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HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs commission voted on Sept. 22 to continue the search for a new city manager.

The commission had interviewed Judith Jankosky on Sept. 15, the last candidate for the position. The search, which started out with 47 candidates, was narrowed to a list of six hopefuls.

Out of that six, four dropped out due to the salary offered. The commission decided at the Aug. 25 meeting to publically interview the last two candidates, Jankosky and Terry Leary, after they both had individual meetings with each commissioner.

However, Leary took a job at another city.

Commissioner Sue Weller expressed concern should the city hire Jankosky without interviewing other candidates. She said she was impressed with Jankosky’s background and knowledge, but did not feel comfortable focusing on one candidate at this point.

“We don’t know at this point if there’s a candidate out there that would be available, that would meet our qualifications, that might be a better fit,” she said.

Mayor Larry Travis agreed with Weller. He said he was unsure that Jankosky had the necessary ability to come before the public and put together a plan of action.

“This position is very, very important,” he said. “So I feel it’s advantageous for us to go forward in looking for other individuals to fill this seat.”

The position will be advertised again, seeking another round of new candidates. Once the city has a list of applicants, Paul Sharon, a “Range Rider,” will review the individuals.

The Range Riders is a group under the auspices of the Florida City and County Management Association. They offer free guidance to cities in the search for city managers, using former city managers as counselors.

The new advertisement will include the salary for the position, set at $50,000 to $72,000. This additional information is at the request of Commissioner Eric May.

He suggested this in light of the city losing two-thirds of its candidates after announcing the salary. After an unsuccessful five-month search, he does not want to see the city follow the same procedures.

“We don’t do this everyday, as Mr. Sharon pointed out,” May said. “I don’t want to see us use the exact same process and get the exact same results.”

Vice Mayor Byran Williams reiterated that the salary must be mentioned at the beginning of the process. Commissioner Dean Davis did not attend the meeting.

City Clerk Jenny Parham will stay on as interim city manager while the city continues its search to replace former city manager Jim Drumm, who resigned last October.

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HIGH SPRINGS – The Gainesville Tea Party will host a forum for the High Springs City Commission candidates on Oct. 4 at the High Springs Civic Center.

Candidates Bob Barnas, Linda Clark Gestrin, Mayor Larry Travis and Vice Mayor Byran William were invited to attend. Barnas and Gestrin have confirmed their participation.

These are the four candidates running for the two expired commission seats. Travis and Williams currently hold the seats.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend.

This is the first time the Gainesville Tea Party has hosted a forum for High Springs Commission candidates.

The High Springs New Century Woman’s Club will hold its forum on Oct. 25.

The city election will be on Nov. 8.

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HIGH SPRINGS – Georgan Roberts was a woman dedicated to the service of others. A multi-term High Springs mayor and city commissioner, she also served as an Alachua County schoolteacher and Newberry Elementary School Principal.

Roberts, 71, died of acute leukemia at 7 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18.

Billye Dowdy, her close friend, received the call from Roberts’ husband, Charlie, at 8 a.m. She knew who she had to tell.

“Number one in her heart, besides her family, was her Sunday School class, The Encouragers,” Dowdy said.

She explained that this is the oldest class at the First Baptist Church of High Springs. The youngest student promoted to the class was 75 years old.

Roberts loved these women dearly, taking care of them like a daughter. She took them to doctors appointments and made sure they could get to church.

Every evening after her class, she would start on the next week’s lesson, finding comforting teachings that were “meaningful to them, at their stage of life, reminding them that God has a purpose for them from cradle to death.”

Charlie explained to Dowdy how she should break the news to the women who were so dear to Roberts’ heart.

“She always used to say, ‘The next class you will be promoted to is heaven,’” Dowdy said.

She and Charlie found all of the women Sunday after services and explained to them that Georgan had been promoted to heaven that morning.

Roberts’ desire to do the best for the most people was a guiding principle in her professional life.

