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ALACHUA – Alachua Commissioner Shirley Green Brown was narrowly re-elected to Seat 4 during the City of Alachua’s April 13 election. With 455 votes, Brown defeated opponent Gregory E. Pelham who garnered 431 votes, a slim 24-vote win for the incumbent Brown. The narrow margin handed Brown the victory with just 51.4 percent of the vote as compared to Pelham’s 48.6 percent of the votes counted.

Commissioner Gary Hardacre did not seek re-election to Seat 5, leaving the post open to three candidates. Tuesday’s election left no clear winner in that seat since none of the candidates received more than 50 percent of the votes counted. That means two candidates are being sent into a run-off election slated for May 4, 2021.

Jennifer Blalock, Malcolm Vintron Dixon and Gary Kocher fought it out to try to reach the top spot in that race. By the end of a long election night, Blalock and Dixon received 44.1 percent and 29.8 percent respectively of the votes counted. Kocher, meanwhile, received 26.2 percent of the votes counted.

Blalock received 389 votes, Dixon received 263 votes and Kocher received 231 votes in Tuesday’s election.

The City’s election canvassing board voted not to count a handful of ballots after the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections determined that one ballot was cast by a person not registered to vote and another did not meet signature match criteria. A total of 886 votes were counted in Tuesday’s election.

The runoff election for Seat 5 between Jennifer Blalock and Malcolm Vintron Dixon is slated for May 4, 2021. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. at each of the city’s three voting precincts, Legacy Park Multipurpose Center, the Cleather Hathcock, Sr. Community Center and the Clubhouse at Turkey Creek.

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ALACHUA – It's a historic year for basketball at Santa Fe High School, and the Alachua City Commission just tacked on a notable tribute. The City Commission proclaimed April 12, 2021 as Santa Fe School Raider Boy's Basketball Team Day in recognition of the team’s historic season. The team compiled a 20-6 record, with a #6 ranking in the state and reached the school's first-ever Class 4-A State Championship game.

The level of success attained by this team has never before been reached by a basketball team at Santa Fe High School. Head Coach Elliot Harris, who is also the City's Parks and Recreation Director, praised the team for their hard work, dedication and a “never –quit” attitude that propelled the team to the championship game. He also pointed out that while some prominent schools recruit players, the Santa Fe team is made up of all local boys.

Communications Division

The Commission also announced that each year the second full week of April is "National Public Safety Telecommunications Week," recognizing the dedicated men and women who serve as public safety telecommunicators.

The City of Alachua Police Department has its own telecommunications section, referred to as the Communications Division, which is comprised of six full-time employees and a supervisor. These people are the 911 operators who are the first line of communication between the police and citizens who need help, and they handle all incoming emergency calls to the Alachua Police Department, including 911 transfers from the Alachua County Sheriff's Office, dispatching and monitoring of radio traffic for all officers responding to and initiating calls for service, as well as walk-ins at the station. The Commission recognized their dedication and service as a vital component of public safety services provided to citizens of Alachua.

KFC

Kentucky Fried Chicken may soon be among the dining choices in Alachua. The City has received a site plan application for a proposed development of a quick service KFC restaurant with drive-through facilities. The site plan proposes the construction of a 1,904 square-foot restaurant with drive-through service and associated improvements on a 1.06-acre property that is currently undeveloped and wooded. The plan is currently under review by city staff regarding required tree mitigation.

The plan shows126 regulated trees and four heritage trees are proposed for removal. According to the project’s landscape architect, the majority of the trees proposed for removal are of an undesirable species, present potential long-term safety and maintenance issues, and interfere with the required utilities needed to serve the development. City Land Development Regulations require that new trees be planted to replace removed healthy regulated trees.

The plan would require 222 trees to be planted to mitigate for those proposed for removal. If a developer cannot replace the trees removed at their site, they can petition for an offsite mitigation where the trees would be planted on city property at other sites. The plan proposes to provide a total of 29 replacement trees on-site to partially mitigate for those proposed for removal.

The architect has requested the City consider off-site mitigation for those 193 trees that cannot be accommodated through on-site mitigation due to the location of the proposed buildings, parking, and code-required tree plantings. The developer has estimated the cost for off-site mitigation is $30,602, and that fee must be paid to the City prior to any public hearing related to the proposed site plan.

City’s Economic Development Plans

Assistant City Manager Kamal Latham delivered a presentation entitled “The BEST Business Climate: City of Alachua 5-Year Economic Development Strategy.” BEST is an acronym for Business growth; Equity capital access; Sense of community and Talent development and recruitment.

