ALACHUA ‒ On Tuesday, March 19, at 9 a.m., the Alachua County Commission is holding a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the beginning of the construction of the new Alachua County Fire Station #21, located at 16121 N.W. 173rd Street, off CR 235A in Alachua. The ceremony is open to the public, and light refreshments will be served.

Alachua County Manager Michele Lieberman is the master of ceremonies. The event includes comments from Alachua County Fire Chief Harold Theus, County Commission Chair Mary Alford and County Public Works Director Ramon Gaverette.

“We have planned for the relocation of station 21 for many years and we are so happy to see it become a reality,” Lieberman said.

Station 21 will be the second fire station of the new Alachua County Fire Rescue (ACFR) prototype design. The single-story concrete masonry facility features energy-efficient equipment and sustainable design features, with 100 percent backup generated power. It is an 11,500-square-foot state-of-the-art building that will last 50+ years. The Lunz Group, from Lakeland, provided architectural and engineering services for the project and the D.E. Scorpio Corporation is the construction management firm “At Risk.”

This new fire station provides adequate space for the existing fire rescue crew and will enhance the service delivered to this growing area of unincorporated Alachua County. Building and opening this facility provides critical space for staff and equipment.

Once the construction is complete, Station 21 will move from its current location at 15040 N.W. U.S. Highway 441, Alachua.

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GAINESVILLE – March is Women’s History Month, and P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School student Kristen Cooper of Gainesville was just awarded the Notorious RBG Women of Tomorrow Scholarship by National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), a national scholarship organization committed to advancing high achieving students and educators.

Cooper K

Cooper is an avid reader and advocate for banned books. As the President of the Alachua County NAACP Youth Council in Gainesville, she was the only youth panelist who spoke at the NAACP Florida State Conference Spring Quarterly Meeting in Orlando for the Freedom Libraries Project Town Hall meeting to address banned books by the Florida Legislature in March 2023.


Cooper also spoke at the NAACP Youth Council Banned Books Press Conference and held a book giveaway during the 5th Avenue Arts Festival last April. Her Youth Council handed out free books to families in her community and educated them on the recent laws passed. She encouraged people in the community to read the books, pass them onward, and vote. 


“I am constantly reminding my peers and others that reading is fundamental, and books provide insight into our future. Cooper,” said Cooper. “It’s important also to know that all races should be valued and all history, including Black History, is American History. So we all must stay in the fight to make our voices heard.”


The National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) honors and scholarship program was co-founded by Claes Nobel and James Lewis. It offers a lifetime of benefits, pairing the highest performing students worldwide with high school and college scholarships, events, connections, internships, and career opportunities. For more information, visit

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GAINESVILLE/ALACHUA ‒ The Rembert family, a local family with six generations of history in Alachua and Gainesville, recently expanded their legacy of commitment to the area by partnering with Alachua County to better protect water quality in the Santa Fe River. Alachua County Forever, the county’s environmental land acquisition program, closed on purchasing a conservation easement on Jan. 18, 2024 from Davis Rembert and his family, protecting 614 acres of land.

The Rembert property is located in Alachua, within the Springs Priority Focus Area for Columbia, Hornsby and Treehouse Springs. This special property protects almost 3 miles of Bad Dog Branch, part of the creek system that feeds into Mill Creek Sink. Dye trace studies have confirmed the hydrologic connection between Mill Creek Sink and Hornsby Spring, a designated Outstanding Florida Spring on the Santa Fe River. Protection of the Santa Fe River is one of the highest priorities for the Alachua County Forever Program.

The sale of this conservation easement is the latest in a long history of investments in the local community's future on the part of Davis Rembert. Through this easement, the property has been protected from future development while providing for the continuation of agricultural activities, including hay, row crops, and timber production. In addition, over 200 acres of the property have been designated as “preservation zones,” providing even greater protection for the rare habitats, plants, and wildlife that utilize the land and waters. 

When asked why he chose to protect his land this way, Davis shared this vision by saying, “Our family was fortunate to purchase this beautiful property, and we are excited to protect it in perpetuity with the Alachua County Forever program. This agreement protects this special place's beauty, hydrology, and diversity. This brings great joy to our family, knowing future generations will enjoy the land and its many attributes.”

