HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Around 8 a.m. on Monday April 17, Alachua County SWAT team members (ASO), along with state Florida Law Enforcement (FDLE) and federal DEA agents, executed a search warrant at a suspected drug house on Northwest 240th Street and 187th Avenue in High Springs. The suspect, Anthony Rizzotto, 38, initially refused to come out. Knowing that Rizzotto was armed, law enforcement brought in an armored SWAT vehicle with a ram and knocked in two doors. Even with the entrance points available, the police waited the suspect out. “We knew he was armed and didn’t want to initiate a gunfight where either the suspect or our team could get hurt,” said an ASO officer. “We wanted a peaceful resolution and finally convinced him after about two hours to surrender.”

“They started making a lot of noise and telling the guy to come out,” said witness Charlie Brown. “He didn’t come out. Finally, the girlfriend came out...Several hours later after they had pushed down the fence trying to encourage him to come out...they finally opened the sliding glass door with a device on the front of the vehicle.”

Neighbors say they have been suspicious of activity going on at the house. “Lots of traffic, at all hours,” said Mark Bertocci. “Lot of cars coming in, a parade of cars. It’s kind of actually known and kind of not really hidden in a way.”

“All the cars coming and going all the time and they never show their license plate,” said Brown. “They always go around the back of the house.”

Rizzotto's neighbors had expressed their concerns to the High Springs Police Department who kept an eye on the house and notified State and Federal agents who put the house under surveillance. Once authorities documented the behavior, agents raided the house.

When Rizzotto surrendered, he provided the combination to his safe, and agents searched the house. Inside were two pistols, along with a magazine drum, a WWII-era submachine gun, and a 22-caliber rifle. Deputies also found meth in the home, and Rizzotto admitted to putting additional drugs down the drain.

Rizzotto has an extensive criminal history, and in addition to charges for drug production and distribution and resisting arrest, he also faces charges for weapons possession by a convicted felon. Additional information from law enforcement is limited due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.

Only two days after the drug raid, first responders were back at the house—this time it was firefighters putting out a fire in the attic. Around 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, firefighters responded to fire reports at the same house on Northwest 240th Street and 187th Road. When they arrived, smoke was pouring from the roof of the single-story home. Firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading from the attic to the rest of the home. A man and woman were in the home at the time, but no one was hurt. The cause of the fire is now under investigation by the Alachua County Fire Marshal and no further information was available.

#     #    #

Email rcarson@


Add a comment

ALACHUA ‒ On April 20, more than 500 life science industry professionals from emerging and established life sciences companies, universities and research institutions gathered at Momentum Labs in Alachua's Progress Park for the 18th Annual BioFlorida Celebration of Biotechnology, the state’s largest life sciences exhibit show. Alachua is home to a burgeoning biotech cluster and in recent years the area has seen large growth in biotech industries in Progress Park and along the U.S, Highway 441 corridor.

BioFlorida is the voice of Florida's life sciences industry, representing 8,600 establishments and research organizations in biopharma, medtech, digital health, and health systems that collectively employ nearly 107,000 Floridians. The BioFlorida event was first held in 2003 in Progress Park on UF Sid Martin’s patio with 40 attendees. With the support of the University of Florida and Santa Fe College, research and scientific advancements have grown the industry exponentially in Alachua. This year's event had nearly 500 participants with over 114 exhibitors.

The event provides an opportunity to learn about industry innovation and development, explore career opportunities, network with leaders, and drive collaborations to fuel future growth in the region. Celebration of Biotechnology exhibitors represented many of the emerging technologies in life sciences and biotechnology and representatives were available for participants to discuss the products with company personnel. Organizers also offered moderated bus tours of the local life science facilities, and following the event, Santa Fe College Perry Center for Emerging Technologies, located across Highway 441, provided a tour of their facilities.

At 11:30, President and CEO of BioFlorida Nancy Bryan gave a short introductory speech, followed with remarks by Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper and Brian Crawford, CEO and owner of Concept Companies, a nationwide real estate development company. “Scientists and researchers in the region are making advancements across multiple therapeutics areas including wound care, nerve repair, joint replacement, cell and gene therapy, Alzheimer’s, immumo-oncology, treatments for rare diseases, and many more,” said Crawford.

Referencing construction of the Momentum Lab facilities, Crawford said the facility offers growing life science companies access to needed resources, lab space and a highly desirable lifestyle. “We expect this trend to accelerate, propelling the future growth of the region,” said Crawford. “This would not have happened in Alachua if not for the support and cooperation from Mayor Coerper and the Ctiy of Alachua. They have consistently supported the vision of building the biotech hub in this area.”

