A Candidates Forum will be hosted by the High Springs New Century Woman’s Club, 40 NW 1st Ave., High Springs, on March 27, 2012 at 7 pm. The event is for the candidates running for the vacant seat on the City of High Springs Commission. The special election will be held on April 10, 2012.

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HavenHospice5K_2012_9358_copyParticipants in the Third Annual Run for Haven Hospice show their St. Patrick's Day spirit as they take off from the starting line on Saturday.

NEWBERRY – A bright green shamrock was fastened to a black dog named Pitch. The owner pinned a matching shamrock to her head. Morgan Higman, 21, fastened the handmade shamrocks so they wouldn’t fall off when they were running.

It was St. Patrick’s Day, and these residents chose to spend the day on a charity run for Haven Hospice.

The Third Annual Run for Haven 5K and 10K began at 4:30 p.m. Though it rained toward the end of the day, Susan Follick, director of marketing and communications for Haven Hospice, said some still finished in the pouring rain.

There were 610 runners in this year’s race, Follick said. Each runner paid a registration fee that went to the non-profit hospice care center. According to a press release from the hospice, the race doubled in size from last year, making it the second largest race in the Gainesville area.

The overall 5k fastest runner was Donny Monteau, who finished at 16 minutes and 15 seconds. The fastest 10k runner was Shane Stroop, who finished at 37 minutes and 10 seconds.

Domino’s Pizza, Blue Highway Pizza and Right Path Transport were just some of the vendors at the event. The annual run also featured live music from Dottie South and the Slackers and cheering from the Newberry High School cheerleaders.

Higman finished the race with her two dogs, Pitch and Norma Jean, by her side. She was given a plastic gold medal, but her two canine companions were not as lucky.

“They didn’t give him a medal, and that was a shame,” she said.

She gave Pitch her medal instead.

Higman and her dogs weren’t the only ones dressed up for the race. St. Augustine resident Joanie Selph, 62, and her daughter Stephanie Jarnol, 38, of Gainesville, were decked out in green tutus and necklaces.

Jarnol was part of Giggle magazine’s Big Weight Loss Challenge. The six members of that program had to run a 5k to complete the program.

Still others had creative ways of incorporating green into their ensemble. Taren Delisle and her son, Ethan Drew, 11, sprayed their hair green for the St. Patrick’s Day run.

“I’ve always wanted to dye my hair green,” Ethan said.

Their motivation was more than just exercise, Delisle said. Delisle’s grandfather had died in a hospice, so running for Haven Hospice was special to her.

Haven Hospice is a non-profit care center that has facilities across Florida. They have inpatient care centers in Chiefland, Gainesville, Lake City and Palatka.

One thing that makes Haven Hospice unique, Follick said, is the fact that the organization has licensed doctors on staff.

The organization has been licensed as a non-profit hospice since 1980 and offers end-of-life care for those without insurance. The organization also offers free grief counseling programs for those who have recently lost a loved one, even if they were not at Haven Hospice.

Follick said the reason behind running was one thing that brought people to the race.

“I think part of it is who they’re running for,” she said.

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HIGH SPRINGS – For approximately 19 years, the High Springs Community Theater has entertained visitors and locals alike. Yet, the layout of the theater has always affected the variety and type of plays that could come to High Springs.

Now, renovations are underway at the City of High Springs Community Theatre to create a staging area behind the main stage that will allow props to be moved quickly. In the past, the High Springs Community Theater could not present plays that required a set change because of the inability to change scenes fast enough.

A baptismal, remains from the theater’s previous life as a church, sits behind the stage. It is framed by solid concrete walls.

Contractors plan to knock down most of the concrete and fill in the baptismal. When the staging area is complete, the Board of Directors will be able to bring a broader range of entertainment to the city, said Arlene Levine, president of the Board of Directors.

Leda Carrero, vice president of the Board of Directors, said the windows in the theater have begun to leak. Because of moisture build-up, the plaster walls have bubbled under nearly all of the windows. Levine estimated that there are 22 to 23 windows inside the old building.

The High Springs Community Theater has experienced outrageously high electricity bills, Levine said. According to her, heat is trapped inside the roof of the building, causing the air conditioning to work harder to cool the space.

During the remodel, the interior walls of the building will be fixed, and vents will be added onto the roof to allow the excess heat to escape. The total cost of the project is an estimated $4,600, which breaks down to $2,400 for the staging area, $1,100 for vents and $800 for the new plastering job.

The city commission agreed to provide the High Springs Community Theater with the money to complete the project.

