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Commission ignores
lawyer's advice 4-1

Seated at a large table in a courtroom (from left), County Attorney Anne Brown, Commissioner John Meeks, County Commissioner Danny Stevens, Commission Chairman Ryan Bell, County Commissioner Mike Joyner and County Commissioner Chad Johnson prepare to conduct the business of the day. The County Commission meeting room is being renovated now.

Story and Photos

By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 21, 2014
     BRONSON – Proposed changes in the manner in which Levy County Road 40 is being repaved led Levy County Attorney Anne Brown to advise the County Commission on Tuesday (Oct. 21) to recommend either rebidding the project or going forward with it as it was accepted earlier.

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     After more than 30 minutes of discussion about the non-agenda item, on a motion by County Commissioner Mike Joyner, seconded by Commissioner John Meeks, the 4-1 vote shows Joyner, Meeks, Commissioner Chad Johnson and Chairman Ryan Bell voting in favor of the change and County Commissioner Danny Stevens voting against it.
     William “Bill” Bachschmidt, a principle in D.A.B. Constructors of Inglis, told the County Commission that he can save the county money and provide a better job of repaving Levy County Road 40 from U.S. Highway 19 going east to where it meets the Marion County line. Before the vote that led to approval of the change, however, there was a 4-1 vote in which Johnson voted against hearing something that was not on the agenda.
CntCom102114D     Johnson has consistently voted against considering items not on the agenda.

Levy County Road Supervisor Bruce Greenlee (left) and William “Bill” Bachschmidt, a principle in D.A.B. Constructors of Inglis, speak to the County Commission. Bachschmidt noted that he lives and works in Levy County, and that he is among the taxpayers of the county.

     Levy County Road Supervising Administrator Bruce Greenlee and Andrew Carswell of Mills Engineering approached the County Commission with a proposal that was not on the agenda for that meeting.
     Basically, Carswell said, Bachschmidt is wanting to mill off an inch and a half of asphalt off the roadway. There is a savings to the county by milling the road, the engineer said.
     Cracks along the centerline and in some other places, Carswell said, are the reason for the change. Other discussion showed that oxidation of asphalt causes the cracking, and by removing the old upper part of oxidized asphalt, the repaving lasts longer before cracking again.
     If the old asphalt is not removed and is simply repaved over, the cracking returns in six or so years, Bachschmidt told the County Commission.
     Carswell said the county has repaved roads using the old method, and he does not see a significant problem with that method.
     “This is not something the other bidders were able to bid on,” County Attorney Brown said.
     There was no option for milling and less asphalt being added, she said, when the bid was let for this project. While the end result of repaving is the same, it is in effect a different job, she said, and the other bidders were not given an opportunity to propose their price by using this method.
     Brown said the county is exposing itself to a possible challenge by some other bidder who participated earlier but did not win the bid. If the county wants to consider this process, she suggested rebidding it with that option being noted for all bidders.
     Greenlee said he would prefer not to rebid the project due to time constraints on the grant. The asphalt management classes he attended have shown Greenlee that milling helps eliminate a lot of the cracking shown on CR 40, he said.
     “Amending the contract would be open to challenge,” Brown reiterated.
     Commissioner Meeks said he sees a $6,000 savings projected for the county by doing the work this way. Beyond that, the county keeps all of the old millings from what comes off the road – for use on the sides of roads, on driveway areas next to roads and potentially on dirt roads to reduce dust, Bachschmidt said.
     Bachschmidt said this much milling is worth $175,000.
     Bachschmidt said he drives on CR 40 every day and he knows about the cracking.
     “The attorney says it can be challenged,” Bachschmidt said. “Everything can be challenged. You can change what you want to change.”
     At the pre-construction conference with Greenlee and Mills Engineering, Bachschmidt said the idea was presented and it seemed like a good idea at the time. There are 9,000 tons of asphalt going down on the job, and so there are 9,000 tons of millings being taken off, he said.
     “I challenge that there’s going to be a challenge,” Bachschmidt said, as he stressed that this is an accepted practice that provides a longer-lasting repaving job at a reduced price.
     By using the milling method, the price is $876,380 which is in comparison to $882,504 to equal just over a $6,000 savings, Meeks said.
     With that, Joyner made the motion to accept the proposed change and Meeks seconded it.
     Commissioner Stevens asked if this would be a “change order’ to the project.
     Carswell said this is a form of change order.
     Stevens said he heard Brown say the county opens itself to a challenge by allowing this revision. He prefers delaying a decision on the question until the county sees approval from the Florida Department of Transportation for a change order.
     Carswell said the DOT must approve the plan before it goes forward.
     Johnson said this issue provides a perfect illustration of his reason for objecting to non-agenda items being brought before the County Commission. This could have been researched before being considered, he said.
     By jumping the process, this does not allow commissioners to prepare themselves with information so that they can make a decision by being informed first.
     Johnson finds it ironic that the commission is looking at an option to build a better road with a longer-lasting method that cost less tax dollars, but they are potentially delayed by rules of the bid process. The other choice would be to go with the existing proposed method, knowing it may not be the best option, he said.
     Joyner said he made the motion because this will save the taxpayers’ money and he knows D.A.B. Constructors will build a fine road.
     Stevens said he just wants to see the DOT agree to the change order or he wants it to go as it was bid. He said that the vote could wait two weeks until he sees the change order.
     Brown said there will need to be an amended agreement, which is not in front of the commission that morning. Bell said he understands that.
     Since the motion and second were made, and the call for the vote was made, it was a 4-1 vote with Stevens being the lone dissenter. The next County Commission meeting day is Nov. 4 – election day.

