Last updateWed, 30 Nov 2016 11pm

Microburst downs Civic Center trees

HS downed tree 4997

HIGH SPRINGS – In addition to recent heavy winds and rain that have affected much of northern Florida, what is being described as a microburst, a small downdraft that moves in a way opposite of a tornado, hit a large number of trees behind the High Springs Cemetery and Civic Center.

“While we did lose some other trees around town, this is the only area that had a lot of trees impacted,” said High Springs City Manager Ed Booth.

According to City personnel, perhaps a dozen trees were affected in this one area.

“Trees leaning on or falling on other trees are particularly dangerous,” said Booth. “It's particularly hazardous because kids are out playing sports and may not be aware of falling trees and debris.”

The city has already hired a contractor to take down old dead trees on the City's right-of-ways.

“We expect them to begin cleanup by the early part of this week,” Booth said.

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Contamination Shuts Down Alachua County Fire Rescue Well

HIGH SPRINGS/ALACHUA COUNTY – The water well serving the Alachua County Transfer Station and Alachua County Fire/Rescue Station #20, which provides advanced life transport, has become contaminated.

“County personnel are currently using bottled water for drinking and whatever cooking they might do on the premises,” said Bill Northcutt, Alachua County Fire Chief.

Sampling on the well located on the solid waste parcel began at the end of July last year according to testing documents and continued into August. The Alachua County Health Department routinely tests for bacteria, lead and nitrates. After finding Total Coliform Bacteria (TCB) in the well and at the distribution points, the county “shocked” the well with chlorine several times. While shocking the well helped, it did not resolve the problem permanently,” said Anthony Dennis, Alachua County Health Department's Environmental Health Director. The last test was done on August 11, 2015 and TCBs were present at that time. “No further testing has been done since that time,” said Dennis. “TCBs are non pathogenic bacteria found in older wells and wells that aren't used very often. It is not carcinogenic,” he said, “and testing determined an absence of fecal or E. coli contamination.”

The City of High Springs has a water line serving a church on the opposite side of the road and talks have occurred between Alachua County Manager Lee Niblock, Northcutt, High Springs City Manager Ed Booth and additional city staff, which could lead to High Springs running a water line under U.S. Highway 441 to service the two county facilities.

Northcutt and Booth are doing additional research to find out if this is the best solution.

“We've looked at the Comprehensive Plan and an adjustment would have to be made to it,” said Northcutt. “We are also researching options on filtration systems to determine costs and viability. We are doing our due diligence before we bring any option before the Board of County Commissioners for their determination.

“The City is nice enough to pursue the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for permission to do the project,” Northcutt said.

“The County's cap on costs would be $40,000 and the City and County would share the engineering costs and provide a fire hydrant,” said Booth.

If the County approves this option and the City receives FDOT's approval, Booth said he thinks the project could go out for bid and begin in approximately 60 days.

“This extension of our service would help the City with its economic development goals as well as help the County resolve their problem,” said Booth.

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Archer shooting suspect arrested


ARCHER – Law enforcement officials are investigating an alleged shooting that occurred early Monday morning in Archer.

According to an Alachua County Sheriff's Office news release, deputies responded to a 9-1-1 call placed from a residence at SW 135th Place claiming an unknown male, covered in blood, was yelling and banging on the door.

Deputies found 26-year-old Angelo R. Canevari in the front yard of the residence when they arrived. Canevari told the deputies he had shot someone but could not provide any additional information. He was taken into custody while officers began searching the neighborhood for a victim.

An open door to a home was found at 8708 SW 135th Place, and deputies found Lannie E. Greer unresponsive and lying in a pool of blood with significant injuries on the kitchen floor.

Greer was stabilized on scene by Alachua County Fire Rescue personnel and transported to Shands Hospital where he remained in serious condition.

A firearm and ammunition were recovered from the scene, and a search warrant for Canevari's person was obtained to collect forensic evidence. Detectives charged Canevari with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, and he was transported to the Alachua County Sheriff's Office Department of the Jail.

The investigation into the circumstances surrounding the altercation are ongoing pending Greer's medical condition.

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High Springs cleans house

HIGH SPRINGS – One look at the City of High Springs' website reveals just how serious city leaders are about cleaning up their town to make it look like an upscale community.

The City is posting 14 surplus properties to be sold with the intention that each sold property will have the underbrush removed and low-hanging limbs trimmed back within 90 days of their sale. Minimum bids for those properties range from $500 to $5,000.

Sealed bids will be accepted through 2 p.m., Wednesday, April 13, at the City Manager's Office.

Most lots are buildable. One or two smaller lots are adjacent to owned property, which could be expanded by the addition of the smaller lot.

“The smaller lot would increase the overall size and value of the adjacent property,” said Mike Kearney, under contract to assist the city manager in his cleanup efforts. “Some of these lots are just beautiful,” said Kearney. “One even has a stream running through it.”

Maps of the property locations are available on the City of High Springs website.

The City hired the services of a commercial rotating brush cutter to clear a couple of overgrown lots. “Amazingly, the process only took four hours using his equipment,” said Kearney, who admits it took him a lot longer to do it himself on his own property.

The City is also ridding itself of equipment and vehicles it no longer needs. A Dixie Chopper Mower with a 60-inch deck was up for bid Wednesday, March 16.