Protection of the property was made possible through the commitment of the Rembert family, support from county citizens and leadership, and partnership with the Suwannee River Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Funding for this conservation land purchase was provided by the voter-approved Wild Spaces and Public Places sales tax and a $1-million grant from the Suwannee River Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection through the Springs Protection Program. 

The Rembert conservation easement is the first Alachua County Forever conservation land acquisition of 2024, following county voters' re-authorization of the Wild Spaces and Public Places initiative in November 2022. Through ongoing citizen support and partnerships, the program has worked with willing landowners to protect 34,277 acres since its inception in 2000.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ This past weekend was a good time to be an art lover in High Springs as artists set up shop for the 2nd Annual Art Fair on the Green. Set against the iconic backdrop of the historic High Springs downtown area, sparkling white canopied vendor tents sprung up along the green space where railroad tracks once guided trains carrying goods to points east and west.

But on Saturday and Sunday, the area along Northwest 185th Road was transformed into an open-air gallery, inviting residents and visitors alike to explore the diverse range of artwork on display at the 2nd Annual Art Fair on the Green. The art fair showcased the talents of both local and nonlocal artists, each contributing to the vibrant tapestry of the exhibit.

The free, family-friendly event featured artists in various mediums, from jewelry and paintings to ceramics and glass. Colorful pottery was displayed in booths next to displays of dazzling handmade jewelry and still others displaying acrylic and watercolor paintings. The outdoor gallery offered a visual feast that reflected the diversity and creativity of the artistic community that calls High Springs and North Central Florida home.

Scattered rain showers passed here and there through the area but did little to dampen the art enthusiasts who came out to see what this year’s two-day event had to offer until an approaching storm with gusty winds passed through. Reports of toppled tents, but no injuries were reported.

Gainesville artist Alfred Phillips took center stage at the exhibit with his creativity and vision, incorporating bold colors into this year’s Art Fair on the Green poster. Phillips specializes in acrylic painting, and according to his website, he has a four-year studio arts degree and enjoyed a successful career in commercial art. Phillips has received a number of awards and relocated to Gainesville in 2013. If you missed his exhibit at the Art Fair on the Green, you have another chance to see his works at the 52nd Annual Santa Fe College Spring Arts Festival in Gainesville on April 13 and 14, 2024.

Additional art events are planned in High Springs with ArtWalks scheduled the third Saturday of March, April, May, October, November and December. The next ArtWalk is on tap March 16, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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ALACHUA ‒ The Alachua Police Department reported the passing of K-9 Simba on Feb. 28, 2024.

The APD announcement read:

“It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of the passing of our beloved K-9, Simba. After a courageous battle with cancer, Simba crossed the rainbow bridge, leaving a paw-shaped hole in our hearts.

“Simba wasn't just a loyal companion and guardian; he was an integral part of our law enforcement family. His dedication, loyalty and unwavering commitment to keeping our community safe will forever be remembered.

“Simba touched the lives of many with his incredible skills, boundless energy and loving spirit. Whether on duty or off, he brought joy and inspiration to all who had the privilege of knowing him.

“Please join us in honoring and remembering K-9 Simba for his service and the impact he had on our community.”

The Department said they are grateful for the community support and love that has been shown throughout Simba's journey.

“Rest in peace, dear Simba. Thank you for your selfless service. You will be deeply missed, but your legacy will live on in our hearts,” the report continued.

To respect the wishes of Simba's handler, Officer C. Vargas, a small gathering of family and friends was held.

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NEWBERRY ‒ The Annual Alachua County Youth Fair and Livestock Show not only showcases the hard work, dedication, and skills of youth involved in the event, it also celebrates the area’s agricultural heritage. This year’s show ran Feb. 29 – March 5 at the Alachua County Fairgrounds in Newberry.

The Youth Fair and Livestock Show is an exciting affair that brings together families, farmers and ranchers, and the wider community to witness the culmination of months, and sometimes years, of effort put in by the youthful participants.

The fair boasts a diverse array of livestock exhibits, featuring a variety of animals such as cattle, goats, pigs, and more. From sponsors contributing to prizes and scholarships to local vendors showcasing farm products, the event creates a sense of unity and support within the community. The Youth Fair and Livestock Show thrives on the support of the local community. Businesses, families, and agricultural organizations come together to sponsor events, provide resources, and offer mentorship to the participants.

