or gain support from other municipalities, the facilities plan and preliminary engineering report will provide the same information required to move forward with funding applications for the wastewater treatment plant expansion.

A proposal from Woodard and Curran to perform the required study is projected to cost $225,000. FDEP has again agreed to provide Newberry with the same amount as they agreed to previously, $275,000, with 50 percent, or $137,500, to be funded through a grant program and the remaining 50 percent, or $137,500, to be funded through the SRF Loan Program. This allows $50,000 in contingency funds should any geo-technical or other documentation become necessary to support the study.

The City of Newberry would be responsible for repayment of the SRF loan amount of $137,500 under the terms and conditions of SRF agreement. However, New said the funds would not be due until the project has been completed.

Commissioners unanimously voted to authorize New to revise the agreement with FDEP.

#     #     #

Email cwalker@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The City of High Springs is arrears in taxes to the tune of some $15,000. City Commissioners were surprised during their Nov. 19 meeting to find out that the City owes back taxes on 20 – 25 parcels of land in the amount of approximately $15,500. A letter received on Oct. 19 from the Alachua County Tax Collector’s Office indicating it was their final notice to the City prior to selling the properties at auction was a surprise to City staff, who say they never received previous notification of taxes due.

The city attorney recommended that the City pay the back taxes immediately to forestall any further action by the County. He indicated that further research may lead to the City being able to apply for refunds for some of the properties.

Apparently, some of the properties had been deeded to a developer who never developed them and ultimately gave them back to the City.

Commissioner Scott Jamison persisted that for the time those properties were in someone else’s hands, they should be paying the taxes on them. While all agreed to that logic, immediate action was required and further research on the part of the City would be required.

Ultimately, Jamison moved and Commissioner Linda Jones seconded a motion to pay the taxes. The motion received unanimous approval.

In another action, Commissioners unanimously approved Resolution No. 2020-N, which urges the Florida Legislature to approve Medicaid expansion for certain adults under the age of 65 in an effort to improve the health of all Floridians.

League of Woman Voters member Diane Imperio addressed the Commission and said that according to the Florida Policy Institute, Florida would see net state budget savings of roughly $200 million in Fiscal Year 2022-23 by expanding the Medicaid program.

She specified that nearly 10,000 adults in Alachua County between the ages of 19 and 64 have incomes below 138 of the federal poverty level and are uninsured. “More than 800,000 Floridians would be covered if Medicaid expansion is approved,” said Imperio.

The resolution urges the governor and legislature to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid in Florida rather than fund healthcare elsewhere.

Following Imperio’s presentation and response to questions, Commissioners approved the resolution and it will be sent to the governor and state legislature upon signing.

#     #     #

Email cwalker@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

More Articles ...