Last updateWed, 30 Nov 2016 11pm

Newberry Utility Services May Go High-Tech

NEWBERRY – In the near future, Newberry may become the smallest city in Florida to institute a new type of technology that would revolutionize their utility services. Once instituted, meter readers would not be required to travel throughout the city to read meters and the city would be able to tell their customers when they have a leak or some other problem the homeowner might not easily recognize.

Newberry's staff has been evaluating automatic metering infrastructure (AMI) technology to determine whether it would be beneficial for implementation in Newberry. According to city records, the city has conducted two public workshops on the topic. In addition, staff has evaluated AMI that have been implemented in other cities. The City Commission has indicated that it supports continued evaluation of the technology.

An evaluation team consisting of Mayor Bill Conrad, Commissioner Jason McGehee, City Manager Mike New, Finance Director Dallas Lee and Jamie Jones, Director of Utilities and Public Works, traveled to Kings Mountain, North Carolina, to evaluate an AMI system that has been in operation for 22 months. Kings Mountain is similar to Newberry in many ways and their AMI system is similar to the system Newberry is considering through Leidos Engineering, Reston, Virginia.

New produced a power point presentation to help explain how an AMI system works, what they found out in their information-gathering trip to Kings Mountain and reasons why the city is considering implementing it.

“AMI technology includes meters that are smart and contain a computer motherboard for two-way communication between the meter and City Hall,” he said. “The benefit of this system is that we can ask the meter what the meter reading is or ask it to turn off service.”

Due to the relatively small number of city staff, the city is looking at a company called Smart Grid to help them evaluate the data coming from the meters. In Kings Mountain, New pointed out that their meter readers were retrained to be able to access the data and evaluate important patterns and problems like neighborhood wide data outages.

New said the city would work on funding and ways to move through the competitive process. “Staff will be working on identifying a plan to move through the competitive process and developing a financing plan,” he said. “We will come back to the commission in early 2017 with that information so you can evaluate what we find out and tell staff how the commission wants us to proceed or what further information is needed.”

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Alachua Elementary Students Honor Veterans

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Students performed several patriotic songs during the ceremony. (Today photo/RAINA BARNETT)

ALACHUA – Patriotic music,speeches dedicated to veterans and American hymns sung by tiny voices all came together to honor about 50 veterans at Alachua Elementary School on the morning of Thursday, Nov. 10.

“I think this is something that lets the students put a face to the meaning of Veteran’s Day,” Assistant Principal Alberta Bing said. “It also gives teachers an opportunity to teach them about it.”

The annual ceremony dates back 20 years, becoming a reality thanks to Alachua resident and D-Day veteran, the late Glynn Markham, according to a Nov. 11, 2011 edition of Alachua County Today. Although Markham passed away in May 2007, his legacy lives on in the numerous veterans’ memorials and services he saw to fruition.

Students were asked by their teachers to request veterans they knew to attend the event.

As the children settled into their seats, Uncle Sam, portrayed by fifth-grade teacher Rick Thomas, fist-bumped and high-fived students.

Another teacher handed out miniature American flags to the children to wave during The Star-Spangled Banner and other patriotic tunes.

A small program bearing the artwork of students Josiah Ashley and Zoe Jeter circulated among attendees. The artwork by Ashley depicted a soldier saluting in front of the American flag and the illustration by Jeter featured citizens decked out in stars and stripes saluting an American eagle soaring over the American flag, complete with fireworks exploding in the air.

University of Florida’s Naval ROTC Color Guard proudly presented colors, followed by the pledge of allegiance.

A short dissertation on the history of Veteran’s Day was delivered by Uncle Sam.

Numerous tunes, including the catchy and upbeat “Oh, I Love America,” were sung by students during and after the event.

The ceremony came to an end with a moment of silence followed by the playing of “Taps” to honor and remember veterans.

“This is just one small way we can honor those here today and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Bing.

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Two Separate Accidents Claim Lives of Three

ALACHUA – Separate vehicle accidents Friday and Saturday proved fatal for three area residents. An angular head-on collision between two vehicles resulted in two deaths and three others in critical to serious condition early Friday morning, Oct. 28, according to a Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) report.

A 2015 Volkswagon Jetta driven by 29-year-old Johana Lee Klinger, of Okeechobee, Florida, was traveling south in the northbound lane of U.S. Highway 441 at approximately 1 a.m. when her vehicle crashed into a 2004 Toyota Scion heading north in the northbound lane.

The incident occurred at the intersection of Southwest 56th Place and U.S. Hwy. 441, in unincorporated Alachua County.

Klinger's only passenger, 10-year-old Joseph Beal, Jr., was in critical condition following the crash.

The driver of the Scion was 27-year-old Goytia Diaz, of Wesley Chapel, Florida. Both Diaz and one of her passengers, 4-year-old Iyanna Williams, of Micanopy, were pronounced dead. Another passenger, 19-year-old Bryanna Georgia Williams, also from Micanopy, suffered critical injuries.

All survivors were taken to UF Health-Shands Hospital.

The accident is still under investigation and charges are pending. At the time the report was written, it was unknown whether alcohol played a part in the crash.

