WALDO – The City of Waldo has been approved to receive a grant from the Suwanee River Water Management District. The monies will be used to replace faulty water meters. The failing meters have been a recurring problem, said Waldo City Manager Kim Worley. The City was awarded $76,836, which will be matched with City funds, bringing the projected total of the upgrades to $153,672.

The grant funds will come out of the water management district’s $1.5 million budget for projects that address or enhance water supplies within the district.

Known as the Local Regional Initiative Valuing Environmental Resources (RIVER) cost-share program, 43 applications were submitted by the December 2012 deadline for the 2013 fiscal year. Out of the 43 districts that applied, only 14 projects were approved, and Waldo was one of the approved projects.

The 14 projects totaled $1,499,903, which will be used for a variety of improvements including increased flood protection, removal of nitrates and reduction of sediments that enter into the Suwanee River.

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 W - Priest DSCF7737L-R: Alan and Janet Alligood hope to raise enough money to allow for upgrades to the Priest Theatre in High Springs. Among their amibtious goals is to convert from 35 mm film projectors to a modern digital projection system.

HIGH SPRINGS – The Priest Theatre in High Springs, located on 15 NW 1st Street, is reaching out to moviegoers and community members to donate money and help save the theater as it transitions into the digital age.

The independent movie theater along with many others across America is struggling to keep up the transition as the movie industry has made the switch from using 35 mm film projectors to digital projectors. The cost to continue showing movies and upgrade the projectors is about $85,000.

Janet Alligood, daughter of Priest Theatre owners Bobby and Janice Sheffield, has made it her mission along with husband, Alan, to help save the theater. The Alligoods created a “Save the Priest” webpage on Kickstarter.com to help raise funds and awareness.

According to the website, approximately $10,498 has been raised. The digital upgrade will allow movie studios and distributors to save money on producing and shipping movies. The new projectors also increase the quality of screening by increasing the movie’s lighting and clarity.

Alligood said besides working on the webpage she has been working with volunteers to help come up with other ideas to fundraise money which includes applying for grants. She also said the theater will be participating in the 37th Annual High Springs Pioneer Days celebration selling corn, giving tours of the theater and showing a free screening of western movie “Winchester 73.”

The Priest Theatre, which lies in the High Springs Historic District, was built around 1910 by William Jefferson Priest, who also owned the Ford dealership. Since its construction, the 103-year-old theater has transitioned from hosting traveling vaudeville shows to plays and from silent movies to “talkies.”

In 1986, the Sheffield’s bought the theater because it was near their hardware store and provided them needed access, according to the “Save the Priest” webpage. They decided to keep the theater as is and have restored and operated the theater ever since. In 2011 they put the theater up for sale because they could no longer keep up with cost. However, the theater did not sell. Alligood said she took this as a sign that she needed to get involved and save the theater from closing.

Along with the projector upgrade, donations made to the theater will fund projects to upgrade the digital surround sound system, docking station and server, digital pedestal, electric wiring, a flying silver screen, construction fees, installation and training.

Alligood says she wants to restore the theater’s stage and bring back live shows to the community.

“I want to see that stage,” Janet said. “Neither my generation nor my mother’s generation has seen that stage operate since vaudeville, and I want to see live shows entertain our community and happen again.”

The theater, which still shows movies three times a week, includes an auditorium that seats about 240 people, along with a balcony, sloping floors and a main lobby.

Donations are currently being accepted online at the Kickstarter’s “Save the Priest” webpage from now until June 3 at 7:01 p.m. However, Alligood said they will still be accepting donations at the theater after the deadline.

“I believe that if we bring [the theater] back to its beauty and restore it then it’s going to be something you can’t get anywhere else,” Alligood added.

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W - Newberry Eelction 17 copy

Newberry mayoral candidate John Glanzer (right) congratulates opponent Mayor Bill Conrad on his victory Tuesday evening.

NEWBERRY – Newberry’s city election, which was held Tuesday, saw several incumbents returned to municipal office and one sitting commissioner defeated.

The crowd, which had gathered outside the fire station Tuesday evening in anticipation of election results, inched closer and closer to the open bay doors. Inside the polling location a team was calculating which candidate would be the next mayor and group IV commissioner. The 2013 Newberry municipal elections had drawn to a close about 30 minutes earlier.

In the mayoral race, John Glanzer faced off against current mayor Bill Conrad. Commissioner Robert Fillyaw faced challenger Tim Marden and Commissioner Jordan Marlow ran unopposed for reelection to his seat.

After the ballots were counted Bill Conrad had retained his mayoral seat with 520 votes to Glanzer’s 261. In the group IV race, Tim Marden pulled off the victory with 446 votes to incumbent Fillyaw with 331 votes.

