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ALACHUA COUNTY - Alachua County Public Schools is reaching out to the residents of Alachua County to ask for help in honoring the Class of 2020.

Because of COVID-19, this year’s graduating high school seniors have missed out on many senior year traditions, including proms, Grad Bash, and awards ceremonies.

The district is finalizing plans for a combination of activities, programs and events to celebrate graduates, but is also asking local citizens to display messages of support for the Class of 2020 sometime during the period from May 26 through June 10, which is the final day the district will be holding graduation ceremonies. That could include messages on marquees/signs at businesses, churches, schools and other organizations, yard signs, even signs in windows or along fence lines at homes and businesses.

“We’d like everyone’s help in blanketing the area with messages so that any students and families who may be out and about will know that this community is behind them,” said the district’s Director of Communications Jackie Johnson. “Even a ‘We love the Class of 2020!’ in shoe polish on a car window will be meaningful.”

Johnson is also asking local citizens to share their messages on social media. The district plans to post some of the more creative messages seen around the community on its Facebook (@AlachuaCountyPublicSchools) and Twitter (@AlachuaSchools), and is encouraging people to use #WeLoveACPSGrads on Twitter.

The district is currently working with local media outlets to honor the Class of 2020 in other ways. Through a collaboration with CBS4 and with the support of Scorpio Construction and other local sponsors, graduation videos will be broadcast on the station featuring the names and photos of graduating seniors from each of the district’s seven high schools. The district is also working with the Gainesville Sun on a special insert highlight the Class of 2020 that is being sponsored by Florida Credit Union and other supporters

“I’ve been so heartened by the number of individuals, businesses and organizations that have reached out to find out how they can support our graduating seniors,” said Superintendent Karen Clarke. “They want the students to know that they recognize what they’ve missed and that they deserve recognition.”

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ALACHUA COUNTY - The Alachua County Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has received funding to continue the Turf SWAP program. The Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) will provide the means through a Public Supply Efficiencies fund to reduce outdoor water use. The aim of the Turf SWAP program is to reduce water use and limit the use of landscape chemicals while beautifying properties. A 50% rebate, up to $1,500, is available to homeowners, commercial properties, and Homeowner Associations within Alachua County through May 2021. The program begins Monday, May 18, and work must be conducted by qualified "SWAP Shops" and must include at least partial reduction of traditional irrigation.  
"Newer homes with irrigation systems can use over 350 gallons per day on average," said Alachua County EPD Water Resources Program Manager Stacie Greco. She continued, "The goal of the Turf SWAP program is to help property owners replace part of their high water use landscapes with those that demand less water and fertilizer."
For more information, visit the My Yard Our Water website or contact Water Resources staff at 352-264-6827 or hgreer@alachuacounty.us.
Si usted prefiere leer esta información en español u otros idiomas, puede copiar y pegar el texto en el Traductor de Google (Google Translate) y elegir el idioma que prefiera utilizando el menú de este sitio web.
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ALACHUA COUNTY The Alachua County Library District is offering curbside service only at all branch locations from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Book drops are open for returns as well.

Patrons can follow these steps to check out and return items.

  • Place holds for books, DVDs, and other materials online at aclib.us/catalog or call your preferred branch. Be sure to select which branch you would like to pick up from.
  • You will receive a notification when your items are ready.
  • When you arrive at your library branch, call the number posted at the branch or on your notice to alert library staff that you are ready to pick up your items.
  • Library employees will bring your materials out to you, please have your library card or photo identification ready to show them. Patrons are encouraged to wear face masks or coverings when interacting with staff.
  • Please return your items in the book drops. Employees will not be taking returns from patrons in person; please do not try to hand your materials to them.

Materials returned to the Library District will be quarantined for 72 hours before being checked in for circulation. Return dates have been extended through June 15 for all items currently checked out. Card expiration dates have also been extended. Online services, including the collection of more than 80,000 eBooks, digital magazines, and dozens of eSources, are available any time at www.aclib.us. Interlibrary loans are not offered at this time. All meeting room reservations and in-person programs remain suspended.

The Library District leaders continue to develop plans to offer more services to the public in the coming weeks. The health and safety of patrons and employees remain the Library District’s highest priority. Please visit www.aclib.us/CurrentServices for updates.

Library staff members are available to answer questions via email, online chat, and text 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday at www.aclib.us/AskUs. Starting Monday, patrons can call individual branches for assistance:

  • Headquarters Branch 352-334-3950
  • Alachua Branch 386-462-2592
  • Archer Branch 352-495-3367
  • Cone Park Branch 352-334-0720
  • Hawthorne Branch 352-481-1920
  • High Springs Branch 386-454-2515
  • Library Partnership Branch 352-334-0165
  • Micanopy Branch 352-466-3122
  • Millhopper Branch 352-334-1272
  • Newberry Branch 352-472-1135

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GAINESVILLE – “The home sales statistics for April are in for the Gainesville/Alachua County Area and there are several optimistic data points,” says Jeremy Thomas, 2020 Gainesville-Alachua County Association of REALTORS (GACAR) President. “I’ve been anxiously waiting for this data,” Thomas said.

