NEWBERRY – Newberry city officials are taking to steps to ensure that the city’s parks will soon be safer for all pedestrians. Signs will be posted that display safety rules, as well as information such as the hours the park is open to the public and the contact numbers to reach the Newberry Parks and Recreation Department.

Triangle Park is the initial impetus behind the initiative. “The idea came about when folks would drive right over the walking trail and up to the pavilion,” said Richard Blalock, the department’s director. “We don’t need vehicles driving around a walking park.”

Signs will also eventually be posted at the city’s East Park, West Park, Downtown Park, Diamond Sports Park, and the Easton Newberry Sports complex.

The rules will span basics such as leashing dogs and picking up after them, as well as no loitering. Other rules include no rollerblades, scooters, skateboards, bikes or motor vehicles. The park hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Blalock’s chief concern is about people racing around on wheels because the walking trail is only about four feet wide, which doesn’t allow space for people to get around safely.

Newberry’s city attorney is reviewing City guidelines about designated smoking areas so that the parks will also be smoke-free areas.

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W - Alachua Tree lighting 0026 copyThe holiday season kicked into high gear in Alachua Friday evening, Nov. 30, with the lighting of the city’s official Christmas tree. As children and adults gathered around, Singer Danny Wooten and his band, Southern Slang, offered up seasonal musical favorites. Area youngsters joined in the sing-along while waiting for Santa and Mrs. Claus’s arrival. The jolly elf and his wife, accompanied by a number of colorfully dressed and excited elves, swept into town led by a police escort. After a few ho-ho-ho’s, the countdown began, and the darkened tree was illuminated by hundreds of twinkling lights. Santa headed downtown to the Hitchcock Theatre Park where children received bags of treats and had their picture taken with him. The event was sponsored by the City of Alachua and the Alachua Chamber of Commerce.

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NEWBERRY – There are only nine other cities in the country that have developed a community Olympic program, and Newberry looks like it will be the tenth. The Easton Newberry Sports Complex is in the process of becoming a Community Olympic Department Center (CODC) devoted to archery. Just one other city, Springfield, Mo., has such a commitment to developing a high-quality archery program.

Three representatives from the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) visited with about 60 people at a luncheon on Monday at the sports complex. The representatives evaluated the facility and assessed the value of its partnership with the national committee as part of the application process to become a designated COCD.

Easton Foundation submitted a business plan, and USA Archery, the national governing body for archery, was in support, said Alicia McConnell, chairman of the USOC. The next step is negotiation to finalize the development of the program.

“We are pleased with everything that the complex has done. We met with some of the Easton Foundation folks and reviewed the contracts, so it’s really just a matter of time. It wouldn’t take more than a couple of months,” McConnell said.

The complex has already set itself up for success by providing opportunities for all ages to become involved in a top-level archery program, and the Olympic designation will enhance its current status and bring notoriety.

“We hope to bring more kids into the pipeline of archery with the expectation of representing the U.S. at a national event or the end-all-be-all dream of representing the country at the Olympics,” McConnell said.

“With the sponsorship of the committee we can really focus on the athletes and reach out to elementary, middle and high schools,” said Mayor Bill Conrad. “The idea is to connect with thousands to reach a few with Olympic caliber.”

Becoming a Community Olympic Department Center gains the sponsorship of the USOC. As a CODC facility, the complex may have the opportunity to sell sports equipment with the Olympic rings on it and would have access to a staff liaison with the USOC to offer mentoring to coaches.

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HIGH SPRINGS – In a special City Commission meeting held on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, Commissioners unanimously approved a contract with City Manager candidate Edwin Booth to join the City staff on Monday, Dec. 15, 2012. The contract period ends Dec. 31, 2013.

Booth was present at the meeting and discussed his contract directly with City commissioners following an explanation of the proposed employment agreement by attorney Kathryn Tancig of Folds & Walker, the firm representing the City.

Under consideration was a contract for $65,000 for salary plus $1,500 for moving expenses and various other minor alterations to the original contract negotiated by the City attorney’s office. Concern as to how those amounts mesh with the City’s present budget were discussed and Finance Director Helen McIver noted that although approximately $4,000 would be freed up because Booth did not need some of the benefits usually offered to City employees, a shortfall of $13,500 still existed. McIver also said the City’s attorney position was not funded completely for the year.

