HIGH SPRINGS –Mayor Dean Davis wants to restrict public comments and ban filming at commission meetings.  That’s according to an email Davis sent Feb. 22 asking City Manager Jeri Langman to pass his sentiments on to the other three commissioners.

“I feel that citizen input should be only for items not on the agenda,” Davis wrote in his email to Langman.  “We have tried to allow input during the agenda items, but it has turned into a time to bash all decisions made by the commission, and city manager,” he said.

Davis added that allowing public input has lengthened meetings and, “…is certainly not fostering civility nor open discussion.”

The mayor seems to admit that many of the comments come from people who disagree with actions of the commission, writing, “I have found much of the input to be a time to vent the obvious contempt for the present commission and city manager.”

Davis goes on to take aim at media coverage of meetings.  “The unnecessarily negative blogs by people that put their spin on it has raised the question of responsible journalism in my mind.”

But Davis doesn’t stop with public comments and media coverage.  In the email, he stated his intentions of putting an end to people filming the meetings.

“I will request that all private filming during commission meetings be prohibited,” he wrote, suggesting that he obtained legal opinions confirming that such a ban could be implemented.  He said his reason for seeking the filming prohibition was his concern that the filming was disrupting the meeting and causing conversation in the audience.

He wrote that the filming is “Being used to further a political agenda that is not compatible with the will of the commission.”  Davis added, “Much of the information being put out as fact is in reality fiction.”

In an email response to Davis, City Manager Langman stated that it is the opinion of the Florida Attorney General that the City cannot ban “videoing or recording” of the meetings.

She also addressed Davis’ suggestion that citizen comments only be permitted on items not on the agenda.  Langman wrote, “This is something that was addressed during a meeting and there was a consensus to allow public comment after each agenda item both new and old business.”

Langman said eliminating public comments is a matter that should be discussed and decided by a majority of the commission before it is changed again.  As a means of addressing some of Davis’ concerns, Langman recommended that he remind speakers to stay on topic when addressing the commission.

When contacted by Alachua County Today for further clarification about why he wanted public input eliminated and filming banned, Davis said he had no comment.

Add a comment

Robbery_2-25-12 Police are looking for a masked robber (left) and another man (right) belived to be connected to a robbery at gunpoint Feb. 25.

ALACHUA – A man wearing a black ski mask was responsible for an armed robbery at the S&S Food Store at 13820 NW 140th Street, Alachua, police officers say.

The robbery reportedly happened around 10 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25, just steps away from Irby Elementary School.  That’s when, Alachua Police Department (APD) detectives say, a black man entered the convenience store, pointed a black semi-automatic pistol at the store clerk and demanded cash from the register.

The clerk was not harmed during the robbery, but an undetermined amount of cash was taken.

The man was described as wearing a black hoodie style sweatshirt, dark colored jeans, and a black ski mask with a blue skull printed on the face, APD Detective Jesse Sandusky said.

Police believe the man may have left the scene in a white minivan with another person.  That minivan was reported to have driven north on NW 140th street.

A second man, who may have served as a distraction, is also wanted for questioning in relation to the incident.  Police have released still images from surveillance video of both men.

Sandusky is requesting anyone with information to contact his office at 386-462-1396 or remain anonymous by calling the Crimestoppers hotline at 352-372-STOP.

Add a comment

ALACHUA COUNTY -- Repairs to both northbound and southbound lanes of Interstate 75 in Paynes Prairie are scheduled for Wednesday night and early Thursday morning with up to two lanes closed just south of mile marker 379, or about five miles south of Gainesville, according to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).

 Beginning at 8 p.m. Wednesday, weather pending, the southbound middle and outside lanes will be closed while about 400 feet of the pavement is removed and replaced. A small section of the outside paved shoulder will also be resurfaced.

 After the southbound lanes are completed, asphalt crews will move to the northbound lanes to resurface about 150 feet of the middle and inside lanes. Both sides of the interstate should be completed before 6 a.m. Thursday.

 The repairs are needed after the pavement was burned and gouged in a series of crashes that took place Jan. 29.

 Anderson Columbia Company of Lake City was hired by FDOT to make the repairs at a cost of $69,000. In the event of rain or unexpected colder temperatures, the work will be postponed until a later date.