“The City has outstanding public infrastructure, impressive financial stewardship, top-tier recreational facilities, diverse cultural programming, strong compliance and risk management, sound personnel policies, excellent law enforcement, first-rate planning, and inspired community development,” said Latham. “These attributes make Alachua a well-run city and great place to live, work, and play.” With this foundation, Latham proposes a multi-year economic development strategy that builds upon existing success and helps break new ground for the City to provide more economic opportunities for its residents. The Commission approved the plan unanimously.

Legal Services Renewed

Since 2003, the City of Alachua has contracted with the law firm of Robert A. Rush, P.A. to provide legal services to the City. Pursuant to the agreement, attorney Marian B. Rush has been designated as the City Attorney. Since Oct. 1, 2010, activities of the City Attorney have been billed at a monthly retainer amount of $10,000, totaling $120,000 annually. The City last renegotiated a contract with the firm effective Oct. 1, 2018. At the April 12 meeting, the Commission approved an extension of the contract and an increased monthly retainer of $11,500, the first increase in more than 10 years.

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GAINESVILLE – As April starts this week, Florida enters blueberry season and brings with it the sweet taste that comes with the fruit. You can pick them yourself or buy them from the store or market. Recently, the University of Florida developed and released another tasty blueberry variety.

When Patricio Muñoz developed the newest UF/IFAS variety, he wanted to name the fruit in honor of Alto Straughn, a longtime, strong supporter of UF’s blueberry breeding program.

“A ‘sentinel’ is a watcher or guardian,” said Muñoz, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of horticultural sciences. “It is symbolic. We came up with the idea to name the blueberry after Alto because he ‘watched and guarded’ the blueberry breeding program for many years.”

For years, Straughn, an alumnus of the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and a former UF/IFAS Extension administrator, owned blueberry farms near Waldo, Florida, northeast of the main UF campus in Gainesville.

Now in his 80s, Straughn still meets regularly with the UF/IFAS blueberry breeder.

“Since I arrived at the program, Alto and I have discussed much about blueberries: cultivars, production, packing, marketing and more,” said Muñoz. “Alto has seen the industry from the beginning, and I am glad he has shared all that information with me and the blueberry breeding program team.”

Scientists first tested the new UF/IFAS variety on Straughn’s farm in Waldo, and later in fields stretching as far south as Arcadia, Florida.

“So, we have determined that the best area for its production is the central and northern parts of Florida,” Muñoz said.

Blueberries are about a $60 million-a-year industry in Florida. To put the impact of blueberries into further economic perspective, Florida’s blueberry farmers produce about 10 to 12 million tons annually in Florida, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

It’s a higher quality fruit than previous UF/IFAS cultivars. It also gives the grower fruit at the best market window, Muñoz said.

And, it tastes good. This variety was tested in multiple flavor panels at UF, and they rated ‘Sentinel’ “high” regarding flavor, Muñoz said.

“Some good things are still happening, including a new blueberry that farmers and consumers will both enjoy,” Muñoz said.

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ALACHUA ‒ On Tuesday, April 13, 2021 residents of the city of Alachua will have an opportunity to elect two candidates for seats on the Alachua City Commission. Incumbent Shirley Green Brown faces challenger Gregory Pelham Sr. in the Seat 4 race. Vying for Seat 5 in a three-way race are candidates Jennifer Blalock, Malcom Dixon, and Gary Kocher, each hoping to replace Gary Hardacre who is not running for reelection.

In an effort to reach voters, each candidate provided information about themselves and their views on what they hope to accomplish if elected next Tuesday.

Shirley Green Brown – Seat 4

Incumbent Shirley Green Brown is running for reelection for seat 4. Brown has lived in Alachua since the 1970s and has been on the Alachua City Commission since 2012. She was employed by Alachua County Public Schools for 31 years and worked at both Alachua and Irby elementary schools. Prior to that, she worked for the state of Florida as a speech and language pathologist. Brown also is an at-large member on the board of directors for Elder Options, mentor for the Take Stock in Children program, member and officer of the Alachua Friends of the Library, member of the Alachua Woman’s Club, Strategic Planning Committee Co-Chair and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. She’s married to Rev. John E. Brown, and has a son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.