Sealed bids for surplus vehicles are also being solicited with a minimum bid price ranging from $350 for vehicles to $1,500 for a bucket truck. The deadline for bid submission on those vehicles was yesterday.

The City has also scheduled its annual Tire Roundup to collect old tires for disposal. Collection times are 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Wednesday through Thursday, April 27-28. The Tire Roundup location is at the Public Works Yard under the water tower at NW 184th Place.

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Local school grades up and down

ALACHUA COUNTY – While the Alachua County School District received an “A” for the 2014-2015 school year, individual schools received a broad range of grades.

One marked difference between the most recent grades and those of previous years is that the current grades only factor students’ scores on the Florida Standards Assessment exam, while prior assessments considered learning gains and other aspects of school performance.

Local principals lauded their teachers’ relentless efforts to accommodate to the new exam and their overall dedication to students.

Lynn McNeill just became principal of High Springs Community School this summer. She said one of the reasons why High Springs - the only K through 8th grade school in the county - earned an A is due to the teachers getting to know students on an individual level.

“Nine years we have many of these students, and the staff get to know these children very well,” she said. “What’s special is that there’s maybe a deeper understanding of each individual child by the staff, for the most part, because they're here with us for so long. And other schools don’t have that luxury. “

She also said the vast amount of support the High Springs community extends to the school has contributed to its success.

“I think that we’re a community school in its truest form,” she said. “It really was heart-warming to me when I came here, the sheer number of people that don’t even have children in the school but are here in the community. They live here, have a business here, are part of a church here. That lets me know immediately about all of the things that they’ve done in the past to help the school and all of the things that they’re willing to do."

Eva Copeland, the principal at Alachua Elementary, said her school received a high C, roughly nine points shy of a B.

She said the steps her faculty have been taking are all about professional development and breaking down the new standards.

“I’m making sure that my teachers know what the standards are asking them to teach, and at what level they’re asking them to teach, because that’s the difference from before,” she said.

She also praised superintendent Dr. Owen Roberts for bringing on new initiatives, such as the Fast ForWord reading program, which encourages a more hands-on approach to literacy.

“Some of our kids can learn out of books, but other ones really need to kind of delve in and have hands in what they’re doing,” she said.

W.W. Irby Elementary School also received a C because they take on the same grade as Alachua Elementary, said principal Valde Fortner.

“We partner with them, whether it’s through meetings or trainings or what have you,” Fortner said. “[We] make sure we’re all in alignment and working towards the standard like we would if we were third, fourth and fifth [grade].”

She also agreed that the faculty take professional development seriously

“Professional development is key in getting us to move forward in the work that we are doing and so we can impact students achievement – our ultimate goal,” she said. “Making sure that they’re socially, emotionally well – that’s the first.”

She also credited PLC’s – Professional Learning Communities – with effective communication between teachers and staff about what their needs are and what resources are available to help them achieve their goals.

Manda Bessner, the principal at Mebane Middle School said the school earned a B after several years of earning a D.

“I know that our focus for the last couple years has been on language and literacy development for our students,” she said. “The teachers have stepped up to the plate and provided those opportunities for our students."

Newberry Elementary School received a B, a drop from the A the school received the year before. Principal Pearl Pinson said she wants parents to understand that the score doesn’t factor in learning gains, which have been indicative of growth in past years.

She said she hopes the administration at the school will continue to focus on these new expectations.

“For us, I think the big thing is figuring out the expectations of the new standards,” she said. “Once you’ve had a year to see what the test looks like, that’s going to be a huge help for us in making sure that we’re targeting our instruction for what we need. “

Newberry’s Oakview Middle School earned an A after dropping to a C in the 13-14 school year. Principal Kelly Armstrong said he believes the improvement is a result of the teachers at the school working to align their curriculum with the new standards of the FSA exam.

“I think one of the key parts are just teachers really diving in and knowing this new standard that we are held to, who were either on committees with the district [or through] their own personal research and really working to align what we do here with what the State’s asking us to do,” he said.

Even the principals of schools that received an A, such as Newberry High School (NHS), said they were determined to not become complacent, but rather strive for a higher percentage on the grading scale.

“[The A] stems from quality instruction, quality teachers and staff—motivating students and keeping them engaged to a common goal to be successful on state exams and in life,” NHS principal Ken Purvis said. “I think it’s maintaining the level of expectations. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve earned A’s, and every year we’re still trying to climb the ladder within that A spectrum to get better every year.”

Hawthorne Middle/High School and Shell Elementary both received an F for the 13-14 school year, but improved to a D and C, respectively. As principal of both schools, Libby Hartwell said these grades are frustrating because if anyone were to spend time at either school, he or she would know that it is not an F school.

“We have children who are doing amazing things every day [and] we have teachers doing amazing things everyday,” she said. “The score is based on this one test. There are so many other factors that go into being a good quality school."

She said the protocols put into place at the schools to continue improving include teachers looking at individual student data and making decisions based on what is best for that particular student’s learning style.

That has made a big difference in tracking the data and assessing the best way students can learn, she said.

“We’re not quite there yet, but we’re seeing improvement in the number of kids passing the tests,” she said. “Granted, it’s not as fast as we would like it, but it’s progress nonetheless.”

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