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ALACHUA – For the past 15 years, the City of Alachua has hosted a celebration of Martin Luther King Day. The City provides food, equipment and entertainment at the Cleather Hathcock Community Center. City employees from the parks and recreation department as well as the city manager’s office provide their time and services for the event. Although the City provides these amenities, it’s a community affair as volunteers from churches and community organizations offer their time to serve the food, prepare deserts and provide entertainment. The celebration is a tribute to honor Reverend King and to carry on his legacy.

The Declaration of Independence said all men were created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. But the reality was that minorities, especially African Americans, were not included in that promise. Before 1865 most of them did not have their liberty or freedom, and many were slaves. But even 100 years later, there was not equality. Jobs, education and opportunities were often limited and segregation continued, even down to what drinking fountains, restrooms, bus seats and restaurants African Americans could use. They had gained liberty but not equality.

Although King was one of many people who became involved in the Civil Rights movement, his speaking ability and organization of nonviolent protests and marches made him the most visible leader of the movement. In1963 he organized the March on Washington where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, talking about a society where all people regardless of color were treated equally. Over 250,000 people attended the march.

King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, for his efforts to fight racial inequality through nonviolent protests, and he was instrumental in the passage of 1964 Civil Rights Act proposed by President Lyndon Johnson. While all his work was critical in gaining some equality for African Americans, there were other people that opposed his efforts and that made him a target as well.

In 1968, King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., to be called the Poor Peoples Campaign when he was assassinated on April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee. His death was followed by riots throughout America’s cities. But his legacy and accomplishments in Civil Rights and equality lived on.

King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Beginning in 1971, states and cities began establishing local holidays to celebrate his birth on Jan. 15, 1929. Finally in 1986 President Ronald Reagan made the third Monday in January Martin Luther King Day.

Alachua’s tribute continues, rain or shine, and despite the cold weather, this year’s event was well attended. It is a community-wide celebration to honor the achievements of Dr. King and support his work. Part of that goal is through the right to vote. The Alachua Supervisor of Elections office set up a booth for the public to register to vote, and the federal government had a recruiting table for people to sign up as census takers.

Artist Yvonne Ferguson painted a portrait of Dr. King as speakers and religious leaders spoke about the goals of Dr. King. Dancers and musicians provided entertainment, chiefly with a spiritual influence. Caring and Sharing Learning Center, a dance school and ministry also had a booth as well as part of the entertainment.

Pastor Natron Curtis delivered the opening prayer followed by the National Anthem and remarks by Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper and State Representative Clovis Watson, Jr. Minister Eugene Franklin gave the Keynote Speech on Dr. King’s legacy and the importance of community and culture. Interspersed between speakers was music and dance provided by a variety of artists.

The final speaker was Minister Derrick Smith who read a letter Dr. King wrote to his fellow clergymen when he was in the Birmingham jail for his civil rights efforts. King urged them to join the effort to bring equality to all.

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NEWBERRY – Immediately following the City of Newberry Jan. 13 City Commission meeting, Mayor Jordan Marlowe convened a Special Commission meeting.

The first order of business on the agenda was recognition of Commissioner Matt Hersom. In April 2018, Hersom was elected to the City Commission, filling the Group II seat. In October 2019, Hersom announced that he accepted a position with Clemson University and would be leaving his position as City Commissioner effective January 2020, making the previous regular Commission meeting his last.

Mayor Jordan Marlowe said, “…[We] are proud to honor Commissioner Matthew ‘Matt’ Hersom for his dedication to our community and residents. Matt has lived in Newberry for over 15 years and served this community on the Planning and Zoning Board, the Historic Architecture Review Board, and most recently, on the City Commission. We wish him well in his future endeavors and thank him for his service to the citizens of Newberry.”

Based on the Newberry City Charter, a commissioner seat vacancy is to be filled by resolution with a qualified person, nominated by the Mayor and appointed by the City Commission.

On Dec. 9, 2019, the Commission received the Mayoral nomination and adopted Resolution 2019-44 appointing Rocky McKinley as City Commissioner for Group II for the remainder of the current term.

McKinley will hold the position until a newly-elected City Commissioner for Group II is sworn into office following the April 14, 2020 election. 

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NEWBERRY — The Newberry City Commission voted unanimously to accept the resolution designating Newberry as a Second Amendment Sanctuary City. The resolution now affirms the rights guaranteed by the Constitution’s Second Amendment involving gun laws.

Commissioners discussed this issue at the Dec. 9 meeting and directed staff to prepare a resolution affirming the constitutional Second Amendment rights of Newberry’s citizens.

In Florida, 15 out of 67 counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions. Many jurisdictions, both city and county, across the United States have begun to adopt legislation affirming their belief in the rights afforded by the Second Amendment and declaring restrictive gun control laws adopted by another legislative body as unconstitutional.

This resolution serves as a statement assuring residents that the City of Newberry will not use resources to enforce gun control measures violating the Second Amendment.

