NEWBERRY ‒ A 50-year-old Newberry man was arrested on Saturday, Jan. 20, and charged with using a debit card belonging to a 75-year-old woman to make purchases and withdraw cash for his personal use.

HopkinsOn Dec. 4, 2023, the victim had approximately $7,000 withdrawn from her account. According to the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO), the money was stolen incrementally during October and November of last year. The victim has mental deficiencies due to age and lives alone. However, her sister has power of attorney and reported the thefts.

The victim provided the defendant, Avery Donnell Hopkins, with her debit card and PIN to purchase one item. According to the ACSO, “The defendant ‘befriended’/conned the victim and received permission to intermittently sleep at the victim’s home over the next few months.” Hopkins maintained possession of the victim’s debit card. The victim’s sister learned of the transaction and called ACSO.

When law enforcement arrived at the victim’s home, they found the defendant there. Before uncovering the extent of the crimes, the deputy asked the defendant about what had occurred. The defendant told the deputy that he did take the money so he could reinstate his driver’s license.

It was discovered that the defendant allegedly made 18 fraudulent transactions at the Family Dollar in Newberry totaling about $1,000. For every transaction at Family Dollar, Hopkins made a small purchase of $2 - $15, and requested $50 cash back, the maximum cash-back allotment at the store.

In addition, Hopkins allegedly made 16 fraudulent withdrawals at ATMs in Newberry totaling about $6,000.

Although Family Dollar’s videos were purged or inoperable during the alleged transactions, the ACSO deputy subpoenaed Capital City Bank for their ATM video associated with the withdrawals. Of the 16 ATM withdrawals, 15 withdrawals occurred at Capital City’s ATMs in Newberry. Capital City’s footage showed Hopkins making all the withdrawals. In some of the withdrawals, Hopkins was viewed holding a red Wells Fargo card.

The money the defendant withdrew from the victim’s account was not used for the victim’s benefit and she did not give Hopkins permission to use it, thus establishing probable cause for the charges.

Hopkins has several convictions for possession of cocaine and a guilty conviction for petit theft first offense.

Bail was set at $110,000 by Judge Sheree Lancaster.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 6, 2024) – As of February 1, Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) stopped paying the City of Gainesville for services the utility received in fiscal year 2022. This leaves the city with a revenue shortfall of $1,447,252 in the middle of the current fiscal year and is a departure from the methodology that formed the foundation of this year’s balanced budget.

As GRU and the city outlined in agreements that underpinned this year’s city budget, the $1.4 million was payment for work done two years in arrears by staff from departments including the Clerk’s Office, the City Auditor’s Office, the Office of Equity & Inclusion and the Office of Communications & Marketing.

The issue was addressed at today’s meeting of the Gainesville City Commission’s Finance Committee, where members approved a recommendation from Gainesville City Manager Cynthia W. Curry to rebalance the budget by using the city’s contingency funds and set-asides. This would preserve the budgets of impacted departments at their adopted levels for the remainder of the fiscal year despite the loss of payment for shared services.

The recommendation to manage the revenue reduction involves the following budget line items:

  • $600,754 from the operational contingency fund – 100-percent reduction
  • $250,000 from the set-aside for at-risk youth – 100-percent reduction
  • $150,000 from the set-aside for gun violence prevention – 100-percent reduction
  • $511,501 from the $630,872 personnel contingency fund – 81-percent reduction

“The fiscal year 2024 budget includes contingency reserves and set-asides for other projects,” said City Manager Curry. “These funds can be tapped to compensate for the payments no longer being received from Gainesville Regional Utilities. However, it is unfortunate we have to move into our reserves and use funds for programs and causes that are very important to our community.”

This mid-year budget reversal is the latest challenge for a commission already making substantial reductions. Following the city’s appearance before the Florida Legislature’s Joint Legislative Auditing Committee (JLAC) in February 2023, Gainesville City Commissioners lowered the Government Services Contribution (GSC) by $19 million, a reduction of 55 percent from the prior fiscal year. This led to changes in fiscal year 2024 that included city departmental consolidations, a slew of new operational efficiencies, and the elimination of 125.5 full-time equivalent employee positions.

Commissioners are expected to vote on the recommendation at the February 15 Gainesville City Commission meeting. However, these reductions in revenue will continue to drive budget discussions for fiscal year 2025, as the commission and staff will face hard decisions about funding levels for departments that will no longer provide shared services to the utility. 

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This information is public record and the booking report is provided by the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Department of the Jail.  The charges listed are at the time of arrest and and all suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. For more details on a specific inmate use the Sheriff’s Office inmate search (for inmates currently at the jail). More specific information on charges is available by searching court records.  Jail booking logs are removed from the Alachua County Today website after 30 days.

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GAINESVILLE, FLA. - Altrusa International of Gainesville will be hosting the 2024 Human Library event which will take place at 2 p.m. Feb. 11, 2024 at Santa Fe College's Blount Hall. This year’s theme is “unjudge someone.” The volunteers, known as “human books,” represent groups in our society that have been subjected to prejudice, stigmatization, or discrimination because of their lifestyle, diagnosis, belief, disability, social status, or ethnic origin.

