Sun, Jan
11 New Articles

Q - ScottThomasonHIGH SPRINGS –Governor Rick Scott announced three new appointments and five reappointments to the State of Florida's Construction Industry Licensing Board last week. Among the new appointments is Scott Thomason, 46, building official for the City of High Springs.

Thomason, who is from neighboring Ft. White, has been High Springs' building official since June 2015. He is one of only two building officials named to the licensing board. He holds four state contractors licenses and is a third generation contractor. Thomason succeeds Edward Weller and is appointed for a term beginning January 27, 2016, and ending October 31, 2018.

“I am very honored to receive this appointment both personally and professionally,” said Thomason. “I have always been a proponent of contractors being properly licensed. Unlicensed contractors put people's lives and property in danger.”

Thomason and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) recently conducted a sting operation in High Springs to try to put a stop to unlicensed contractor activity. On Jan. 5, DBPR issued a Consumer Advisory announcing that 13 unlicensed contractors were found to be doing business in Alachua County. “The unlicensed individuals offered professional electrical and construction services that require a license issued by DBPR,” said the Consumer Alert.

“Although the police were involved in this sting,” said Thomason, “most of the penalties this time were financial. I don't think that will be the case next time.”

The Construction Industry Licensing Board’s responsibilities include working with contractors who are trying to get their licenses and with contractors who have had issues that need to be resolved; reviewing and approving contractors' license applications; and suspending or revoking licenses.

The Board meets 11 times per year at different locations in central Florida.

Other new members named to the Board include Michael Strickland, Lakeland, a building contractor and the president of Strickland Construction, Inc. and Rachelle Wood, Jupiter, a sheet metal contractor and the president of Dolphin Sheet Metal, Inc.

Members reappointed include Mary Layton, Tampa, a general contractor and the senior project manager for Walbridge; William “Brian” Cathey, Port Saint Joe, a general contractor and the president of Cathey Construction and Development; Aaron Boyette, Tallahassee, the president of PSBI; James Evetts, New Port Richey, a building official and floodplain manager for the City of New Port Richey; and Roy Lenois, Daytona Beach, a pool contractor and the chief executive officer of Artesian Pools of East Florida Inc.

All appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

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NEWBERRY – Representatives from The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) held a public information meeting last Thursday to further talks about a controversial two-way pair road system to be constructed on State Road 26 through Newberry.

The purpose of the roads, according to Newberry City Commissioner Jordan Marlowe, is to be able to transport large numbers of people from the west of Florida to the east in case of an emergency.

The gathering was a continuation of the first meeting held on June 11, 2015, where three alternatives that addressed capacity improvements were proposed.

The two-way pair system was recommended for further consideration as a result of comments received at the June meeting.

Under this plan, FDOT would construct four new lanes of traffic that would begin west of County Road 337. The lanes would continue until 264th Street, where they’d split to create a two-way pair system.

SR 26 would diverge into a one-way street running east, while NW 1st Avenue would become a one-way street running west.

The total cost of the project is projected at approximately $15.5 million.

Construction would tentatively begin in 2025 with completion within the next two years.

About 30 people stayed after the meeting in order to voice their concerns during a public comment forum with FDOT Project Manager Stephen Browning and Planning and Environmental Manager Bill Henderson.

One young mother was worried about the safety of her small child.

“We purchased [our] property because it was not on a main street,” she said. [The proposed road] is going to be right past my house. People are not going to go that speed limit. You’re taking away that stop sign, so the road is going to be less safe for my child. There’s going to be more litter on the road.”

Another citizen voiced concern that Newberry’s fate would be similar to that of Waldo, a nearby town once notorious for its highway speed traps.

Marlowe said that while the changes might be beneficial for Florida at large, they won’t be for Newberry.

Residents on 1st Avenue would be sandwiched between two two-lane roads in which traffic never stops or slows down, he said.

“It becomes potentially hazardous for kids who are crossing the road,” he said.

Besides the social consequences, Marlowe mentioned how businesses on 1st Avenue would be negatively impacted.

“Everybody drives very quickly down Newberry [Road] to get to their job,” he said. “And the west-bound traffic will be on 1st Street where all the residents are. So, the businesses would lose their drive-by traffic at the time of the day where they might be more inclined to do an impulse stop.

“Right now they live on a quiet street in a small town. They would be living on a very busy freeway style street. That’s what they feel.”