Fanning Springs City Council
approves covering 'overage'
on Holiday Inn Express
and Dairy Queen projects

Story and Photo
By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 16, 2014

Updated Oct. 17, 2014

     FANNING SPRINGS – Since the Fanning Springs City Council only meets once a month, a special meeting was called with little notice on Wednesday (Oct. 15).
     This was reportedly the third special meeting related to an infrastructure project to help Holiday Inn Express place a hotel in Fanning Springs. There is a Dairy Queen slated for construction in this economic development plan.
     On a motion by City Councilwoman Barbara Locke, seconded by City Councilwoman Jane Nogaki, there was a 4-0 vote of approval to cover any overage on the estimated $1.4 million worth of infrastructure improvements.
     That is $1.4 million noted as an opinion of probable construction costs for this possible Holiday Inn Express to be built in the Gilchrist County part of the city of Fanning Springs on property located behind Capital City Bank.
     Joining in the positive vote with Locke and Nogaki were City Council Chairman Paul Chase, who called the special meeting, and City Councilman Marty Sanchez. Mayor Cheryl Nekola was present, but the mayor does not vote in Fanning Springs government.
    One City Council members was absent – Whitney “Stoney” Smith. Also absent were City Attorney Conrad Bishop Jr. and City Clerk Sheila Watson. With four of the five members present at the special meeting there was a quorum. (In a previous version of this story, the city clerk and city attorney were listed as voting City Council members. We regret that error that was posted for some number of hours.)
     Also present were Rodger Nogaki (husband of Councilwoman Nogaki) and Howell “Trip” Lancaster, both candidates for mayor in the Nov. 4 election.

Fanning101614     Fred Fox of Fred Fox Industries, the director of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for this economic development project, let the City Council know where the developer stood in regard to paying for infrastructure.

Fred Fox (left) and Greg Lang provide information to the four City Council members at the special meeting.