“What Georgan always conveyed and hoped to convey, was her respect for people and her generosity,” Dowdy said.

Linda Clark Gestrin, another friend, said, “You talk about the crème de la crème. Her life was a life of service.”

Dowdy explained that Roberts sought public office to make a difference in her hometown community.

“It was more than a political career for Georgan,” she said. “She did not study in politics, she studied in governing.”

Serving as mayor from 1990 to 1991 and again from 2000 to 2001, Roberts was always accessible to the people. She was in service to her community, coming down hard on private interests, Dowdy said.

“She simply was schooled in the high integrity of governing righteousness,” Dowdy explained.

By the time she stepped down from the commission in 2004, she was a legend in the community.

Gestrin went to her when she decided to run for city commission last year.

“She was awesome,” Gestrin said, “She was an excellent wife, mother, grandmother, Sunday school teacher, educator, principal, city commissioner, friend, mentor, and truly the consummate genteel, southern Christian lady. She will be greatly missed by everyone in this community.”

High Springs Commissioner Eric May was a student at Newberry Elementary School while Roberts was principal.

“It’s the little things,” he said. “She was the voice of the morning announcements. When I first decided to run for city commission, I remember sitting in her living room and just this flood of childhood memories. Here we were, talking about adult things, about politics, and it was the voice of my principal.”

Roberts’ passing was a shock to the community. Dowdy explained that Roberts was always the picture of health.

“It just sped through her body,” Dowdy said. “It was her first time in the hospital.”

Her family and church group had members praying 24 hours a day for Roberts during the four weeks of her illness, reciting the verse, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.”

One of Roberts’ daughters told her mother in the hospital that all she wanted was for God to answer their call and heal Roberts.

Roberts shook her finger at her child and said, “If it is God’s will.”

At the request of Mayor Larry Travis, the American flag was flown at half-mast on Monday and Tuesday in front of High Springs City Hall to honor Roberts.

Her viewing was held Tuesday at 6 p.m. at First Baptist Church of High Springs. The funeral service was held Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the church.

Georgan Roberts is survived by her husband, two daughters and three grandchildren.

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ALACHUA – The City of Alachua adopted a budget of $33,663,115 for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. This figure represents an 8.76 percent reduction over last year’s budget of $36,897,118.

At Monday night’s regularly scheduled commission meeting, commissioners also approved keeping the property tax rate the same as the last two years.

The final millage rate, which will be used to calculate city property taxes in the 2011 tax year, will be 5.5000 mills. At 5.5000 mills, taxes for a property worth $100,000 would be $550.

The ad valorem taxable value has decreased for properties in the city, meaning the commission would have to adopt a roll-back rate of 6.0242 mills to generate the same revenue as last year. Instead, in maintaining the 5.5000 mills rate, there will be a $368,582 decrease in property tax revenue coming into City coffers.

The commission expressed a desire to maintain the 5.5000 mills rate to provide tax relief for residents. Resident Donna Hope, who was attending the meeting, thanked the commission, saying, “We all need this break.”

The city expects the public service tax revenue, which increased by almost 26 percent, to offset the hit from the millage rate, bringing in about $300,000 in additional income.

Although the FY 2011/12 budget is $3.2 million less than the FY 2010/11 budget, city officials expect similar operating costs in the coming year.  The primary reason for the budget decrease is the completion of the city’s wastewater treatment plant, a $20 million facility.  With the construction finalized it will no longer be an additional expense to the budget.

The City will be funding two new programs this year to help alleviate the disrepair of city-owned roads.  A road resurfacing program budgeted at $152,000 will be used to repair crumbling roads that need asphalt.

An additional $45,000 was budgeted for a “chip-seal” program to surface some unpaved roads with a gravel-type asphalt mix, reducing the maintenance of those roads.