Each year, the fair brings together 4-H and FFA youth in the community, allowing them an opportunity to demonstrate the dedication they put into raising their animals. Each youth is required to keep a record book on his or her animal. The book tracks the weight of the animal, the amount of feed it is given and time the youth spends with his or her animal.

And while the event lasts only a few days, long before the fair, participating youth are deeply involved in the care and raising of their livestock projects. Whether it's raising a steer, goat, chicken or pig, these youngsters learn the ropes of raising and caring for their animals from nutrition, health, and responsible animal husbandry practices to overall farm management.

Leading up to the final days of the fair, the spotlight shifts to the show ring where students showcase their animals for judging. While the competition is fierce, the emphasis is not only on winning. Youngsters also experience the values of sportsmanship, cooperation, and respect for fellow participants. And judges evaluate not only the animals but also the participants' knowledge, showmanship, and overall commitment to their projects.

The Alachua County Youth Fair and Livestock Show is more than just a showcase of animals; it's a celebration of youth, agriculture, and community.

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NEWBERRY ‒ In response to concerns raised about a potential solar farm locating in Newberry, the City Commission on Feb. 26, 2024, unanimously approved amendments related to solar farm regulations. Florida Renewable Partners (FRP), a solar development company operating in Florida, recently acquired land in southwest Newberry, west of County Road 337 and south of Southwest 46th Avenue with intent to develop it as a solar farm. The City has not received an application for this property.

In August 2023, residents in the vicinity of the proposed solar farm expressed concerns through a letter to the City of Newberry about the development and identified suggested conditions for solar farm developments, including the proposed FRP project.

Upon City staff review, modifications were recommended to the City’s existing solar farm regulations that were applicable. The Florida legislature in 2021 passed a limited preemption of local jurisdictional regulation of solar arrays, mandating that they be allowed in any agriculturally-zoned district.

Mayor Jordan Marlowe said that some of the changes requested by citizens and/or members of the Commission could not be implemented due to existing state regulations that municipalities could not propose limitations that would not be standard on all agriculturally-zoned properties.

The Commission unanimously approved amendments suggested by City staff including one describing setbacks and buffers. The amendment provides for no less than 25-foot setbacks on all sides of the site except for ingress and egress corridors. If natural vegetation is present in the setback area, it must be left undisturbed.

Where the perimeter is adjacent to an existing residence, a 20-foot vegetative buffer must be planted by the applicant within the setback area, such that the view of the solar facility from the residence is effectively obscured within five years. The vegetative buffer is to be planted with native species of trees and shrubs that will mature to full opacity within five years of initial planting, and are to be maintained by the applicant until fully established. Setback areas may contain access roads, barriers or security walls, fences, and crossings by linear facilities, provided that any required vegetative buffers are maintained.”

Land Use and Zoning Change

In other business, the City Commission approved changes to the City’s Future Land Use Map and its Zoning Atlas. These changes were in response to two petitions on first reading related to 50 +/- acres located west of U.S. Highway 27/Northwest State Road 45, across the street from Avalon Woods.

CHW Professional Consultants, agent, on behalf of E.D. Norfleet, Jr., Phyllis Norfleet and Katrina Bill, property owners, requested changing the future land use classification on the property from Agriculture to Material-Oriented Industrial Use.

Access to a railway line on this property will allow the developer to bring in construction materials by rail and reduce truck traffic via the roadway.

CHW’s consultant Gerry Dedenbach said a portion of the property would be available for a small business park for construction-oriented businesses such as a flooring store/showroom, plumbing supplies, stone counter top showrooms, etc. He said businesses planning to locate in the industrial park area will be required to apply to the City for Special Use Permits, which would allow the Commission to approve or deny applications individually.

As required by law for large scale amendments of 50 acres or more, they amendment will be transmitted to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for review. If approved by the State, the ordinance may be enacted upon following a second hearing and approval by the City Commission.

The Commission also unanimously approved amending the Official Zoning Atlas to change the zoning from Agriculture (A) to Industrial (I) on the same 50 acres. Enactment of this second action is contingent upon approval by the State and the City Commission at a second hearing.

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