Sat08292015

Last updateThu, 20 Aug 2015 9pm

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Thousands in unused equipment at HSPD

ALACHUA – An independent review of the High Springs Police Department (HSPD) has revealed thousands of dollars wasted on computer equipment.

A list of computer equipment purchased by the High Springs Police Department was provided to commissioners during the April 10 commission meeting. Items listed as still in the box or out of the box but not in use totaled $11,622. Items characterized as unnecessary and greatly out of character with remaining equipment totaled $11,354.

After explaining why the money could have been better spent, the report was summarized, “...if the department had made more reasonable purchases for the laptops, and kept the existing, functional keyboards, hard drives, and operating system, the department could have easily saved $6,800. These savings, paired with the unused hardware/software...would have equated to total savings of over $18,000 to the department.”

The review of the status of the HSPD was recently conducted by the Florida Police Chief's Association. Retired Chief William A. Liquori interviewed officers and visited each department as part of his assessment process. A written report detailing his findings is expected to be received by the city this week.

In a related matter, City Manager Ed Booth delivered an interlocal agreement to Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell on April 14, which would allow county personnel to assist the city by conducting an independent audit of the city police department evidence room. The audit was originally scheduled to begin on Tuesday, April 15, but was changed to April 16. The audit could take as long as one month to complete according to Art Forgey, Public Information Officer, Alachua County Sheriff's Office.

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Veterans parking woes eased

HIGH SPRINGS – Veterans and others with physical limitations will have an easier time getting around in downtown High Springs in the future due in large part to a grant in the amount of $4,000 from The Home Depot® Foundation.

IRISHWATERDOGS WARRIORS (IWDW) Outreach Program, located at 45 NW 1st Ave., recently received the grant through Home Depot's Community Impact Grants Program. The money will be used to help provide two handicapped-accessible parking spots near the IWDW storefront location.

“We are excited to be able to undertake this project to ensure the safety of our wounded veterans,” said Karen McInerney, Community Outreach Director, IWDW. “We were delighted to receive the grant and our veterans are grateful to The Home Depot® Foundation for caring enough about them to help out in this way.”

The IWDW Outreach Program works with veterans suffering with physical and mental injuries. Their therapeutic kayaking program helps keep returning veterans physically active and engaged with their peers and encourages family participation as a way to strengthen family bonds.

“The Home Depot® Foundation is committed to ensuring that every veteran has a safe place to call home,” said Kelly Caffarelli, President, The Home Depot® Foundation. “We are proud to work with IRISHWATERDOGS in our efforts to give back to those men and women who have so bravely served our country.”

Through Team Depot, the company’s associate-led volunteer program, thousands of Home Depot associates volunteer their time and talents to positively transform neighborhoods and perform basic repairs and modifications to homes and facilities serving veterans with critical housing needs.

Since its formation in 2002, The Home Depot Foundation has granted more than $340 million to nonprofit organizations improving homes and lives in local communities.

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Land development codes may change

HIGH SPRINGS – On April 10 City Manager Ed Booth reported to the city commission that he has asked Scott Koons of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council (NCFRPC) to review the city's current Land Development Code (LDC) with an eye toward eventually revising it. Land development codes generally guide various planning and development matter such as zoning, subdivision regulations, signage and landscaping.The current LDCs were modeled after one that had been devised for a larger city with a more urban population. Booth favors LDCs tailored more specifically to the size and type of population in High Springs.

NCFRPC representatives are expected to attend a meeting in May to talk about the process of updating the LDCs. Although Booth said the city has been able to accommodate the developers' needs so far, he said he can foresee situations in which there may be confusion and would like to address those issues in advance through the LDCs.

Revising the city's LDCs may take as long as 18 months to complete, explained Booth, as the process generally requires meetings with the public, revisions, more meetings and more revisions until a final draft of the LDCs are approved by the city’s planning board. Following their approval, the document is then sent to the city commissioners for their review and final approval.

Suggestions to combine the planning board with the commission for public input and review may be possible, said Booth, in order to speed up the process. However, NCFRPC will most likely advise the city whether that can be done according to state regulations.

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City testing emergency notification system

HIGH SPRINGS – On the heels of citizen complaints that some people were not aware of the “Boil Water Alert” when it was issued by the city a couple of weeks ago, staff has started using an alert service called Nixle. Approximately 100 citizens who already had Nixle activated on their cell phones received a text message when the city sent out notification of the temporary road closing on Main Street on April 8.

Although the city is using the free alert system at this time, it is limited to notification via text and email alerts only. The paid version, which will cost approximately $1 per citizen, according to High Springs Fire Chief Bruce Gillingham, would also enable the city to send recorded messages directly to home telephones as well.

While consideration is being given to switching to the paid system at some point, anyone with the ability to receive a text or email message may sign up for the free service right now. There are two ways to sign up.

If signing up on a cell phone, residents may type 888777 where the address of the person being texted would normally go. The body of the message should contain the zip code for the area in which the sender lives. Once the Send button is hit, a message will be returned from Nixle indicating a successful contact.