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Newberry targets Alachua County Fair; Alachua’s Project Legacy expands recreation center

Rec_Center_Aerial_Picture2FairgroundsCanterbury Photo 1: The Hal Brady Recreation Complex would quadruple in size if county commissioners opt to fund the $500,000 request by the City of Alachua. Photo 2: Current site of the Alachua County Fairgrounds on NW 39th Avenue in Gainesville. Photo 3: Newberry's Canterbury equestrian center could be the future site of the Alachua County Fairgrounds, if the City is successful in obtaining funding from Alachua County. GAINESVILLE – The Alachua County Commission considered two major land acquisition requests in a meeting Tuesday, including a project by the City of Alachua that would quadruple the size of its recreation complex and another from the City of Newberry, which proposes purchasing Canterbury Equestrian Showplace, and turning it into the county’s fairgrounds.

Newberry’s proposal comes in at an estimated $7 million while the City of Alachua is requesting $500,000.  Proponents of both projects are seeking bed tax revenues, money generated from taxes on hotel rooms, campsites and other short term rental lodging.

Final decisions on both projects were deferred to later dates, though the Alachua project is set to be reviewed within a month. Commissioners voted to send the Newberry request for review by four separate committees.

Newberry Project

The City of Newberry proposed to move the Alachua County fairgrounds, planned for NE Waldo Road in Gainesville, to the Canterbury Equestrian Center in Newberry.  The current fairground, along NE 39th Avenue across from the county jail, has already been slated for closure as county officials had intended to relocate it to another nearby site along NE Waldo Road at an estimated cost of $22 million.

The Newberry proposal brought enthusiasm among many who believe it may save money over current plans for the new fairgrounds, and concern among others who believe the move would create blight on the already-troubled east Gainesville.

The plan proposed by the City of Newberry would scrap the planned Waldo Road facility, which would house indoor sports, conventions and agricultural events, from east Gainesville and instead, purchase Canterbury Equestrian Showplace, about 10 miles west of Interstate 75 on State Road 26.

The 60-acre equestrian center in Newberry would require a $7 million dollar commitment from the County.  But Newberry officials noted that a 55,000 square-foot sports arena would be funded, at least in part, by a $4 million contribution from developer Jerald Good, the owner of a hotel management, development and construction company.

County commissioners raised concerns over the price tag of the land and said any purchase by the County would be contingent on current market appraisals.

Two members of the audience spoke out against the proposal, but several others favored the move.

Newberry City Manager Keith Ashby said the town has a “lack of indoor facilities” and the fairgrounds would bring in bed tax through the hotel rooms booked, meaning more revenues the Tourist Development Council would have available. Officials said purchasing it would also bring in sports camps, and possibly function as a hurricane shelter.

“A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business,” he said.

In support of the move, Newberry Mayor Bill Conrad said the fairgrounds would allow the city, an agricultural hub with “more cows than people,” to keep its character as a small community.

But a member of the audience, Doris Edwards, said she was sad that the commissioners didn’t put their foot down to keep the project in east Gainesville. She said the people of east Gainesville planned for the fairgrounds, and they hoped it would bring the needed social and economic development to the area.

Evelyn Foxx, of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), also opposed the project proposal and wanted to keep the fairgrounds in east Gainesville. She urged the commissioners to “stay committed to what we had agreed upon.”

Commissioner Susan Baird said there might be a better economic solution for east Gainesville.

In a town hall meeting Monday night at Oak View Middle School in Newberry that attracted hundreds of people, residents expressed their concerns about the possible acquisition of Canterbury.

The question of the evening seemed to be how much is it going to cost?

City manager Keith Ashby said there's no specific budget to announce yet until residents give a go to the project. He assured the attendees that there would be more town hall meetings regarding the proposal.

Newberry City Commissioner Lois Forte said she didn't know much about the possible purchase. Just like some residents said they worried about paying for the project out of their pockets, Forte said she will “not put this city in debt.”

At one point during the Monday night meeting, City Commissioner Alena Lawson asked the audience if they wanted a carnival-type fairground at Canterbury. Most of audience said no, and instead suggested agricultural-theme activities.

