W - Mi Apa 2012-11-28 12.21.24Mi Apá Latin Café is set to open in Alachua at 15634 NW Highway 441 in the Rolling Oaks Plaza adjacent to the Hitchcocks Market area. The restaurant will be fashioned after Gainesville’s Mi Apá Latin Café, offering the same menu items.

ALACHUA – Alachua will soon be getting a bit more flavorful as it expands its culinary offerings.

Mi Apá Latin Café will be opening a location in the area Monday. The Cuban restaurant serves breakfast, sandwiches, hot entrees and desserts. Some of the menu offerings that will be available in the Alachua restaurant include chicken fricassee, Cuban sandwiches, and bread pudding.

Owner Pete Ynigo said arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) and roasted pork are the most popular items. The restaurant offers inexpensive food and disposable ware, but employs waiters and waitresses.

He said the restaurant is in-between fast food and upscale restaurants.

“We’re kind of in the middle, and that’s what we want to be,” he said.

Ynigo opened the first cafe in Gainesville 10 years ago. He said he first thought of opening a restaurant in Alachua five or six years ago, but he said it didn’t work out until this year.

“We know Alachua has growth,” he said. “It has more growth in the future.”

He said one reason he decided to bring the restaurant to Alachua is because the city is welcoming.

“It was very appealing to us that Alachua is known to be business-friendly,” he said.

The Gainesville location is currently the only cafe. He said the Alachua restaurant will allow the business to test out expansion.

“It’s a big test for us to see if a multi-unit business is a way to go,” he said.

He said the response from Alachua residents has been “amazing.”

“I think our product fits Alachua perfectly,” he said. “We come across very casually and relaxed. Our value for what we give you is very good.”

The Alachua restaurant will be a replica of the Gainesville cafe, down to the menu, paint and decorations. While Ynigo wanted a drive-through in the Alachua restaurant, he said he couldn’t find a suitable location.

The Gainesville location stays open until midnight Friday and Saturday, and the Alachua location will close at 10 p.m. on weekends.

He said the restaurant will be so similar to the Gainesville location because it’s worked so far.

“It’s working,” he said. “Why change it if it ain’t broke?”

He said Monday’s opening is a soft launch, and a grand opening is scheduled down the road. The restaurant will use existing staff members in the beginning, but he said they will be hiring new employees soon.

“We’re super excited about being in Alachua, and we’ll see how it goes,” he said.

The Alachua Mi Apá Latin Café will be located at 15634 NW Highway 441 in the Rolling Oaks Plaza adjacent to the Hitchcocks Market area in Alachua Towne Center.

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W - Byran Williams Scott JamisonL-R: Vice Mayor Scott Jamison and Commissioner Byran Williams

HIGH SPRINGS – The Nov. 20, 2012 High Springs City Commission meeting was one of change. Byran Williams was sworn in as commissioner after defeating his opponent Pat Rush in the Nov. 6, 2012 election. Commissioner Scott Jamison ran unopposed and was sworn in as well. And a new mayor and vice mayor were elected by their colleagues.

Commissioner Scott Jamison thanked everyone for their help and support, as did Williams. Williams also singled out his campaign manager, Ron Wilson, and his wife for their support, along with his family and friends and called for everyone to work together for the good of the City of High Springs.

As the floor was opened for nominations for Mayor and Vice-Mayor, Commissioner Bob Barnas nominated Commissioner Sue Weller for mayor. Following a unanimous vote for Weller, she continued the meeting by accepting nominations for vice-mayor. Commissioner Williams nominated Jamison. As no other nominations were made, Jamison assumed the vice-mayor position. Seating was rearranged and Mayor Weller began her meeting by thanking outgoing Mayor Dean Davis for his service to the City.

Moving forward Weller suggested the commission review goals identified by the previous commission and begin to work on the goals they had in common. She also asked for an atmosphere of civility both in and out of the commission chambers. She asked that her fellow commissioners “set aside any animosity” they might have in order to “move the City forward.”

Formalities complete, the 2012-2013 City Commission began by tackling the unfinished business portion of the agenda.

