American Pharoah Trained In Citra

By on June 11th, 2015 | Last updated: June 11, 2015 at 5:45 pm

McKathan Brothers Training Center in Citra hasn’t been in the headlines recently, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been part of something important. One of the horses staying in its stables about a year ago was American Pharoah – the 12th Triple Crown winner.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” said JB McKathan, who owns the farm with his brother Kevin.

McKathan said they trained two horses that won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, before falling short of the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes.

“When we were kids, you know, we thought it was easy,” McKathan said. “Then we found out that it wasn’t.”

He didn’t expect American Pharoah to win, but he isn’t surprised.

“He was so fast that every time we worked him, I was just, like, ‘oh my gosh. Wow,’” McKathan said. “He broke stop watches every time he got out of a gallop.”

McKathan also said American Pharoah was one of the nicest horses they’ve had.

“He’s just a sweetheart. You could just pet him all day long and he’d let you,” he said. “He just would walk around like he owned the place, and you know, he really did.”

McKathan said that Florida is perfect for training. There’s good infrastructure with many businesses that support the industry. It’s located on a water table, which allows the horses access to mineral-rich water.

And of course, there’s the weather, which allows the horses to train year-round.

American Pharoah made history, and he may have also made an impact on the sport. McKathan said there were talks before the race within the horse racing governing body about changing the distances of races because a horse had not won the Triple Crown in 37 years. American Pharoah proved it is still possible and brought national attention to the sport.

“I think the fact that it was such a long dry spell, I think there’s a whole generation of people that actually didn’t think it was even possible,” he said. “I think it’s going to expose a new generation to how great racing (and) racehorses can be.”

Even if another horse wins the Triple Crown a few years from now or even next year, McKathan will not forget the legacy he trained.

“If you just watch the way he moved down the stretch of the Belmont and down the stretch in the Preakness – I got to watch that right here on my racetrack, and it’s exactly the same,” he said.

He said he wouldn’t be opposed to having baby American Pharoahs running around in the future.

“I’ve never seen as fluid a horse that I can remember,” he said. “It’s just he’s got this magical action, and that’s what makes him what he is.”

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Precautionary Boil Water Notice Lifted For Marion County

By on June 11th, 2015 | Last updated: June 11, 2015 at 3:07 pm


Residents in Marion County had to think twice before using tap water Tuesday morning.

Marion County Utilities issued a precautionary boil water warning after water pressure levels dropped below the average rate. That notice has since been lifted following the completion of a biological survey showing the water was safe to drink again.

“A widespread outage like this is very, very seldom,” said Deputy Utility Director Doug Andrews.

The warning extended to 1,000 customers in neighboring areas, including homes in Majestic Oaks, Bent Tree, Jasmine Park, Harvest Meadows, Boyd and Pidgeon Park.

It advised customers to boil all water used for drinking, cooking, making ice, brushing teeth or washing dishes for at least one minute.

This was the third notice Bent Tree resident Jimmy Strickland could recall since moving to the area 12 years ago.

“I carry, regularly, 15 gallons of water in my garage,” Strickland said. “I’ll take some of that water, pour it in the sink, wash the dishes there and rinse it in the other basin.”

Strickland said he wasn’t concerned about the notice because he usually uses bottled water, with the exception of showers.

Most affected residents received an automated phone message explaining the situation. Informational door hangers were left for about 200 customers without available contact numbers.

County officials took water samples Tuesday morning and again 24 hours later to be lab-tested. They asked residents to follow the precautions just to be safe.

Andrews explained that when the water pressure is too low, pipes can absorb bacteria and contaminate the water. The neighboring communities affected by the water treatment precautionary measure are part of an old water system.

Marion County Utilities plans to integrate this area into an upgraded system so the notices don’t reoccur.

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Sexual Battery Victim Comes Forward After 40 Years

By on June 11th, 2015 | Last updated: June 11, 2015 at 2:02 pm


The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Newberry man Tuesday morning on one charge of sexual battery on a child under 12 years old, according to the warrant affidavit.

Donald Truluck, 66, was arrested after the victim came forward saying he molested her 40 years ago.

The now 46-year-old victim said in an interview with the sheriff’s office that the first sexual incident with Truluck began when she was 6 and he was 26, according to the affidavit.

The victim’s aunt reportedly was dating Truluck at the time when she was first left alone with him, while her mother and aunt were out partying.

She said Truluck, who owned a Jeep with a camper and mattress in the back, pulled over and had the underage girl get in the back with him, according to the affidavit.

The victim also said Truluck gave her alcohol and drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and Quaaludes.