After discussing the matter for hours Tuesday, the Alachua County Commission referred the issue to the Rural Concerns Committee to determine the best location for the fairgrounds, the Tourist Development Council to determine the potential revenue to be generated, Plan East Gainesville and the Economic Development committee for further review.

They also requested a formal proposal from Newberry, as information provided by the City Tuesday was lacking in detail.

In holding off on a decision Tuesday, county commissioners said they were re-opening the opportunity for other municipalities or organizations to submit new or substantially refined tourist development project proposals to utilize bed tax revenues.  The project proposals are to be submitted within 30 days.

Alachua Project

The City of Alachua requested funding that would allow for the expansion of the Hal Brady Recreation Complex, which currently encompasses about 25 acres.

Assistant to the City Manager Adam Boukari presented a proposal that would acquire 105 acres of vacant land, currently slated for residential housing development, adjacent to the recreation center complex. The additional land would allow for three multipurpose arenas, including fields for lacrosse, soccer and football, and a trail system, among other amenities.  The expansion would provide facilities for large-scale national sports tournaments, generating bed taxes through hotel occupancies.

Boukari said the city is seeking a one-time bed tax allocation of $500,000 for the proposal named Project Legacy.  In requesting the $500,000 from the County, the City of Alachua is leveraging $700,000 in pledges and contributions already received for the project. The total cost of the land comes in at $1.2 million.

The City would be committed to developing the three lighted multi-purpose arenas in the next three to five years, city officials said. It is expected those arenas would cost about $350,000 total.

Alachua County Commissioner Baird said she liked the price tag and possibility for a quick payback, but Commissioner Mike Byerly said they should first open it up for competition from other projects.

The City has a contract to purchase the land by Dec. 31, 2011 or risk losing the deal.

Boukari said placing Alachua’s request on the same track as Newberry’s would likely exceed the end of the year timeline.

Even though the project has a deadline to be funded by Dec. 31, Byerly said the proper process would be to consider all alternatives and the best use for the money.

County Commission Chairman Lee Pinkoson and Commissioner Baird argued that opportunity to buy the land neighboring the recreation center could be lost forever if not taken up sooner rather than later.

In a 4-1 vote, the county commission decided to fast-track the City of Alachua’s proposal and requested that it submit a business plan and white paper to be reviewed by the Tourist Development Council in October.  After review by that board, it will then be forwarded back to the county commission for consideration at the Oct. 25 meeting.

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Four candidates running for two seats

 HIGH SPRINGS - On Nov. 8, voters will elect two commissioners to fill the expired seats of Mayor Larry Travis and Vice Mayor Byran Williams. There are four candidates running for the seats, including the incumbents. Here voters can find the candidates’ responses to a selection of Alachua County Today’s profile questions.

In alphabetical order:

BOB BARNAS

Basic overview

Age: 63

Family: Married to Shirley Mogensen, two sons, two daughters-in law and seven grandchildren

Education: Attended college for Police Science, Business and Marketing

Occupation: Realtor

Time in High Springs: Since Jan 1999

Political experience: Have been involved in local politics and issues since 2005.

 

Questions

What is the main issue that needs to be addressed in High Springs?

One word: the “debt” that is choking us. We must determine the acceptable level of debt a city our size should have. Do not take on more or uncontrolled debt service.

 

As a commissioner, what would be your short-term and long-term goals?

Short term would be to listen to voters, look at recent ordinances and revaluate the sewer project and its fee structure.

Long term would be to plan events out a year in advance, and to develop joint sewer/business plans with Alachua and Newberry with help from the county. We must work as a tri-city community.

 

Why are some residents unhappy with local government?

Residents are unhappy or happy, depending on your group. Some, because of spending money on artistic bike racks. Some, because alcohol laws were changed for one or two people over the objection of a large number of voters. Some, because they became friends, or not friends, with the recently lost chiefs and city manager. But understand that for all those people that are unhappy, there are others that are happy with the way the government is run.

 

What should High Springs do to gain strength economically?

