Last updateThu, 13 Oct 2016 9pm


Four vie for two Alachua commision seats

ALACHUA – Incumbents for two City of Alachua commission seats are being challenged during the April 12 election.

Mayor Gib Coerper (Seat 1) and Commissioner Robert W. Wilford (Seat 2) are running against Tamara Robbins and Linda Lundy, respectively.

Coerper, 69, is the first Alachua mayor elected by citizens and has held the position since 2010. He has served five previous terms as either city commissioner or mayor. He is active in the Alachua Chamber of Commerce and is a member of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council.

Coerper said he is his harshest critic. “If I am not having fun and being effective, I wouldn't want to continue to serve,” he said. “But I am having fun and I believe I have been effective in serving the citizens of Alachua, so I am ready to continue.”

Robbins, 57, is challenging Coerper for the mayor's seat. She previously served as city commissioner from 2001 to 2004. She considers herself a citizen advocate and said, “I am running because I have witnessed the entire City commission neglecting its sworn duties to represent the public to which they are elected to serve. Many policies are neglected and ignored in exchange for meeting the needs of special interests.”

Wilford, 71, has served on the city commission for two terms and was vice mayor from 2012-2013. He served as the CEO of Central Florida Community Action Agency, retiring in 2014.

He is a city commission alternate to the Alachua League of Cities and the commission liaison to the Senior Resources Advisory Board and the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council. He is a U.S. Navy Vietnam-era Veteran who completed his 20-year career in 1983.

“I moved here in 2007 and started attending city commission meetings to see how the city functioned,” said Wilford. “After watching for a while, I thought I might have something to offer our citizens and decided to run for commissioner and won. As a commission, we have accomplished a lot, but still have more to do. Reducing utility costs while also insuring we have controlled growth while protecting the environment."

Challenging Wilford for Seat 2 is Lundy, 68. She was born and raised in Alachua and graduated from A.L. Mebane High School. Lundy graduated from St. Leo University with a degree in criminology. She taught elementary education in Duval County from 2002-2010 and holds a dual certification in Elementary Education and Exceptional Student Education. Currently, Lundy is a private reading tutor and public speaker, as well as an evangelistic preacher.

“I am a voice for the people who are not able to speak for themselves,” said Lundy. “Sometimes it helps to have someone interpret what is going on in government for people who may not be familiar with the details of how their government works."

The 2016 City of Alachua Election will be held on Tuesday, April 12.

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Alachua city election set for April 12

ALACHUA – The qualifying period for the April 12 election to two Alachua City Commission seats will expire at 12 p.m., Friday, Feb. 26. Alachua's election qualifying period runs for one week, this year beginning on Tuesday, Feb. 12. Each seat is for a three-year term.

The available seats are for Seat 1 (mayor), currently occupied by Gib Coerper, and for Seat 2 (commissioner), currently occupied by Robert W. Wilford.

Qualifying packets have been picked up by both incumbents and several other people according to the Office of the Deputy City Clerk, but as of Monday, Feb. 22, no one had turned in their completed packet.

The current salary for city commissioners is set at $16,500, with $18,500 designated for the mayor's seat. The qualifying fee according to the City Code of Ordinances is $25, and the election assessment fee set by State Statute at one percent of commission compensation is $185 for the mayor's seat and $165 for the commissioner's seat.

Anyone wishing to qualify before the end of the qualifying period may contact Alan Henderson or Melanie Westmoreland in the Office of the Deputy City Clerk at 386-418-6100 or in person at City Hall, located at 15100 NW 142 Terrace, Alachua.

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Newberry goees high tech with utilities

NEWBERRY – Several enhancements are being made to utility delivery services for Newberry residents.

Dallas Lee, Director of Finance for the City, was excited to explain the new resources at a recent city commission meeting.

A state-of-the-art call center equipped to handle customer calls 24 hours a day, 365 days a year has been contracted. The center answers all after-hours calls to ensure customers are always able to speak to a representative and resolve concerns. The staff is trained to handle all aspects of utility billing such as account balance requests, starting or stopping service, over the phone payments and outage management.

City Manager Mike New said that having the call center available any time a customer calls is vital to good customer service. “It's frustrating to have a problem and not be able to reach someone who can help resolve the issue,” said New. “With the addition of these new services, our city is on par with any utility service. These changes make us a world class utility service.”