Truluck admitted to two witnesses about a year ago that he sexually abused the victim. The witnesses both completed sworn, written statements.

The victim spoke to Truluck in April via a controlled phone call made at the sheriff’s office and monitored by detectives. He admitted to having sex with her on multiple occasions when she was 12. When the victim asked if he remembered fondling her when she was 6, he said he barely did.

“It [the case] is kind of unique in the fact that it’s that old,” Forgey said. “Just goes to show you that no case of this magnitude is that old.”

In an interview with officials before Truluck was in custody, he admitted to fondling her breasts when she was between eight and 10 years old, but said nothing more occurred and he never offered her drugs, according to the affidavit.

When confronted about the phone call, he admitted to having sex with the victim when she was 12, but said she initiated it because “her hormones were out of control.”

Truluck was previously charged on two third-degree felony charges in 1993 for cultivation of cannabis and possession of over 20 grams of cannabis. He was not convicted.

His bond is currently set at $250,000, according to his arrest warrant.

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In the News: United Way To Help Returning Veterans, Gov. Scott Signs New Health Bills, Homeless Man Reunited With $10,000, Grace Marketplace Celebrates One Year

By on June 11th, 2015 | Last updated: June 11, 2015 at 11:52 am
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June 10, 2015: News in 90

By on June 10th, 2015 | Last updated: June 10, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Paige Andringa produced this update.

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In The News: Hillary Clinton On Florida’s Voter Restrictions, Chris Heston Throws No-Hitter, Airport Lands $2.5M Grant, Trooper Saves Man From Burning Car, Shands Children’s Hospital Ranked Nationally

By and on June 10th, 2015 | Last updated: June 10, 2015 at 12:10 pm
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Local Youth Sports Programs Offer Affordable Options For Players

By on June 9th, 2015 | Last updated: June 9, 2015 at 6:34 pm

Sports have the power to develop young athletes into young men, but sometimes the financial cost of playing in an organized league is simply too much.

But for young athletes in Gainesville, several programs provide them the opportunity to play sports at a reasonable price.

The City of Gainesville’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs (PRCA) applied for a $1,000 grant from the USA Football Equipment Grant program. It’s money that, if awarded, will be used to purchase new equipment and re-condition old helmets, according to Shannon Keleher, City of Gainesville recreation manager.

Players in the city’s Pop Warner youth football league pay a registration fee as low as $86 if they register on time and are residents of Gainesville. If they register after the deadline or don’t live in the city, they can pay up to $143.50. This fee covers a new jersey, a helmet and shoulder pads, all provided by the league.

Keleher said she doesn’t know when the grant will be awarded, but even if the PRCA does not receive the money, players will still be provided with the proper equipment.

“We apply for grants all the time,” Keleher said. “If we don’t get the funding for it, (the money) comes out of our operating budget.”

Keleher said the city’s Pop Warner football program, whose season begins in August, is very popular and one of the least expensive options in Gainesville because the program is subsidized.

Parents can spend thousands of dollars a year on their child’s sports leagues, as illustrated in an article by “The Conversation,” but people like Vernell Brown Jr. are working to keep prices low.

Brown is a former University of Florida football player and has since established Elite Athletic Performance Group Inc. in Gainesville, a non-profit organization that prepares high school athletes for collegiate sports, including football, according to it’s Facebook page. He is also the founder and vice-president of the Gainesville Panthers, EAP’s youth football program. Panthers players must pay a $200 registration fee that covers a jersey, pants, socks, practice uniforms, league fees, equipment rental and end of season trophies.

Brown said he gets players from all around Gainesville and called the program a premiere organization for developing young athletes and young men.

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June 9, 2015: News in 90

By on June 9th, 2015 | Last updated: June 9, 2015 at 5:30 pm

Tonia Borsellino produced this update.

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The Hidden Toll For Some of Gainesville’s 911 Operators

By on June 9th, 2015 | Last updated: June 10, 2015 at 8:41 am
Matthew Russell (left), emergency telecommunicator, inputs information into the dispatch system while his trainee Brian Ehemann (right) responds to a 911 call.  “Everyone in there wants nothing but the best for those on the phone,” Russell said. “Regardless of what they are calling in for.”  Photo courtesy of Anthony Russell.

Matthew Russell (left), an emergency telecommunicator, enters information into the dispatch system while his trainee Brian Ehemann (right) responds to a 911 call. The Combined Communications Center takes about half a million calls per year, said Michelle Klement, the bureau chief.  Photo courtesy of Anthony Russell

Matthew Russell is followed by nightmares that are not confined to sleep. They shape shift, a collection of other people’s emergencies.