“This is something of substance,” Commissioner Linda Gestrin said. “This is a group that actually brings people to our town.”

Levine said the theater is extremely grateful to the city for providing the money.

“We want something we can be proud of,” she said. “We’re a small town. Small towns don’t have a lot of different buildings or venues.”

Despite the current projects, Levine noted that the 100-year-old building still needs a lot of work before it is finished. Past remodels have included the construction of dressing rooms, public restrooms and a green Room. Recently, five new windows were installed.

“We want the building to reflect the quality of the performances inside,” said Carrero. The community theater puts on six different plays throughout the year.

The current construction will not interfere with any of the projects. Both Levine and Carrero estimated construction to be completed within a month.

On April 13, the High Springs Community Theater will host an opening reception prior to the premier of “Deathtrap.” The reception will include complimentary drinks and snacks. Add a comment

HIGH SPRINGS – City of High Springs Planner Christian Popoli, who is set to be fired to make way for a city engineer, may have “whistle-blower” protection under Florida Law.

Representing Popoli, Attorney Linda Rice Chapman addressed the commission regarding her client during a commission meeting Tuesday, March 20.

“Your recent actions in creating a city engineer position, as it relates to my client, violate your charter,” Chapman told the commission.

“Mr. Popoli has whistle-blower protection against retaliation under Chapter 112 of the Florida Statutes for his reports of illegal activities by some, not all of the commissioners,” she added.

Chapman also said her office has been filing and will continue to file documents and complaints with the State Attorney’s Office, the Office of the Governor, the United State Department of Labor and the Alachua County Circuit Court.

Popoli cited concerns of retaliation and being fired as early as Sept. 22, 2010, when he wrote a letter on the matter to then High Springs City Manager Jim Drum.  In that correspondence, Popoli wrote, “I understand that Commissioner [Dean] Davis has made comments regarding my employment, or termination there of.  I believe that, based on my complaints, I am covered under the state’s Whistle Blowers’ Act.”

Popoli is presumably referring to an ethics complaint filed in 2010 against Davis by a private citizen.  The complaint stemmed from concerns that Davis was violating the City Charter by pushing city staff to approve permits for a particular business.  Although the Florida Commission on Ethics did not address the city charter issue, it did not find probable cause to believe Davis violated Florida state law in that matter.

In a Feb. 24, 2012 email to City Manager Jeri Langman, Popoli noted that he was recently informed that Mayor Davis told a local business person they should not be too upset about an issue surrounding their permit because the City was going to fire one of the people involved in the permitting process.

“I realize you have reassured me that you had no plans to fire me,” Popoli wrote to Langman.  “But if you don’t, I wish you would put an end to the threat of it from the commission.”

Popoli noted in an email to Langman on Tuesday, March 20, that she had verbally informed him that his last day of employment would be April 6, 2012.

In a February meeting, Vice Mayor Bob Barnas first proposed adding the staff engineer and information technology positions during a budget amendment hearing.  Although both positions were included in the overall amendment package, Barnas said he was not proposing to fund them.

By the March 8 meeting, however, Barnas urged the commission to vote to direct City Manager Langman to hire a city engineer.  When asked how the new city engineer position would be funded, Barnas said it should be taken from City Planner Popoli’s position.

An advertisement for a new city engineer has since been placed.  The City posted a salary of $21 hourly, the equivalent to $43,800 annually.

Following Chapman’s comments Tuesday, commissioners had little to say, although when questioned, City Attorney Ray Ivey did say it was expected that Popoli would continue his duties while employed.

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NEWBERRY – Newberry’s project list for the Alachua County transportation surtax will be discussed in a public workshop this Monday at 6 p.m. at Newberry City Hall.

The surtax is on the 2012 November election ballot.

Because Alachua County currently has a backlog in roadway maintenance needs, the county is suggesting that Alachua County municipalities agree to impose a transportation surtax, which is a sales tax, to provide additional funding for road projects.

The county has requested that cities that want to be a part of the surtax submit a prioritized project list of road projects that need to be done in the city.

The City of Newberry has not voted on whether or not to accept the inter-local agreement presented by the county.

If the tax were to pass, money would be distributed to the cities based on a formula taking into account population size and road mileage.

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NEWBERRY – Signs have begun to pop up across Newberry as the election draws nearer.

The City of Newberry General Election, which will be held on April 10, will have seven people running for three commission seats. The candidates are placed into three separate groups for the election. Citizens can vote from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Newberry Fire Station at 310 NW 250th Street.

A candidate forum will take place at Newberry City Hall at 25440 W. Newberry Road on April 5 at 7 p.m.