The event is designed to create a safe space for dialogue, where experiences with prejudice will be discussed openly and in a respectful manner. The Human Library is designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue. This event is not intended to be a storytelling event. Human books are asked to relate their singular experiences, then respond to questions, and engage with the audience, known as “readers.” The event is designed to spark a conversation and create a discussion between the human books and readers.

What: The Human Library: Unjudge Someone
Where: Santa Fe College’s Blount Hall at 530 West University Avenue, in Gainesville, When: Sunday Feb. 11, 2024, at 2 p.m.
Who: Event sponsored by Altrusa International of Gainesville, International Human Library, Friends of the Library, Alachua County Library District, and Santa Fe College.

The “Pillars of Prejudice” that will be represented by human books at the 2024 Human Library are:

  1. Immigrant
  2. Gender
  3. Victim
  4. Disabilities
  5. Sexual Orientation
  6. Physical Disabilities
  7. Mental Health

If a person with a disability needs an accommodation in order to participate in this event he or she is entitled, at no cost to him or her, to the provision of certain assistance.  Please contact the Alachua County Library District at 352-334-3910 at least three (3) days prior to the event.  TTY users please call 711 (Florida Relay Service). 

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PALATKA, Fla., Feb. 2, 2024 — The St. Johns River Water Management District is conducting a 92-acre prescribed burn today at Newnans Lake Conservation Area in Alachua County. The burn’s purpose is to reduce hazardous fuel loads and maintain fire-dependent natural communities.

Prescribed fire is the use of carefully planned fire purposefully set under stringent conditions to manage the fire's effects. Before conducting a burn, the District ensures that wind and other weather conditions are correct for managing the fire and minimizing the impacts of smoke to residents and traffic.

Periodic prescribed fires on District lands enhance the land’s environmental quality and protect its neighbors from destructive wildfires, but not without the possibility of temporary nuisances, such as smoke and ash.

Prescribed fires help prevent wildfires by burning off fuels that naturally build up over time, while also helping to manage the growth of woody shrubs.

In fire-dependent ecosystems, fire is nearly as important as rainfall and sunshine. The benefits of prescribed fire include restoring and maintaining natural communities, reducing chances of destructive wildfires, perpetuating fire-adapted plants and animals, cycling nutrients, managing tree diseases and opening scenic vistas.

Follow the District on social media to know when prescribed burns are taking place in your area. To learn more about the District’s prescribed burn program, visit the District online at www.sjrwmd.com/lands/management/prescribedfire or follow the conversation at #LoveYourLands #RxBurn #goodfire #sjrwmd.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gainesville Regional Airport (GNV) and its FBO, the University Air Center (UAC) will once again host the Gator Fly-In and Armed Services Appreciation Day Saturday, March 23, 2024.

A fly-in is a gathering for pilots who arrive by air. The event takes place from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. (pre-event pancake breakfast at 8:30 a.m.) at University Air Center, 4701 N.E. 40th Terrace, Gainesville, Fla. (Enter at General Aviation Entrance, Waldo Road) and is open to the public. Admission and parking are free, and a complimentary shuttle will be provided.

“Our annual Gator Fly-In and Armed Services Appreciation Day is our way of honoring all branches of the military, including some great dignitaries, military and civil aviators who will be flying in many different types of aircraft to the UAC for the event,” says Allan Penksa, CEO, Gainesville Regional Airport. “It’s an exciting day for our community — especially anyone who is curious about flight — to learn more about aviation.

“We are honored to dedicate this year’s event to our dear friend and Gator Aviator Commander Lt. Col. Richard “Spad” McSpadden with a fitting and poignant ‘Flown West’ ceremony with a squadron of beautiful T-6 Texan and T-34 Mentors. This year we are especially focused on celebrating Women in Aviation. And as always, we look forward to sharing this very special celebration at our airport with the community.”

Celebrating Women in Aviation and our Military

Planned events include opening ceremonies with a color guard and flyovers, most notably the “Flown West” ceremony for the late Commander Lt. Col. Richard “Spad” McSpadden, USAF (ret.), Friend of the Gator Fly-In, who served as commander and flight leader of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds flight demonstration team, flying the lead aircraft in over 100 flight demonstrations.

Most recently, Spad served as Senior Vice President of Aircraft Owner and Pilots’ Association’s (AOPA’s) Flight Safety Institute. Tragically, Spad lost his life in a plane crash in October 2023. Spad enjoyed the Gator Fly-In and was excited to attend this year’s event.

The pre-event fun begins with a continuation of our celebration of the late Col. Joe Kittinger, with the second annual “Col. Joe ‘Pamcake’ Breakfast” at 8:30 a.m., with donations going to Col. Joe’s favorite charity, the International Sky Diving Museum & Hall of Fame (www.skydivingmuseum.org). In addition, Col. Joe’s autobiography, “Come Up and Get Me,” will be available for purchase at the event for $25.

