Last updateWed, 17 Dec 2014 11pm


Alachua County Training School Historical Marker Dedication Ceremony

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This past Saturday, Nov. 15, the property where the Alachua County Training (A.C.T.) School was located was memorialized by the State of Florida with a permanent official Florida Historical Marker, in acknowledgment of the significance of Alachua County’s first school for blacks. Jack Postell approached the school board in 1920, inquiring about a school for black children. The school board told Postell he would need to raise $10,000 to build a school. Postell and his delegation raised the funds in two years and the school became operational in 1922. The entire history of the school can be read on the sign located at the corner of Northwest 141st Street and 158th Avenue in Alachua. President of the A.L. Mebane High School Alumni Association, Gussie M. Lee, said, “It’s important to retain that history in the minds of not only black children, but the community of Alachua and people that may come into our area.”

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County Health Dept. provides back-to-school physicals and immunization clinic

ALACHUA COUNTY – The Alachua County Health Department will be providing a back-to-school physicals and immunization clinic on Aug. 13, from5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at the Alachua County Health Department located at 224 SE 24th St., Gainesville. Appointments are required and can be made by calling 352-334-7910.

 The physicals are provided at no charge for those who have Medicaid; applicable co-pays for those with private insurance and $25 for all others. A child must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or other authorized family member. Parent or guardian must bring a photo ID and insurance card.

The immunizations required for kindergarten through 12th grade school attendance will be provided free of charge. As an added benefit, age appropriate non-school required immunizations such as Hepatitis A, Meningitis, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and Rotavirus vaccines will also be available at no cost.

“In addition to school attendance requirements, immunizations are the primary means of preventing serious communicable diseases,” stated Paul Myers, Administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County. “We encourage all parents and guardians of school aged children to take advantage of these after-hours clinics.”

Parents and guardians are reminded to bring their child's shot record to expedite the process. If shot records are not available, especially for new out of state students, parents should have the information faxed from their provider to the Alachua County Health Department at352-334-7943, attention “After Hours Clinics.”

Due to new requirements, documentation of insurance information is required. This information will be kept strictly confidential. School required immunizations will be provided at no cost or co-pays.

The Alachua County Health Department is asking parents to check their child's shot record now and make an appointment with their medical provider if their child needs additional shots. Required school shots are also offered at no cost or co-pays at all Alachua County Health Department sites during regular business hours. The main office located at 224 SE 24th St., Gainesville, offers a walk in clinic,MondaythroughFriday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.The phone number is352-334-7950. The Health Department site in the City of Alachua is by appointment only. The Alachua clinic can be reached at386-462-2542.

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As bears bulk up in fall, public asked to share bear sightings, stash trash

TALLAHASSEE – In fall, the world is an all-you-can-eat buffet for Florida black bears. Programmed to pack in extra calories before winter, bears can smell food a mile away and will eat almost anything. Bears may decide an overflowing trash can is easier pickings than searching for acorns and berries.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds the public this is a critical time of year to properly store garbage, pet food and birdseed to keep bears out of places where people live and work. During the fall, bears with big appetites are less likely to linger in neighborhoods if people don’t give them access to food.

“People can prevent problems with Florida black bears by safely securing garbage, putting out garbage cans the morning of pickup rather than the night before, and using bear-resistant garbage cans or dumpsters.” said David Telesco, the FWC’s bear management coordinator.

Surveys of Florida communities with access to bear-resistant trash cans or dumpsters show the overwhelming majority are pleased with the results.

“The FWC is committed to helping the public keep bears out of garbage and out of neighborhoods,” said Telesco. “Now, we’re asking the public to help us better understand the range of the Florida black bear in the wild.”

As bears become more active in fall, more people are also going outdoors for hunting, fishing, hiking, biking and wildlife viewing. The FWC is asking the public to report their sightings of Florida black bears or their tracks to a new Web page: Biologists are especially interested in sightings of a female bear with cubs.

The bear sightings Web page will help biologists update the map of where bears live in Florida. However, the Web page is only for sharing bear location information. FWC regional offices remain the places for people to call for advice on how to resolve human-bear conflicts.

The Web page has the option for people to upload photos of bears or their tracks. But please do not approach bears to take photos of them. Black bears are generally not aggressive, but approaching them can make them defensive. Adult males typically weigh 250 to 400 pounds and can be as large as 600 pounds. Extra caution is appropriate when a mother bear and her cubs are sighted. Photos from game cameras are welcome.

“We know about prime bear habitats such as the Apalachicola National Forest, Ocala National Forest and Big Cypress National Preserve. While bear subpopulations are mainly centered on large public lands, bears also occur elsewhere, and those locations have been underreported,” said FWC bear research biologist Brian Scheick. “Our bear range data is 11 years old, and we are excited about getting the public’s help in identifying all the places where bears now live in Florida.