In Group One, incumbent Joe Hoffman will run against Tim Marden and Linda H. Woodcock. Incumbent Lois Forte will run against Barbara Hendrix in Group Two. In Group Three, incumbent Alena King Lawson will run against Monty Farnsworth.

Group One

Joe Hoffman

Joe Hoffman has lived in Newberry for 14 years and has served as a city commissioner since 2002.

He is the owner of Hoffman Construction, Inc., and said his focus is on economic development, and he has been named “Leader of the Year” by the Newberry Jonesville Chamber of Commerce. He also wants to keep the small town atmosphere of the city while the city expands economically.

Currently, Hoffman said he is working to possibly bring a hotel complex and sports arena to Newberry and will supervise construction of Martin Luther King Park at no cost to the citizens.

Tim Marden

Tim Marden, who has lived in Newberry for six years, believes his business background can help Newberry through this time of growth while still maintaining a small-town atmosphere.

He is the owner of Space Walk of Gainesville, and he has over 15 years in the hospitality industry and over 12 years in the insurance industry. Marden has been working for major corporations for over 20 years.

Marden said he would also like to branch out to grow restaurants and hotels to get the city through times when sports tournaments may not garner much money.

Marden said he wants to ensure the city government is a proponent of business, not a hurdle.

Linda H. Woodcock

Having graduated from Newberry High School in 1960, Linda H. Woodock has lived in Newberry over 20 years.

She said she would like to continue growth in sports development, but would also like to work with developers for a senior citizen center.

Woodcock notes the challenge of balancing economic growth with keeping the small town atmosphere, but said she thinks sports, seniors and farming will play a large role in the future of Newberry.

Woodcock has over 25 years of experience in education. Though she is retired now, she spends her time serving the Newberry community through her positions on the Planning and Zoning Board and the Cemetery Committee.

Group Two

Lois Forte

When hairstylist Lois Forte moved to Newberry from Gainesville in 1977, she said she was “hooked” on the small town atmosphere.

Forte said she has served on the Newberry City Commission for about 20 years and has been working for the Newberry Senior Citizen Program since 1997. She said her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease has motivated her to work for senior citizen causes and will continue working for seniors.

Forte also said she will continue to work for improvement in community parks. As commissioner, Forte has played an instrumental role in building Triangle Park and hopes to have gazebos up in the park soon.

Barbara Hendrix

Barbara Hendrix’s role as executive director of the Newberry Main Street Program has kept her informed about the citizens of Newberry.

Hendrix said she has lived in the Newberry since 1991 and held a homestead in the city since 2008.

She says she works together with city staff to get grants. She and the Newberry Main Street Program helped the city get a $15,000 tourism grant and an $18,000 sports tourism grant.

If elected, Hendrix said she would like to create a Community Redevelopment Agency to give Newberry the funding and leverage to improve sidewalks, streetlights and other infrastructure improvements.

Group Three

Alena King Lawson

Alena King Lawson was born and raised in Newberry. After retiring as the first and only black female lieutenant at the Gainesville Police Department, she became an investigator for the Public Defender’s Office.

She supported the management and operations of Diamond Sports Park by the City of Newberry and the Nations Baseball Project.

Lawson has been serving on the commission for about 10 years. Lawson said as commissioner she is working with the commission to revise the noise ordinance, grow sports tourism in Newberry and building a community center.

Lawson was recently recognized by Santa Fe College as one of the 2012 Women of Distinction.

Monty Farnsworth

Monty Farnsworth said he’s a third-generation Newberry citizen, living his whole life of 56 years in the city.

Farnsworth has been a nurse for 32 years, and his family also owns a business in Newberry. He has served on the commission previously, and was instrumental in bringing the Easton Archery Center and Nations Park to Newberry.

He said he wants to be a “watchdog” and stop wasteful spending. Farnsworth wants to spread recreation and entertainment to the senior citizens of Newberry and manage business growth so that new businesses won’t take advantage of the city.

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HIGH SPRINGS – Two residents have qualified to run in the city’s special election set for April 10.  Ann Carter and Scott Jamison both submitted qualifying papers to the City of High Springs before the Feb. 9 deadline.

Carter is retired, but is reportedly also the sole proprietor in the baked goods business.

Jamison is employed by the School Board of Alachua County.

The two candidates are vying for City Commission Seat 5, vacated by Eric May who resigned from the commission on Jan. 31.

The winning candidate will serve the remainder of May’s term, which is set to expire November 2012.

The election is April 10 and the High Springs Civic Center will serve as the polling precinct.


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