According to Thomas there was a pause in real estate activity in early April but the market showed signs of rebounding as the month progressed. According to the data just released for April there was a 2.9 month supply of available homes vs 3.2 month supply for the same period last year. “This is an indication of a very tight market,” said Thomas. “When the supply side is low a couple of things typically happen,” he added. “The time the home stays on the market decreases and home prices edge up.”

The data is supporting this. The average single-family residential sales price was $286,203 in April 2020 vs $269,414 in April 2019. The median time to contract was 19 days in 2020 vs 28 days in 2019. “We are seeing very short marketing times in most price ranges,” Thomas said. While the number of closed sales were down compared to April 2019, Thomas is optimistic this a short- term matter. “When you consider that employers closed and sent employees home and the financial markets went through a significant reset, these numbers are very encouraging for the real estate sector,” Thomas said. “I’m hearing good things from my colleagues in the industry when they discuss May sales activity,” he added. “There were only two distressed sales during April,” Thomas said. “Let’s hope that number stays low. Homeowners seem to be making their mortgage payments and working through the initial shock most people felt in early April,” Thomas said.

“My instincts are leading me to think that a number of people have been delaying their real estate decisions until they have more certainty about the Coronavirus and how it might affect them personally. However, I still see a significant number of people acting now to either buy or sell. This is still an active market in our area due to two very important factors. For sellers, prices are stable due to the low supply of properties for sale, and for buyers, interest rates are at record lows.” Thomas concluded.

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NEWBERRY – The City of Newberry and the Newberry Main Street Organization (NMSO) are setting their sights on funding from USDA. During the May 11 Newberry City Commission meeting, Commissioners voted 4-1 to authorize the city manager to make application to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the Farmers Market Promotional Program (FMPP) grant. The grant application will be jointly submitted by the City and the Newberry Main Street Organization. The dissenting vote was cast by Commissioner Tim Marden.

According to Newberry’s Director of Finance & Administration Dallas Lee, USDA is accepting applications for three grant programs. The application deadline for all three programs is May 26, so the time is short to prepare the application.

Sharing the three grant opportunities with NMSO, the Farmers Market Promotion Program seemed best suited to the needs of Newberry’s citizens. The City developed parameters for a potential joint submission of the grant application, which NMSO agreed to.

Program awards for the Farmers Market Promotion Program range from $50,000 - $500,000 and are intended to support the development, coordination and expansion of direct-producer-to-consumer markets according to Lee. As NMSO has already begun a Farmers Market in the Newberry, this seemed like a good match to both parties.

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ALACHUA COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County (DOH-Alachua) is offering evening drive-thru COVID-19 testing on Wednesdays, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. This is in addition to their regular testing schedule.

DOH-Alachua is offering COVID-19 testing to Alachua County residents, regardless of symptoms. Residents who want a COVID-19 test are asked to call 352-334-8810 for an appointment. A referral from a doctor is not required. If your insurance covers this, it will be billed (no copay is required). If not, it is free.

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NEWBERRY – The Little Red Schoolhouse has long been an iconic structure in Newberry. But due to its historic nature and age, maintenance of the structure is an ongoing necessity.  Director of Utilities and Public Works, Jamie Jones approached Newberry City Commissioners with a request for City Manager Mike New to authorize an increase the current contract value with The Rose Group, LLC of Jacksonville.  “The change order is necessary,” said Jones,” in order for the contractor to perform additional required work on the Little Red Schoolhouse building.”

The building, which was constructed in 1909, served as the local school house for several years, but is currently used to house the administrative offices for the City of Newberry Building, Planning and Code Enforcement Departments and also as a museum.

The change order is for $28,000 for additional work necessary “to prevent water leaking into the building,” said Jones.  The additional funds will pay to replace bricks on the windowsills, the south chimney and additional tuck pointing on the north and east building facades.

Commissioners authorized the execution of the change order to enable the work to be completed while The Rose Group is still on site and also to hopefully prevent additional water from seeping into the structure.

Paul Stresing Associates of Alachua performed an architectural assessment of the interior and exterior of the building in August 2015.  One of the main findings from the assessment was that the brick and mortar joints on the exterior of the building had deteriorated to the point that water was collecting and migrating into the interior of the wall.  

“Repair of the exterior wall system and interior remodeling of the building are identified in the City’s five-year Capital Improvement Project list,” Jones said.  In order to fund the necessary repairs, the City applied unsuccessfully for a number of grants.  “Ultimately, the City moved the project forward with funding from non-grant sources following the Stresing report.”

In response to the assessment, specifications were developed for masonry repairs on the structure in fall 2019.  Of the three bids received for the work, the lowest responsive bidder was The Rose Group at $38,000.  

Until work began, it was difficult to determine that additional work would need to be done to preserve the structure said Jones. 

The total cost of all repairs to the historic structure will be $66,000.

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