#     #    #

Email rcarson@


Add a comment

ALACHUA, FLA. ‒ Antonio Cornelius Roberts, 41, of Alachua, was arrested on April 11 and charged with leaving the scene of a 2021 accident involving serious injury.

Roberts allegedly hit a pedestrian on U.S. Highway 441 near Northwest 147th Drive at about 12:24 a.m. on March 11, 2021. The pedestrian, a 47-year-old Alachua man, was reportedly in the roadway. The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) reported that Roberts saw him too late to avoid hitting him. The pedestrian was pronounced deceased at the scene by Alachua County Fire Rescue.

Roberts allegedly drove home, called Alachua Police Department and said he “hit something in the roadway.” Officers made contact with Roberts at his home.

Roberts’ blood was drawn and reportedly tested positive for a compound indicating the presence of marijuana in his system, but the tests determined he did not have any alcohol in his system.

Post Miranda, Roberts reportedly said he saw something in the roadway. After he hit it, he looked back and saw a person, and thought to himself that it was dumb for this person to be sitting in the roadway. When asked why he did not stay at the scene of the accident, he reportedly said he just wanted to get home because he had to work the next morning.

In June 2022, FHP received a ruling from a pathology laboratory that said the blood test results were “consistent with the recent and chronic use of cannabis. Further, the post-incident observations of the subject are consistent with impairment.”

Roberts was originally charged with driving under the influence and leaving the scene of a crash involving serious bodily injury, but he was only formally charged with leaving the scene.

Roberts has seven felony convictions and eight misdemeanor convictions, all of which were non-violent. He has served one state prison sentence and was released in 2015. He was on probation following a conviction for trying to cash a false check at the time of the crash.

#     #     #

Email cwalker@


Add a comment

NEWBERRY, FLA. ‒ The proposed Newberry meat processing facility garnered top billing at the Monday, April 24, Newberry City Commission meeting. Newberry citizens packed the meeting room to hear Newberry City Manager Mike New review high points of a meeting he attended with members of the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) regarding the Newberry Environmental Park and the meat processing facility.

New said that Newberry would not be operating the meat packing facility, but would be partnering with the County to provide land for the 10,000 square-foot facility. The property that will likely be available to the County comprises approximately 40 acres. With a 10,000-square-foot facility within that much land, New said there would be a significant buffer around the meat packing facility. The rest of the project site is earmarked to be used for the proposed wastewater treatment facility, a new location for the City’s Public Works Department, a firefighters training facility, a composting facility and a limited pilot wetlands educational project. A number of citizens opposed to the meat processing facility approached the podium to express their displeasure that the City would consider such a project.

BoCC Chair Anna Prizzia, a proponent of the project, was in the audience and said the meat processing facility would not only support small to mid-sized ranchers, but also promote local resilience and food security. Prizzia said project costs are estimated to be $5.25 million and that the facility would serve ranchers within a 100-mile radius and is anticipated to create 70 jobs.

The BoCC has set aside $2.5 million in ARPA funds for this project and Prizzia said they are working with legislators to obtain matching funds.

Some 26 people voiced their opinion about the meat processing facility with 14 in favor of the facility and 12 against. Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe said he kept track of whether comments were from Newberry residents and reported that a higher number of Newberry residents wanted the facility than did not.

The next step in the process is for the County to present an interlocal agreement to the City for the property for review by City staff and the City attorney.

#     #     #

Email cwalker@


Add a comment

YANKEETOWN, FLA. ‒ A 51-year-old Hawthorne man was killed on Saturday, April 1, when his vehicle drove off the end of the road and into the Gulf of Mexico.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the man was driving a 2002 Ford Mustang at a high rate of speed on County Road 40 at about 9:08 p.m. For unknown reasons, he failed to stop at the boat ramp at the end of the road.

The car sank into the water, and the driver was transported to Seven Rivers Hospital in Citrus County, where he was pronounced deceased.

#     #     #

Email cwalker@


Add a comment

HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs City Commission and the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners met on Thursday, April 20 to discuss the 10-year, one percent local government infrastructure surtax, a trunk radio system and broadband service, among other issues.

