Sun08282016

Last updateThu, 25 Aug 2016 1pm

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Newberry's State Road 26 Traffic Woes under Scrutiny

NEWBERRY – On May 23, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) presented commissioners with alternative suggestions to help move traffic through Newberry more efficiently.

Although their Project Development and Environmental (PD&E) study is not yet complete, FDOT presented alternatives as a way to obtain feedback from the City's public officials regarding the alternatives under consideration.

FDOT began the study in late 2014 and has since conducted three public meetings to obtain comments from Newberry's citizens. Those comments were taken under consideration in developing the alternatives.

An earlier PD&E study conducted in 2007 examined several alternative alignments for increasing the capacity of State Road 26. One alternative considered at that time was construction of a bypass around Newberry's downtown district. Another alternative was construction of one-way pairs (a split highway featuring two lanes of traffic moving one-way east and west through Newberry).

Due to lack of state funding, the earlier study was put on hold.

The bypass alternative suggested at that time is no longer viable due to the cost of land acquisition, approximately $150 million.

“At this time,” said Bryan Thomas, Newberry Planning Director, “the town has grown in such a way that some of those lands originally considered for a bypass are no longer available.”

FDOT said they want to preserve the historic district while improving mobility on State Road 26. The road is part of the evacuation plan for the west coast in case of emergency evacuation.

Some of the alternatives being considered include removal of on-street parking in downtown Newberry. Additional side street parking and acquisition of additional paved and signed parking areas could be one answer to the parking issue. One benefit of removing on-street parking is that it would make room for a third turn lane to be installed at intersections.

If the one-way pairs concept is chosen, it would begin at Northwest 264th Street, west of downtown Newberry, and end near the park & ride lot east of U.S. 41. State Road 26 (West Newberry Road) would become a one-way eastbound street, with two 12-ft. travel lanes, a bicycle lane on the south side of the street and on-street parking on the north side of the street. Northwest First Avenue would become a one-way westbound street, with two 11-ft. travel lanes and a bicycle lane on the north side of the street.

The proposed improvements could also include a roundabout at CR 337.

In discussing the alternatives, Thomas said, “There are some very good potential benefits and some potential downsides to all of the alternatives. The downsides can be mitigated with advanced planning.”

Commissioners were not asked to make a decision as to which plan was best for Newberry, but were asked to provide adequate feedback to FDOT to allow them to go back to the study and come back later with more detailed plans for consideration.

The limits of the PD&E study extend from the Gilchrist County line to County Road 26A, approximately four miles, and is being funded by FDOT.

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Florida’s illegal marijuana growers take $55 million hit

TALLAHASSEEFlorida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam has announced that the state’s Domestic Marijuana Eradication Program resulted in the discovery of more than 328 indoor and outdoor grow sites, the destruction of 18,505 marijuana plants and the arrest of 279 people last year. The estimated street value of the seized marijuana is more $55.6 million.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services works to prevent the cultivation and distribution of marijuana through the Domestic Marijuana Eradication Program, which is a joint effort with the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration and local sheriff’s offices and police departments in 45 counties across the state.

“By partnering with local law enforcement to detect and destroy illegal marijuana grow operations, we’re making communities safer for Floridians and visitors,” Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam said.

 The Domestic Marijuana Eradication Program provides funds to law enforcement agencies to help offset their marijuana grow site investigations and provides in-depth training to law enforcement officers at no cost to their agency. In 2015, these schools were attended by 87 law enforcement officers from 49 law enforcement agencies, including 26 sheriff’s offices, 22 police departments, and one state agency.

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Microburst downs Civic Center trees

HS downed tree 4997

HIGH SPRINGS – In addition to recent heavy winds and rain that have affected much of northern Florida, what is being described as a microburst, a small downdraft that moves in a way opposite of a tornado, hit a large number of trees behind the High Springs Cemetery and Civic Center.

“While we did lose some other trees around town, this is the only area that had a lot of trees impacted,” said High Springs City Manager Ed Booth.

According to City personnel, perhaps a dozen trees were affected in this one area.

“Trees leaning on or falling on other trees are particularly dangerous,” said Booth. “It's particularly hazardous because kids are out playing sports and may not be aware of falling trees and debris.”

The city has already hired a contractor to take down old dead trees on the City's right-of-ways.

“We expect them to begin cleanup by the early part of this week,” Booth said.

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Newberry Lions Club Spring Fundraiser Underway

Q - Newberry Linos Spring Spring Raffle kickoff

Photo special to Alachua County Today

Newberry Lions Club members Jack Varnon, Ken McIntosh, Helen McIntosh and Gloria Keller kick off the spring fundraising campaign.

NEWBERRYThe Newberry Lions Club, which serves the Newberry, Trenton, and Archer region, has kicked off its spring fundraising raffle. Prizes awarded include $150 in scratch-off Florida Lottery tickets.

Lions Clubs are the “Knights of the Blind” and funds raised by the Newberry Lions Club have provided eyeglasses and helped cover the costs of cataract surgery to recipients in our area, provided free eye screenings to local children, been used to support local events and local organizations, and also to support national organizations like Southeastern Guide Dogs and the International Lions Club Foundation.

Raffle tickets may be purchased by contacting Club members through the Club’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/NewberryLions or emailing requests to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Club members will also be selling tickets at various events throughout the Newberry area, just look for those bright gold vests! Tickets are $1 each or 6 for $5.

The drawing for the raffle will be held at the Newberry Watermelon Festival on May 21.

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Contamination Shuts Down Alachua County Fire Rescue Well

HIGH SPRINGS/ALACHUA COUNTY – The water well serving the Alachua County Transfer Station and Alachua County Fire/Rescue Station #20, which provides advanced life transport, has become contaminated.

“County personnel are currently using bottled water for drinking and whatever cooking they might do on the premises,” said Bill Northcutt, Alachua County Fire Chief.

Sampling on the well located on the solid waste parcel began at the end of July last year according to testing documents and continued into August. The Alachua County Health Department routinely tests for bacteria, lead and nitrates. After finding Total Coliform Bacteria (TCB) in the well and at the distribution points, the county “shocked” the well with chlorine several times. While shocking the well helped, it did not resolve the problem permanently,” said Anthony Dennis, Alachua County Health Department's Environmental Health Director. The last test was done on August 11, 2015 and TCBs were present at that time. “No further testing has been done since that time,” said Dennis. “TCBs are non pathogenic bacteria found in older wells and wells that aren't used very often. It is not carcinogenic,” he said, “and testing determined an absence of fecal or E. coli contamination.”

The City of High Springs has a water line serving a church on the opposite side of the road and talks have occurred between Alachua County Manager Lee Niblock, Northcutt, High Springs City Manager Ed Booth and additional city staff, which could lead to High Springs running a water line under U.S. Highway 441 to service the two county facilities.

Northcutt and Booth are doing additional research to find out if this is the best solution.

“We've looked at the Comprehensive Plan and an adjustment would have to be made to it,” said Northcutt. “We are also researching options on filtration systems to determine costs and viability. We are doing our due diligence before we bring any option before the Board of County Commissioners for their determination.

“The City is nice enough to pursue the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for permission to do the project,” Northcutt said.

“The County's cap on costs would be $40,000 and the City and County would share the engineering costs and provide a fire hydrant,” said Booth.

If the County approves this option and the City receives FDOT's approval, Booth said he thinks the project could go out for bid and begin in approximately 60 days.

“This extension of our service would help the City with its economic development goals as well as help the County resolve their problem,” said Booth.

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