W - Blue springs

Photo special to Alachua County Today/ Divers and swimmers at Blue Springs near High Springs. Kim Davis' family has owned the location since 1958.

HIGH SPRINGS – Kim Davis has run Blue Springs for nearly 27 years. The spring itself has belonged to her family for 55 years. But all of that may soon change.

Davis and her brother, Matt Bahr, are looking for someone to buy the spring they have held near to their hearts for the majority of their lives.

The family received the spring in 1958, and Davis’ parents have been involved in running it since. When both her mother and father passed away earlier this year, she decided it was time to move on.

“We have a couple of other family businesses as well and have been stretched fairly thin,” Davis said. “This is something we needed to do and decided now was the time.”

She was not alone in making the final decision. Bahr, who was also active in the family operation, agreed it was the right thing to do.

“We have been in this area since I was very young,” Bahr said. “But this was a wish my dad had before he died, he wanted us to sell.”

However, the family knows that it will not be easy to let go of the Blue Springs.

“It is with a very heavy heart that we look for a buyer for our spring,” Davis said. “This is definitely an emotional time.”

Davis said she is looking for someone to take the spring to a better place than she could. She wants to find a new owner that would do everything they could to protect it, she said.

“I have no preference of a public or private buyer,” Davis said. “But people need to realize, what goes into the ground comes out in the water, and I want someone to protect the water.”

The property is 401.6 acres and is located near High Springs at 7450 NE 60th Street.

While the spring has been on the market for just over five months, with a list price of $10 million, it has garnered some interest, Bahr said.

Another goal of the family is to see the new ownership keep the current employees on staff.

“There has been no harder working staff than we have had,” Bahr said. Some of them have been there working there for 10 to 15 years.

“They all know the spring like the back of their hand now,” he said. “It would take new people a couple of years to get fully up to speed on those things.”

“Anyone coming in to the situation would need to know that these people are the best and really enjoy their work,” Davis said. “We would no doubt express to them that we want that to keep going, and I hope they would appreciate the staff.”

The state of Florida has many springs in its state park program, and is a possible option as a buyer for Blue Springs. It is still unclear if a deal would be made between the two parties.

“I would not be opposed to anyone at this point,” Davis said. “Really, my ultimate goal is just to have someone that wants to keep it open and keep it protected.”

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ALACHUA – The residents of Turkey Creek will soon have the opportunity to report their complaints of the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC) biomass plant to a call center.

The funding for the call center was agreed upon in a City of Alachua commission meeting Monday, Nov. 4 to allow a place for those affected by the biomass plant to describe their issues.

The Biomass plant has had controversy surrounding it since it began running in August. Although it’s located in Gainesville, many of the residents of Turkey Creek in Alachua have experienced problems concerning the amount of noise the plant emits and are looking to the city to solve the issue.

By providing a call center, Alachua is trying to free up calls to officers about noise complaints from the plant, said Assistant City Manager Adam Boukari.

“It’s really a response to providing a more streamline approach to this and not taking officers off the street that respond to emergency situations,” Boukari said.

Alachua residents have been coming to the commission meetings since August to voice their concerns about noise and dust pollution coming from the plant. Officials from city governments and the county have been receiving complaints through phone and email.

“It was so loud last night, my four-year-old cried going to sleep,” wrote Gina Rone in an email to the county commission. “He said ‘that loud noise scares me, mommy.’”

When the biomass plant was being built, Turkey Creek resident Russ Pisano said they were assured they wouldn’t even know the plant was there.

GREC provides electricity through burning wood waste. Dust coming from the wood piles has caused workers of the nearby Alachua County Public Works compound to complain of irritated throats, eyes and difficulty breathing.

In addition to the call center, the meeting ended with the commission suggesting the city manager look into setting up a workshop to work on creating an effective noise ordinance.

“I would like to see a workshop first and foremost on any type of noise ordinance, because I am not for something that is so strict that it totally handcuffs the community, but at the same time, I do want something that will help protect our citizens as well,” said Commissioner Ben Boukari, Jr.

The call center will be put in place and functioning within the next week.

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ALACHUA – Alachua-based Banyan Biomarkers has been awarded a $13 million contract from the Department of Defense (DoD) so they can continue to research a new blood test used to diagnose brain trauma.

The Department of Defense is interested in Banyan Biomarkers research because it could be useful for military doctors and would require less equipment and time than current brain trauma tests, said CEO Jackson Streeter.

Ron Hayes, founder and leading researcher, compared the blood results of a head trauma patient to a patient that has had a heart attack because they both give off proteins when they are injured.

When the brain cells are injured or die, proteins from the brain cells enter into the blood, Hayes said. Banyan can measure those proteins to determine how bad the damage is.

Those proteins found in the brain helped researchers including Hayes at the University of Florida’s McKnight Brain Institute start Banyan Biomarkers in 2002.