The infrastructure surtax is split between Wild Spaces Public Places and roads, fire stations and other public facilities. The County estimates it will receive a county-wide total of $56 million per year in revenue from the surtax. The first half cent of the surtax is dedicated to Wild Spaces Public Places and the second half cent is dedicated to roads, fire stations and other public facilities. Of the second half cent, the County is proposing to allocate 70 percent to roadways and that the new surtax will generate approximately $11.7 million per year for roadways. The County commission will meet on May 23 to discuss municipal shares of the projected funds. It was estimated that High Springs will receive annually $921,625 and $460,000 for Wild Spaces Public Places projects.

Regarding planned road repairs, the County Commissioners stressed there is a limited budget and not all roads will be fixed in the first 10 years. Additional roads can be selected if revenues increase and the County will consider other road projects as grants are found.

The County is developing a Pavement Management Plan and included an inequity component to help identify roads that have not been addressed in a long time. Also, roads that have had 15 or more work orders recorded are added to the list of road projects the County may consider. According to County staff, the City of High Springs has several inequity areas under consideration in the improvement plan. Most of the highly traveled collector roads will be repaired and the work will begin this summer.

Turning to the Trunk Radio System, County Fire Chief Harold Theus said he thought they would be able to determine fixed prices soon but estimated that the City of High Springs would likely pay $26,400 per year for the next four years. He said the cost would possibly be less than the current system run by Gainesville Regional Utilities.

There may be help on the horizon for some High Springs residents who are struggling with broadband service. Much of High Springs is considered “underserved” by broadband service. American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds are being designated to the tune of $15 million by the County to provide broadband services throughout Alachua County. Cox, Windstream and AT&T are all interested in serving parts of High Springs and other cities in the county.

In other business, High Springs City Manager Ashley Stathatos brought up possible expansion of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) district to include part of U.S. Highway 27. That expansion would require County approval. She reviewed some of the most recent projects the City has accomplished within the CRA district, new businesses that have recently come into town, new cross walks, planting of trees downtown, the Farmers Market, the recent Walldogs event, a tree-planting program along Railroad Avenue and a $1.2 million grant the City is applying for on behalf of the Priest Theater.

An item not on the agenda generated comments from some citizens expressing frustration that the City had not included the proposed utility district as a discussion item. At issue is an ordinance originally presented at the March 9 City Commission meeting that would create a utility district to expand the City’s service area and provide water and wastewater services along County Road 236 up to the Interstate 75/CR 236 interchange.

Citizens along that corridor expressed concerns that the City would force them to hook up to the utility services if the lines were installed. Although they have been informed by the City Attorney, the City Commission, the City Manager and the County Health Department that they would not be required to hook up, one citizen addressing the joint meeting emphasized several times that they were being lied to by the City.

#     #     #

Email cwalker@


Add a comment


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gainesville City Commission and Utility Advisory Board (UAB), along with Rep. Yvonne Hinson, hosted a rare Friday night meeting tonight to discuss Speaker Pro Tem Chuck Clemons’ local bill (HB 1645) that would create a governor-appointed board to govern Gainesville Regional Utilities.

UAB Chair Barry Jacobson said his board had requested the meeting because the draft bill was a “general outline,” they had questions, and “it’s time for everyone to talk.”

Mayor Harvey Ward said, “The bill before us doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me… How it’s implemented, I couldn’t tell you. I expressed that concern to Rep. Clemons, and he told me it would be fine, don’t worry about it. I do worry about it, and it’s my job to worry about it because we, the City Commission, were hired to worry about such things. I’ve heard some ideas about it, that are not accurate, that it will lower rates. Nothing in there that says it’s gonna lower rates, and I will tell you what I probably should have been saying more often, is that I would be the most popular guy in Gainesville if I could lower your rate responsibly… Our staff makes a pretty darn good case that lowering your bills just to lower your bills, to be popular, is a really bad idea, that we have a utility to run, and we need to run it responsibly.”

Ward continued, “We are told by our bond counsel… that there are many questions they have about this bill, and those questions aren’t answered in the latest version of the bill. They’re simply not. That means that the folks who buy bonds from us are going to be nervous, realistically. That means when we have to borrow money, which, by the way, we do regularly and so does every other utility, they’re likely to charge more money to buy our bonds. That means that’s going to be passed on in your bills, more than likely. That could be incorrect, but that’s what the odds are.”


UAB Vice Chair Jason Fults said he had hoped that more members of the legislative delegation would be at the meeting and that limiting citizens to 30 seconds at the April 19 House State Affairs Committee meeting was “shameful.”

