Last updateTue, 24 Nov 2015 12am


Hats off to Annual Senior Fashion Show

W - Sr Fashion Show 24730143ALACHUA – The annual Cleather Hathcock Community Center Senior Fashion Show was held Saturday, Dec. 13 at 5 p.m. at Mebane Middle School Auditorium. Wal-Mart Distribution Center and the City of Alachua donated Christmas gifts to give out to seniors, children and other members of the audience.

Bill Rodgers entertained with contemporary jazz music while Wilma Rodgers emceed the colorful event on stage. The State of Florida recognized the dancing group from the community center Cha’s Cha’s. The senior dancers performed three numbers while Alachua Police Department Major Assistant Chief Chad Scott and community center volunteers Rose Brown and Retha Peterson gave out the gifts to the adults and children.

Over 20 seniors took to the runway on stage under the lights escorted by area residents. Damon Messina and Sam Markowitz from the City of Alachua Recreation Department along with the City Manager Traci Cain and Mayor Gib Coerper welcome the audience and the fashion show participants.

City of Alachua Commissioner Shirley Green Brown participated on stage with the ladies and men and was a highlight of the Fashion Show.

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High Springs buys Waldo police vehicles

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HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs Police Department (HSPD) took possession of five fully-equipped police vehicles from the City of Waldo on Dec. 10. The total cost for all five vehicles was $38,000. The purchase was announced by Acting Police Chief Antoine Sheppard during the Dec. 11 High Springs City Commission meeting.

Prior to this purchase, HSPD had been limping along with vehicles that were in constant need of repair or were in the shop waiting to be repaired. While money was budgeted last year to do some of the repairs, the vehicles were so extensively used that maintaining them had become a costly balancing act.

At the end of the last fiscal year, HSPD had saved enough money from their budget to be able to buy one sorely needed new vehicle.

Commissioners had budgeted funds to buy another new vehicle in this fiscal year's budget, which began Oct. 1. Instead of buying one new car, those budgeted funds were used to buy the five used Waldo Police Department vehicles.

Since HSPD's vehicles were used non-stop shift-after-shift, often for 24-48 hours straight, their mileage was high and the cars wore out faster, said Sheppard.

“Their [Waldo's] used cars are in much better condition than ours,” he said. “They had 12 cars for five to six officers and each officer had his own car, which was taken home at the end of the shift instead of being used by the next shift. That helped keep each car's mileage down,” he said.

Sheppard bought two 2010 Ford Crown Victorias at $7,000 and $8,000; one 2008 Crown Victoria at $5,000; a 2007 Chevy Tahoe at $6,000; and a second 2009 Chevy Tahoe in near perfect condition at $12,000.

Before making his choice, Sheppard reviewed the maintenance records of each vehicle and found they were consistently well maintained by the dealership.

“The equipment included in the cars was excellent,” said Sheppard. “It would have cost us an average of $15,000 - $20,000 to equip the cars. There is high level radar in these cars, which would have cost around $3,000. They also have front and rear antennas. We now have a camera in every car,” he said.

The small city of Waldo was able to purchase some of these cars and much of the high-quality equipment they owned through grants and competitions with other policing agencies of comparable size, explained Sheppard. “Chief Szabo wrote grants for whatever equipment was needed. In addition, the Waldo Police Department would compete in ‘Click It or Ticket’ competitions where they would do quite well. Through those competitions, the winning departments were able to obtain more and better equipment for their city,” said Sheppard.

The cars cannot be sold to the public with all of the included equipment. The cost of removing all of the police equipment in order to sell the cars to the public makes it prohibitive. Instead, the remaining vehicles can be purchased by other police agencies, including the sheriff's department, at reasonable prices.

“We will be taking some vehicles offline because of this new purchase,” said Sheppard. All are Crown Victorias. A 2002 with between 170,000-180,000 miles will be retired. A 2004 with transmission issues and a 2003 with engine problems will also be removed from the fleet.

HSPD has recently hired two new police officers and will have a total of 14 when the newly hired police chief comes on board later this month.

The fleet will be left with 16 usable vehicles, 14 of which will be used by the officers. The nearly perfect 2009 Chevy Tahoe is earmarked for the new chief of police. One will be used for reserve officers, whenever one of them is on duty, and one will be a spare car for use when a car is being serviced or repaired.

The current contract agreement between the police union and the city allows the officers to take their vehicles home with them at the end of their shift.

“The city is delighted Chief Sheppard was able to negotiate the purchase of these cars for our police department,” said High Springs City Manager Ed Booth. “We think this is a win-win for both High Springs and Waldo.”