Since the founding of the company, Streeter said the research has put the city of Alachua on the map, making it a much-watched city for developmental medicine.

“Banyan is developing first-in-class, first-ever breakthrough technology for traumatic brain injury,” Streeter said. “If all of our work succeeds, it will come to affect the whole region.”

With the activity of the Innovation Gainesville initiative, a program created to foster innovative thinking and success, and the support of the University of Florida, more research facilities like Banyan Biomarkers and Sid Martin Biotech will be encouraged to move to the Alachua area, he said.

The company has been working with the Department of Defense for several years, Streeter said, so the DoD was aware of the research that Banyan Biomarkers has been doing in brain trauma.

“The DoD has a very large interest in being able to diagnose and treat traumatic brain injury, and that stems mainly from the large amount of brain injuries that have come out of Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.

The government’s interest in new tests for brain trauma is not unreasonable, Hayes said. With the tests for brain trauma now, nobody can be certain how severe a brain injury is.

“To have a blood test as an objective determination, an actual organic determination of brain injury, that would be a very important asset,” he said.

Banyan Biomarkers is working to begin clinical trials to receive FDA approval of their diagnoses in early 2014 so that the company can begin to market the product.

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ALACHUA – The Alachua City Commission unanimously voted to tighten the regulations on sexually oriented businesses and merchandise at its Monday, Nov. 4 meeting.

The changes to the land-development regulations closed some loopholes which allowed certain businesses to sell sexual material.

Under the old regulations, businesses with more than 30 percent of their floor area devoted to sexually explicit media were classified as “sexually oriented media stores.” However, vertical displays on walls did not count toward the percentage.

“People always find a way to skirt the law,” said Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper.

The new regulation amends the definition, counting wall displays toward the 30 percent rule.

Stores with more than 10 percent of their stock consisting of sexually explicit media or sex toys, or stores that have more than 10 percent of their gross space selling such material count as sex shops under the new definition.

It’s a business’ First Amendment right to sell sexual material, said Mayor Gib Coerper, but they can still be regulated and zoned into certain areas. For instance, sex shops in Alachua cannot be within 2,500 feet from a school.

The decision to change the definitions for sexually oriented businesses came after a series of First Amendment court cases, Mayor Coerper said. The interpretation of the law is always changing, making it a never-ending issue, he added.

“We’ll probably have to revisit the issue in another five years,” he said.

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W - HS FestivalDale and Angela Roberts, back, admiring the historic nature of High Springs. Several out-of-towners like the Roberts came to check out the festival.

ALACHUA – High Springs residents and out-of-towners alike gathered near High Springs City Hall on Saturday, Oct. 26 to buy trinkets, listen to live music and eat homemade snacks.

The High Springs Chamber of Commerce held its Fall Festival at James Paul Park from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., featuring vendors from all over the area selling a wide range of food and souvenirs. It is an event the chamber has put on for seven years in the city.

Patty Schaffer wasn't completely sold on the fall festival before she brought her booth there, she said.

“I wasn't sure I was going to do it,” she said. She did end up getting some visitors, though.  

Schaffer guessed between 45 to 80 people visited the booth for her company, Scentsy, which sells flameless candles heated by a light bulb.

Though she would have liked to see more customers, Schaffer said the crowd was nice enough.

Some visitors to the festival said they wanted to support the local community and help its businesses.

“If you don't support them, they don't stay,” said Sue Scherer, who came to the area from Orlando to visit her sister-in-law.

It's important to shop at small business, said Kathy Anderson, owner of the Bumpkin Patch, which sells hand-crafted scarves, aprons, hats and other attire.

“It keeps the money local,” she said. “It helps the economy so much.”

Near the front of the festival, Ellen and Tom Hogan were selling wooden spoons, homemade jam and art. It was their first time at the event as a vendor, though they have participated as musicians in previous years.

“We'd like to have more sales,” Tom said, “but overall, it hasn't been a bad day.”

The couple had yet to sell any of their paintings, but they were optimistic about the day. They considered the possibility of returning next year.  

“We feel like we should be supporting our local festivals,” Ellen said.

At the Fall Festival costume contest, Tyler Clifford, a 3-year-old donning the uniform of a Ft. White police officer, won the top spot, earning his family a ride on the High Springs Chamber of Commerce float in the upcoming Christmas parade. All the children who entered won a stuffed animal and an extra trinket of their choice.

The homemade pie contest winner was Samantha Munroe, a 13-year-old High Springs resident who submitted her pumpkin pie.

At least one shopper found a souvenir she could be proud of.  

Anna Asfour, from the U.S. Virgin Islands, pulled out her favorite buy of the day. It was a sleeping bag for dolls.

“The people here are very talented,” she said, complementing its craftsmanship.  