Focus on eco-tourism now; we have the resources in rivers, parks, springs and Gulf Coast waters within an hour drive. They are ours to share with the world. We need to focus on growth on 441 in the next five years. Be ready for that.

 

What are your ideas about the budget for the city?

Look at each position we now have, and if they are needed in a city of 5,000. We need to see where we need less, and where we need more. Have staff look and question every bill the city gets. But most importantly, look at how much debt a city of 5,000 should have. There is a formula and common sense that says enough is enough.

How do you feel the fire department should be restructured?

No need for restructuring. We now have a qualified Captain in charge that has, is and will be perfectly fine as Captain. We must watch our call volume and be ready and willing to add staff if needed. But for now, we are good. Communication with the county is now back and great, and calls they are giving us are up.

 

What are your core political principles?

Less government rules, guidelines and regulations. Less taxing and sensible fees.

 

What made you run for city commissioner?

The unwillingness of the incumbent commissioners to listen to ideas and information given to them by taxpayers and business owners that would save tax dollars, reduce water, reduce sewer fees and reduce our choking debt service.

 

What would you bring to the commission that other candidates would not?

As previously said, I would bring the ability to listen. I would open meetings up to allow public comment on all subjects. This is not being done by our incumbents now.

 

What is something residents do not know about you?

I volunteer with Florida Wildlife Care along with my wife and rehab injured or abandoned native Florida wildlife for release back into the wild.

 

Is there an issue that these questions did not mention that you would like to address?

The police department. The police chief is gone. We now have an opportunity to rebuild not only the department staff, but the morale as well. We had, have and must continue to have a local police force. It would be my goal to build the best small town local police force in the state of Florida.

 

LINDA CLARK GESTRIN

Basic Overview

Family: Married to Dennis Gestrin

Education: Two years at Valencia Community College

Occupation: Appraisal business, nonprofit volunteer/ fundraiser

Time in High Springs: Since birth

Political Experience: Urban planning committees; attended more commission and workshop meetings than any current commissioners

 

Questions

What is the main issue that needs to be addressed in High Springs?

We need a correction of our direction. It’s time to re-evaluate all our commitments. For example, High Springs is $8.5 million in debt due to the sewer system and the current commission has voted to increase our debt approximately $5 million more, to expand phases 4 and 5 of our sewer system. To me, this increased debt is irresponsible.

As a commissioner, what would be your short-term and long-term goals?

Short-term, I will bring back civility and common sense to our city meetings. As commissioners, we must decide what we can afford and spend no more than that. We need to re-evaluate our sewer system immediately. Once those goals are accomplished, restoring our fund balance policy and rebuild reserve funds are critical over the long term.

Why are some residents unhappy with local government?

When issues arise, our residents need someone to talk to, and many times the city will not return their calls. High Springs residents want leaders who will listen with genuine concern. They want someone who will take action and make decisions with residents in mind. I will ensure they have that.

What should High Springs do to gain strength economically?

It’s very difficult to start a new business in High Springs today. I want that changed and use incentives to attract clean industries that are compatible with our town, such as tourism. I would revitalize our downtown to better serve our residents and business owners. Developing the 441 corridor will bring more commerce, leading to new jobs and revenues.

What are your ideas about the budget for the city?

We definitely need to spend no more than we are allotted – that’s a given. I would like to see an increase in the visibility with major decisions that have an impact on High Springs. Our citizens often find out after the fact without public review and input. We have wasted so much, and that needs to stop.

How do you feel the fire department should be restructured?

At this time, I believe our High Springs Fire Department is meeting our needs. Our captain and his team do a great job, and we have some of the best firefighters you could ever ask for.

What are your core political principles?

I believe strongly in sensible, fiscal conservatism at this time of economic instability. Bringing integrity and decency back to our political discourse is the only way we can achieve the goals our citizens elect us to accomplish. I believe we need leaders in High Springs who respect our town’s traditions.  I bring that respect to this race.

