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ALACHUA ‒ Quintin Xavier Cote, 22, of High Springs, was arrested and charged with petit theft and felony fraud after allegedly entering inflated values for coupons and pocketing the cash while working as a cashier.

Cote has worked at the Circle K near Interstate75 in Alachua since April and is accused of taking cash from the register using inflated values for coupons 22 times in August.

Cote allegedly stole $2,225 using this scheme. He is also accused of taking $201 from the register. The store’s surveillance video reportedly captured all of the transactions.

Cote has no criminal history and was released on his own recognizance.

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NEWBERRY ‒ The newest Episcopal Children’s Services (ECS) Head Start Child Care Partner (CCP) center opened its doors on Aug. 29 to Newberry residents.  I Rise Performing Kids Academy is currently enrolling for Head Start services for children and families in southwest Alachua County.

I Rise Performing Kids Academy held an open house on Friday, Aug. 26, to allow families to tour the center, learn about the program and enroll their children.  A parent attending the open house was eager to get her son enrolled at the center as the location of I Rise Performing Kids Academy is closer to home and better for her daily activities:

“Every child deserves a strong start in life.  Expanding our services throughout Alachua County allows us to continue serving the children and families who are most vulnerable and in need of our programs,” said Chief Executive Officer Connie Stophel.  “The ongoing expansion of our services is a result of our ability to continually meet and exceed the rigorous Head Start Performance Standards for program design, development and delivery.”

For the past 25 years, ECS has comprehensive Head Start and Early Head Start services to children, birth to five, pregnant women and their families.  The Head Start program is designed to meet the needs of three- and four-year-olds in a classroom setting through the whole child approach, helping children grow intellectually, emotionally and socially.

I Rise Performing Kids Academy, located at 24621 Doc Karelas Drive, Newberry, is open weekdays from 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. and is led by center manager, Jasmine Moore.  Call 352-660-2013 for more information or log on to www.ecs4kids.org to learn more.

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Alachua County ‒ With schools now open in Alachua County, school bus safety is vitally important to motorists and students. Motorists should also be aware that as of Jan. 1, 2021, the penalties for failure to stop for a school bus double. The penalty for failure to stop for a school bus goes from a minimum $100 to $200, and if a second offense is committed within five years, the person’s license will be suspended for up to one year.

The penalty for passing a school bus on the side where children enter and exit when the school bus displays a stop signal goes from a minimum of $200 to $400, and if a second offense is committed in five years, the person’s license can be suspended up to two years.

School bus safety tips for motorists:

  • Motorists are required to stop when approaching a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing and stop arms extended. (See the different situations in the diagram)
  • All drivers moving in either direction on a two-way street must stop for a school bus displaying a stop signal and must remain stopped until the road is clear of children and the school bus stop arm is withdrawn. (see diagram, two-lane)
  • On a highway divided by a paved median, all drivers moving in either direction must stop for a school bus displaying a stop signal and must remain stopped until the road is clear of children and the school bus stop arm is withdrawn. (see diagram, multi-lane)
  • The only time traffic approaching an oncoming school bus does not need to stop is if there is a raised barrier such as a concrete divider or at least five feet of unpaved space separating the lanes of traffic. (see diagram, divided highway)
  • On a highway divided by a raised barrier or an unpaved median at least five feet wide, drivers moving in the opposite direction do not have to stop for the bus (painted lines or pavement markings are not considered barriers). However, these motorists should slow down and watch for students loading or unloading from the bus. (see diagram, divided highway)

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ While it is a little early to tell, a unique new exhibit that opened at the Good News Arts Gallery in High Springs may be showcasing the works of a future Picasso or Van Gogh. Instead of featuring an established artist, this exhibit introduced the art work compilation of students who attended the Good News Arts Summer Arts Camp from June 6 to July 22. The exhibit featured the art work of nearly 100 students who attended the High Springs camp.

The Summer Arts Camp was created by Jessica Caldas, director and owner of Good News Arts Gallery. The gallery, in conjunction with the City of High Springs Parks and Recreation Department, established the camp to introduce students in K-12 to a variety of artistic mediums while working with a group of their peers. Each week a different medium was chosen to expose the students to a variety of art and dance.

“We had 130 kids register for the camp and a weekly attendance of 80-100. But the project was a group effort by a lot of people and organizations,” Caldas said. “Since our gallery is fairly small, we needed a bigger space for the multiple classes and the City of High Springs loaned us the old school building at the High Springs Museum.”

Caldas said the Children’s Trust of Alachua County covered much of the funding by creating scholarships to help keep costs down. Enrollment/registration fees for all families was $5 per child and the camp was free for youth who lived in Alachua County and whose family is at or below 200 percent of the 2020 federal poverty threshold, or a child with an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or with family receiving SNAP benefits. For youth whose families did not meet these requirements, the camp cost $93 per week including lunch and snacks.

The local Winn Dixie helped fill the gap on food and snacks for meals during the camp. The High Springs Fire Department organized a water playday and helped with field trips as well. The High Springs Police Department worked to provide School Resource Officers (SROs) for the children's safety and ran special programming like boxing and breathing exercises as well as accompanying the students on class field trips.

All the supplies were provided by organization as well as individuals and patrons who supported the program. “We received support and funding from all over the community including Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe, Satchel's Pizza, The Great Outdoors, The Pink Flamingo, The Barber Group, East End Eatery, The High Springs Woman's Club, Deeper Purpose Community Church, Kona Ice and others,” said Caldas. “We could not have accomplished this program without all the support to provide our community children an opportunity to explore their creative side.”

All classes were taught by volunteer local artists and Counselors and Artists in Training (CAITs), which was staffed by high school students. The program was not just about encouraging kids to learn about art and express their creativity, the experience included an exhibit for students to showcase their work and gain confidence in their abilities.

