- Published on Sunday, 18 October 2015 17:44
- Written by C.M. WALKER
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LACROSSE – Now that the small Town of LaCrosse, Florida, has finalized their 2015/2016 fiscal year budget, some issues relating to their fire services have finally been settled, while some remain to be negotiated.
The town, which houses fire/rescue services for District 22, will continue to maintain its fire station for the 94-sq.-mile district, most of which is in unincorporated Alachua County. In order to do so, the town council had to come up with an additional $50,000 over the $140,764.59 that Alachua County pays the LaCrosse for fire/rescue services.
Once the Alachua County Board of County Commission (BOCC) denied the town their requested increase on Aug. 13, the town council had to seek funding elsewhere. Since the millage rate hadn't been raised in LaCrosse for 35 years and was the lowest in the County at 2.7173 mills, the town council voted unanimously on Aug. 24 to ask for an increase to 7.7173 mills.
The additional $50,000 expected to be earned by the increase was earmarked to pay for another trained fire person, which would provide two-person coverage 24/7, and to provide modest salary increases for their full-time personnel.
Although the council was not able to pass the requested five mill increase, on Sept. 21 they did approve an increase of three mills, bringing their new millage rate to 5.7173. The council also voted to use $20,000 from their reserve funds to supplement the remaining shortfall.
“This is something we can do for this year,” said Mayor Dianne Dubberly, “but the town cannot afford to continue to supplement the fire station in the future. We will have to come back and ask for a two mill increase for the 2016/2017 fiscal year,” she said.
The council also voted to authorize another $20,000 to be expended from reserves to help bring the fire station building up to code, said Dubberly. Electrical repairs, a small roof repair, power washing the building and painting are all expected to be scheduled according to Dubberly.
“Most of our citizens who questioned the reason for such a large millage increase in one year were satisfied to learn that the millage rate increase was for the purpose of maintaining local fire/rescue services,” said Dubberly. “One of our business owners said he would have to close up shop if fire services were not provided locally,” she said. “And of course the people living in the unincorporated areas would not have seen a millage increase as they were already part of the county's Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU).
Still up in the air is a decision regarding a pumper truck the county offered LaCrosse as part of their agreement for continuation of county fire services funding. During BOCC discussion Vice-Chair Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson proposed giving the pumper to LaCrosse with a full tank of gas. However, Commissioner Ken Cornell proposed the tanker be returned to the county if the Town of LaCrosse ceases to provide fire/rescue services in the future.
“We have a pumper and engine or tanker truck in LaCrosse already,” said Dubberly. “What we need is a four-wheel drive vehicle for quick medical emergency response and the ability to get to homes located on dirt roads filled with potholes,” said Dubberly. “We have some concerns about the condition of the vehicle the county wants to provide us, but we thought we could sell it to help us purchase the four-wheel drive vehicle if the county's vehicle is not in better condition than our own. With Commissioner Cornell's comment, we will not be able to do that.”
LaCrosse Fire Chief Paul McDavid and Councilman Tom Ewing are still negotiating with Alachua County Fire Chief Bill Northcutt on that issue, said Dubberly.
Meanwhile, the LaCrosse Town Council is expected to meet again on Oct. 12 to consider modest raises for their chief, assistant chief and full-time fire personnel and to learn the outcome of negotiations with Northcutt regarding the tanker.
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- Published on Monday, 28 September 2015 19:40
- Written by Suzette Cook
- Hits: 1373
Sid Martin Biotechnology faciltiy to host reunion
for fifth-graders who created lobby art 20 years ago
By PATTI BREEDLOVE
Special to Alachua Today
ALACHUA–Twenty years ago, 29 fifth graders from Alachua Elementary School created mosaic art for the Sid Martin Biotechnology building in Progress Park. They worked with Miami artist Carlos Alvez and their art has been a huge hit with visitors and clients.
It was part of Florida’s Art in Public Buildings program and was done to introduce Alachua residents to biotechnology by engaging their kids in science and art.
Any of those 29 students listed below who are still living in the area, are invited to be honored guests at a reunion to see their artwork again, hear how important it’s been to Sid Martin’s internationally recognized program, and view a short film taken 20 years showing them making the art.