Asfour came to Gainesville to visit her son when she stumbled on the Fall Festival, she said.

As the event came to a close, Dale and Angela Roberts, from Central Florida, walked around with their costumed children.

“I love the historic part of it all,” Angela said, admiring the downtown area of High Springs.

They came to town to visit family and decided to check out the area and spend some money at the booths.

“You need to support your community to make it grow,” Angela said.

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HIGH SPRINGS – After settling a lawsuit, the City of High Springs will not have to pay the attorney’s fees for the winning party.

Ross Ambrose sued High Springs last year, challenging a charter amendment the city commission passed. Commissioners Bob Barnas and Linda Gestrin supported a referendum that would establish a $1 million borrowing limit for the city. When the motion passed, however, the limit was changed to $2 million at the last minute, a departure from what was advertised prior to the meeting.

Ambrose sued both under Florida’s “Sunshine Law,” which requires state and local governments to maintain transparency to the public, and also under another statute requiring detailed notice for the passage of ordinances. The City of High Springs eventually settled, after the current city attorney and the city's insurance counsel agreed the commission violated the law by making substantial changes to the amendment that was advertised, said Paul Regensdorf, who worked as co-council for Ambrose with Linda Rice Chapman as the lead council.

“The city rolled over and confessed error,” Regensdorf said.

Under Florida Statute Chapter 286, there are provisions for recovering attorney’s fees if a plaintiff wins a lawsuit over a violation of the Sunshine Law.

Regensdorf estimated the total fees were in the range of $75,000 to $100,000.

“We’ve spent a lot of time and money on this,” he said.

The purpose of the Sunshine Law awarding attorney’s fees is to encourage the public to challenge state and local governments when they don’t follow the law, Regensdorf said.

The original trial to recover the fees ended with Ambrose being denied fees, despite his victory on the illegality of the city's actions. He then brought it to the appeals court, which handed down its decision last week.

Judge Stanley Griffis, of the Alachua Circuit Court, had originally ruled against Ambrose recovering the fees. The First District Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court,but did not write an opinion explaining its reasons.

Linda Rice Chapman, Ambrose’s lead council during the original lawsuit against the city, said that although there wasn’t a lot of legal standing for recovering attorney’s fees, it is good policy to award them.

“Otherwise, the little man could never have his voice heard,” she said.

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W - Rad run

Colorful stains cover this runner's shirt. The race raised money for the local March of Dimes.

ALACHUA – The crowd chanted with the man on the megaphone.

“3… 2… 1… run!”

It was mayhem. The crowd took off while a fire extinguisher shot a pink mushroom cloud of dust over the runners, coating them in the first of many different colors to come.

On Saturday, Oct. 26, the City of Alachua invited the Color Me Rad foundation to host its second 5K race in the area to raise money for the March of Dimes, a nonprofit foundation that supports medical research to help expecting mothers and premature babies.

Through the excitement of the raining color, it was clear the race was on. Emily Walter, 21, was moving from the back of the line toward the front of the crowd.

As she zigged and zagged her way to the first spot, yellow dust was thrown and splattered across the front of her chest and abdomen. Another throw and her thighs were covered, turning her into a pink and yellow speckled runner.

The three-mile race took place at Rembert Farm, located at 13126 NW 174th Ave., and held over 2,000 people.

Both runners and walkers lined up at the starting line in waves, starting at different times. They awaited the announcer to send them forward through the multi-terrain course, which consisted of grassy hills, dirt paths and rocky roads.

Along the course, runners and walkers moved through five color-bomb stations, which consisted of rad volunteers who would toss colored powder at runners to coat their white T-shirts and running shorts.

Walter finished her run in 25 minutes, but the big accomplishment was the amount of colors she had splashed across the front of her body.

Pink, yellow, orange and green stained her legs and shirt.

“It was awesome getting hit by the color, but I didn’t like the color that was in water,” Walter said, as she pointed to green streaks down her arms and legs. “It was just way too cold to be sprayed with the water, or else I probably wouldn’t have cared.”

Other runners seemed to feel the same way as Walter talked about hearing gasps and shouts from other participants as she ran through the water color-bombs.

“Since it was cold out I didn’t want to be wet and once it started to dry it just felt gross,” she said.

The green and yellow water dye seemed to be the crowd’s only complaint. Participants of the run not only complimented and applauded the Color Me Rad foundation for a well-run 5K, but also have continued the praise through the foundation’s Facebook page.

Bags of powder were tossed into the crowd before each of their set race times, allowing them to accumulate new colors early.

“My friend caught one of the color bombs, and we popped it open by doing a high five,” Walter said.

The color run attracted a large number of participants. While Walter ran, many other participants were able to walk and enjoy the swirls that stained their shirts at the end of the race.

“It’s unlike most 5K’s because you don’t have to run, but you can still come out and get the same experience,” Walter said.

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