Resolution 2020-3 lists several cases where challenges to this and other amendments to the Constitution were not upheld because of the clarity of the Constitution’s intent.

With this action, the City affirms their commitment to the Constitution and all of its parts. “With the Second Amendment particularly under attack today, each and every single one of us has a constitutional obligation to stand up against those attacks,” said Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe.

With this action, Newberry joins other places in North Central Florida as Second Amendment sanctuary areas.

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ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. (January 24, 2020) — Two Washington D.C.-based nonprofits, the Center for Voter Information and the Voter Participation Center, are sending potentially misleading mailings to Alachua County voters. 

Intended for residents who are not registered to vote, the groups’ mailings have previously confused voters, with notices sent based on incorrect or out-of-date information. 

Neither the Center for Voter Information nor the Voter Participation Center is affiliated with the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections. The Alachua County Supervisor of Elections does not provide the address information used to conduct the mailing.

Contact information and the link to unsubscribe from the Center for Voter Information and the Voter Participation Center is below:

Center for Voter Information


Unsubscribe: https://www.centerforvoterinformation.org/unsubscribe/

Voter Participation Center



Unsubscribe: https://www.voterparticipation.org/got-mail/

The Alachua County Supervisor of Elections is the official source for information related to voter registration and elections in Alachua County.

Voters are encouraged to make sure their voter records are updated. This can be done at https://www.votealachua.com/My-Registration-Status or by calling 352-374-5252.

There are numerous ways for prospective voters to register to vote:

  • Online: Florida residents can register to vote online. The online voter registration portal — found at RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov — is a safe and secure option for voter registration.
  • In person: The Alachua County Supervisor of Elections’ office, located in Gainesville at 515 N. Main St., Suite 300, is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Registrations can also be completed and turned in at any Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles office or Alachua County Library District branch. 
  • By mail: Forms are available online at VoteAlachua.com.

Voters who need to update their signatures need to fill out new voter registration applications.

For more information, contact the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections at 352-374-5252.


Fax: 352-374-5264


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Special to Alachua County Today

GAINESVILLE — Book lovers and avid readers will experience page turning adventures when the Sunshine State Book Festival, debuts Jan. 24 – 26, 2020, further enriching the cultural landscape of North Central Florida.

Over the decades, Gainesville has transitioned from a small, sleepy little college town into a thriving and vibrant center of international higher education and a medical mecca with three major medical complexes.

North Central Florida residents enjoy a smorgasbord of creative offerings in the area. There are multiple stages for the performing arts, including the 1,700-seat UF Phillips Center, three visual fine-arts festivals, a variety of musical groups and ensembles in an array of musical styles, a professional dance troupe, and choral groups.

The cultural void being filled, is a literary festival to showcase and spotlight the many published authors living and writing among us as our family, neighbors, friends and associates. With an estimated 200 published authors living in our midst; a book festival is long overdue and greatly anticipated by readers and writers. The festival offers three days of free literary enrichment for readers of all genres and all ages.

Colorful characters scheme, connive and frolic about the imaginations of writers eager to be written into captivating, page-turning adventures for reading enjoyment. Books are the “magic carpets” that transport readers to another time, another place and another situation without readers leaving the comfort of their lazy-chair.

Alachua resident, Jess Elliott, has authored two collections of ghost stories, “Ghost Lite” and “Tales from Kensington” and a humorous novel, “Monkey Mind” set in Alachua. Two more novels are slated for release soon.

A kick-off public reception is Friday afternoon Jan. 24 at the Matheson Historical Museum on East University Avenue, from 5 – 7 p.m. This is an opportunity to mix and mingle with authors, guests and dignitaries, notables and VIPs.

The centerpiece of the festival will be Saturday, Jan. 25 when the Santa Fe College Fine Arts Hall hosts and showcases 75 area authors from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Readers have an opportunity to visit with authors they know and read. They will also discover authors new to them. Authors are happy to sign copies of books you add to your personal library.

Notable area authors give hourly presentations that include: Gainesville’s literary heritage, the University of Florida sports heroes and history, Florida’s natural beauty. Reading fans of Ernest Hemingway will want to hear the talk by special festival guest, author and artist Hilary Hemingway, “Remembering Uncle Ernest.” Following each literary presentation, a drawing will be held for prizes, and free signed books by participating authors.

Little readers will be attracted to the dedicated Children’s Corner for oral storytelling and activities. They will also be drawn to the several children’s authors at the festival.

The Literary Heritage Tour, Sunday, Jan. 26, is a special feature of the festival. Re-enactors will inform and entertain about the imprint and importance poet, Robert Frost at the Thomas Center; naturalist William Bartram at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park; and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings at the Cross- Creek State Park; had on our literary landscape.

Festival director Mallory O’Connor says, “A major literary event is long overdue and eagerly anticipated. It will complement the other cultural events in our area.”