The artists are: Adam Knight, Becky Heitzman, Brandi Slean, Brandon Imler, Bryce Hartley, Chris Snyder, Clayton Tucker, Cynthia Upper, Dawn Alligood, Derek Holton, Duane Johnson, Elijah Croce, Holly McIlvaine, Jared LeFave, Jason Dampier, Jessica Kriechbaum, Jessica O’Steen, Jill Dixon, Jonathan Guay, Jun Komiya, Kristen Beckerink, Matthew Cutler-Holt, Michael Turner, Ross Whitty, Sam Murphy, Sisene Midget, Stacy Bingham Joyner, Thomas Wicks.
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- Published on Monday, 28 September 2015 19:32
- Written by Suzette Cook
- Hits: 1371
Photos by SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today
Kris Hersom and her son Sam pray with runners and volunteers at the Fourth Annual Sam Strong Run 2 End Duchenne 5K held in Newberry on Sept. 19 at Newberry Elementary School.
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NEWBERRY – At 4:30 a.m. on Sept. 19, Newberry father Matt Hersom made a post on his Facebook page.
“God please be with us and make the 4th Annual Sam Strong Run to END Duchenne be a success and lots of fun. Months of work, all for the next 6 hours. We love you Sam!!!!”
By 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 19, 275 runners had registered for the 5K that started and ended at Newberry Elementary School. The Newberry High School drum line and cheer team were rowdy and loud, Emcee Josh Taylor was getting ready to sing the National Anthem, Destiny Community Church Pastor Rocky McKinley was getting ready to bless the event and offer a prayer.
Dan Monteau of Gainesville, who won the first Sam Strong 5K in 2012, was stretching out. “I compete on a national level,” he said. “I just want to be a part of this. When you know you’ve been blessed yourself, it’s fun to come out and show support.”
Getting her playlist queued up was Amy Hogue of Gainesville. “I started off with older ones,” she said about her running music choices that included “Geronimo” by Australian indie pop band Sheppard. Hogue attends church with the Hersom family and she was there training for a 10K and decided to “Do this to support them.”
Sam Hersom is 14 years old and is an eighth-grader at Oak View Middle School in Newberry. He loves superheroes and that’s why the Hulk, Batman, Thor and Superman were all at the race. Sam is the hero behind Sam Strong at the yearly event. He battles Duchenne muscular dystrophy and he and his family raise awareness and money through the Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy organization the pledges to lead “the fight to end Duchenne.”
“On your mark, get set,” and pop the start was in motion.
The drummers created the beat. The kids and strollers were the last to cross the start line.
The antics began as the last runner left the school driveway. Before you knew it, Thor was rocking out with his hair flying. The volunteers were at their stations. Allyson Trimble, a student at the University of Florida, said she volunteered because “Dr. (Matt) Hersom is one of my advisers.”
Twenty volunteer high school students were cheering on runners at the corner of SW 255th Street and SW 15th Ave. According to Sam's mother Kris Hersom, 62 Buchholz students said they showed up because their teacher Mr. Gallagher asked them to.
Twenty six NHS, two Oak View Middle, one Gainesville High and six UF students were helping out waving signs and waving runners onward.
As the athletes approached the finish line, Taylor was escorting them in with words of encouragement.
“Come on, bring it in,” he said over the mic. “Don’t let that girl beat you! First dog to cross the finish line,” Taylor announced as a cocker spaniel arrived.
Harlan Borton, 68, is Sam’s grandpa. He said he has participated in every race for Sam. “I walked every foot of that mile for Sam,” he said.
Couple DJ Pabst and Bri Zayas were sprinting elbow to elbow to the finish line. “We just always sprint across the finish line,” said Zayas. They admit that they are both very competitive, and this was their second year racing. “He did,” Zayas said about who came in first. “I won last year too,” Pabst reminded her.
Leighann Skurupey, 31, said she was surprised that doctors cleared her to run a week after she had ablation surgery on her heart in June. She has run in every Sam Strong race and wasn’t going to miss this one. “I got first in my age group,” she said.
And then, the final contestant rounded the corner and headed up the parking lot. NES student Elijah Essex suddenly had an entourage surrounding him. More than a dozen escorts, in fact, hanging around and towering over the 38-inch tall kindergartner.
And he ran and he ran and the crowd gathered at the finish line. He jumped over it and everyone erupted.
Then Essex, 5, received his medal from Sam. “Well, I’ve got to tell you,” Elijah who was born with Metaphyseal Dysplasia of the Schmidt Type and had surgery on his legs in December 2014 said. “It’s hard to run, but it’s no matter. Only just have fun.”
In the end, $13,000 was raised for further research for a cure for the disease that only affects 1 in every 3,500 males. Top runners according to the results posted at start2finishracemanagement.com were Jeff Armstrong for males with a time of 19:44 minutes and Alex Stanojev clocked in as the first woman at 20:88 minutes.