Noting the next item on the agenda was the second hearing of Ordinance 2012-16, a budget adjustment that would free up funds from last year to possibly go into the Contingency Fund, McIver explained the Commission could use some of that money to fund the salaries of both positions. However, she cautioned that the Commission would have to budget those items in the next fiscal year’s budget to continue to fund the positions. McIver also suggested that at about six months into the budget year, the City could look at their budget again to determine if funds were not being spent and possibly either use those funds for these positions or transfer money from the Contingency Fund at that time.

Booth addressed the Commission and indicated he felt the city manager and commissioners had a “unique relationship” of trust and communication. Stressing his open door policy for cmmissioners and citizens alike, he said he was not the type of city manager who sat in his office all the time. “I like to get out and get a sense of what’s going on with our projects, what the citizens think and report back to the commission.” He also said he felt commissioners could not make good decisions without understanding all aspects of a situation and believed that it was his responsibility to make sure commissioners were informed.

Mayor Sue Weller commented afterwards, “I think we’re very fortunate to have such a qualified person in this position. I think the City needs an individual like Mr. Booth. I think only good things are going to come from this.”

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Crews from the City of Alachua spent most of the afternoon on Monday, Dec. 3, repairing a water leak on Main Street. Area residents say they noticed water running down Main Street as early as Sunday afternoon. By Monday morning, the City of Alachua began fielding calls about the apparent water leak. A short time later, city crews had closed off the area and were tearing up a small section of Alachua’s Main Street between NW 148th Place and NW 147th Avenue. By the early evening, the 3/4-inch pipe had been repaired. The roadway has also since been repaired.

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GAINESVILLE – Alachua County’s Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization (MTPO) has raised controversy by announcing plans to include Alachua’s Turkey Creek neighborhood as an urbanized area as it plans boundaries.

The organization’s voting members are six Gainesville city commission members, Gainesville mayor Craig Lowe and five county commission members.

Because the organization is mainly made up of Gainesville officials, some worry that other Alachua County cities won’t have enough input if the MTPO oversees roads and holds sway over transportation infrastructure within another municipality.

During a Monday meeting, the organization spent about an hour discussing the boundary lines in the proposed plan. According to North Central Florida Regional Planning Council Director of Transportation Planning Marlie Sanderson, the County has to include parts of Alachua in the plan.

“State law and federal law says the MTPO area has to include, must [include], the urbanized areas that are contiguous to the city of Gainesville,” he said.

“In addition to the existing urbanized areas which you must have, they also ask you to consider including areas that are expected to become urbanized over the next 20 years,” he said.

During the meeting, City of Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper openly opposed the proposed plan.

“It seems like there’s been no phone call, no email, no conversation at all with the City of Alachua,” he said. “The only reason we know about it is because I happen to sit on this board,” he said, referring to the MTPO.

He said that the MTPO would be making decisions for Alachua roads under the proposed plan, which he said he disagrees with.

“Over the years, they bring in state and federal dollars for transportation projects,” he said in a phone interview. “They have to follow state and federal guidelines. I just disagree with the criteria.”

According to Coerper, state and federal guidelines say that an urbanized area is any area where there are 1,000 people per square mile.

“[Turkey Creek] really shouldn’t meet that broad criteria of being an urban area,” he said, noting that it’s a private community.

Coerper said he wants to emphasize there isn’t a “love-hate” relationship between Alachua and the County.

“We want to work with the MTPO,” he said. “We may not agree with the decision, but we are committed to trying to understand where they’re coming from.”

He said that members appreciate the differences between the cities.

“We all respect one another,” he said.

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HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs Police Department (HSPD) is now accepting donations of new unwrapped toys, pajamas and books to be given to children in the community this holiday season. Wrapping paper and wrapping supplies are also needed.

Donations, also including monetary donations, can be dropped off at anytime at the HSPD station located at 110 NW 2nd Avenue, High Springs, until 5 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 17.

Anyone who would like to help wrap the gifts is asked to contact Stephanie Hall or Christina Thueson at 386-454-1415, or

Once all of the gifts are wrapped, uniformed HSPD officers will make the special deliveries by Friday, Dec. 21to the families that have already been identified.

For additional information, contact Stephanie Hall or Christina Thueson at 386-454-1415, or

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