HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs City Commission is expected to restore monthly salaries for commissioners and the mayor at the Thursday, March 28, 2013 commission meeting. Resolution 2013-D, which would have made restoration of their salaries retroactive to the beginning of the 2012-2013 fiscal year, Oct. 1, 2012, failed to pass during the March 14 commission meeting.

While commissioners were in favor of restoring the salaries, some expressed displeasure at making the retroactive date the beginning of the fiscal year. Mayor Sue Weller and Commissioners Bob Barnas and Linda Gestrin defeated the resolution with a 3-2 vote and instead directed City Attorney Scott Walker to present another resolution at the March 28 meeting in which the retroactive date is set at March 1, 2013.

City Attorney Walker modified the wording as directed and it will now appear on the March 28 agenda as Resolution 2013-E.

Commissioners have been receiving $100 less in salary each month since October. If Resolution 2013-E is approved as anticipated, each commissioner will return to their previous salary amounts.

This fiscal year, commissioners have each been receiving $400 monthly and the mayor has been receiving $450 monthly. Adoption of the resolution would return those monthly salaries to $500 for commissioners and $550 for the mayor.

Salaries for hourly employees, which had been reduced at the beginning of the fiscal year by 6.07 percent, were reinstated earlier this year and made retroactive to the beginning of the fiscal year.

#     #     #

Email Cwalker@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

ALACHUA – Alachua-based biotech company Nanotherapeutics, Inc. has secured a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense that could be worth about $360 million.

The company was awarded a $135,834,018 cost-plus-fixed-fee incrementally-funded contract by the U.S. Army to develop and manufacture drugs and vaccines to combat bioterrorism. If all options are exercised, the total award over 10 years could reach $360 million.

Expected uses of the drugs and vaccines include treating military populations against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks and outbreaks of naturally occurring emerging and genetically engineered infectious diseases.

The development and production of these drugs and vaccines will be done locally in Alachua. A large development and manufacturing facility will be built in Alachua, with an estimated completion date of March 19, 2015, said Patti Breedlove, associate director of the University of Florida’s Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator.

“It’s wonderful news for the whole community here,” Breedlove said. “It will put a spotlight on Alachua.”

Nanotherapeutics officials could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The company, located at 13859 Progress Boulevard in Alachua’s Progress Corporate Park, currently produces new drugs and makes existing drugs stronger through nanometer-scale particle technology.

Nanotherapeutics was founded by James Talton in 2000 under the name Nanocoat Technologies. It was renamed Nanotherapeutics in 2002.

Nanotherapeutics was a resident company in UF’s Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator for almost nine years. The company was admitted to the incubator on Jan. 3, 2000. It graduated from the program on July 30, 2008, relocating to a new building in Progress Corporate Park, which fronts U.S. Highway 441 and borders San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park.

Additional information is expected to be released by federal officials in the future.

#     #     #

Email estanton@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

HIGH SPRINGS – The City of High Springs will soon be making payments to two staffers for unpaid overtime compensation.

The city clerk and former police department administrative assistant are entitled to be reimbursed for their overtime hours according to a 23-page report submitted by Reynaldo Velazquez of FordHarrison, a national labor and employment law firm. Velazquez, a specialist in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, was asked by the City to conduct an investigation to determine which employees were exempt from overtime pay and which were not.

As examples, City Attorney Scott Walker said the city manager, police chief and fire chief were not entitled to overtime pay because of their salary level and the number of people they were supervising. However, he found that the city clerk and the former administrative assistant were entitled to overtime pay.

Walker explained the finding was a two-step process, the first of which was Velazquez’ staff investigation and report detailing the law regarding exempt and non-exempt status. The second step pursuant to Florida law is to determine what compensation is due the two employees and what the statute of limitations is regarding how far back the process must start. Once an individual is determined to be due reimbursement under the act, the amount is non-negotiable according to Walker.

“At that point, we should have the matter settled,” he said.

The City Commission unanimously approved payment of $6,593.50 for the second and third invoice submitted by FordHarrison for the report. Previously, the City paid an invoice of $1,703, bringing the total to $8,296.50.

High Springs City Manager Ed Booth said the City has received the formula required to determine how to calculate the overtime payments, but has not arrived at the final figure. It is expected that figure will be available in the coming weeks

#     #     #

Email Cwalker@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

HIGH SPRINGS – A proposed resolution guiding elected official civility culminated in a heated confrontation between two High Springs city commissioners and the tabling of the resolution to a later commission meeting.

At the March 14, 2013 High Springs City Commission meeting City Attorney Scott Walker presented Resolution 2013-C for consideration, which was designed to establish a code of conduct and ethics for the mayor, commissioners and other charter officers. Walker prepared the resolution following comments previously expressed by Vice-Mayor Scott Jamison and High Springs resident Suzie Ann Clark regarding the lack of civility on the part of one commissioner toward members of the public and fellow commissioners in his blog.