Sam said his favorite part of the event was judging the costume contest and dancing with the superheroes.
Drew Hill, aka Thor, won for a second year in a row. “It is hard to beat his energy and excitement,” said Kris Hersom. The next day, on Sept. 20 at 11:20 a.m., Sam’s mother posted a photo of superhero costumes in the washer ready to get washed. “Even superheroes have to do laundry!” she wrote.
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- Published on Monday, 28 September 2015 19:36
- Written by Suzette Cook
- Hits: 1621
SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today
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The Santa Fe Pop Warner program will get a new scoreboard courtesy of Alachua Chamber of Commerce and the Dollar General Sportfest, Capital City Bank Shootout proceeds. The new $15,000 board will replace a broken board that stopped working recently. From left to right Bill Lang of Pop Warner, Edward Potts, President of Alachua Chamber of Commerce, David Pope, Chairman of Sportsfest Committee, Board of Directors, Alachua Chamber of Commerce, Waco Properties, Don James, Capital City Bank, Gib Coerper, Mayor City of Alachua, Jerry Smith, Board of Directors, Alachua Chamber of Commerce, Jennifer Thompson, Capital City Bank and Sandy Burgess, Board of Directors, Alachua Chamber of Commerce, Burgess Management Services. Players Holden Mitrione, 10, Brennan Kade, 11 and Makhi Lewis, 10 say the scoreboard will help them keep track of time during the game.
- Published on Monday, 28 September 2015 19:26
- Written by Suzette Cook
- Hits: 1699
Photo courtesy TRAVIS MARQUES/Special to Alachua County Today
Left to right, Jhwum Ki-ak, Joe Cruz and Travis Marques go on the hunt for springs tucked away in Florida. They founded a Facebook page called “Spring Hunters” where spring enthusiasts could share information about and post images taken at springs throughout Florida.
By TRAVIS MARQUES
Special to Alachua County Today
FLORIDA – One day, not long ago, two springs enthusiasts started to notice each other’s photographs of Florida’s springs on different Facebook photography and nature pages. One would “like” the other’s photograph, and the other would “comment” on the other’s post.
When the two saw that they both had the “Springs Spirit,” that’s where it all began.
Not long after, the two met up to go and explore. Myself, I was accompanied by my significant other, Angel Hall, and Baby Jackson. Joe Cruz was traveling solo. Our first meeting was to go and explore or “hunt” a beautiful, little spring seep that I knew of in the Ocala National Forest known as Mormon Branch. Joe, Angel, Baby Jackson, and myself, trudged the clear shallow run as far upstream as we could go before the creek became impassable. Once the sun started to set, we parted ways.
Our next meeting was in Enterprise at the Enterprise Heritage Center. Rick Kilby was giving a presentation on “Florida’s Fountains of Youth.”
I knew Rick, like myself, had a love for Old Florida. I thought that since we had been communicating via social media, this would be a good opportunity for us all to meet and while we were at it, to go and see an “old Florida spring.” This time, it was Joe’s turn to show us the way. After Rick’s presentation, Rick, Phil Eschbach, Angel, and myself drove to Green Springs.
We parked and made the trek to the hidden, tucked away Enterprise Spring. Somewhere along the journey, Phil coined the term “Spring Hunters”. So we were born.
Soon after, Joe started this page. At first, we weren’t sure if people would “get it”. It didn’t take long before we found out that we shared a common outlook and love for the springs that so many others felt and could relate to.
Early on, Jhwum Ki-ak blessed us with the holy grail of interactive springs maps. I remember the first time that I saw it! He shared it to my Florida’s Hidden Gems page.
I almost wanted to keep the wonderful tool for myself in fear that it may fall into the wrong hands. However, it has since become my favorite springs exploration tool, right along with my GPS, machete, snorkel and mask, snake boots, and of course, my camera.
It is an automatic reference that I like to provide when people ask about springs locations. The map is updated by Jhwum periodically as new springs or seeps are “discovered”.
As the page started to grow, we decided to take on another administrator. John Starrett was sharing some amazing underwater images of lesser known springs up in the north western part of the state.
He displayed the same spirit of exploration of forgotten Florida that we could relate to. Being from the panhandle, he became our link to the far end of our state. He was the perfect candidate.
The page continues to grow... We want to thank you all for all of your support, contributions, and questions.
I want to give a special thanks to Rick Kilby for designing, donating, and allowing us to use the logo that we have.