What made you run for city commissioner?

We received a $390.01 water bill from the city. Normal during this time was $38. Through persistence, we resolved the situation.  When I heard the words “pay this or your water will be cut off,” I became very concerned for our elderly citizens. Everyone needs someone to listen, to help and to stand up for them. I want to be that person.

What would you bring to the commission that other candidates would not?

I bring new insight and a citizen’s concern with an insider’s perspective of our community. I have deep family roots here, which gives me a long-term vision and a true commitment to High Springs. I believe we can do better, and I have the persistence to make that happen.

 

What is something residents do not know about you?

I have recently been working to complete a book on the life of my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. They lived in this area and had amazing stories. I’ve met with a movie director who is interested in filming their story in High Springs.

 

Is there an issue that these questions did not mention that you would like to address?

I’m concerned why we gave our dispatch services to the county without proper research. The costs could be greater than our local system. That’s unacceptable. In addition, I don’t care for the required address changes, which add more expense to residents, businesses and the city. Because the safety of our town is most important, I’ll be monitoring the new system’s cost and performance.

 

MAYOR LARRY TRAVIS

Basic Overview

Age: 70

Family: Married to Dorsey Travis for 50 years. Three children and four grandchildren

Education: Bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in education from the University of Florida

Occupation: Retired

Time in High Springs: 11 years

Political Experience: Six years on city commission, two of those as Mayor

Questions:

What is the main issue that needs to be addressed in High Springs?

Continual loss of property values which is costing the city ad valorem tax revenue, and the number of empty houses which impacts our utility income. Another issue is the time it is taking to get our sewer system subscribers on line, which impacts our ability to pay for the system.

As a commissioner, what would be your short-term goals?

We need to hire a city manager. We must finish all the projects underway, including the old school and all of the approved paving. We have to finish and pass the Land Development codes to enable us to offer a more diverse plan to bring new growth to our city. Long range would be to finish all phases of the sewer system and to move forward with implementing our economic development plan.

 

Why are some residents unhappy with local government?

As you say in your question, some residents are unhappy and these are a small group of individuals who have their own agenda, which is contrary, I believe, to the majority of our citizens.

 

What should High Springs do to gain strength economically?

High Springs should continue to push for the goals of the economic development task force and be more pro-active in creating a positive environment for potential investors in our community.

 

What are your ideas about the budget for the city?

The city should continue to budget conservatively and monitor income to expense ratios.

 

How do you feel the fire department should be restructured?

I believe we were over-staffed in the command positions and feel we need to keep a chief and three lieutenants.

 

What are your core political principles?

I am pretty conservative, but believe very strongly that we do what is best for the majority of the people of High Springs, and make High Springs the very best community for all of our citizens.

 

What made you run for city government?

I ran for the commission the first time because I felt like I could bring someone who had administered multimillion dollar budgets for athletic departments and could move us forward into a budget that could be understood and controlled. I also felt we needed to move forward with economically with managed growth.

 

What would you bring to the commission that other candidates would not?

I bring experience and a record of positive changes to our city. Through the years, I have formed strong bonds with the leaders of the other Alachua County cities. This led to my election as president of the Alachua County League of Cities. This position gives me the insight to keep up with all of the changes in the Florida’s growth management and transportation concurrency legislation, so that I can make better decisions when it comes to how this legislation will affect my city.

 

What is something residents do not know about you?

When I retired, I knew I would settle close to the University of Florida, because the University gave a poor kid from Miami a chance to play football and get an education impossible otherwise. My brother found this wonderful land in High Springs, and I also fell in love with the city. As I got more involved, I wanted to serve in other ways to help us move forward. I did by getting involved with the Main Street Program.

 

Is there an issue that these questions did not mention that you would like to address?

I wish we could make everyone happy with the sewer system. This is an issue that was passed by the sitting commission in 2001, setting in motion a plan to build the system in five phases. The city is committed to this project by this action, and must secure the required number of customers to pay for it. If we don’t, those already on the system will have to pay a higher cost to cover what is already in the ground.