“What we learn from the new bear sightings Web page will inform the FWC’s efforts to document bear distribution and help with future bear management decisions,” Scheick said

The black bear is a conservation success story in Florida, with the population growing from as few as 300 bears in the 1970s to an estimated population of more than 3,000 today.

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Alachua mulls county e-cig ordinance

ALACHUA – The City of Alachua must decide whether it wants to join an ordinance passed by the county last year regulating the sale and use of electronic cigarettes.

Last December, the Alachua County Commission voted 4-1 in favor of an ordinance outlawing the sale of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, to minors. The controversial aspect of the ordinance also prohibits using the devices anywhere smoking a normal cigarette is prohibited by state law.

It also forbids open displays and self-serve sales of the devices.

The ordinance only applies to unincorporated parts of the county, unless a city chooses to opt in.

An e-cigarette is a battery-powered device that heats up a liquid solution, vaporizing it to simulate the experience of smoking. The cartridges containing the solution come in a variety of flavors, including nicotine and nicotine-free varieties.

County attorney David Wagner gave a presentation to the Alachua City Commission at the meeting on Monday, Jan. 27 to provide them with information on the ordinance and the nature of e-cigarettes so it could decide if it wants to opt in.

E-cigarettes are consistently increasing in popularity, Wagner said.

“These things are catching on,” he said. “You would think it would be regulated.”

Currently, e-cigarettes are not regulated by any organization.

The devices can be used indoors, and create no smoke, only vapor. The odor dissipates quickly, unlike tobacco smoke.

“The term of art is ‘vaping,’” Wagner said.

The concern, he said, is that no studies have been done to determine if secondhand exposure to the vapor is harmful. Wagner also pointed out there is still uncertainty about what exactly is in the liquid being vaporized.

Susan Baird was the only county commissioner to oppose the ordinance, saying there isn’t enough evidence of harm to support banning the use of the devices in indoor areas where smoking cigarettes is prohibited by law.

The City of Hawthorne has already agreed to be a part of the ordinance. Micanopy will consult with the local business community before making a decision, Wagner said.

Alachua doesn’t need to make a decision right away, he said, it will have several months to decide whether it wants to be a part of the ban.

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Therapy horse to be honored in Greece

HIGH SPRINGS – A horse from High Springs has left its mark in Greece.

A children's playground and park in Rafina, Greece, near Athens, will be named in honor of local therapy horse, Magic.

Magic is a member of Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses, a North Florida charity that visits over 25,000 adults and children each year across the United States.

The park is to be named The Magic Garden, and will be the home of Gentle Carousel’s Greece branch, “a beautiful paradise for children and horses to spend time together” said Debbie Garcia-Bengochea, one of Magic’s owners.

Kostas Karamanlis, the former prime minister of Greece, will attend the official park opening to dedicate the park to magic.

“For many years in the United States, Magic, the therapy horse has comforted the sick, the elderly and those facing tremendous tragedy,” the dedication will read. “Like the heroic horses of our history and mythology, Magic has proven herself worthy of honor and remembrance. It is with her own heroic accomplishments in mind that we dedicate this special place for the children of Greece in her name, to be known from this time on as The Magic Garden.”

Other politicians and celebrities from Greece will also attend the park dedication in October.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to explain to people who haven’t seen Magic work with children and adults who need her the most, what is so special about this one little horse. After all, we have other horses,” Garcia-Bengochea said.

“You actually have to see it to understand just how good she is with people,” she said. “She will find the person or persons in the room that need her the most and go up to them.” Sometimes, she puts her head in their laps. Sometimes, she curls her neck and head around them to give them a hug as they are hugging her. Horses cannot usually be trained to do these things, she said.

“She’s developed this level of empathy and understanding on her own.”

Magic gives encouragement to the people who need it the most, Garcia-Bengochea said. “I have seen people do things for the first time that the nurses and rehabilitation experts couldn’t get them to do before,” she said. One woman, who hadn’t spoken in years, talked for the first time when Magic came up to her. The nurses burst into tears, she said. In another case, a person came out of a coma when Magic visited.

“I have seen one man raise his arm for the first time after an accident to put his hand on Magic,” Garcia Bengochea said. “I have seen the miraculous side of things during Magic’s visits.”

Others have seen the results of her presence as well. Magic has been named by TIME Magazine as one of History’s Ten Most Courageous Animals, the only living animal ever to be named. AARP named her the Most Heroic Pet in America. She has also been named one of Newsweek’s Daily Beast’s 10 Most Heroic Animals.

She is the subject of the Reading is Magic program, as well as a book called Magic Loves Me, which was written following Gentle Carousel’s trip to Sandy Hook after the shooting. The couple worked with counselors to create the book using their photos of the horses taken during their trip. They have used the book to work with children, and said they found it helpful. All of the children want to keep the book, but the couple hasn’t had the money to get the book published, leaving them with only one copy, they said.

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