He cannot see them, but he hears them. They are the voice of a mother acknowledging the death of her son and an elderly man taking his last breath. They mirror the sound of shattering glass and sirens.

Almost every day for the past three years, Russell, 29, has faced these nightmares head-on. As an emergency telecommunicator stationed at the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, he has answered every type of call imaginable. It’s the calls that don’t end well that haunt him.

“You wonder what you could have done differently,” he said. “You wonder what you should have done differently.”

But the nightmares don’t just come in the form of voices anymore. They can now appear as text messages. Residents of Gainesville have been able to text the Combined Communications Center with their emergencies since November.

The center is currently understaffed, but the bigger challenge has been supporting the emotional and psychological needs of the employees it already has, according to Michelle Klement, bureau chief of the CCC.

First Contact

Emergency telecommunicators are the first contact for victims. They must commit to working 12-hour shifts, but it is not uncommon for employees to find themselves working up to 16 hours a day.

Along with long hours, they work weekends and holidays, and often go long periods of time without seeing their families. Then there are the challenges that come with the paycheck.

The center has taken a hit at the county commission level, according to Klement.

“Our budget has decreased,” she said. “It’s been stated that we are one of the most underpaid jobs that are out there in dealing with the stress that we deal with.”

Employees are not here to be rich, though, she said.

“It takes a special type of person to do what we do,” Klement said. “In this job, they are intrinsically motivated to help people.”

But emergency telecommunicators sometimes need help themselves.

Staying Connected

Susie Westfall, a communications training commander, is one of only three employees qualified to provide Critical Incident Stress Debriefing.

The main objective of CISD practitioners is to listen without judgment and help employees develop appropriate coping mechanisms.

“As a person who is a dispatcher, I have been there,” she said. “I know what it feels like to take a call and feel absolutely helpless, and not be able to physically do anything except sit there and listen.”

But Westfall does not feel three practitioners are enough to help the entire center.

She said she would like at least six more people trained so at least 10 percent of the staff is qualified.

In the meantime, the center participates in clinics where employees can have their blood pressure taken, learn about diabetes and receive facts about shift workers and the necessity of getting a proper night’s rest.

It is also looking into a psychotherapy treatment called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, which Westfall said is currently being utilized by the military for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Something emergency telecommunicators are also at risk for.

Matthew Russell, a 29-year-old emergency telecommunicator, responds to a 911 call by sending obtained information to dispatch. "It's really powerful knowing that someone's life is in your hands," he said. "Just your voice can make a difference whether they make it or not." Heather Reinblatt/ WUFT News

Matthew Russell, a 29-year-old emergency telecommunicator, responds to a 911 call by sending obtained information to dispatch. “It’s really powerful knowing that someone’s life is in your hands,” he said. “Just your voice can make a difference whether they make it or not.” Heather Reinblatt/ WUFT News

Emergency telecommunicators do not have to have direct, physical exposure to trauma to be at risk for PTSD, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

The study found that they experience high levels of peritraumatic distress, strong emotions felt during a traumatic event. This can pose a significant risk to the general population in an emergency response.

To mitigate some of the stress, Westfall focuses on making sure employees have a life outside of work, one where they can relax and see a more positive side of humanity.

“You have to remain connected,” she said. “You have to have family, friends, church and hobbies. Whatever it is, that’s what helps employees the most.”

Touch of Humanity

The nightmares will always be there, waiting on the other end of the line.

But there are things that make it easier. There are things that allow Matthew Russell to reconnect with the outside world.

He has his wife’s unconditional support and his five-month-old daughter’s laughter. He looks forward to his morning commute and his favorite song, “Tessa” by Steve Jablonsky.

And every night before bed, he practices heart-focused breathing, which drops his heart rate and reduces the amount of adrenaline in his body.

He also has his colleagues. Although they may work different shifts, they are committed to making time for each other outside of work. In fact, a kayak trip down the Steinhatchee River is in the works.

They may never truly adjust to their job and be able to fully separate themselves from the trauma, but Russell said they try. They try because they want nothing but the best for the people on the other end of the line.

“Sometimes the best thing you can do is keep picking up the phone,” Russell said.

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In The News: Jeb Bush Takes Stance On Russian Aggression, Gainesville Health Clinic Reflects Growing Trend, Rays Draft Picks, Budget Woes Upset Gov. Scott’s Agenda

By and on June 9th, 2015 | Last updated: June 9, 2015 at 11:56 am
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