Walker said he researched what some other cities included in their civility resolutions, reviewed the City of High Springs Employee Handbook to see what was expected of the City’s employees and also incorporated language from Jamison’s earlier comments to create the resolution.

In presenting the resolution, Walker said there had been some controversy in the past and the resolution came out of a desire to help with this issue. He further emphasized that more and more cities are now crafting civility expectations into formal statements for their elected officials.

Commissioner Bob Barnas said the resolution was “one-sided” and a violation of his right to free speech. He further expressed displeasure that City Attorney Walker took it upon himself, without the consent of the entire commission, to create the resolution because of one commissioner’s comments.

Commissioner Linda Gestrin agreed that the resolution was an attack on free speech, adding it was a form of bullying.

Walker disagreed, stating he did not feel it was a violation. “The intent was to head off divisiveness,” he said.

Jamison said he believed that public officials are held to a higher standard and should at least “adhere to the same level of civility that we hold our employees to.”

Jamison added, “When someone enters into public office, it is a 24-hour a day position.” Stating he was in favor of the resolution, Jamison said, “The resolution does not deny anyone the right to voice their opinion,” but it should be expressed civilly. “It isn’t too much to ask for the commissioners to be just as respectful of the citizens as the citizens are expected to be to the commissioners.”

Mayor Sue Weller commented that the Commission is the “face of the City and we have an obligation to present ourselves in a manner becoming the position.” She requested the resolution be tabled to allow commissioners time to review it and take a further look at it at the next meeting.

Commissioner Byran Williams moved to table the resolution and Mayor Weller passed the gavel to Vice-Mayor Jamison and seconded the motion.

Following several minutes of citizen comments, pro and con, and a suggestion that the resolution be incorporated into an existing document, Comissioners Barnas and Williams got into a heated discussion.

Barnas claimed he knew which way the vote would go. He read the third principal of a local citizens’ group, Concerned Citizens for a Better High Springs, which was written in November 2012. He said that Mayor Weller, Vice-Mayor Jamison and Commissioner Williams’ names appear on the list and they “seem to be the new majority.” Barnas further said they are going to vote on a resolution that was put forth months ago, where meetings were held to talk about civility and code of conduct.

Williams challenged Barnas’s allegation, asking how someone can say how he is going to vote. Williams said that he, like the other commissioners, had just been given the resolution that night and had not had a chance to review it yet.

“If truth be known, I was going to vote against it,” Williams said. “This is the kind of stuff that tears this city apart.” He added that assuming how a commissioner will vote is “disrespectful,” and asked, “When are we going to grow up?” He suggested it was time that the citizens and commissioners came together to do what was best for the City.

At that point, Williams called the question and the proposed civility resolution was tabled with a 4-1 vote with Jamison casting the no vote.

It is expected that matter will be discussed again at the March 28, 2013 commission meeting.

Add a comment

ALACHUA – A $1.8 million lawsuit against the City of Alachua by engineering firm Jones Edmunds & Associates, Inc. was dropped Feb. 14, 2013.

Jones Edmunds took a settlement from the City, ending a lawsuit that began Oct. 8, 2010.

The engineering firm sued the City of Alachua over a construction project aimed to improve the City’s advanced wastewater reclamation facility. The company claimed the City breached its obligation to the company by ordering changes to the design requirements for the project and failing to obtain an amendment to the agreement for those changes.

The City paid Jones Edmunds $1.275 million toward the amount due for engineering services. Jones Edmunds claimed that the City paid nothing for the additional services needed for the project to be built and accommodate the City-desired changes in the facility’s design.

The City offered a $125,000 settlement to Jones Edmunds in January 2013.

The settlement proposed utilizing funds from the City’s general and wastewater utility fund budgets and the wastewater utility fund contingency budget.

#     #     #

Email estanton@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

NEWBERRY – With the April 9 municipal election drawing near, voters will soon be faced with familiar names on the ballot. In the mayoral race, John Glanzer will face off against current mayor Bill Conrad. Glanzer formerly served in that position for Newberry from 2004 to 2009. Commissioner Jordan Marlow is running unopposed for reelection to his seat, while Commissioner Robert Fillyaw seeks his second term and faces challenger Tim Marden.

Conrad and Glanzer were both asked what sets them apart from each other as candidates.

“I tend to be a little more outspoken than John, but I think we are both well suited to lead this city,” Conrad said, who thinks Glanzer differs very little from his own views.

“The major difference between us is leadership style. We have different backgrounds. He's been mayor for a long time. I've led troops in combat,” Conrad said, who writes a weekly newspaper column, talks almost daily with news media, and maintains a Facebook page, blog and website. Most locals have his cell number.

