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Last updateWed, 17 Dec 2014 11pm

With restaurant gone, drivers no longer have to cross the road

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Days are numbered for a familiar sight at the intersection of U.S. Highway 441 and Interstate 75. The KFC restaurant will be demolished to make room for a southbound ramp.

ALACHUA – The KFC in Alachua has flown the coop to make room for some changes to Interstate 75.

The Florida Department of Transportation paid $1,754,900 for the land where the KFC restaurant at 16011 NE Martin Luther King Drive is in order to build a new on ramp for I-75.

"It's all part of a long-term plan we have to make improvements to I-75," said Gina Busscher, public information director for FDOT District Two. "This is just one aspect of the master plan."

Currently, the southbound ramp is on the north side of the road, forcing people to navigate a huge turn, and then accelerate into the interstate, Busscher said. This has caused congestion issues and accidents. It makes little sense for drivers to turn left in order to go right, she added.

The new southbound ramp is on the south side of the road, fitting in with people's expectations, she said. It is expected to cost around $8 million. In addition to the ramp, the state is building a parking lot nearby where people can meet a friend or coworker, leave a vehicle behind, and carpool.

The FDOT is still in the paperwork phase of the project, Busscher said. Southland Construction, out of Apopka, near Orlando, is the contractor. Bowyer-Singleton, out of Orlando, is the design team. The construction and design were combined into a single contract.

The FDOT expects work to start on the renovations sometime in August, and the project could be completed as early as the beginning of 2015.

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Right-of-Way closed in SE High Springs

HIGH SPRINGS – Portions of two High Springs streets have been closed. The High Springs City Commission voted during a public hearing on Thursday, April 11, 2013, to close sections of SE Douglass Street and SE Taylor Avenue. Ordinance 2013-03 was approved on second reading, finalizing the action. The ordinance is the result of a request by High Springs Land Development, LLC to close as a right-of-way, the portions of SE Douglass Street and SE Taylor Avenue.

A piece of the two parcels had been designated as a right-of-way in the event the road was ever widened. Because this is a two-lane road in a residential neighborhood, the commission saw no reason to maintain that right-of-way any longer and granted the request.

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Archer bike trail to open in spring

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ARCHER – Bicyclists from the Gainesville and Archer area will soon be able to ride back and forth on their own trail.

The six-mile Archer Road Biking/Walking Trail that will run along Archer Road is set to open by the end of spring or early summer, depending on how the weather affects construction, said Laurie Windham, spokesperson for the project.

“I think it’ll be a good thing,” Windham said. “People we’ve talked to are pretty excited about it.”

The trail will begin in Gainesville on 91st Street and end at the trailhead, or parking area, located across from the Archer water tower.

On March 11, Archer city commissioners had a groundbreaking ceremony at the trailhead.

The trail will be 10 feet wide, making it suitable for biking, walking, rollerblading and skate boarding. However, golf carts, scooters or anything with a motor will not be permitted.

Once construction ends, there will be a one-foot unpaved shoulder on each side of the trail, Windham said.

John Mayberry, Archer assistant city manager, said the Florida Department of Transportation has been planning this for the last year and a half and construction began in January.

“We’re just really excited about it,” he said. “It’s been about a year and a half since the Florida Department of Transportation came and initially presented the project to us, and we’re just really happy to see it come to fruition.”

There will be a small parking lot with five parking spaces and an informational kiosk, or bulletin board at the trailhead.

However, Windham said there would not be any water fountains placed on the trail.

She said the state-funded project will cost more than $1 million. The cost includes the design and construction work.

The Florida Department of Transportation hired V. E. Whitehurst and Sons, Inc., of Williston as a contractor to design and work on the construction of the trail, Windham said.

The trail is part of the Archer Braid, a series of trails that go in and around Alachua County, she said. However, this is the only trail in which the State is involved.

Mayberry said this project would help bring more visitors to Archer.

“We have a large biking population as a county and this is initially going to bring a wave of people out that are going to go and see what the trail has and what it provides and the scenery,” Mayberry said.

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Community gains extra eyes with Waste Pro

buzz2012 160 80Waste Pro-Tection program serves as community watch program

ARCHER – Waste Pro-Tection, a program where Waste Pro drivers keep a look out on the community in Archer was adopted in the April 8 city commission meeting.

Waste Pro began a community watch program in partnership with Alachua County through the Business On the Look Out, said Dayna Miller, Waste Pro municipal marketing manager.

“We’re doing similar programs in a couple different areas in Florida down south on a smaller scale and when I found out about it I expanded on it,” she said.

The program, which trains drivers to report suspicious behavior during their shifts, began in the city of Alachua about a year and a half ago and was later presented to Hawthorne, Miller said.

There are a total of eight cities in Florida that have adopted the service. Archer is the third city the company presented the opportunity to in Alachua County.

Archer City Manager Al Grieshaber Jr., said he liked the idea of the program.

He said it was another way to keep the community safe.

Miller said the program has received positive feedback from the communities since it was implemented.

“It’s another set of eyes and ears on the road for law enforcement,” she said.

The community watch program does not cost cities or the company itself anything. And employees are not paid extra compensation, Miller said.

“There is no cost at all to the municipalities or taxpayers to provide this service because we are already out on the road and a lot of our drivers are running the same sections of town every time and so they get very familiar with the area,” she said.

The company picks up garbage, recycling and yard debris four days a week in Archer. There are a total of 25 Waste Pro employees in the county.

Once cities adopt the service in their community, the city’s police department or the law enforcement that works in the area train Waste Pro drivers.

During these workshops, which are taught once a year, Waste Pro employees review what they should look for, be aware of and the kind of activity that may look suspicious.

“Although, yes, we are an extra set of eyes and ears for the police or sheriff’s department, we are not asking our drivers to jump out and stop a crime from happening,” Miller said, “all we’re doing is asking them to report suspicious activities.”

She said the service is a community watch, not a crime watch.

“I definitely want people to know that we intend to take it to more cities,” she said. “I would love to take it to all of our cities and not just those in Florida.”

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Newberry holds public meeting about fire department costs

NEWBERRY – The City of Newberry is taking a closer look at its fire department and its future anticipated costs. The City conducted a workshop Feb. 11 to provide information about the future of the fire department and costs projected out as far as 10 years.

People attending the workshop were provided information packets with past data, 10-year projections and County versus City operation cost comparisons. The meeting was held to gauge residents’ views about taking on additional costs in the future for department upkeep. A critical point made was that future operational costs of the fire department could mean having to increase fees or millage rates.

The fire service fee per residence is currently $100, but the City’s ordinance allows the City Commission to raise the fee to $124 without having to conduct a study and analysis.

Small town fire departments can do what other departments can’t,” City Manager Keith Ashby said. “The fire fighters will come over and take your pulse and vitals. I had it happen personally with my dad, and his life was saved because of that. “

Ashby’s upshot of the meeting is that the community appreciates its department and does not wish to change how it operates.

But Ashby cautioned, “If you love our fire department, and it could cost us a million in the next 10 years, this could potentially increase your millage rate.”

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