Brown says she wants the commission to continue to support the economic growth that’s been taking place in Alachua in recent years. She says the current Commission is doing a good job in coordinating growth while maintaining and improving the City's infrastructure and service. “Alachua is really a trailblazer that has set the standard for a lot of municipalities in the area,” Brown said.

Her list of priorities includes the continual upgrading of roads and seeking out grants, collaborating with the School Board to improve school performance and revitalizing downtown and Main Street. “It’s all about working toward maintaining Alachua as the good life community in which we live,” she said.

Gregory Pelham Sr. – Seat 4

Seat 4 challenger Gregory Pelham Sr. lost a runoff election for mayor two years ago. Pelham has lived in Alachua for 25 years. For the past 12 years, he’s been employed in the juvenile bureau with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. He’s also a pastor who oversees 18 churches in the area.

Pelham said that opening lines of communication between the city and residents is the most important issue to him. “I want to be that voice for our community,” he said. “It should be a commission where any citizen can come to if there’s a question or a concern.”

Pelham is chairman of the county’s juvenile justice council and has worked with local schools since 1998. He believes communication is important to maintain a dialogue with students and young adults to educate them about the importance of city government, voting and getting their voices heard. “It’s important to hear what they have to say because they are our future,” Pelham said. “It we don’t ... It's going to be more difficult to make the changes in the future that we need to keep Alachua beautiful.”

Jennifer Blalock – Seat 5

The only woman in the Seat 5 race, Blalock has lived in Alachua for 20 years. She’s currently the regional manager for O2B Kids, an early childhood learning center. She opened and ran the Alachua O2B Kids location for 14 years. Blalock has been involved in a number of community organizations, especially those involving children. She worked with the Boys & Girls Club in Gainesville, the United Way and the Gainesville Job Corps Center. She coaches basketball at Santa Fe High School and volunteers at the Hal Brady Recreation Center.

Blalock recently was promoted to coordinate operations at O2B Kids, covering a larger geographic area rather than focusing only on the Alachua location. She emphasizes that despite the promotion she will remain involved in her local community. “I want to be part of everything that’s going on,” she said. “Our city has a great foundation, and I want to help grow that foundation.”

Blalock says the Good Life Community has a special place in her heart. “It has been the place where I have raised my children, built lifelong friendships, and spent the last 18 years as a leader in early childhood education.” Blalock says she likes the direction of the current commission and is particularly interested in maintaining quality recreation and education, adding jobs and repaving and maintaining roads.

Malcom Dixon – Seat 5

Malcom Dixon, at the age of 23, is the youngest of the candidates running for Alachua’s City Commission. He’s a lifelong resident who attended Santa Fe High and participated in a student advisory council. Dixon currently works in the correctional office at the Florida Department of Corrections’ Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler and is preparing to soon open a mortuary business. Dixon has twice run unsuccessfully for a seat on the Alachua City Commission.

He also is an NAACP member, an organizer for Faith in Public Life, is involved in the county’s Truth and Reconciliation initiative and an elder in the Church of God in Christ. Dixon says he has experience working with representatives and senators to help lobby on issues. On issues, Dixon says that investing in the youth of the community is his biggest priority. “Our youth is our future,” he said. Creating programs to help keep them active in the community and keep them out of trouble is one thing he hopes to bring to the city, in partnership with the police department.

He also said technology should be updated to allow residents to easily listen to commission meetings by phone or online to keep them informed on the issues facing the city. “I want to make sure I represent all the constituents of Alachua,” Dixon said. “I believe that representing all people no matter their gender or race is important. The citizens must feel confident that they have open lines of communication with their elected leaders.”

Gary Kocher – Seat 5

Gary Kocher owns an entertainment company that offers DJ services and lighting for weddings and other events and has lived in Alachua for seven years. Prior to that, he lived in Atlanta and Orlando, where he worked at a law firm. He is married with a young daughter, and their family fosters children as well.

Kocher ran for the Alachua City Commission three years ago but lost to current City Commissioner Gary Hardacre. Kocher has been involved with the Alachua Business League and the North Central Florida Apartment Association. He is also the former chair of the City’s parks and recreation advisory board and former vice-chair of the Wild Spaces Public Places advisory board.

As a city commissioner, he wants to work to help keep Alachua progressing forward, with a focus on ensuring that parks and neighborhoods stand as examples of environmentally maintained recreation destinations for residents and tourists. One important issue Kocher hopes to address, if elected, is to make sure the public is better kept up to date with the commission’s agendas and progress. “There's so much the City offers, but if people don’t know about that, it kind of goes by the wayside.” Additionally, he said balancing the city’s growth and conservation is a priority.