“I want city government to be open and transparent,” he said.

"The one thing I have learned,” Glanzer said, “in my 14 years as commissioner and four years as mayor is that there will always be differences of opinion, but you must respect the rights of your opponents to have their opinions.

“I strongly believe it is my ability to work with individuals of varying opinions to develop a consensus or a solution to the problem at hand,” he said.

Glanzer said that in addition to increases in rumors since his last term, “The citizens and I have seen a deterioration of the decorum and respect between the Commission and Mayor. I will work to reverse this.”

Commissioner Fillyaw set himself apart from his opponent with a comparison between Marden’s objection to transferring money from the utility fund to the general fund and his own short-term support of it.

“It can be easy to focus on one or two issues, but as a commissioner you have to realize that everything is intertwined, especially when it comes to the budget,” Fillyaw said, who has managed considerable sums of money in business production over his 12 years as a banker.

“The transfer is not ideal, but is the right solution for the temporary economic downturn that we have experienced.

“As the tax base grows, the transfer will go away without having to cut programs or raise taxes on the citizens,” Fillyaw said.

Marden believes his advantage over his opponent lies in the experience he has in business that can be applied immediately in next two years as the City adjusts to how sports tourism development will affect the local economy.

“I take other people's money very seriously,” Marden said.

His small business, Space Walk of Gainesville, cooperates with some of the largest businesses in the area.

“With 15-plus years in the insurance industry, I've worked tirelessly to save people money and encourage sound fiscal decisions,” Marden said, who has also spent over 12 years in the hospitality business.

To the question about the City’s most pressing issue, the mayoral candidates honed in on budget matters.

Conrad is concerned that last year the City “made decisions to fund projects that would fuel the local economy and create jobs with the understanding that our budget would be out of balance for a few years.”

“Staying on this financial path will lead to higher taxes, higher utility bills, more debt and the loss of our reserves.

“We need to do some strategic financial planning, prioritize our needs, and cut out those things we can’t afford,” he said.

Conrad believes that discretionary spending needs to be cut.

Glanzer was also troubled about symmetry in the City’s finances.

“I believe the number one issue is fiscal planning and working within a budget,” Glanzer said.

Glanzer said that in order to address the aging sewer, road and water systems that, “First and foremost the City Commission and staff need to develop a capital improvement element in our comprehensive plan.”

In additional to treating fund transfers like a business by addressing depreciation and service charges, Glanzer believes the City needs to “explore franchise fees for those utility companies who operate within our boundaries.”

“We need to realize that as a community the taxes we receive back from the state and federal governments will probably go down in some areas,” Glanzer said.

Commissioner Fillyaw believes growth related costs are going to be increasingly important. “I think growth is going to be our biggest issue.”

“We are going to have to manage the problems and costs that come along with adding and upgrading infrastructure.

“Frankly, Newberry has not had any debt for the last 10 years because no upgrades have been done,” Fillyaw said.

He cited the USDA loan the City took out versus using its own $2.2 million for the sewer plant expansion as an example of positive debt considering the optimum 2 percent interest rate.

“I would much rather borrow for a large expansion that will allow new businesses to come in than use the reserves and leave us with a potential issue in the future, especially when the payment on that loan cash flowed with no issues, and interest rates are going to be higher in the future.

“Let’s use our reserves then to avoid a 5 percent or 6 percent rate,” Fillyaw said.

Marden’s answer focused on a budget issue the residents stand behind, which is to stop utility fund transfers to the general fund.

Despite the “fundamental disagreement” between opponents, Marden believes the transfer issue will work itself out in the long run given that the contingency fund is held as a priority.

“We need to actively pursue some longer term strategies for 5, 10 and 15-year expenses.

“We need to create a list of priorities, and work the list with the money we have,” Marden said.

Finally, all candidates were asked to consider the City’s future path.

“Newberry will benefit from a slow but steady growth rate,” Conrad said. “Newberry will always keep its small town values.”

Glanzer said, “We have a reputation both statewide and nationally as being proactive in addressing growth issues and being creative in developing a niche for our community in the sports arena.”

Fillyaw had a similar sentiment, “I think sports tourism and all that comes with it is the future of Newberry. I think we have found a niche that will suit us well to grow and move forward. It is a family friendly, clean economic driver. I think we have to be mindful that the future is 10 to 20 years, not 1 to 2 years.”

Marden’s answer echoed both the mayoral candidate and his opponent. “In the near term, I want to see how the Nations Park, Easton, and Main Street programs work out. We want to put ourselves in the best possible position to take advantage of slow steady growth, new technologies, and those exciting unknowns around the corner.”