On Oct. 29, a Suwannee County crash on Saturday afternoon resulted in the death of an Alachua resident, and serious injuries to the driver and passenger of a second vehicle according to a Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) report.

Ronald Irvin Emerson, Alachua, was traveling southbound on 77th Road approaching State Road 247 in his 1993 Toyota Tacoma when he attempted to cross S.R. 247. A 2012 Ford F150, driven by 47-year-old Joseph Walter Wood, Jr., White Springs, was pulling a boat as he traveled eastbound on S.R. 247.

According to FHP documents, Emerson pulled into the path of Wood's truck and boat. The front right side of Emerson's Tacoma collided with the front left side of Wood's vehicle. The Tacoma rotated counter clock-wise coming to a final rest facing in a northwesterly direction. Wood's truck slid off the south shoulder of the roadway and the front of Emerson's vehicle collided with a tree. The boat being pulled by Wood's truck detached from its trailer and lunged forward into the truck's cab.

Woods and his passenger, 45-year-old Shannan Michelle Thomas, also from White Springs, were flown to UF Health-Shands Hospital for treatment. Both were listed in serious condition.

Emerson was pronounced deceased at the scene by Suwannee County rescue personnel.

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Newberry Heralds fall with Street Festival

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Youngsters enjoyed the many activites geared toward children at the festival. The inflatable hamster wheel, above, proved to be a popular attraction. (Today photo/RAINA BARNETT)


NEWBERRY – Giant inflated hamster wheels powered by eager toddlers floated across the water in an inflatable pool in downtown Newberry on Saturday, Nov. 5.

The Newberry Fall Festival, an annual event that brings together local vendors, artists and families, was made possible in large part by Jean Marie Evans, the director and president of the Main Street Newberry Association.

“The goal [of this event] is to help develop economic growth in Newberry,” she said. “We hope people will stop by to visit the festival, get to see our town, meet our friendly residents and decide to come back again.”

“This is our 10th annual festival and it gets bigger every year,” said Evans. “The number of vendors participating this year is 78, which is up from last year's vendor list of 52. Although we didn't have a counter last year to gauge the number of attendees, this year we did and had approximately 1,400 visitors,” she said.

Handmade knives, homemade beef jerky, handcrafted children’s clothes and home baked sweets were just a few of the available items for sale.

Trey Whidden, a teacher and Newberry resident, sat in the shade with his family enjoying snow cones.

“We were just passing through,” he said. “We naturally gravitated towards the kids’ activities.”

One of the most popular attractions was the “Walking on Water,” activity for kids.

Kay Simonds, owner of “Ma and Pa’s Funtime,” said she was inspired by the idea of giant hamster wheels.

“These things can hold up to 450 pounds,” she said. “After three minutes of playing around in them, the little kids are all tired out.”

Amid the aroma of freshly grilled hot dogs, the lure of sweet treats and unique goods for sale, Newberry locals and visitors alike enjoyed the beautiful and breezy November weather.

“We hope everyone has a good time,” Evans said. “This is a place where people can stop and just have good conversation.”

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Major repairs slated for CR 236

HIGH SPRINGS – Anyone who has lived in High Springs for even a few years is aware that the city commission and numerous citizens have been actively petitioning Alachua County to fix pothole-laden County Road 236.

Residents of the area and parents who drive their children to High Springs Community School have worried about the safety of traveling that roadway for some time, and express their fears emphatically at joint city/county commission meetings.

High Springs city officials have complained that the roadway does not give a good first impression to visitors and business owners looking for a location in which to build their companies.  

Finally, everyone's wish is going to be granted...possibly by Christmas.

Transportation and Development at Alachua County Public Works confirmed Tuesday that two of the three companies needed to do the job have already been identified, with the third aspect of the work, the sidewalk repairs or replacements, to go out for bid soon.

“This is a project we have wanted to do for a long time,” said Alachua County's Project Manager Tom Strom. “The overall project is estimated to cost $2 million and is projected to be totally completed by fall of 2017.”

Lest that completion date strikes fear into the hearts of residents and visitors who regularly traverse that road, the roadway itself will not take that long to complete.

“We will probably begin work on the roadway in mid-November,” said Strom, “and there will be some lane closures. But we will try to keep those to a minimum.”

Preferred Materials, Inc., Gainesville, has the contract to mill two inches of asphalt on the existing three-inch thick roadway and lay the structural course of two inches. V.E. Whitehurst & Sons, Inc. will then place an inch-and- a-half of top course (asphalt) on the roadway. Whitehurst will also be responsible for traffic maintenance during construction and will coordinate with Preferred Materials during their part of the work to help make things run as smoothly as possible for drivers.

The resurfacing project runs approximately four miles from U.S. Highway 441 to Interstate 75. In addition to resurfacing northwest .CR 236, the project includes redressing grassed shoulders and filling in sidewalk gaps in High Springs.

Pavement construction is scheduled to be completed before the end of the year. Redressing the grass shoulder will follow, and sidewalk construction should be completed by the end of summer 2017, weather permitting.

High Springs City Manager Ed Booth is expected to report on the county's progress at this Thursday's City Commission meeting.

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