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LACROSSE – Luck may be improving for the Town of LaCrosse Fire Department. As reported previously, the department is receiving funding from their town to help bring the fire department building up to code and to provide two trained fire/rescue personnel on duty 24/7. In addition, the fire department recently received a grant to help replace some of their outdated safety equipment.

The funds, which were awarded by Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, are being used to replace $15,390 of the $27,000 of outdated, non-compliant safety equipment needed by the town's fire department. Ten sets of Viking Hainsworth Titan Duo turnout gear (coat and pant) worth $15,390 were received by the LaCrosse Fire Department. The awarded equipment will replace old damaged gear, allowing the department to provide safe and efficient fire services to the community.

This Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) purchased through the grant is European designed and constructed gear that far exceeds the industry standard in the United States.

The brand was discovered by McDavid at Fire-Rescue East in Daytona Beach last January. Fire-Rescue East is the largest trade show held in the east by the Florida Fire Chief's Association. McDavid also learned that Milwaukee, Boston and Miami-Dade Training Academy were using this type of PPE and that the cost is roughly $500 per set lower than what is being used by other fire departments in Alachua County. “No other fire department in north Florida is using this technology,” said McDavid who feels the equipment is far superior to the usual equipment found in most U.S. fire departments.

Earlier this year, LaCrosse Fire Chief Paul McDavid made a case before the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) asking for the county to help keep his fire fighters safe by financing the cost of the outdated equipment. Although the county turned down the request, McDavid did not stop there. Instead he submitted a second request to the Firehouse Subs Foundation for assistance and was awarded a grant of more than $15,000 to help defray the cost of replacing some of the required equipment.

“Although the grant does not cover all the needed equipment,” said McDavid, “it goes a long way towards helping to keep our firefighters safe and does so at no cost to our citizens. It is a fantastic program and we can't thank Firehouse Subs enough for helping to keep our department's men and women safe as they work in hazardous conditions.”In one more area of good fortune, the City of Jacksonville loaned LaCrosse a 2004 American LaFrance fire truck to use while LaCrosse's 1991 Emergency One (E-One) truck is being repaired. “Their fire department is extremely generous and has loaned us their vehicle at no cost for whatever length of time we need to use it,” said McDavid. “We expect our truck to be out of service until after the first of the year. No matter how long it takes, Jacksonville's Fire Department has told us to keep their vehicle as long as we need it.”

“Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation was founded in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,” according to their web page. “Firehouse Subs co-founders, Chris Sorensen and Robin Sorensen, traveled to Mississippi where they fed first responders as well as survivors.” As they traveled back to Florida exhausted and exhilarated, they knew more could be done and the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation was born.

The Foundation, which has provided grants in excess of $14M, allocates funding in five distinct areas: life-saving equipment, prevention education, scholarships and continued education, support for members of the military and disaster preparedness and disaster relief.

The 501(c)(3) foundation reviews grant requests quarterly and, although Firehouse Subs is their major contributor, the foundation depends on citizen contributions as well to help fund their grants.

Anyone wishing to learn more about the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation can check their website at www.firehousesubs.com or go to their nearest Firehouse Subs location.

Anyone wishing to donate to the remaining $11,610 in replacement safety gear required by the LaCrosse Fire Department may contact the Town of LaCrosse City Hall at 386-462-2784 or Chief Paul McDavid at 386-462-1544.

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GAINESVILLE For two weekends each year, the clear blast of trumpets mingles with the laughter of children as the kingdom of Hoggetowne opens its gates. Performers in period garb sing and dance in the streets, while knights joust on horseback and magicians captivate the crowds. Tucked away in the enchanted forest of the Alachua County Fairgrounds in Gainesville, this medieval marketplace will come to life Jan. 30-31 andFeb. 5-7.

Hoggetowne is home to more than 160 talented artisans from across the country who journey to the faire to sell and demonstrate their wares, offering medieval crafts such as weaving, blacksmithing, leatherworking, wood carving and glass blowing. Fairgoers can browse through a selection of delicate medieval jewelry or glimpse into their future with a mystical fortune teller.

“Visitors should arrive early to take full advantage of the exciting medieval magic,” said Linda Piper, faire coordinator. “Each morning, all the entertainers greet the Hoggetowne guests as the city gates open to this enchanted kingdom.”

The sound of applause echoes from the faire’s nine stages, where the forgotten skills of full-flight falconry, gripping aerial acrobatics and old-world magic come to life. Jugglers, knife throwers and gypsy dancers add to the excitement as they fill the streets of Hoggetowne.

