Last updateTue, 24 Nov 2015 12am


Agricultural law enforcement officers rescue girl after Amber Alert, arrest mother

TALLAHASSEE – Agricultural Law Enforcement Officers with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services rescued 7-year-old Crystal Riemer last night and arrested her mother, Christine Riemer, on a felony warrant from Lee County for interference with custody after an Amber Alert was issued yesterday.

“I am proud of our agricultural law enforcement officers who stay vigilant to protect Floridians every single day,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “Last night, they rescued a young girl from a dangerous situation and she is now safely back where she belongs.”

An officer on duty at the agriculture interdiction station on Interstate 75 observed a Budget rental truck failed to stop and submit for inspection around 11 p.m. yesterday. The vehicle matched a description for a possible Amber Alert out of Fort Myers. The Amber Alert was classified as a special needs child who required medication.

Agricultural law enforcement officers attempted to stop the driver at the 448 mile marker, but the driver refused to stop. After a short pursuit, these officers along with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office safely stopped the vehicle at the 462 mile marker near the Georgia border.

Christine Riemer was arrested at 11:22 p.m. and charged with felony interference with custody, along with failure to stop and submit for inspection, driving while license is suspended or revoked, and resisting an officer without violence. She was booked into the Hamilton County Jail.

Crystal Riemer was located in the cab of the truck and safely taken into protective custody. She was taken to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office where representatives with the Florida Department of Children and Families took custody of the child.

The Fort Myers Police Department is investigating Crystal’s abduction, which occurred during a court-ordered supervised visit at a local foster care agency.

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High Springs Fire Department renovated

W - HS FD IMG 0225HIGH SPRINGS – Looking at the building for the fire department in High Springs, it might be hard to believe the department has been around for a century.  

For 100 years now, High Springs has been able to lay claim to their own fire department housed by their own station. The building has only been around for about 46 years of the department’s long history, but a recent facelift makes it look even younger.

The remodel included a 1,867 square-foot addition increased and improved storage, added a server room, hosts enhanced laundry services and has a lobby for the public’s convenience, said Bruce Gillingham, chief, High Springs Fire Department.

The department unveiled the new addition and renovations in a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, open to anyone to attend. The construction project was funded by a donation from Clora Belle Watson Simpson in memory of her husband, Harry H. Simpson Jr., a former member of the department.

The original structure was built in 1967 and due to state and local regulations it did not meet the requirements to house the department. One of the notable improvements that were necessary was changing the storage facility for the equipment.

“Prior to the remodel, firefighting equipment was kept in the bay with the trucks,” Gillingham said. “This was not only using a majority of the space, it is unsafe for the crew to have their equipment stored where it can be exposed to the truck exhaust like that.”

Gillingham referenced a study that linked the uniforms being housed in the exposed manner and a higher possibility for testicular cancer among the firefighters. Now, not only will that risk bereduced, but also the station will be able to preserve their gear better as well, he said.

Another new feature of the improved station is the creation of a lobby as guests enter the building. When they first walk in, there will be a proper waiting area that welcomes people, with access to the chief’s office as well as a way to signal for assistance, Gillingham said.

“When I walked through the doors, it hit me, this was much needed,” said Linda Clark Gestrin, city commissioner. “This is why you have a government, to provide safety, and we are now able to better serve the people of High Springs.”

It has been a very busy time over the last two years and this moves us leaps and bounds closer to where we want to be, Gillingham said. The living facilities have also been vastly improved to accommodate staff.

The renovation would not have been possible without the funding from Mrs. Simpson, Gillingham said. The station placed a plaque above the entry on the outside of the building to honor the donation.

Even though the building saw its original construction in 1967, the department’s formation dates back to 1913, with the station being moved since then. Having and supporting a fire department is something not every city can claim.

Commissioner Gestrin reflected on the significance of the new building.

“The intention of this makeover is to keep the fire department self sufficient,” Gestrin said. “We wanted to be able to enter the 21st Century with our fire station the way it needed to be.”

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High Springs City Hall closes Fridays

HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs City Manager Ed Booth announced a trial period of six weeks to try out a four-day work week at City Hall.

“I have noticed very little citizen traffic in City Hall on Fridays and most of what we do get is at the beginning of the day,” he said.

Booth said most of the people he has talked with said they wouldn’t mind having City Hall closed Fridays as long as there were office hours before and after the traditional work hours.

City Hall will now be open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during this trial period according to Booth. “It is on our web page and we will advertise the change so our citizens know about it,” he said.

The employees are interested in trying it out and the City of Alachua says they have saved a lot of money since going to that type of work week, Booth told commissioners. “At the end of six weeks, I will come back to the commission and let you know how it is working out for the citizens,” he said. “They are the ones I’m most concerned about.”

The City of Alachua went to a four-day work week for City Hall in October 2010, using the same days of the week and hours of operation that the City of High Springs is proposing.

Alachua Assistant City Manager Adam Boukari said, “The savings to the City are not fully known, however after about nine months of implementation, the savings included $18,000in utilities and 1,200 gallons of fuel. Other savings factors were not calculated at that time,” he said. No formal savings analysis has been performed since and reduced use of sick leave and other variables were not calculated. Apparently the savings in fuel and utility usage alone was enough for Alachua to continue the practice to date.

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Tighter water regulations just around the bend

HIGH SPRINGS – A study conducted by the Suwannee River Water Management (SRWMD) will likely lead to tighter regulations on water use and consumptive use permits according.