City attorney representative Sondra Randon reported on the status of the U.S. Department of Labor settlement regarding the City’s past compensation practices. Randon explained City Manager Lee Vincent authorized her firm to hire outside counsel to review the City’s wage and overtime program. Ray Valasquez, a wage and overtime specialist with Ford & Harrison, is currently investigating the City’s procedures and will provide an opinion letter within the next month or two regarding the City’s compliance with Department of Labor standards.

This action was taken in response to a Department of Labor investigator who approached City Manager Vincent to discuss settlement options. Prior to discussing those options, City Attorney Scott Walker wanted to make sure the City had looked into the issue as completely as possible before offering any settlement suggestions to the City Commission. “There is always a potential for a liability for the City,” explained Randon. Currently, there is no formal action against the City by the Department of Labor. Discussion with the federal agency is an outgrowth of a complaint filed by former City employee Christian Popoli.

Fire Chief Bruce Gillingham is coordinating the Pocket Park improvement plan with City engineers Chen Moore. Gillingham is waiting for final approval from USDA to complete the project and reported that if everything goes as planned, he anticipates completion “just after the first of the year.”

New Business

A Christmas Party for all City employees received commission approval and will be allowed to use the renovated school house building. The proposed date was set for Dec. 14, at 5 or 5:30 p.m. The event will be hosted by Citizens for a Better High Springs. Entertainment will be provided in addition to a festive buffet, which will be prepared off site and brought to the school building.

Commissioners formally authorized Mayor Sue Weller, Vice-Mayor Scott Jamison and City Clerk Jenny Parham to sign checks and investment documents in compliance with Section 2-97 of the High Springs Code of Ordinances. Once a new city manager is onboard, the commission with also authorize him as a recognized signer.

Board Vacancies/Appointments

Commissioners announced two vacancies to the Plan Board, which will be advertised by City Clerk Jenny Parham in the near future. Two available positions on the Housing Needs and Improvement Committee were filled by David Beckerman and Richard Doeherty as the alternate. Stephen Morgan and John Doerr were appointed to the Code Enforcement Board. The Tree Board had one vacancy for a three-year-term, which was filled by Carol Doeherty, and a second vacancy to complete the remainder of a one-year term expiring in 2013, which was filled by Donald Branson. Ross Ambrose was reappointed to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

The pending contract with Edwin Booth for the city manager position was tabled to the Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012 commission meeting.

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GAINESVILLE – The Alachua County Commission has ensured that the FluMist program will continue to run for the next 15 years. The Commission voted unanimously to approve funding of $1.5 million from CHOICES program funds for FluMist. The CHOICES program was created to provide access to health care services for working and uninsured residents.

Each year the CHOICES program will allocate $100,000 for FluMist. The funds will be used to cover the cost of administering the program.

CHOICES had previously provided funding of $80,000 per year for the past three years to FluMist.

The most expensive part of the FluMist program is currently the vaccine, Paul Myers administrator of the Alachua County Health Department said.

The Florida Department of Health provides the vaccines. Myers said this year the program is on target to vaccinate 14,000 students.

Students from kindergarten to eighth grade are the target population for administration of the vaccine. There is no fee for these students to receive the vaccine, which is generally administered through a nasal spray.

Myers said according to models, vaccinating around 70 percent of students from kindergarten through the eighth grade can protect an entire community from influenza.

“Of all the outbreaks we had investigated in schools, none had been vaccinated so far,” Myers said. “This whole program is based upon community immunity.”

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W - Interstate Traffic Cameras 2012-11-28 12.10.26GAINESVILLE – Cameras placed along 1-75 in Alachua County are transmitting images of traffic that are available for the public to view. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), the University of Florida and Alachua County contributed funding for the project. Through the gac-smartraffic website, the public can view traffic snapshots from 13 cameras.

Ten of the cameras currently run on solar power and wireless technology, while three remain connected to the electric grid. The first camera was put in place in August.

Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Operations Engineer Matthew Weisman said working on the Interstate is expensive and by using solar power and wireless technology, the work can be completed at a cheaper cost. According to Weisman, the cost of the cameras plus the concrete pole and construction are $20,000. Three cameras can be found in the Paynes Prairie area and more can be found at interchange exits such as Newberry and Archer roads. The most recent camera added in Marion County was placed on an existing concrete pole for $5,000.

The FDOT has future plans to place additional cameras and signs along parts of I-75.