“Visitors should plan to spend the entire day enjoying Hoggetowne’s enticing blend of artwork, period music and medieval traditions,” Piper said. “People wait all year for this highly anticipated event.”

One of the faire’s most popular attractions is the joust. The audience cheers on their champion as the armored knights charge across the field wielding lances or swords as they battle on horseback. Afterwards, children can meet the knights and their magnificent steeds.

This year’s theme is “The Adventures of King Arthur,” where you can meet King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table as they battle the forces of evil during a living chess game in a stunning show of combat entertainment.

Visitors can also engage in traditional medieval games of chance and skill. They can shoot arrows or hurl battle axes at targets, or they can navigate their way through a winding maze. Thrilling, human-powered push rides, as well as camel and pony rides, attract eager children and adventurous adults.

Children can also enjoy the faire’s School Day Friday, Feb. 5, in which thousands of students from Florida journey to Hoggetowne for a day of face painting, hair braiding and medieval crafts. General admission tickets are reduced and larger discounts are available to school groups that register in advance.

“It’s so great to be able to provide this educational opportunity to children who are learning about medieval times in their schools,” Piper said. “This is a chance for students to see the Middle Ages come to life.”

After roaming the streets of Hoggetowne and working up an appetite, both adults and children can enjoy a feast fit for a king at the food court. The tempting aromas of freshly baked pastries, blooming onions, sweet potato fries, giant turkey legs and succulent ribs attract scores of lords and ladies.

Produced by the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire draws more than 53,000 guests each year. On Saturdays and Sundays, the faire is open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. \and costs $17 for adults and $7 for children age 5 to 17. The faire is free for children under 5. School Day, \Friday, Feb. 5, is open from 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m., and admission is $8 for adults and $3.50 for children. Pets are not permitted.

The Alachua County Fairgrounds is located east of Gainesville at 3100 NE 39th Avenue adjacent to Gainesville Regional Airport.

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HIGH SPRINGS – On Dec. 11 Eric May of Emerald Data Partners, the company employed by the City of High Springs to provide information technology services, delivered a short summary to city commissioners comparing the outcome of the latest technical audit versus the previous audit received on Jan. 12, 2013.

Every three years, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) conducts a technical audit of local agencies to ensure compliance with the FDLE Criminal Justice User Agreement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Security Policy.

In his summary, May said the 2013 technical audit was “of great concern” as it revealed nine areas of policy violations and 14 more areas of concern. By comparison, the recent November 2014 technical audit revealed zero areas of policy violation and only five areas of concern, one of which has already been addressed.

Violations are areas FDLE considers procedures or policies as non-compliant with CJIS practices. Areas of Concern are areas which, if they aren't addressed, may cause violations in the future, according to May.

May said that last year he had come into the evaluation near the tail end. “Over the last few months we have worked diligently, along with the High Springs Police Department (HSPD), to help ensure the department improves its information security and overall efficiency in its information systems,” said May.

“In October, Lt. Sheppard (Acting Chief) and myself met with an FDLE representative to respond in depth to questions used to conduct a new Technical Audit,” said May. The final results, which were sent to HSPD in November, showed a significantly improved Technical Audit score.

May was reluctant to point out publicly any potential weaknesses in HSPD’s information systems, but those weaknesses and suggested corrective measures were listed in the technical audit. He characterized them as “procedural” and said in a subsequent interview he believed they could all be taken care of within the next 6-8 weeks.

Since the most recent audit, May and HSPD personnel have worked to correct the remaining four areas of concern. During the commission meeting, May was able to say that some of those areas had already been addressed and some would be corrected by other measures which are currently being implemented citywide.

May has been working for the past eight months to improve overall information security throughout the city system. Password strength and other technical changes that have come to their attention through the technical audit have been applied also to the rest of the city system to protect that information as well.

May said that additional costs to High Springs to address the areas of concern would be minimal as some of those items were already built into the other measures HSPD is in the process of implementing.

“I am very happy to see that our police department has made such significant strides in addressing both the violations and concerns expressed by FDLE last January,” said Mayor Sue Weller. “The remaining concerns are in the process of being addressed and we can anticipate they will be resolved shortly as well. This is a step forward for the High Springs Police Department and, I believe, the commissioners were all glad to receive audit results of this kind.”

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