Crowd reaction ranged from audible guffaws to “Unbelievable” as hugs were exchanged between families, friends and opponents.

“I think it’s going to be building bridges and getting the commission to work well together,” Mayor Conrad said of his second term.

“And I think the people have sent a message back to the commission that they want the budget balanced.

“They still like the dream, they like the vision, but not at the expense of big debt and overspending. People want strategic planning.

“They are looking for more fiscal responsibility,” said Conrad, who plans to focus on his accountability to the public.

“There is certainly going to be a learning curve,” Marden said with a smile about his new position as group IV commissioner.

“I know that the vote today was for me, but it’s a vote of trust and a vote of confidence that I don’t take lightly.

“I appreciate their patience in advance, and I encourage everyone to stay as engaged as they have been in the last two months,” he said.

John Glanzer, who has given a quarter century of his life to city government service, might consider running again in the future.

“It was depressing to lose,” he said.

“It was said by several people that there wasn’t a bad choice to be made by the citizens as far as between the commissioners and mayoral candidates.”

His biggest concern now is that citizens vehemently participate in community affairs through clear communication and attendance at commission meetings and special workshops.

Glanzer says that part of his decision to run sprang from his concern that past and current mayors “were not doing their very best in working with the commissioners as far as sharing information in an even-handed manner and letting the public know everything and not just part of it.”

By about 8 p.m. all the campaign signs in front of the fire station were taken down and packed away.

About 100 of Conrad’s and Marden’s supporters were off to Triangle Park for a victory party.

“We ate pizza, drank some soft drinks and the kids played in the park. We had a very mellow time,” Conrad said.

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Will replace “Huddle House”

ALACHUA – Alachua residents may soon dine on zalads, zappetizers and fried chicken in six to eight months.

Chasing Chicken 2, Inc. will redevelop the property commonly known as “the Huddle House” into a Zaxby’s restaurant.

Ground breaking is scheduled for late April, according to Walter Jarvis, of Jarvis & Folsom, Inc., who represented Chasing Chicken 2, Inc. at an Alachua Planning and Zoning Board meeting on Feb. 12, 2013.

The request for consideration of a site plan filed in November 2012 showed the restaurant at approximately 3,800 square-feet with a drive-through and associated drainage, paving, grading and infrastructure improvements.

The property, located at 16062 NW U.S. Highway 441 at the junction of I-75, has been regarded as an eyesore by some residents and Alachua officials. It has been vacant for several years.

The property is still currently held by Sally Franklin, of Alachua Enterprises, Inc., but Jarvis said Chasing Chicken 2, Inc. and Franklin are working to transfer the property.

Construction is expected to be complete in six to eight months.

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ALACHUA – University of Florida’s Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator was awarded the 2013 Randall M. Whaley Incubator of the Year and the Dinah Adkins Incubator of the Year in the technology category at the National Business Incubation Association’s international conference on April 9.

The Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator provides space, equipment and support services to expedite research and commercial development of biotechnologies in Progress Corporate Park in Alachua, Fla. Companies involved with the incubator include AxoGen, Pasteuria Bioscience and Nanotherapeutics, which recently secured a government defense contract worth millions.

Business incubation programs like the Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator catalyze the process of starting and growing companies by providing entrepreneurs with the expertise, networks and tools they need to make their ventures successful.

“This community and the University of Florida and the Alachua-Gainesville area are being recognized as a place where we really know how to foster the growth of biotechnologies,” said Patti Breedlove, associate director of the incubator.

The National Business Incubation Association estimates that in 2011 alone North American incubators assisted about 49,000 start-up companies that provided full-time employment for nearly 200,000 workers and generated annual revenue of almost $15 billion. Approximately 7,000 business incubators operate worldwide.

The average annual economic impact of the Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator to the Alachua community is over $100 million a year, Breedlove said.

Progress Corporate Park, which borders San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park, is home to many companies. Two-thirds of the more than 30 businesses in the park are bioscience or technology companies. Nearly 1,200 people now work at the Corporate Park.

In addition to high-paying employment, Sid Martin fosters creativity in agricultural, medical and scientific fields.

“We have companies that are developing tomorrow’s solutions,” Breedlove said.

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 W - HSCS WaterHigh Springs Community School students found sponsors and walked laps carrying two gallons water to raise money for a water well in a third world village.

HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs Community School middle grades media specialist Judith Weaver was inspired by a book she read from the Sunshine State Young Authors list. The partly biographical book, “A Long Walk to Water,” brings to light the plight of children in certain Sudanese communities who are unable to attend school because they must spend their days walking for hours to find fresh water to bring back to their families for the basic necessities of life. Recent water conservation issues in our own area due to aquifers not replenishing after rains and river beds drying up bring this dilemma half way across the world from the Sudan right to the front doors of children in the High Springs community.

Weaver approached school’s School Advisory Council (SAC) to ask for multiple copies of the book so that whole classes could read it and make connections between the information in literature and what is happening in their own backyards. The SAC authorized the purchase of three class sets of the novel. Hundreds of the students at the school read the book. In addition to reading the books, students have been informed about the importance of water conservation and its impact for the future in a myriad of ways.

On March 22, 73 kindergarteners, 100 fifth graders, and 176 middle grades students raised $2,200 to build a well in a third world village that needs clean water.  Participants found sponsors who donated money for each lap the students walked.  While the students were walking laps, they also carried two gallons of water to symbolize the plight of children worldwide who must walk as much as four hours each way for water.  Much of this water is not clean and is responsible for death and disease throughout the world. As part of the "Walking for Water" project, students visited up to five environmental experts who lectured on global warming, water scarcity, underground springs in our area, alligators, reptiles and snakes, Sudan, Tanzania, groundwater and filtration systems.

This day culminated a year-long project that included many grades reading "A Long Walk to Water" by Sue Parks, a visit to the Natural History Museum and the Devil's Millhopper sinkhole in Gainesville, which was funded by the Alachua County Public School Foundation, and a focus on water conservation throughout the year. All monies collected were donated to the High Springs Rotary for the Rotary International's ongoing World Water project that seeks to provide a source for clean water for every person in the world.

High Springs Community School has expressed thanks to the teachers, students, volunteers, community members and guest speakers who assisted with and donated money toward this project.  With the funds already collected, and the remaining pledge funds to be turned in, the school hopes to meet the goal of raising $2,400. This would provide for not one, but two wells for small communities, like High Springs, but located where children have “a long walk to water.”

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HIGH SPRINGS – Impact fees in the City of High Springs, which were originally set at $9,000 per household, will now be reduced by more than one-third if City Manager Ed Booth has his way. Booth presented an impact fee study for review to the City Commission during the March 28, 2013 meeting. In it he specified a total cost for water and wastewater impact fees at just under $3,000 per average household.

As Booth handed out the study he said he did not intend to discuss it during that meeting. Instead he suggested commissioners review the document for discussion at the Thursday, April 11, 2013 regular commission meeting.

Booth said he had spent nights and weekends crafting the study and wanted to allow commissioners time to adequately digest the information before discussing it formally at a meeting.

“Although the impact fees were set at an earlier time at $9,000, the City has not collected those fees in the past,” explained Booth in a telephone interview. “This study presents a more affordable and realistic alternative and takes into consideration a joint project with the City of Alachua and considers grant opportunities,” he said.

If the commission approves the study results, they will direct the City Attorney to draw up the necessary paperwork, advertise the item and hold a public hearing before formally approving the impact fee amounts. If fees are approved, “developers will have to pay the impact fee if they want to be guaranteed the use of the sewer system,” Booth explained.

In his study, Booth said, “Impact fees are a form of revenue generated from the addition of new service connections to an existing wastewater system, an upgrade of existing water meter size, or installation of a new water meter.”

He further explained that the fees are not intended to be used for ongoing operations and maintenance. Instead, the fees are to be used to further develop or expand the existing water and wastewater system to accommodate new demand.

Citing the cost for infrastructure expansion within the existing systems caused by new users, which directly influence the existing systems’ remaining capacity, the connection fee should be directly based on the reduction of capacity caused by the new customers.

Wastewater Facilities

Items to consider when determining the impact in services include operational considerations as well as capital costs. Booth determined capital outlay for the City of High Springs, including engineering costs, as well as improvements to the existing wastewater plant to be $2,370,000. A Rural Development Grant of 45 percent would reduce the cost by $1,066,500 to a total capital cost to the City of $1,303,500.

Booth said he calculated that 1,000 new connections would be added in the next seven years. If Booth’s assumptions are correct, the impact fee per unit should be $1,303 for additional wastewater customers.

Water Facilities

“A determination of expanding the water system must include the treatment plant capacity and expanding,” said Booth in his study. “Based on a 250-gallon per customer usage, the cost for residential customers would be $1,342 for a 3/4-1-inch meter. Two- and 3-inch meters, usually reserved for businesses using a larger water supply, would add $1,000 for a 2-inch meter or $3,000 for a 3-inch meter to the residential amount of $2,645.

Booth’s study includes detailed breakdowns of how he reached the total amounts.

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