 

 

VICE MAYOR BYRAN WILLIAMS

Basic Overview

Age: 53

Family: Single, father of four, four grandchildren

Education: Currently enrolled in Emory International Theological Seminary, Atlanta, GA; Florida League of Cities Institute for Community Housing; Advanced Institute for Elected Municipal Officials; Institute for Elected Municipal Officials; Santa Fe College

Occupation: Pastor of Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church, High Springs; Owner of Byran’s Car Wash & Wax

Time in High Springs: Life-long resident

Political Experience: High Springs City Commissioner (7 Years), Presently Vice Mayor, Member of the Florida Leagues of Cities, Member of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council, Former Mayor, Former Member of the Growth Management and Transportation Committee

 

What is the main issue that needs to be addressed in High Springs?

I would like to bring economic development to our city so that we can become more financially self-sufficient.

 

As commissioner, what would be your short-term and long-term goals?

In the short-term, I will concentrate on completing paving the streets that were previously approved for improvement. Also, I’d like to start recreation programs for our citizen’s seniors, adults, youth and children. For a long-term, my goals would be to bring economic stability to the city of High Springs by bring clean industry that provides high quality jobs.

 

Why are some residents unhappy with local government?

One area of concern would be the short line of communication concerning local government. Some residents are feeling left out. However, this problem can be solved by civic education. Civic education is the educating of citizens of civic affairs.

 

What should High Springs do to gain strength economically?

In addition to the above stated ideas, I would address the area of affordable housing, increasing tourism in the city, and encouraging cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations.

 

What are your ideas about the budget for the city?

Our 2011 – 2012 budget was passed, and we were able to keep the mileage rate at the current level of 6.15. This means that the citizens of High Springs will not have to endure any increase of taxes this coming year. We were also able to put money into Contingency Funds and Reserve Funds accounts.

How do you feel the fire department should be restructured?

With the passing of the final budget, we were able to successfully restructure the fire department by eliminating the captain’s position and retaining the chief’s position.

 

What are your core political principles?

My political principles are simple: I believe in fairness, honesty, listening, and open communication with all people.

 

What made you run for city commissioner?

I am seeking re-election because I am a life-long citizen of High Springs, and I am committed to the welfare and development of this city and its citizens. I love High Springs and I am totally invested in its economic development and expanding its capacity to be self-sufficient. I have served this community for two terms as Commissioner, Mayor, and presently, Vice Mayor.

 

What would you bring to the commission that other candidates would not?

I bring seven years of experience as a High Springs city commissioner and proven leadership skills. I am a member of the Student Advisory Council of both Santa Fe High School and High Springs Community School.  I am a life-long resident of the area, having built relationships with various sectors of the community.

 

What is something residents don’t know about you?

I was in the Army, serving in Germany, Fort Campbell, KY, and was an instructor at West Point.

 

Is there an issue that these questions did not mention that you would like to address?

Not at this time.

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Judge dismisses contempt charge

GAINESVILLE – One-time State House and City of Alachua Commission Candidate Charles Grapski has filed a lawsuit against Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell.  In the complaint, he alleges wrongdoing on the part of jail officials when he was held there in 2007.

The suit filed last week stems from Grapski’s incarceration at the jail after being arrested for battery on Alachua Police Department officers four years ago.  He claims in the six-page complaint that he was improperly strip searched by two corrections officers, Brenda Spencer and Lee Jackson.

According to the complaint, at least one of those officers was female, making it unlawful for her to conduct a strip search on a male inmate.

Moreover, he claims the correctional officers failed to obtain written authorization from a supervising officer on duty.

“Spencer, Jackson and others violently forced Grapski onto the concrete floor in the strip search room,” the political activist wrote in the lawsuit.  “The violence Spencer, Jackson and others expressed against Grapski caused him to be bruised and contused, to suffer chemical burns and pain in his eyes, to suffer difficulty breathing and to become extremely ill from the chemicals in the mace.”