“They are going to do a full deployment of ITS on the interstate, so more cameras are going to be added,” Weisman said.

The cameras that are already in place will become a part of the coming FDOT network of cameras and receive full power. Weisman said the FDOT was originally looking at 2017 or 2018 to fund the project through Alachua County.

“There were more reasons why we wanted to get our deployment of these 13 cameras up sooner,” Weisman said. Referring to the deadly vehicle pileup on Interstate 75in southern Alachua County in January 2012, Weisman said, “After the Payne’s Prairie crash, because there was legislation, they were able to get that money sooner.” The tragedy, which occurred along Interstate 75 as it runs through Payne’s Prairie, was blamed on an area brush fire, which led to car crashes resulting in the deaths of 11 people.

“If someone knows they are going to be planning a trip,” Weisman said. “They can go ahead and look at those cameras.” The public can view near real-time Interstate 75 traffic at http://gac-smartraffic.com/

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HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs Mayor Dean Davis convened his final meeting before stepping down on Nov. 20, 2012. As one of his last acts as mayor, Davis presented a plaque to City employee Ginger Travers in appreciation of her actions as a Communications Operator during the May 18, 2011, shooting incident at High Springs Community School.

He said it was something he had wanted to do before retiring and, as this was his last day in office, he wanted to make sure he made the presentation personally to Travers.

Vice-Mayor Bob Barnas presented Mayor Davis with the traditional gavel and plaque in recognition of his leadership and service as mayor to the City of High Springs during 2011-2012.

Davis said he was humbled by the job.

“To my many friends, and I know who you are, that loved me and prayed for me constantly for the last three years…thank you, thank you, thank you and may God richly bless you.”

“For the few vocal and blogging people that have hated me for three years, I have prayed for you those three years and will continue to pray for you. May God bless you and keep you and reveal himself to you.”

“To the commissioners now and the man being seated, good luck and God bless you. It’s been an honor to serve with you. It’s been rocky, but it’s been interesting…and sometimes it’s been fun.”

“I’ll leave you with this thought: If five of us agree, four of us are unnecessary. We’ve been varied in our thoughts. But when we were voted down we didn’t stalk out of the room, we just kept on keeping on. I think you are headed for a great year,” said Davis.

“It is with some fear and trepidation, but more than that, just joy that I adjourn this 2012 commission meeting.”

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NEWBERRY – After about a year of disuse, Newberry’s old west end building is expected to reopen as a package store soon, although the exact date is not available.

Located at 24920 West Newberry Road, the store will sell wines and fine liquors. The business plan does not include alcohol service, although there may be occasional wine tastings. A drive-through service may also be available, although there is no firm decision about that yet.

The property is part of the company, RJ’s Lucky 7, LLC, which also includes the Lucky 7 Quik Mart. The west end building was constructed in 1966 as a convenience store, and the current owner took it over in September 1988. Shortly thereafter the building became a package store and bar.

City officials say the owner is in the process of obtaining a liquor license and improving the property with paving and landscaping. The building will be possibly repainted and equipped with new windows and doors.

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ALACHUA – The Alachua County Task Force of Recreation (ACTFOR) recently wrapped up its fall season. The City of Alachua and the Alachua Youth Soccer Organization hosted this year’s Fall Soccer Tournament at the Hal Brady Recreation Complex.  The tournament brought hundreds of participants and their families from all over Alachua County. The tournament was deemed a huge success, due in part to John Salbert, President of the Alachua Youth Soccer Organization, and his dedicated volunteers.

Alachua Girls Youth Volleyball and Alachua Little Jaguar Flag Football expressed their appreciation to all coaches and volunteers, which included Dee Edwards, Gretchen Baker, Lekeesha and Lisa Jenkins, Ed Riess, Chad Scott, Glenn Bryan, Earl Findley, Justin Beck, David Sutton and Hal Brady for their commitment, patience and hard work.

The tournament was enhanced through the support of area business sponsors, which included the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe, Integrity Title, T.C.R Construction, McDonald's of Alachua and Gator Domino's. Their generous contribution and support to the local teams was appreciated by everyone associated with the tournament.  But most important, credit is due to all players who participated and represented the organization with great sportsmanship and an amazing work ethic.

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