On Tuesday April 13, the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Legacy Park Multipurpose Center, 15400 Peggy Road; the Cleather Hathcock, Sr. Community Center, 15818 N.W. 140th Street; and the Clubhouse at Turkey Creek, 11400 Turkey Creek Blvd.

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GAINESVILLEMobile hotspots to go will soon be on the menu of area libraries. Alachua County residents can check out mobile hotspots from the Alachua County Library District starting Thursday, April 1 with the new WiFi2Go pilot program.

One hundred hotspots will be available for checkout. Hotspots check out for seven days and can connect up to five devices to the Internet. Service depends on the availability of the T-Mobile network where the hotspot is used.

“The Library District created this program to help bridge the digital divide in Alachua County,” said Library District Director Shaney T. Livingston. “We thank the Alachua County Library District Foundation for generously supporting this pilot program to increase Internet access.”

The Alachua County Library District Foundation contributed $36,000 to pay for the WiFi2Go project with funding from an anonymous donor.

While Internet access is critical to education, employment, and community connection, many residents still lack reliable service, particularly in rural areas. About 91 percent of urban Alachua County residents have access to three or more broadband providers, but only 70 percent of rural residents do, according to Federal Communications Commission. Nationwide, minorities, rural residents, seniors, and people with lower levels of income and education are less likely to have broadband service at home, according to the Pew Research Center.

“We know the need for this service is great. We are starting WiFi2Go with 100 devices but hope to expand the program,” Livingston said.

Alachua County library cardholders can reserve hotspots starting April 1 using the online catalog or by calling any branch. Search the catalog for “WiFi2Go” to save a hotspot online. Patrons can check out one hotspot per library card. Student Library Cardholders cannot check out hotspots.

Patrons can return WiFi2Go hotspots to any library branch. Overdue hotspots will be deactivated after 24 hours. Overdue hotspots will be marked as lost after 30 days, and patrons may be charged up to $85 for lost or damaged devices.

In addition to WiFi2Go, the Library District offers computers with Internet access for public use for free at all 12 locations. Free WiFi is available at all library locations.

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NEWBERRY – The 2021 City of Newberry Municipal Election for one open seat will be held Tuesday, April 13, at Precinct 6 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Precinct 6 is located at the Municipal Building, 25420 W. Newberry Road.

The Group Five seat, currently occupied by Commissioner Paul Norfleet, will be filled by Tony Mazon who ran unopposed. Mayor Jordan Marlowe, who also ran unopposed, will continue as mayor.

The Canvassing Board tested and sealed the vote tabulation equipment to be used in all phases of the City of Newberry Election on Tuesday, April 6, at the Municipal Building.

Incumbent Tim Marden will face former Newberry City Commissioner Joy Glanzer for the Group Four Seat. To help differentiate between the two candidates and their vision for Newberry, Marden and Glanzer were asked a series of similar questions.

Q: If elected/re-elected, what are your top three priorities for the 2021-2022 Newberry City Commission term?

Marden: Schools, infrastructure and ensuring the city and citizens are protected economically from development.

Glanzer: Road improvements, rebuild Newberry’s relationship with the new County Commission and continue to maintain our City’s low tax rate.

Q: Newberry is growing at a reasonably fast pace. Where do you see the city in five years, 10 years? How can the City best prepare for the likely changes?

Marden: “Reasonable” is an understatement. We are one of the fastest growing areas in North Central Florida. Luckily, we have already prepared accordingly. We need some of the other players to catch up like FDOT and the SBAC.

Glanzer: Newberry is doing something right, which is why we are seeing the growth we have now. The obvious areas of vigilance are in the infrastructure to support the growth and in maintaining school concurrency. Ten years from now, I see our population hovering at 10,000 with a healthy business district offering good paying jobs.

Q: You have voted no on several opportunities the City has had to obtain grants to help with projects that would benefit the citizens. Why?

Marden: This is a common misconception my opponent has perpetuated. I am largely just against Federal grants. The biggest reason is they are debt. The United States is $27 trillion in debt. There is no money. To pretend this money is taxes we have paid in is inaccurate. If that were true, we would not have so much debt. The Federal government has a money printing press called the Federal Reserve.

Q: Would you encourage or discourage the City to apply for grants and why?