Elliott, vice-president of Writers Alliance of Gainesville, a 501(C)(3) non-profit, says, “The Sunshine State Book Festival puts deserving area authors on the literary map.”

For complete festival information visit: http://www.sunshinestatebookfestival.org/

Schedule of festival activities

Friday, January 24, 2020

Kick-Off Public reception at the Matheson History Museum –from 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm – welcomes authors, dignitaries, guests, readers, all welcome


Saturday, January 25, 2020

 Santa Fe College – Fine Arts Hall – 10:00 am to 5:00 pm –Showcasing 75 area authors and

Hourly presentations:

11:00 am – Hilary Hemingway – ‘Remembering Uncle Ernest’

12:00 pm – Kevin McCarthy – Retired UF ProfessorGainesville’s Literary Heritage

1:00 p – Joe Haldeman, Nebula Award winner – An Interview: Books, Movies and War with

2:00 pm – Steve Noll, UF Professor – Florida Sports History: it’s More than just Fun and Games

3:00 pm – John Dunn – Drying Up: The Fresh Water Crisis in Florida

4:00 pm – Lola Haskins, Heeding Florida’s Past – Natural Beauty That Survived It Can Change Our Future

Children’s Corner – 10:00 am to 5:00 pm – a dedicated area for oral storytelling and children’s activities

SFC – Food Court open from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.


Sunday, January 26, 2020

 Literary Heritage Tour – hear from re-enactors of:

10:00 – 10:45 a.m. - Robert Frost – Thomas Center

Lunch Break

1:30 – 2:30 p.m. – William Bartram – Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

3:15 – 4:15 p.m. – Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings – Cross Creek State Park

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ALACHUA — The Alachua City Commission began its first meeting of the year on Jan. 13 on a high note. There were two special presentations, both involving Finance & Administrative Services Director Robert Bonetti. For the ninth consecutive year, the City of Alachua Finance & Administrative Services Department has been awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. The awards comes from the Government Finance Officers Association and is the highest form of recognition in government accounting and financial reporting. Alachua City Manager Adam Boukari presented the certificate to Bonetti. Bonetti then delivered the quarterly fiscal report on the city’s budget through the month of November 2019.

In other business, the Commission approved an ordinance for the final plat to revise a single lot within the existing subdivision of Pilot Forest. The property is located at 15703 NW 118th Place, at the southwest corner of the intersection of NW 118th Place and NW 157th Avenue. Currently the property has two existing buildings, a single-family dwelling and a detached accessory structure.

The proposed replat does not create additional lots, but is intended to modify the building setbacks since the existing residence is encroaching on the setbacks that were created by the approval of the Pilot Forest subdivision plat. The new setbacks would conform to current standards set forth in the City of Alachua Land Development Regulations. The Alachua Planning and Zoning Board had approved the request on Nov. 12, 2019 and forwarded it to the Commission for approval. Action by the commission was delayed pending the applicant obtaining all needed signatures for the plat since the mortgage had been sold to another financial institution after the Planning and Zoning Board hearing.

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Photo by DARLENE BOND special to Alachua County Today

HIGH SPRINGS — At 7:50 p.m. on Jan. 8, 2020 the High Springs Fire Department (HSFD) received a call about a house fire off of Poe Springs Road. Upon arrival, the firefighters found the inside of the house fully engulfed. It was an older house built in the 1920s and heavy smoke was pouring from the structure. The first concern was whether anyone was inside.

The most dangerous part of a firefighter’s job is if they have to enter a burning, smoke-filled building to try and find a victim. Visibility is poor, the fire can erupt in sudden bursts and the structure itself can be weakened to the point of collapse. As other units from Newberry (NFD) and the Alachua County Fire Department arrived to assist, the HSPD prepared to enter to search for victims. However, the owners of the house arrived and informed the firefighters that the house was unoccupied and was being used for storage.

The HSFD then went to what they refer to as defensive mode, which avoids a dangerous entry and concentrates on containing the fire and limiting structural damage. The items stored in the house added fuel to the fire and it took almost two hours to totally extinguish the flames, followed by a two-to-three-hour search to make sure there were no smoldering hot spots that could rekindle the blaze. While no one was injured and the structure was stable, the damage to the interior was extensive.

The HFSD handles about 66 fire calls a year, with house fires being the least predictable and the most dangerous if firefighters have to try and rescue trapped victims. According to HSFD Communications Director Kevin Mangan, while damaging house fires have declined nationwide due to better smoke detectors, they have also become more dangerous for both the residents and firefighters. Older buildings with solid wood construction or brick walls tend to burn slower than modern buildings that have more use of plastics both in the construction of the house and the furniture and appliances inside. “Forty years ago, the average was 15 minutes escape time from a burning house. Now it is less than five minutes and plastic items put off more toxic heavy smoke,” Mangan stated.

The fire department recommends that all residents have an escape route planned for the family in advance and practice it so they can get out, if necessary, in a short period of time.

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