At 10 a.m., the gates will open to the public, with all participating aircraft in place. Opening ceremonies begin promptly at 11 a.m., with a color guard from Bucholz High School and drill team from the University of Florida (UF) Gator Guard, followed by the National Anthem, sung by “Big Jim” Adam (USMC, ret.).

At 11:15 a.m. the “Flown West” ceremony honoring Commander Lt. Col. McSpadden will commence with participation by the Civil Air Patrol. In addition, invited dignitaries will make speeches. (Distinguished Aviators include renowned American Aviator and U.S. National Aerobatic Champion Patty Wagstaff, and Elizabeth Gray.) Veterans’ groups from the North Central Florida region have been invited to participate.

Static Display

All branches of the military have been invited to fly in and participate in the event’s static display. We also expect aircraft manufacturers, privately owned aircraft and law enforcement aircraft to be on display. 

Best Aircraft Contest and People’s Choice Awards

A “Best Civilian Aircraft” and “People’s Choice: Best Aircraft” contest will be held, allowing event attendees to vote for their favorite aircraft at the Gator Fly-In. The two winners will be announced and presented with awards at 1 p.m.

Live Music, Classic Cars, Kids’ Activities and All-Day Food Trucks

Activities include touring static aircraft and Porsche Club car displays, military trucks, a kid’s corner with face painting, toy airplanes and coloring, arts and crafts vendors, and food trucks. Live Music by The Treetop Flyers will take place throughout the event. In addition to the “Col. Joe ‘Pamcake’ Breakfast” from 8:30 a.m. – 11 a.m., food trucks and a variety of food vendors will operate throughout the event.

Aircraft Rides for purchase – North American T-34B Mentor,

Robinson 44 Helicopter and Cessna 172; “Swamp Tours”

For a fee, attendees can purchase rides in three different aircraft. Commemorative Air Force, Dixie Wing will provide Beechcraft T-34B Mentor flights for purchase. The Beechcraft T-34B Mentor is an American propeller-driven, single-engined, military  trainer aircraft derived from the  Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza.  Interested parties may purchase T-34B Mentor rides in advance of the event at  https://airbasegeorgia.org/warbird-rides/ or walk-up tickets can be purchased at the UAC booth in the Mustang Hangar ($250 for 20 minutes; $320 for 40 minutes; $380 for 60 minutes.) Walk-up tickets can also be purchased at the event. In addition, UAC is offering “Swamp Tours” lasting about 15 minutes, in which passengers can fly over the UF Football Stadium in a Cessna 172 ($50) or a Bell 47-G or Robinson R-44 helicopter ($50).

A wide variety of general aviation, corporate, aerobatic, glider and homebuilt aircraft are expected at the Gator Fly-In. All branches of the military have been invited to fly in and participate in the event’s static display. As of this news release, confirmed military aircraft include CH-47 Chinook, C-130 Hercules, UH-60 Blackhawk, T-34B Mentor, Shandscair Helicopter and Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Helicopter as well as Life South Bloodplane aircraft. Confirmed military aircraft will be updated as they are scheduled. We also expect aircraft manufacturers, privately owned aircraft and law enforcement aircraft to be on display.  All aircraft are subject to change due to weather, mechanicals and availability.

Schedule for the Day:

7 a.m. Vendors arrive for set up

Pre-Event: 8:30 a.m. – 11 a.m. First Annual Col. Joe “Pamcake” Breakfast

9 a.m. – aircraft arrive and park; all aircraft parked by 9:45 a.m.

10 a.m. – Public Arrive; helicopter and airplane rides begin

11 a.m. Opening Ceremony

11:15 a.m. Flown West Ceremony for Commander Lt. Col. Richard “Spad” McSpadden

11:20 a.m. Speakers begin

12 noon Live Music, food trucks

1 p.m. People’s choice and Best of Show Airplane Contest Announced

3 p.m. Final thank you and prep for departures

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 ALACHUA COUNTY, FL - The Alachua County Commission will conduct a special meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. The meeting begins at 1:30 p.m. The meeting is in the Grace Knight Conference Room on the second floor of the Alachua County Administration Building (12 SE 1st St., Gainesville).
 
The meeting can be viewed on Cox Channel 12, the AC TV app (Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku), the county’s Facebook site, or the county’s Video on Demand website
 
In-person public comments will be taken for the agenda items, and the public will also have an opportunity to speak about items not on the agenda. Members of the public who wish to speak are asked to limit their comments to three minutes.
 
The meeting item of interest:
 
  • Comprehensive County Dashboard
 
 
Citizens are encouraged to stay informed by following Alachua County on FacebookX (Twitter)NextdoorInstagram, and subscribing to the county’s newsletter/press release group.
 
For more information, contact Alachua County Communications Director Mark Sexton at 352-264-6979 or msexton@alachuacounty.us

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