Glanzer: I encourage the City to consider grants as an additional source of income. Grants are funded through our own tax dollars so we need to bring those grant dollars home instead of letting them go to another community. A town our size is incapable of having the types of improvements we have had (i.e., ballpark $700,000, hurricane shelter enhancement $129,000, home rehabilitation $700,000) without grant funds. My opponent voted against the vast majority of $8 million in grants for Newberry, including ones for infrastructure, recreation and housing.

Q: You have led the charge toward establishing Springs County. How would Newberry benefit if Springs County is approved and why?

Marden: This is a long answer because there are so many benefits. The trajectory of Alachua County is about centralizing power over everything we do. Springs County is largely the opposite. I've encouraged Springs County to focus on smaller government, which would cost less and therefore lower taxes. A smaller government also means more freedom. Government is too big, too expensive, and too intrusive. The less of it, the better.

Q: You have not been in support of establishing Springs County. Why?

Glanzer: It is my opinion that change is made at the ballot box. The citizens have voted for new County Commissioners that they believe will work better with the smaller cities. The Springs County proposal came about because my opponent disagrees with Alachua County leadership. City and County governments regularly have conflict. However, if a new county was formed every time there was a disagreement, we would have 1,000 counties in Florida. It is not practical and it is not a prudent way to spend our tax dollars.

Q: Why should voters elect you over your opponent?

Marden: I think my resume is a better principled, representation of what Newberry is about. Keeping a high value on a focused government, in its proper role. My agenda is closer to the farming and mining community we are at our core. We can't lose that. I think we still care about independence. I think we still believe we can, not government, make the best choices for ourselves and our families.

Glanzer: I’ve spent forty-some years enjoying the Newberry community. I’ve served on about every committee, task force, board and volunteer position we have. I have a well-rounded background in business, government and public relations. If elected, I will communicate with citizens, speak up for their issues and respect everyone, no matter their position. I have formed life-long relationships with many leaders around the county, which will serve us well as we negotiate for the very best of everything.

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HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs may soon be home to a new food truck park. The High Springs City Commission heard details about the proposed food truck park at the March 25 City Commission meeting. The proposed park would be located at 18274 Main Street.

Developer Karl Spain, agent for Radiant Life Ecoville, LLC, submitted a site and landscape plan application for the food truck park that would be located at 18274 Main Street.

“The site plan has not been reviewed by staff because there are no regulations for food truck parks in the Land Development Code,” said City Manager Ashley Stathatos, “and they are not listed in the allowable uses table. They do not qualify to be considered as a restaurant, either.” Therefore,” she said, “staff cannot adequately review and approve the site plan for the food truck park submitted by the applicant.”

Spain’s plan has the food truck park on one lot and a parking area across the street on another lot. Concern about the safety of pedestrians crossing Main Street was raised as well as concern for other restaurants in the city. Spain’s contention is that this park, which would only be available on high traffic days as people go to and from the springs, will benefit all of the businesses in town.

Commissioner Linda Jones expressed concern that some of the smaller businesses may not agree with Spain that the park will be a benefit to them. Jones intends to talk to some of those restaurants as well as other business owners to get a sense of how they feel about the proposed food truck park.

A City ordinance governing food truck parks has been written and will be presented to the High Springs Plan Board in April and the City Commission in May. In the Ordinance, staff recommends that food truck parks be put in the allowable uses table as a conditional use, which means the City Commission would make the determination if they are allowed at a specific time when developers want to bring them into the City.

Spain’s application will run concurrently with the food truck park ordinance through the Plan Board in April and City Commission in May.

Water System Master Plan Study

In other business, Lewis Bryant and Cara Keller from Kimley Horn presented a proposed water sewer utility system master plan study for High Springs. The proposal includes preparation of system demand projections for 5, 10 and 20-year time horizons, preparation of water, wastewater and reclaimed water collection/distribution system master plans, a capital improvements plan, a water treatment facility plan and wastewater treatment facility plan.

A revenue sufficiency analysis is part of the project as well as identification of project funding sources. “Having an updated Water Sewer Utility System Master Plan helps to prepare the City for future growth and puts the City in a better position to apply for and compete for grants,” said the Kimley Horn representatives. The proposed cost for the Water Sewer Utility System Master Plan is $187,400. The City is evaluating potential funding sources to pay for it.

Impact Fee Study

In the third presentation of the evening, Clancy Mullen, Duncan Associates, discussed a proposed impact fee study to develop a method to fairly assess fees that would generate revenue to fund capital projects. He stressed that an impact fee is a one-time fee assessed at the time of construction and is not recurring.