“There’s a dark side to it”

City Commissioner Ed Book asked Hinson if she wanted to say anything, and she said she just wanted to listen but then added, “It’s a local matter. I’m fighting this fight because I’ve seen it for ten years. I mean, it didn’t just begin. It began in 2012, I know, and maybe before that, when I became a commissioner. It’s not like this just began, that’s how I know there’s a dark side to it. I know that. I’ve been to Tallahassee as a commissioner twice, to fight this same kind of legislation from these same legislators, so there is a dark side to it and I’m not sure what it is, but it exists.”

She said she had filed two amendments to the bill, which were voted down: “This is par for the course. When it hits the floor, they’re gonna vote lock and step together. I’m thinking what could be done, short of getting a very stubborn governor to veto it–nothing, except legal consequences.”

City Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut asked the people in the room to write the governor and ask him to veto the bill: “Start it now. But let’s not stop with Gainesville, because there are 37 other utilities in the state of Florida that are owned by the public, so I want you to call your cousins, your aunt, your uncles, have them also write to the governor to veto this bill. He needs to see a campaign, not just in Gainesville, because this doesn’t affect just Gainesville. This has implications for all 36 other utilities across the state.”

Chestnut continued, “And I won’t get to the issue of democracy and having a voice and not being silenced… Start tomorrow. All of you are excellent letter-writers; I can look at your faces and tell. I know you are… Let’s have letters from Key West to Pensacola to the governor’s office.”

City Commissioner Bryan Eastman questioned assertions made in Tallahassee that various amounts of money were taken from GRU above its earnings: “The fact is, we don’t take more money from the utility than we spend… It’s a made-up statistic… What is being forced upon our community, to me, is clearly unprecedented… I wanted to just run a city; that is what I ran for, that is what I wanted to do. I wanted to make a good city, and instead I’m sitting here, just trying to make sure, how do we mitigate the pain that my constituents will feel, and it’s very frustrating.”

During public comment, 18 people spoke against Clemons’ bill, and three people spoke in favor of it. Many of those who spoke also spoke at the House State Affairs Committee on April 19. Many expressed the fear that the bill is a thinly-veiled attempt to sell GRU to an investor-owned utility.

During public comment, Ward gave Hinson the opportunity to respond to a comment. She said, “I know we’re not supposed to be speculating, but they left me scared… Can this board sell, or can we make sure this board can’t sell the utility? [Clemons] said this board can do whatever it wants; it will be the Authority.”

What does the bill say about selling assets?

However, the bill language states in 7.03(1), “The Authority shall have the following powers and duties, in addition to the powers and duties otherwise conferred by this article:… (f) To dispose of utility system assets only to the extent and under the conditions that the City Commission may dispose of such assets pursuant to section 5.04 of Article V.” That section states: “The commission may not, in any manner, dispose of or agree to dispose of the following city utility systems, or any part thereof… Unless the commission first adopts an ordinance approving of the disposition and submits that ordinance to referendum vote and such referendum is approved by a majority vote of the qualified electors of the city voting at the election for the purpose of approving the ordinance.”

Ward said he got a “great idea from some of this… A thing I’m going to work on this weekend is writing an editorial that–I love the Gainesville Sun. I love the Gainesville Sun. I miss being able to publish in the Gainesville Sun in the op-ed section. Some papers, not a lot, but some papers in Florida continue to offer that opportunity, and I’m going to reach out to each one of the papers that do, that have a municipal utility in their community, and offer them an op-ed. You might consider doing the same.”

UAB Member Tim Rockwell said, “I truly hope, barring working this out through the democratic process, I truly hope there are legal actions that can be taken if this goes through because people have been put out from the process, and I don’t think they have any intention of bringing people into the process.”

Ward concluded, “I would again urge you to speak your mind to your representatives, your senators, and others, to reach out to your cousins, your aunts, your uncles, your brothers, your sisters, your old friends, anybody you know, reach out to them and let them know what’s going on here. And I would urge you again to focus on the reality that this thing is a mess, and chaos should frighten you.”

Chestnut added, “The strategy for Rep. Clemons is to have the governor sign this bill as soon as it passes, so that means it’s going to be signed in May… But that is the reason that we really need to get to people across the state to help us.”

Hinson concluded the meeting by saying, “I want to remind you that the best offense is done in quiet. I know this is a publicized meeting, and it has to be publicly noticed, but whatever strategies that evolve based on someone’s recommendation–there should be a strategy; it should not be publicized. I’m just saying.”

#     #     #

Email editor@



Add a comment

More Articles ...