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Hitchcock's Challenge 2014

Baskestball Takes Center Stage

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For thousands of high school basketball enthusiasts, Santa Fe High School was the place to be as fans filled the school gym to overflowing for four days of fast paced high school hoops. Starting on Dec. 26 and running through Dec. 30, 16 teams vied for bragging rights as the Hitchcock's Challenge basketball tournament champion. Area teams, including Santa Fe, Hawthorne, Eastside, Trenton, Bell, Dixie County, Union County, Columbia County and St. Francis, as well as teams from South Florida, the Florida Panhandle and as far away as Tennessee made the journey to shoot hoops in the Christmas tournament that has been a major sports experience since 1993. The tournament’s 2013 champion, the Suwannee Bulldogs, is once again in the championship hunt in 2014, facing Fort Lauderdale’s Archbishop McCarthy High School.

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New CRA director has full plate

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HIGH SPRINGS – While High Springs City Manager Ed Booth has been acting in the capacity of Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Executive Director for more than a year, he says he is “delighted” to now turn over the day-to-day administrative duties. Amanda Rodriguez joined the staff on Dec. 8 and was introduced to the public formally at the Dec. 11 City Commission meeting.

The mother of three is approximately half-way through a Masters Degree program in Public Administration at Florida Gulf Coast University in Ft. Myer where she has maintained a 4.0 GPA. She is married to Sammy Rodriguez, the Director of Food Services at Camp Kulaqua for the past five years, and mother to two daughters, ages 10 and 13, and her 8-year-old son.

Much of her experience has been in marketing development and public relations for Sung Adventist Academy and as Community Development Coordinator for Partnership for Strong Families, both located in Gainesville. While she and her family currently live in Gainesville, they are actively looking for a home in the High Springs area. “I look forward to both my husband and I working in the same city,” she said.

In her previous positions Rodriguez has written and managed grants, created marketing materials, newsletters, brochures, etc. and directed development of commercials and information videos. She has also been a fundraiser and event organizer.

When she applied for the position, Rodriguez was looking for a challenge. “I was intrigued by the fact that I would be starting at the ground floor at a time when there are a lot of changes being made. I am really excited that I will be in a position to help the CRA District's property owners to determine how they want to develop their district and to assist them in achieving their goals,” she said.

“One of Rodriguez' initial duties will be to review the CRA District's residential and business facade grant applications and make recommendations for improvements,” said former CRA Board Chair and current High Springs Mayor, Sue Weller. “She will also create a checklist for people applying for those grants to help streamline the application process.”

She is reviewing the CRA Board's goals for the next two years and starting to gather information and materials to help the Board achieve those goals.

Rodriguez is also expected to meet individually with CRA District property owners and create a database to facilitate efficient communication with them. She is to develop materials to explain what the CRA District is and what programs are available to aid property owners within the District. She is also expected to develop a CRA website, which will include the different projects underway and/or projects and support are available to District property owners.

Rodriguez says she will be organizing community meetings and working directly with Alachua County as a liaison to develop a plan for the CRA District for the next 10 years. The plan will include grants for property owners within the District, she says. Upon the plan's completion and approval by Alachua County and the City of High Springs, Rodriguez says, “It will be implemented for the 2016/2017 fiscal year.

This is a tall order for a full-time Executive Director, but Rodriguez is part-time at 20 hours a week with a salary of $25,000 per year. Rodriguez says, “My door is always open. I welcome any ideas for improving the District that anyone would want to share.”

Her office hours are Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 1 p.m. - 6 p.m., and by appointment. The CRA office is located in the same building as the High Springs Building Department, 245 NW 2nd St., Unit 2. She can be reached by telephone at 386-292-3921.

Getting back to the topic of her education, Rodriguez volunteered that it is “very likely I will use High Springs and the CRA as part of my Master's thesis.”

"I am really excited about the opportunity to help High Springs develop their Downtown District," said Rodriguez. "I think it's going to be fun."

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Waldo’s Christmas at the Caboose

Spreading the joy of Christmas

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WALDO – Santa Clause told the Waldo area children to come one and come all – and they did. In fact, 128 children in all came for a visit with Santa during Waldo’s Christmas at the Caboose Thursday, Dec. 18. As scores of children sat on Santa’s lap to tell the jolly man in red exactly what they wanted for Christmas, Santa’s little helpers gave the youngsters early gifts. At the end of the evening, Santa’s helpers pulled raffle tickets for the children who had a chance to win a bike, skateboard, scooter, dollhouse and table set, home music system, video game system, or telescope/microscope set. Santa and his elves made sure that every child from baby to 12 years old left that evening with a gift and a sack full of candy.

Sure to make Christmas warmer, the City also passed out dozens of prizes including candy, coffee mugs, gift baskets, coffee makers, a crock pot with towels, a cookbook, and a cookie baking kit, said Waldo Area Recreation Director Erika Smith.

Sponsored by the City of Waldo and with contributions from community members and organizations, the Christmas at the Caboose event brightened the holidays for Waldo area children, and with the outpouring of community support, the City was able to help provide gifts for more than eight additional families

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