Speaking at the July 11, 2013 High Springs City commission meeting, SRWMD Assistant Executive Director Jon Dinges discussed a project his agency has been working on to establish minimum flows and water levels of the Santa Fe and Ichetucknee rivers. This project is referred to as The Lower Santa Fe River and Ichetucknee River and Priority Springs Minimum Flows and Levels (MFLs).

Florida Statutes direct the state’s water management districts to establish a baseline of the minimum amount of water required to keep rivers healthy for fish, the passage of fish through the river and recreation, as well as to continue to provide water to communities.

Dinges identified the study area as the lower Ichetucknee, Worthington Springs to Leon State Park and down to the Suwannee River. “The area is chock full of springs that need to be protected as well as the rivers,” he said.

Dinges mentioned several ways in which the SRWMD obtains comments from the public and anyone interested in knowing more about the study, how it was conducted and what it is designed to do.

The SRWMD held a science exposition at their district headquarters July 2, 2013, answering questions about the work and their methodology and requested input from attendees. A stakeholder advisory committee meeting of the North Florida Regional Water Supply Partnership was scheduled for July 15 at Florida Gateway College in Lake City. A July 17 meeting at the University of Florida Water Institute for peer reviews had also been scheduled.

“The degree of public involvement is very high,” said Dinges. “We continue to seek input from the public through our web site and will continue peer review and public input through mid October.”

Dinges encouraged anyone interested in providing feedback to use their online comment form or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Although they will not be responding to public comments individually, the water management district will complete responses to public comments at the same time responses to the peer review are completed.

Once the minimums are established, Dinges said Senate Bill 244 gives the water management districts the ability to hand off the data to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for adoption. It will establish the distribution of water use across north Florida, he explained.

Once approved by DEP, it will be considered as a flow level standard. “It is expected to provide a mechanism to help the water management districts work together on each water body,” said Dinges. With the effects of rainfall and water withdrawals, actual flow has dipped below minimum water levels in the past.

Dinges expects that consumptive use permitting will be an important component of water regulations. “Instead of issuing 20-year duration permits, they may be issued for a shorter time period,” said Dinges.

Applicants may be required to provide more stringent water recovery projects as a condition of being issued a permit. Applicants may also have to start participating in water management projects financially. They may have to design and implement their own mitigation projects and have them in place before a permit is issued. “We have to very carefully look at allocations of water and could require an estimate of water use from anyone wishing to drill a well that is 8 inches or larger,” he said.

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Judge David A. Glant retires

HIGH SPRINGS – Former High Springs attorney and Circuit Court Judge David A. Glant, announced his early retirement from the bench on Thursday, June 13, 2013, at the age of 63. Glant, who has been dealing with cancer the past few years, said he felt he was physically unable to meet his own high expectations.

In 1989, Glant set up his law practice in High Springs. He lived in Ft. White for four years and then moved to High Springs in 1994, where he remained in private practice until he was elected to the Eighth Judicial Circuit of Florida in 2002.

The Eighth Judicial Circuit consists of 13 judges and serves Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties.

Being a judge has been Glant’s aspiration since law school. During his third year at the University of Florida, he clerked for the Honorable Judge John A.H. Murphree. “I traveled with him to the six counties he covered. It really gave me a fire to want to do that job,” Glant said.

“I was practicing law in High Springs when the state legislature created a brand new seat in this district,” he said. “I ran for it against a couple of other opponents and won the 2002 election.” Glant, who still lives in High Springs, was eventually also appointed Administrative Judge – Criminal Division in 2009.

“An administrative judge handles administrative matters for the division,” said Glant. “When there is new case law to be disseminated, we share it with the other judges. We’re there to help determine how the criminal division is run, but we are not ‘over’ the other judges,” he said. “We’re there to help the other judges. We are a very collegial body that helps each other all the time.”

Glant explained that some judges get appointed and some get elected. Because Glant is retiring before the end of his term, the governor will appoint someone to his seat. The 8th District Judicial Nominating Committee, made up of citizens, attorneys and people from other professions, will come together to create a blended panel. “They ultimately send up to six names to the governor for him to choose from and the governor makes the final appointment,” said Glant.

“I have had two satisfying careers and I did the best I could in both instances. I don’t feel I need to accomplish anything else. This job is very demanding physically and mentally,” he said.

“It has been a tremendous career. I practiced law 23 to 24 years and have been a judge for 10 ½ years. It’s been a great experience and I feel I helped a lot of people along the way. It [retirement] was a painful decision because I love the job, but it was the right decision,” he said. “That’s what judges do…they make hard decisions.”

Stacy A. Scott, Public Defender for the 8th Judicial District, commented that Judge Glant “was a very experienced judge. He respected the rule of law. He was a tough sentencer for criminal defendants, but was consistently tough,” she said.

As an example of how tough he could be, Scott said she had heard that Alachua County jail inmates nicknamed him, “Father Time.”

“I didn’t always agree with the sentences that he gave out, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He treated everyone fairly. He didn’t play favorites. He applied his way of judging people the same way no matter who the defendant was,” she explained.

“Clients knew what to expect from him because he would tell them up front, ‘You’re getting probation. But if you violate your probation in any way, you will go to jail.’ And that is what he would do.”

“He evenly dealt out his sentences according to his moral beliefs and the law,” she said. “I felt lucky to have spent time with him outside of the court and you couldn’t meet a nicer person. I like him personally and respected him as a judge,” she said.

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