Another new utility feature is, a tool that allows customers to create a self-assessment profile to help manage electric usage. It takes less than five minutes to create a home profile and estimate a monthly bill. The web site also gives tips and suggestions on how to lower your bill and can be used to estimate potential savings. It is free to city customers.

“The City has utilized conservation funds from the Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA) to fund this tool,” Lee said.

Free yearly energy and water audits are also now available. The audits emphasize education and low-cost, quick-payback improvements that can reduce energy and water consumption immediately. Recommendations are made for larger components such as HVACs, water heaters and other appliances. Customers are additionally informed of available rebates.

Conservation funds from FMPA likewise fund these audits.

“An interesting aspect of this option [the audits] is free die packs to help people identify whether their toilets are leaking,” said Lee. “Many people do not realize how much water is wasted because of toilet leaks. Hopefully, the die packs will be a big help to homeowners to help identify the problem.”

Lastly, the city has implemented an emergency mass contact system designed to record, send and track personalized voice, email, text and social media messages. The system can notify customers regarding severe weather, boil water notices, disconnect courtesy calls, or outages.

“The commissioners seem really pleased that we are using technology to enhance utility services to our customers,” Lee said. “The comments we have heard from the public have been really wonderful. People want to take charge of their utility services and resource usage, and we have given them an excellent way to do so. I think everybody is really pleased.”

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Three honored for saving child's life

HS Life IMG 1890

C.M. WALKER/Alachua County Today

At the podium is High Springs Police Chief Joel DeCoursey, Jr.; L-R: School Resource Officer Larry Downing, Principal Lynn McNeill, Life Saving Award Recipients Sherry Sakai, teacher and Johnelly Green, school nurse. William McMahon, teacher, was also a recipient, but is not pictured.

HIGH SPRINGS – Two teachers and a school nurse received an award at the High Springs city commission meeting last Thursday for saving the life of a child.

At the beginning of the commission meeting, High Springs Police Chief Joel DeCourse, Jr., invited High Springs Community School Principal Lynn McNeill to the podium to introduce the recipients of the Life Saving Award. School Resource Officer Larry Downing had nominated the trio.

Teachers Sherry Sakai and William McMahon and School Nurse Johnelly Green administered the Heimlich Maneuver and performed CPR for several minutes on a choking 7th Grade student at High Springs Community School on Dec. 15 until emergency personnel arrived at the school.

After continuous efforts, the foreign object was eventually expelled. The student began to slowly breathe on his own. Emergency personnel arrived on scene and treated and transported the youngsterto a local hospital. Emergency Medical Service personnel gave credit to the school staff for saving the life of the student.

A High Springs Police Department spokesman said afterwards that he has heard that the child is now chewing his food thoroughly before swallowing.

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High Springs Junction Avenue?

HIGH SPRINGS – Commissioners spent the majority of the regular meeting last Thursday discussing possible alternatives for the road currently named in part as N.E. First Ave.

The roadway, which begins at U.S. Hwy. 441 and runs into U.S. Hwy. 27 at Main Street, has been referred to as First Avenue by residents for years. With the beginning of E-911 addressing changes, Alachua County proposed naming the entire road U.S. Hwy. 27.

Business owners, unhappy with the County's proposed “U.S. Hwy. 27” designation for one of the main roadways running through town, were told by County officials the City could choose another name for the roadway, but would be responsible for paying for the new signage. “The cost of the signage change would be approximately $1,500,” said City Manager Ed Booth.

During the meeting, Paul Regensdorf, co-owner of Grady House Bed and Breakfast, commented that the county's proposed U.S. Hwy. 27 designation led visitors to believe their B&B was located out in the country instead of close to downtown High Springs.

The County had previously suggested the City choose a name for the roadway that reflected its historic railroad past if they didn't want the road designation as U.S. Hwy. 27.

Commissioner Sue Weller made a motion near the beginning of the discussion to name the road “Wes Skiles Boulevard” in honor of the deceased resident who was internationally known for his underwater photography and research.

Although the motion received a second, continued discussion referred back to the County's suggestion of a historic railroad-related road name.

City Attorney Scott Walker reminded commissioners that there is a set of guidelines they would have to follow as part of naming a street after a person which would not be required if they stuck to the historic railroad-related option.

A proposal to name the roadway “Junction Avenue” was made with a caveat that the City send a letter to each of the property owners impacted by the change to alert them that a final decision would be made at the Feb. 11 meeting.

A decision was made to add smaller brown signs under the new roadway signs with a notation as to the former name of the road at a cost roughly estimated by Booth to be approximately $1,200.

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