June 17, 2015: News in 90

By on June 17th, 2015 | Last updated: June 17, 2015 at 6:36 pm

Taylor Anderson produced this update.

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Patio Burns In Propane Fire

By on June 17th, 2015 | Last updated: June 17, 2015 at 3:14 pm
Photo courtesy of

A patio fire caused by a faulty propone grill occurred on Sunday evening in Marion County. Approximately 10 percent of a home was affected, according to a news release. Photo courtesy of Marion County Fire Rescue.

A faulty propane grill caught fire on the back patio of a home in Summerfield, Fla., on Sunday.

Marion County Public Safety Communications Center received a call about the blaze at 16097 SE 89th Terrace.

The Marion County Fire Rescue arrived on location about five minutes after receiving the call, upon which they found approximately 10 percent of the home had been affected by the fire. In total, 17 firefighters were involved at the scene, according to James Lucas, spokesperson for MCFR.

Following protocol, MCFR was able to stop the fire from spreading with an aggressive attack and save the home, Lucas. The family is safe following the blaze.

The National Fire Protection Association estimates an average of 8,800 home fires are caused by grilling annually.

Half of grill fires occurring on residential properties nationwide occur during May, June, July and August, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

In reaction to the fire, Lucas highlighted ways to prevent grilling fires from occurring in the future. He said to keep the grill a reasonable distance from structures and to not leave it unattended.

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In The News: Alachua Students Exceed At Course-End Tests, Florida Man Attempts To Blow Up Home, Fake IRS Agents Cost Taxpayers, Warriors Take NBA Title

By and on June 17th, 2015 | Last updated: June 17, 2015 at 12:38 pm
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June 16, 2015: News in 90

By on June 16th, 2015 | Last updated: June 16, 2015 at 4:42 pm

Laura Barrero produced this update.

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Burrito Brothers Is First To Move Into New Midtown Building

By on June 16th, 2015 | Last updated: June 16, 2015 at 11:35 am

Burrito Brothers Taco Co. has been part of Gainesville’s food scene since 1976. Now, it finally has an indoor restaurant.

The restaurant moved into a new portion of the existing building at the corner of Northwest First Avenue and Northwest 14th Street. The grand opening was held Friday.

Burrito Brothers occupies just one of the six suites in the brand new U14 building, across the street from the University of Florida.

Dough Religion, a pizzeria and bar, and office space for Landmark Properties are the only other businesses scheduled to move into the building so far. The other suites are still up for rent, according to Oelrich Construction and Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group.

U14 sits on the lot that previously housed the Presbyterian Student Center, according to Oelrich Construction, but the old building was demolished and rebuilt.

U14 offers nearly 4,000 square feet of outdoor dining space, according to Front Street, with a large rooftop deck on the second level of the building facing West University Avenue.

Burrito Brothers is the first business inside the building to open. Now that it’s finished, the interiors of the other suites will be completed, said Joshua Smith, a manager at the restaurant.

For Lauren Stucki, general manager of Burrito Brothers for almost 13 years, there are a lot of big changes that go with moving into the new building.

“I would say beer, I think that’s a big change and it’s also a game changer for us being able to finally have beer,” she said.

“It’s been going really well. Sunday afternoon we had a decent afternoon bar crowd in here, just people hanging out, watching baseball and drinking beers, Stucki said. “That’s kind of what we’re shooting for.”

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In The News: Florida Legislators Reach Budget Deal, Blackhawks Take Stanley Cup, Fireworks At UF Bandshell, Florida Still Lightning Capital Of US

By and on June 16th, 2015 | Last updated: June 16, 2015 at 10:47 am
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Investigation Clears UF ZBT Members

By on June 15th, 2015 | Last updated: June 18, 2015 at 5:53 pm

A police investigation revealed there was insufficient evidence to support claims that members of the University of Florida’s Zeta Beta Tau fraternity deliberately mistreated veterans while in Panama City, Fla.

The Panama City Beach Police investigation was included as part of a UF report containing interviews from over 40 people, including 11 resort employees. The university’s Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Conducts released its report June 5, concluding no one reported witnessing ZBT members maliciously harassing veterans.

PCB police could not determine intent or positively identify specific individuals to criminally charge. Former members of the fraternity were accused of various offensive acts, including spitting on veterans and urinating on American flags.

The conduct reported occurred during the weekend of April 17 at the Laketown Wharf Resort where the ZBT members celebrated their separate spring formals. The graph below shows the development that took place following the event.

Lee Teichner, an attorney representing a group of former ZBT members’ parents, said those who accused the members of anti-veteran actions were mistaken and should offer an apology.

UF charged ZBT with three strikes against the student code of conduct: obscenity, public intoxication and causing potential harm to others. Teichner said he does not believe the members’ actions merit the charges.