The impact fee study proposed by Duncan Associates would specifically consider the potential impact of fees for transportation, parks, fire, police, administration and public works facilities.

Transportation would be one fee since it is based off trip generation. Parks would be a second fee based on residential uses only. A third fee would be a general government fee for fire, police, administration and public works facilities based on both residential and commercial uses.

Although the City is aware that the water and sewer impact fees need to be increased, this study does not address these potential fee increases. Mullen said City staff recommends that this be done on completion of a water and sewer master plan since an updated capital improvement project list is needed for calculation of the water and sewer master fees.

Mullen said the basic study would cost $29,750 with an additional fee of $2,500 for the impact fee study and another $3,500 to draft an ordinance for the City to consider. The total cost for the impact fee study would be $35,750. Mullen provided a timeline of approximately six months, which would include three public meetings. Mullen said the study would be necessary in order to establish that the fee could be defensible if challenged.

Stathatos is meeting with department heads to see if spending reductions could be made which would enable the City to take the funds from the general fund to fund the study.

Rails to Trails

In another presentation, Parks and Recreation Director Damon Messina and local resident Tom Hewlett delivered a presentation on how the Rails to Trails project would impact the community. Interest has peaked to resurrect the rails to trails project along the CSX rail line. The rail line stretches 13 miles (approximately 182 acres) through High Springs and south of Newberry.

Hewlett talked about the environmental impact of the CSX line saying that the trail links fragmented habitats and has been protecting native plants and animals and is providing a corridor for animal movement. “Since the 1800s, this line has been a wildlife refuge,” said Hewlett. “We can’t lose this to someone who might buy it and develop it or use it for agriculture,” he said.

Hewlett spoke about the different types of contaminants associated with rail lines and reviewed the methods by which railway pollution can be managed. Capping of the land, removal of the soil and landscaping over the pollution are the only ways of dealing with it, he said.

By capping it, the property can be used as a destination and will provide recreation opportunities for citizens and visitors while maintaining the corridor environmentally. Hewlett maintains that the costs associated with land acquisition, trail construction and trail maintenance are far outweighed by the economic benefits of the trail. Hewlett said if the City owns that land, mitigation can occur to protect the citizens and create a rail trail to benefit High Springs’ tourism-based economy.

City staff has had preliminary discussions with Alachua County regarding the project and potential funding. Previous funding for the project from the County is no longer available but appears amenable to exploring the project again and looking into funding possibilities. City staff is in the process of setting up a meeting with CSX to explore their willingness to provide easements for the trail or sell the property.

Messina said, “The rail line is in the center of our town and will provide a significant economic impact to our City.” “High Springs is the corridor to the springs, and I believe establishing this trail will greatly impact tourism.”

The City plans to bring up the possibility of re-establishing the rails to trails project when they meet with Alachua County Commissioners in a joint meeting on April 8.

Annual Police Report

The final presentation by High Springs Police Chief Antoine Sheppard was the detailed 2020 Annual Police Report.

The report is an overview of the police department’s statistical data involving crime, objectives, goals, staffing patterns and community outreach projects for the 2020 year. The presentation included crime data information from the last eight years concerning non-violent and violent crime. Non-violent crimes decreased by 61.2 percent and violent crime by 21.4 percent. “The overall crime rate has been reduced by 55 percent,” Sheppard said.

Calls for service data indicate status quo level of service calls for the last four years with a range of 6,000 – 6,500 service calls.

The agency’s objectives are centered on increased training in implicit bias, de-escalation training, accreditation and the procurement of body-worn cameras. “Proposed budgeting and solicitation of grants should be adequate to accomplish those goals,” said Sheppard.

The department is comprised of 18 sworn full-time police officers, three sworn reserve police officers and three civilian staff members, with no vacancies since 2017. Full-time officer positions are filled by 89 percent male officers and 11 percent female officers. Racial demographics indicate 67 percent Caucasian officers, five percent Hispanic Officers and 28 percent African American Officers.

Sheppard pointed out that the department had only two days to prepare for the Black Lives Matter protest in which to formulate an operational plan to support the protestors’ First Amendment rights and balance concerns of citizens’ property and safety. He reported that the event was peaceful.

Sheppard said that the HSPD continues to lead the area in community involvement. He pointed to Operation Holiday Cheer, involvement in Farm Share food distribution and some of the community cookouts and events the department conducts annually to help keep in touch with citizens.

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