If signing up via computer, residents may either go directly to www.nixle.com or to the city's website at www.cityofhighsprings.us and follow the directions to complete the sign up process.

“Citizens need to be proactive and sign up for the service if they want to receive notifications in this manner,” said Gillingham. The sign up process takes five minutes and is easy to do.

The cost to the city for the initial set up of the paid system, should they decide to switch to it at some point, is $6,400 the first year and $4,900 thereafter, according to Gillingham, who has researched the Nixle service on behalf of the city.

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Opening doors to the future and the past

W - Alachua Chamber Ribon S5000142

C.M. WALKER/Alachua County Today

Alachua Chamber of Commerce President David Flinchum cuts the ribbon at the ceremonal grand opening of the Chamber of Commerce and Museum as city officials and chamber members gather to witness the event.

ALACHUA – A renovation that began with an idea around 2006, is nearing completion in downtown Alachua. The Alachua Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center and Museum, 14801 Main Street, was the site of a ribbon cutting ceremony on April 9.

On hand for the ceremony were David Flinchum, Alachua Chamber President, Jerry Smith, first Chamber President and founder, and Building Committee members Jim Brandenburg, retired Alachua Elementary School Principal, Linda Rice Chapman, local attorney, Gib Coerper, Mayor, and David Pope, WACO.

A crowd of approximately 75-80 dignitaries and representatives from city and county governments, various Chambers of Commerce, volunteers and Alachua Chamber members were on hand to witness the ceremony and hear comments by Pope, acting as master of ceremonies, Flinchum, Smith, Coerper and Emelie Matthews, President of the Alachua Historical Society.

Recognizing dignitaries and company representatives in the audience who donated time, products and/or financial support to the project, the speakers thanked them for their support and talked about how they believed the Center would benefit area citizens and visitors alike. A brief history of the Chamber and a vision of how the various elements of the Welcome Center may benefit the citizens was the focus of Smith's talk.

“This is the culmination of an idea some of our Chamber members have had for a long time,” said Coerper. “We were offered an opportunity to lease this building from the city at a nominal fee when it became vacant in 2007. However, we had a few hurdles to jump over before we could begin the actual renovation,” said Chapman.

The structure, which was built in 1961, began life as a post office. When a new post office was built, the building saw some changes as it became the home of the Alachua Police Department.

The 2010 sq. ft. police facility was completely gutted during demolition. “The only remaining vestige of the police department is a small holding cell which was left in place for historic reasons,” said Coerper.

The building is now open. Demolition, code-related repairs, painting and landscaping have all been done.

“We are extremely proud of what has been accomplished here,” said Coerper.

Grants from the Alachua County Tourist Development Council and the Alachua Downtown Redevelopment Trust Board, plus a generous personal donation from Jerry Smith, as well as additional donations from the historic society and many other individuals and businesses helped get the project started and kept it going to completion, Coerper said.

Local architect Paul Stresing donated his time to work with the chamber to get the building up to code while also maintaining the integrity of the historic structure. Additional donations of time, supplies and manpower by people like Jim Brandenburg, who painted the entire outside of the building by himself, WastePro, which provided dumpsters during demolition and paid all of the dumping fees, plus volunteers from Rebuilding Together and the Walmart Distribution Center, who pitched in during demolition, were all vital to this project, he said.

The Welcome Center will also house a historical museum and a small Chamber office. Chapman, the fundraising chair for the project, and Matthews are continuing to seek further funding to furnish the interior and complete some outside projects.

“Folding partitions and display cases will help provide display areas for historic artifacts,” said Chapman. “Museum displays are expected to change four times a year and will showcase different aspects of the history of our area. The first display is expected to feature the early turpentine industry in this area,” she said. “It's an aspect of this town that many residents may not have known about.”

Another aspect of the Welcome Center will be a tourist information bureau. “We will provide information to visitors on the places they are likely to want to visit in Alachua County. At some point, we hope to have a computer set up with photos and information for visitors to help them learn more about how diverse Alachua County is and all we have to offer,” said Chapman.

A donation received recently from Linn Check-Mathis of North Florida Stained Glass, was a stained glass window, which has been placed above the building's front doorway. The art is beautiful and functional as well as it prominently features the building number and the words, “The Good Life Community.” Coerper thought the glass should be flanked by two matching sidelights and donated the cost to have those made and installed.

Meanwhile, Chapman has found, cleaned up and replaced many of the tiny missing tiles from the front of the building, which had fallen in the dirt below.

“Everybody worked really well as a team on this project,” said Coerper.

Although many people involved have ideas as to how the building could be used by the public, the committee will have to meet to discuss details before parts of the building will be made available for meetings or other functions according to Coerper.

A Wall of Doners is nearing completion by Chapman. “It is one special way we can honor the time, money and effort of businesses, individuals and the volunteers who helped create this space for our community,” said Chapman. “We are very grateful for all of their efforts and this is one way we can show our gratitude,” she said.

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