A hearing scheduled for later in the summer will determine whether the chapter will be eligible to reopen, according to UF spokesperson Janine Sikes.

In the meantime, ZBT’s former house on UF’s fraternity row remains unoccupied and its letters have been removed.

Teichner said the university and ZBT nationals issued condemning statements before performing a fair and thorough investigation.

“ZBT nationals showed a lack of brotherhood and loyalty and let these kids hang out to dry,” he said. “The way that they treated these kids is an embarrassment to a fraternity brotherhood.”

Jonathan Muñoz and Susan Huang contributed to the reporting. 

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June 15, 2015: News In 90

By and on June 15th, 2015 | Last updated: June 16, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Alexis Cruz produced this update.

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In The News: Blackhawks Lead Stanley Cup Series, UF And FSU Athletes Lead Nation In Criminal Charges, Florida Legislature Enters Final Week, New Study Shows Jeb Bush Unfamiliar To Voters

By on June 15th, 2015 | Last updated: June 15, 2015 at 10:26 am
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Locals Meet With Mayor To Discuss Rising GRU Rates

By on June 15th, 2015 | Last updated: June 15, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Esther Wallace said she did not truly understand the severity of rising utility costs until she found herself sitting at the dining room tables of residents desperate to keep their lights on.

“People were visibly distressed,” said Wallace, executive director of ACTION Network, a federation of about 10 congregations in Gainesville. “They would go over their bills with me and say, ‘I just don’t know how this is happening to me. I’m doing everything I can, yet these bills keep rising.’”

Mayor Ed Braddy speaks to ACTION Network and members of the community Thursday about what the city commission has done to combat rising GRU rates. Esther Wallace, executive director of ACTION Network, said the purpose of the meeting was to get a solid commitment from Braddy to move forward with changes.

Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy speaks to ACTION Network and community members Thursday, June 11, 2015 at Open Door Ministries about what the city commission has done to combat rising GRU rates.  Heather Reinblatt / WUFT News

ACTION Network and representatives from local congregations hosted a public meeting with Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy on Thursday to voice concerns about increasing utility rates from Gainesville Regional Utilities, which serves Gainesville and the surrounding areas.

GRU Interim General Manager Kathy Viehe was also present. Passing out copies of her own GRU bill, she said she knew how residents felt.

“I understand that you are unhappy with electric rates,” she said.  “I want you to know I’m unhappy too.” 

The meeting was held at 7 p.m. at Open Door Ministries, located at 601 NE 19th St.

Wallace said the purpose of the meeting was not to find a single solution but to secure a solid commitment from Braddy that the commission will move forward with changes in GRU leadership structure. Residents were asked to share their experiences.

Agnes Clemons, a retired Gainesville native, shared how difficult it was to manage utilities and her health insurance premium rates. She also said she worries about bills eating into her savings because she is on a fixed income.

“It’s challenging with everything else since it does fluctuate erratically,” Clemons said. “Even though I do everything that is recommended — all my appliances are Energy Star — my rate still fluctuates about $60 to $100 a month.”

Norma Green, a resident of Gainesville for 16 years, said she is also concerned. She said the bill increases have forced some customers to choose between paying for food or paying for health insurance.

“One lady had a bill up one month by $800,” Green said. “By the time she paid health insurance and bills, she had nothing left.”

Green brought a petition signed by local community members detailing the hardships caused by high utilities. She said those who signed are asking the city to intervene and find a solution. 

Braddy acknowledged at the meeting that the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center, a biomass facility that uses waste wood to produce energy, is the main reason rates have increased significantly over the past two years. The biomass plant affects the pricing on the customer because the city is paying a fixed price above market value.

However, knowing the source of the problem will not bring a quick fix.

“The fact is we are supply-heavy and demand-short,” he said. “We have more power that we need to sell, so we need to look for more customers.”

One of the customers they hope to obtain is the University of Florida, according to Braddy. UF is considering a new energy supply because their contract with Duke Energy is up.

Braddy said that having UF’s business would help GRU regain some of their losses, which would take some of the burden off residents.

But in the meantime, internal changes within GRU are being made to mitigate pressure.

In order to help lower costs, some paid positions were cut, and internal expenditures were not made, according to Braddy.

He said these decisions were made so that customers could experience some rate relief.

GRU will also be taken over by a new general manager June 22.

Former mayors and the previous general manager did not feel rising rates were a major concern, according to Braddy. He hopes the new manager will be able to put together a team of senior staff who can find a solution to lower costs.

Braddy said these changes will yield good news soon. He hopes to vote on a rate reduction within the next two years.

Until then, Braddy said he wants residents to continue to speak out and understand that reducing energy rates will remain his top priority.

He signed a written commitment at the end of the meeting.

“I hope that they know their voice matters,” he said. “I hope they know city leaders do listen to them and understand their concerns.”

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