Commissioner Marlowe’s comments were not available as of press time. He has been involved with municipal government for three years. He has been a commissioner liaison with the City’s economic development committee, the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council and The Alachua County School Board.

Harry G. Nichols’ withdrawal from the mayoral candidacy was announced at the March 11 commission meeting. He declined comment.

The election will be held Tuesday, April 9 at the Newberry Fire Department located at 310 NW 260th Street, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

#     #     #

Email cgrinstead@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

HIGH SPRINGS – During the Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, High Springs City Commission meeting, City Attorney Scott Walker suggested the Commission consider formulating a Code of Conduct for Public Officials. The suggestion was made on the heels of Vice-Mayor Scott Jamison’s statement near the meeting’s end regarding negative comments and innuendo issued by another commissioner on that commissioner’s blog site.

Referring to the High Springs Personnel Policy and Procedure Manuel, Jamison suggested that public officials should be held to at least the same, if not to a higher, standard as the city’s employees.

Citing comments seen on Commissioner Bob Barnas’ blog, he said he believed the use of social media to ridicule, harass and intimidate certain High Springs citizens and public officials was a major concern. One example involved “a picture of a High Springs citizen posted on the blog and referred to as, “the bi-atch witch of the year.” The other, he said, is directed to a local businessman/lawyer and reads as follows; “He like Cheaper. He wants you to believe the Troiano ANALysis. He forgot that either Travis or Troiano was a liar.”

“Now, let’s understand what was written,” said Jamison. “A former commissioner and Chief of Police are called a liar. Why?” he asked. “Why are we willing to accept this type of behavior from our public officials?”

In addressing a separate, yet similar, incident, Jamison cited the use of City email to disparage him and two other commissioners. He explained, “The email in question is a reply from a commissioner to a citizen’s comments about the closing of the road through James Paul Park. Specifically, the email states, ‘No experts made this closure. Three commissioners did[;] that received donations from the Hewletts. There is why.’”

Jamison continued by saying, “For a sitting commissioner to suggest that I or any commissioner would be swayed by a donation is insulting, unprofessional and borders on slander. Each commissioner has the right to voice an alternative opinion, but not at the expense of impugning another commissioner’s character.” Jamison cited the use of the City email to make the allegation as a “far cry from a private social medium. What is transmitted on the City email is done so as a representative of the City. This is a whole different ballgame,” he said.

Jamison further queried how one commissioner’s comments might impact the City. “Are the posts on bobbarnas.com subject to public records request” or the Sunshine Law,” he asked. “Can the City be held liable for the posts on bobbarnas.com?”

Citing the City’s “Code of Ethical Standards, “Section 10.1 (C), (G) and (I) elaborating on the Creed for Public Employees and Section 10.3 regarding Personal Conduct, he asked, “What type of behavior do you expect from your public officials?”

“This isn’t an issue of free speech. What this is about is basic respect and decency. These…policy statements…describe the levels of ethical behavior, civility and professionalism that we require from our employees; shouldn’t we expect at least the same from our public officials?” he asked.

Earlier in the evening, during the Citizen Comments portion of the agenda, resident Suzie Ann Clark read a statement into the record in which she charged “cyber harassing and cyber stalking” on the part of one commissioner toward her. Identifying both terms as referring to abuse by adults toward adults, Clark said she “never thought I’d be saying this, but one of our publicly elected City Commissioners has been doing just that – cyber harassing on a blog that is both false and incorrect and cannot be responded to.”

“Between the name calling, false accusations and the posting of my business name and my picture, I personally feel threatened, and also feel like my business is being stalked. This same treatment, from this Commissioner, has been also extended to other High Springs citizens…” she said, naming some.

Clark said she wanted to put the record straight regarding the Monday morning Zumba class and the accusation that she was charging participants, even though the Civic Center had been provided to the class for free.

“False,” she said. Paraphrasing she said, a tip jar is out for anyone who wishes to help defray the Zumba instructor’s gas and time since she drives to High Springs from Gainesville as a favor to us to teach our previously-funded class. We all feel it’s better, health-wise, to keep this class going.

“I am requesting the City Manager, City Attorney and City Mayor to put an end to this. This harassing is causing substantial emotional distress and intended to threaten my business and my reputation, and serves no legitimate purpose,” she said.

Although neither specifically named the commissioner in question during their presentations, Jamison mentioned the name of the blog, bobbarnas.com, thus leaving no doubt to which commissioner he was referring.

Barnas attempted to get Mayor Sue Weller to silence Clark during her presentation and started to walk out of the meeting during Jamison’s comments, but returned to his seat and requested the opportunity to comment following Jamison’s comments. Mayor Weller adjourned the meeting with Barnas vowing to comment at the next meeting.

#     #     #

Email Cwalker@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

More Articles ...