 This section of I-75 from Gainesville south to the Marion County line is not funded for resurfacing in the next five years.

 The speed limit will be reduced to 60 mph during the lane closures and motorists are reminded to slow down and use caution in the area when workers are present.

 US 441 is an alternate route that motorists may use between Williston Road (State Road 121) (Exit 382) and County Road 234 (Micanopy) (Exit 374) during the lane closures in the event traffic backs up.

Add a comment

HIGH SPRINGS – Qualifying for a special election in the city of High Springs opens Monday, March 5.  Anyone wishing to seek a seat on the High Springs City Commission must fill out the necessary documents in the qualifying packet available from City Hall, and submit them before the March 9 deadline

Any registered voter in the City of High Springs may seek a seat on the commission.

Set for Tuesday, April 10, the special election was scheduled after former commissioner Eric May 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.

Qualifying documents must be submitted while City Hall is open between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. from March 5 through March 9.

Add a comment

Fall short 55-52


The Newberry Lady Panthers defeated Wildwood in regional playoffs at Newberry High School Saturday night, sending the team to the final four state championship series in Lakeland, Fla.

NEWBERRY – The small town of Newberry has only one stoplight, but the size of the town doesn’t characterize the extraordinary success of Newberry High School’s girls basketball team.

The team won their regional finals and state semifinals in their Class 1A. They pulled up just short of bringing home the state championship Wednesday morning with a loss of 52-54 to Ponce de Leon High School. Though they didn’t win the state championship, their journey became a focus in the school and community.

As time ticked down in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s basketball game, it was anybody’s win. Though the Newberry Panthers were up at the beginning of the fourth quarter in the FHSAA girls basketball regional finals, Wildwood Wildcats were catching up.

Newberry managed to close out the game with a score of 49-40. Newberry High School player Jasmine Walker said the key to their team’s success is really their defense.

Dawntavia Davis, who scored 16 points in Saturday’s regional final game, said that part of the team’s strategy in the state semifinals and finals has to do with a state of mind.

“We have to go in with a positive head,” Davis said.

After the team’s win on Saturday night, they moved on to the next Class 1A State Semifinals at The Lakeland Center. At 3 p.m. Newberry residents lined the street to wish the Panthers good luck. Some had signs, others were dressed up in the school’s colors, but all had hope that the team would represent Newberry well in the state championship.

The Newberry Panthers were ranked No. 3 in their class this season. Coach Ray Parrish has been at Newberry High School for four years, and the success the girls had this season was four years in the making, he said.

“This isn’t something that just happened overnight,” Parrish said.

In the first round of the state championship, the Newberry Panthers defeated Hillard Red Flashes with a score of 49-45. Lasharrah Nattiel and Tayla McGee brought in over 75 percent of the points that game, with 19 and 18 points each, respectively.

On Wednesday morning, the team played in the state finals against the Ponce de Leon Pirates. The team lost 52-55.

Scoring 28 points in the first half gave Ponce de Leon a halftime lead of 19 points.

In the second half, the Panthers began to gain ground, scoring 43 points in the second half. When there were only 2 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Newberry managed to narrow the gap to 6 points. Only seconds later, Nattiel stole the ball and scored another two points to make the score 50-54.

With 33 seconds left on the clock, Newberry scored another two points, but unfortunately, the second half momentum was not enough to bring home the state championship.  The final score was 55-52, with Ponce de Leon wnning the game.

Nattiel was the team leader in the game with 19 points, 15 rebounds and 2 assists.

Add a comment

NEWBERRY – Newberry resident Matt Hersom said he had to yell to have a conversation with his neighbor over the fence to be heard over the music from a nearby restaurant.

Though he’s been told in the past to keep in mind that local businesses are trying to make a living, that is no excuse for the loud music, Hersom said at Monday night’s city commission meeting.

“I don’t think excessively loud music is necessary for this to occur,” Hersom said.

Newberry’s noise ordinance wasn’t on the evening’s agenda, but there was some discussion about the matter. City Attorney Scott Walker said he was hopeful that the first draft of the noise ordinance rewrite would be available at the next commission meeting.