Although Grapski did not mention it in his lawsuit, charges were filed against him for allegedly knocking one of the corrections officers to the ground and causing her injuries.

Following the incident in the strip search room, Grapski was reportedly taken to a solitary cell where he says medical treatment was not provided.  He reports later passing out and hitting his head on a metal bench and the concrete floor.

Grapski alleges that he was strapped to a chair for several hours, and being denied medical treatment in spite of his requests.  This caused him to become sicker, and eventually admitted to the Alachua County Detention Center (ACDC) medical unit, he wrote.

“As a result of Sheriff’s practices and custom of providing inadequate medical care, training and supervision in ACDC Grapski suffered severe illness including kidney failure,” he wrote.

He asserted, “After being ill and throwing up, Grapski lost consciousness and fell unconscious in the ACDC medical unit.”

Described as a “coma” by Grapski, he blames his condition on the ACDC, although he had admitted publicly to engaging in a hunger strike.

The suit charges that Spencer and Jackson intentionally battered Grapski in “wanton disregard of his human rights and safety and causing him to suffer physical injuries and pain and suffering.”

The Sheriff had “negligently and inadequately” supervised, trained and instructed staff that caused physical injuries and pain to Grapski, the suit also charges.

In another charge, Grapski wrote that he was denied adequate medical care.  He also points to the United States Constitution in stating that he was denied rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, presumably his right to due process.

Contempt charge dismissed

Judge James Nilon dismissed, Tuesday afternoon, criminal contempt of court charges against Grapski.

The charge resulted from Grapski’s alleged actions and statements made on June 21 in Nilon’s courtroom.

But in the brief hearing Tuesday, the judge granted Grapski’s motion to dismiss the charges on the basis of procedural flaws.

In the motion, Grapski argued that a sworn affidavit of the alleged events did not accompany the charging documents and that the Assistant State Attorney filing the contempt charges was not witness to the June 21 events.

Speaking on behalf of Grapski, University of Florida Law Professor Joseph Little noted that a sworn affidavit had only just been placed into the file, but was not with the original order as required by law.

Nilon concurred with Little stating that he received the affidavit Tuesday and hadn’t reviewed it yet.

Assistant State Attorney Brian S. Kramer responded saying, “The defendant is asking you to engage in a farce.”

But Nilon disagreed, granting Grapski’s motion to dismiss.  “I think it’s important to follow the procedures,” Nilon said.

But Grapski isn’t off the hook yet.  In response to the dismissal, Kramer said, “We will have [the new petition and sworn affidavit] by tomorrow, your honor.”

The petition alleging Grapski’s contemptuous behavior came after a June 21 violation of probation hearing in which it is reported that he approached the podium and told Assistant State Attorney Shawn Thompson to “get a real job.”

At a later hearing on the same day, Grapski allegedly approached the table of Thompson in an “aggressive manner,” pointed his finger at Thompson and stated to him, “you are a f---ing liar” not less than two times, the order alleges.

Grapski re-files federal complaint against Alachua

Grapski met the Sept. 9 deadline to file an amended complaint in his federal lawsuit against the City of Alachua.

Last month, Federal District Court Judge Maurice Paul denied several motions by the City of Alachua and others defending themselves from the lawsuit.

In his ruling, Paul required Grapski to file an amended complaint.  The judge agreed that Grapski’s lawsuit was too ambiguous in many respects, but said he could continue with the case provided clarity is given.

“The plaintiff shall file a second amended complaint by Friday, September 9, 2011, which more clearly articulates the specific conduct and charges applicable to each defendant,” Judge Paul wrote.

The lawsuit alleges a host of federal violations including several constitutional abridgments.  Grapski is claiming that his rights to freedom of speech, equal protection and against illegal searches and seizures were violated when he was removed from at least one Alachua City Commission Meeting in 2006 and handcuffed on two occasions.

The submission earlier this month marks the second amended complaint in the case.

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