On Saturday, Aug. 6, the gallery held the opening reception to display the students’ work. Young artists brought their parents to the gallery to proudly show off their art. The exhibit will remain up until Aug. 20 at the Good News Arts Gallery located at 18555 Main Street in High Springs. The gallery is open on Friday and Saturday from 12 p.m. - 6 p.m. as well as some Wednesdays and Thursdays.

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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ An historical marker will soon be installed in the city of Alachua. The Alachua/Newnansville Subcommittee of the Alachua County Community Remembrance Project, chaired by City of Alachua Commissioner Shirley Green Brown, requested to install a marker within the County right-of-way on County Road Northwest 121st Terrace, at the intersection of State Road 235. The marker will memorialize the lives of lynching victims who lived around the former town of Newnansville and the present-day city of Alachua. The Alachua County Public Works Department recently approved the location to install the new historical marker.

The marker for the Alachua/Newnansville site is currently being created by EJI in Montgomery, Alabama, and will be installed with a ceremony once the County receives the marker.

During the site selection process by the Alachua/Newnansville Subcommittee, the committee noticed that the proposed marker would be located near the hard-to-find historic Newnansville African American Cemetery. During the meetings with Public Works staff, Commissioner Brown and Reverend Debra Sermons asked if the County could help by installing wayfinding signs to the cemetery.

Wayfinding signs help the public find their way to important community features. Supervisor of the Traffic Maintenance Division in the Public Works Department John Nazal and his team designed, manufactured, and installed the signs in accordance with Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Device standards. On July 12, members of the Alachua/Newnansville Subcommittee and the Newnansville African American Cemetery Association held a small ceremony to unveil the new wayfinding signs installed by the County.

Similar historical markers have been placed throughout the County as part of the Truth and Reconciliation process started by the Alachua County Commission in June 2018. The process was prompted by research completed by the Alachua County Historical Commission (ACHC) in response to the national Equal Justice Initiative’s (EJI) lynching research in Alachua County.

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GAINESVILLE ‒ About one in 20 residential properties in the city of Hawthorne are at risk of entering the costly and lengthy probate legal process. The Alachua County Property Appraiser’s Office will be hosting its second Probate and Estate Planning Summit on Aug. 18, 2022, at 6 p.m. at Hawthorne Middle/High School, 21403 S.E. 69th Avenue.

This event will feature an interactive panel discussion led by representatives from the Alachua County Clerk of Court, the Alachua County Tax Collector, Alachua County Commissioner Anna Prizzia, the University of Florida Levin College of Law and Three Rivers Legal Services Inc.

Each panelist will discuss how their respective offices are directly impacted by the extensive probate process and how many individuals can opt to create estate plans that are aimed at allowing assets to pass outside of the probate process.

“In February 2022, we launched our initial summit to help families affected by the financial burden of the probate and estate planning process,” said Alachua County Property Appraiser Ayesha Solomon. “This momentum spurred us to share approaches and evidence-based practices that have shown promise for reducing the 6.5 percent of properties in the area that are currently at risk of entering the probate process.”

The Alachua County Property Appraiser’s Office formulated this initiative through a dual data driven approach that identified all the parcels that are classified as heirs’ property throughout the county, as well as parcels with only one remaining owner listed on the property suggesting a lack of proper estate planning.

After successfully analyzing both data sets, two heat maps were created to showcase the “hot spot” areas in the county that are affected the most by these issues.

Hawthorne City Manager Wendy Sapp said, “We hope that our community will benefit from this initiative and be able to walk away with information and resources that will help them navigate through probate and estate planning.”

The Alachua County Property Appraiser’s Office will be practicing social distancing measures to minimize the risk of COVID-19 to guests.

The Alachua County Property Appraiser’s Office ensures that all taxable property in the county is assessed equitably and at its fair market value in accordance with Florida statutes. The Property Appraiser’s Office has two locations: 515 N. Main Street in Gainesville and 15010 N.W. 142nd Terrace in Alachua.

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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ The early voting period for the 2022 Primary Election will begin on Saturday, Aug. 13 at 9 a.m. and run through Aug. 20. Registered Alachua County voters will be able to vote early at any of the county's seven early voting locations between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Additionally, during the early voting period, voters will be able to deliver their completed vote-by-mail ballot to any of the secure ballot intake stations located outside of each early voting site. The secure ballot intake stations will be available during early voting hours, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and will be continuously monitored by trained ballot intake station attendants.

Early voting ends on Aug. 20. Voters can still return their vote-by-mail ballot on Aug. 21 and Aug. 22 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. to the secure ballot intake station located at the Supervisor of Elections Office. On Election Day, Aug. 23, the secure ballot intake station will be available only at the Supervisor of Elections Office from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Here are the seven early voting locations:

  • Supervisor of Elections Office: 515 N. Main Street, Gainesville, FL 32601
  • Millhopper Branch Library: 3145 N.W. 43rd Street, Gainesville, FL 32606
  • Tower Road Branch Library: 3020 S.W. 75th Street, Gainesville, FL 32608
  • Orange Heights Baptist Church:16700 FL-26, Hawthorne, FL 32640
  • Legacy Park Multipurpose Center: 15400 Peggy Road, Alachua, FL 32615
  • J. Wayne Reitz Union: 655 Reitz Union Drive, UF Campus, Gainesville, FL 32611
  • Alachua County Agriculture and Equestrian Center: 23100 W. Newberry Road, Newberry, FL 32669 (New for this election.)

Voters must present valid photo and signature identification to vote early. To find a full list of acceptable photo and signature ID, please visit VoteAlachua.gov or call the Supervisor of Elections Office during normal business hours at 352-374-5252.

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