Commissioners debated whether the phrase “plainly audible” would be included in the ordinance. Walker believed that if there was not a definitive, qualitative measurement, it would be difficult to prosecute based on the subjective language of “plainly audible.”

Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Sergant Kaley A. Behl said her office has filed sworn complaints relating to the noise problem in Newberry. These sworn complaints were given to the City, which can not act upon them because of the subjective nature of the current ordinance.

Commissioners also expressed concern over using a decibel meter because there is only one meter at the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. Though there is a decibel reader in Newberry, there is a limited number of people who can operate the machine in both the sheriff’s office and the city.

Commissioner Alena Lawson believes that law enforcement and city officials should be given more options to enforce the ordinance.

“It’s going to defeat the purpose if they don’t have at least two or three options,” she said.

Though there were no definitive results at the commission meeting about the ordinance, which Walker calls a “work in progress,” citizens’ comments showed that the issue is a problem.

Some people just want results.

“We have complained and complained and complained and complained and we’ve had no results,” Newberry resident Martha Palmer said at the meeting.

On the other hand, the owner of Rocky’s Place, Rocky Voglio, said that he is doing everything he can to accommodate the existing ordinance. The family-style restaurant was found in violation of the ordinance on a recent Friday night.

Voglio said he has spent $200 to order a decibel meter that he hopes to have in by this week. Despite his efforts, Voglio said he still thinks there will be complaints even when keeping within the noise limits because citizens have “zeroed in” on certain individuals.

“That’s all I can do is try,” the restaurant owner said. “But I don’t think it’s going to matter.”

Further discussion about the noise ordinance will take place at the next commission meeting on March 12.

Add a comment

HIGH SPRINGS – An alcohol ordinance that has been reviewed and changed several times over the last year may get yet more changes.  During a brief workshop on Feb. 16, High Springs commissioners debated whether or not the city’s law governing establishments serving and selling alcohol needed to be adjusted again.

At issue is a rule in the ordinance that requires an establishment selling alcohol be at least 500 feet from a church and 600 feet from a public or private school.  Those distance requirements had been removed in the summer of 2011.  They were reinstated, however, at the behest of Mayor Dean Davis, Vice Mayor Bob Barnas and Commissioner Linda Gestrin during a Dec. 8, 2011 meeting.  Commissioner Sue Weller and then Commissioner Eric May opposed that measure.

Weller cited concerns at the Feb. 16 workshop that the current ordinance presents a problem to property and business owners.  Under the current law, if a church or school were to locate within the distance requirements of a business selling alcohol, that establishment could only continue to sell the alcohol as long as it is operated continuously and is not sold.  Weller contends that the city would effectively being tying the hands of businesses.

Davis, meanwhile, suggested that “temporary” churches would not have the ability to affect an existing establishment.

“We cannot expect as a church community for somebody to spend as much money as has been spent in High Springs on some restaurants, several million dollars, and then a little church move in next door to them and tell them they have to shut down,” Davis said.

He said distinguishing a church that might rent space as a “temporary church” would prevent any confusion.

Speaking to Weller’s concerns, Davis said, “I think it’s a non-problem,” adding, “We’ll deal with it when the problem comes up.”

Weller, on the other hand, said that by the time it comes up, it may be too late.

City Attorney Raymond Ivey agreed with Weller in part, noting that he also didn’t believe the City could make a distinction between a temporary church and permanent church.

As the discussions evolved, so too did the potential changes to the ordinance, as Barnas suggested creating a downtown zone that would allow a business selling alcohol to continue doing so even if it were sold or not continuously operating, even if a church were to locate within the distance requirements.

That begged another question from Weller.  “Why would we want to limit it to the downtown area,” she asked.

“What’s the difference between downtown and 441,” she further inquired.

Gestrin meanwhile said she didn’t want to specifically address the alcohol ordinance.  “We are dealing with the land development code and Comprehensive Plan issues, not just this one ordinance,” Gestrin said, adding, “I feel like we need to address the whole pie.”

Gestrin, who approved the latest round of changes to the alcohol ordinance, appeared to regard the issue as a low priority.

“We need to keep this on the back burner and move forward with the things that are crucial,” she said.

Ivey said he would review the ordinance and the land development code and return to the commission with suggested changes that might remedy the matter.

Add a comment

More Articles ...