     Fox said that in the first version of the agreement, the city put the onus on the developer if bids came in higher than the $1,366,700 opinion of probable estimated cost of construction.
     Beyond the $1.4 million estimated construction cost, there is $263,200 in engineering fees slated for Mittauer & Associates Inc., and $120,000 for grant administration.
     The developer of the Holiday Inn Express said that his being forced to pay the overage on construction costs for infrastructure would be “a deal breaker,” Fox said. The developer, according to Fox, said that he wants all of the city’s public infrastructure to be in place to open the facility – with no liability on the developer for that part of this project.
     If the city wants to pursue the project, it must agree to pay for any overage from the $1.36 million opinion of probable construction costs,  which is the lion’s share of the total $1,749,900  total budget.
     Fox said the city is a year away from seeking bids. Greg Lang of Mittauer & Associates created the opinion of probable construction costs. While Lang believes they are accurate, because of the past experience and current market, no one can guarantee the construction firm placing the winning bid will come in at or below this estimated cost to build the infrastructure needed.
     CDBG comes from the federal government through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), Fox said. There is a (DEO) grant know as a Rural Infrastructure Fund, which Fox sees as potentially covering any difference between the CDBG and what a low bidding contractor might submit as a bid.
     Lang showed the City Council that if a bidder went 15 percent higher than his opinion of probable construction cost, it would add another $205,000. Adding 15 percent makes the total combined construction cost equal $1,571,705.
     The construction includes water lines, sewer facilities, street improvements, including curbing and gutters, added sidewalks and street lighting as well as three-phase electric power in the right-of-way. The city’s current local development regulations require some of these improvements, which may need to be scaled back – depending on bids.
     It will take a majority vote of the City Council to allow anything other than compliance with the local development regulations, which were established as part of growth management for the city.
     Fox said 60 days after the DEO offers the CDBG to the city of Fanning Springs, the city will lose the offer if the city does not accept that offer. If the other grant is not finalized, and the CDBG award is contingent on that, then the CDBG will be lost.
     There will be $200,000 in engineering fees due to Mittauer & Associates even if the project is scrapped, because by that point the engineering firm would have performed work on this project.
     There is a difference between the CDBG funds and the Rural Infrastructure Fund. The CDBG money is given to the city in advance. The other fund is reimbursed to the city after the city pays the bill or runs a line of credit. In the line of credit scenario, Fox said, the city will be “eating the interest,” meaning it must pay those percentage points.
     Lang clearly told the City Council that the opinion of probable construction costs is an opinion. It is based on the project that is not yet designed, but is conceptual. Mittauer & Associates has 25 years of experience with this type or work, Lang said.
     Contractors will give the city bids. The engineers do not control what is going to be bid, Lang said. Qualified contractors will submit sealed bids, which will be opened in public.
     “We cannot guarantee that this opinion of probable construction costs is going to be exactly within ‘X’ number of dollars or a percentage of what you see and receive for bids,” Lang said.
     In the motion by Locke, she included that the city will cover the overage and that the city is applying for the Rural Infrastructure Fund to cover funding if there is a gap between the CDBG that is awarded and the bid price given by the winning contractor.
     Fox said he believes it will take him a couple of weeks to complete the applications for the CDBG and for the Rural Infrastructure Fund. The DEO will take a month to review those applications. Fox said timing the process is important so that the CDBG is not awarded too early, because there is that 60-day window and the Rural Infrastructure Fund needs to be secured for that potential $200,000 gap or overage.
     Mayor Nekola mentioned that she is very much in favor of the hotel project. Nekola said she has endorsed growth for the city throughout the eight years she served as mayor. She reminded the audience that had the city not moved forward with its sewer treatment plant project, then Holiday Inn Express and Dairy Queen would not be able to build in the city.
      Mayoral candidate Lancaster said he is 100 percent behind the Holiday Inn Express project as well.
     Gilchrist County Commissioner Todd Gray, who is also a contractor, said he can speak only for himself but that he believes the county endorses the proposed project to add a Holiday Inn Express and a Dairy Queen.
     Gray mentioned that there is an economic development referendum question on the ballot for Gilchrist County voters. That would provide tax breaks for developers as an incentive to attract them.  In this case, that is not needed, because the developer already chose to build in Gilchrist County.
     Richard Wilbur, a Fanning Springs resident, said he felt there needs to be a look at reality. The Holiday Inn Express in Chiefland no longer exists, he said. It went through a series of name changes after it closed. He does not foresee this hotel having any better long-term success than the one in Chiefland.
     Another person made the point that cabins at the state park are often completely booked and need to be reserved a year in advance. Therefore, there are people who want to stay close to the park.

Chiefland moves on with ALS;
DTF gives money;
Students honored

By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 14, 2013
     CHIEFLAND – After the Levy County Commission voted 4-1 to decline to provide any of the up to $11,000 in funding for Nabors, Giblin and Nickerson, and Government Services Group, it became a question of whether the city would fund the study.
     County Commissioner Chad Johnson dissented from the majority of the County Commission who voted against helping the city fund the study. The study is to determine if Chiefland Fire Rescue being allowed to have its paramedics provide the Advance Life Support level of medical care while waiting for an ambulance would negatively affect the county’s current method of imposing fees for Emergency Medical Services.
      Vice Mayor Betty Walker noted at the start of the conversation about this matter that the County Commission did not vote against ALS for Chiefland, but it had a majority who voted against paying for the study to see if this would impact the fees paid by people throughout the county.
     City Commissioner Teresa Barron said she would like to move forward, after Walker mentioned that this is the next step before anything else can be done.
     When Mayor Teal Pomeroy asked if the only place where the city could take the money was the contingency fund, Walker said she is going to ask the county to be allowed to pay as the invoices come in from Nabors, Giblin and Nickerson, and Government Services Group, which she believes will be monthly or quarterly.
     Fire Chief James Harris said the CFR Contingency Fund and leftover revenue from the previous budget year, and from the next budget year, will keep this expense in the Fire Department’s budget, rather than going into the city’s contingency fund.
     Walker sought permission to ask the County Commission if the bill is going to the county and then the city will pay the county, or if the two companies would bill the city directly each month, or quarterly.
     City Manager Mary Ellzey brought clarity to the question by asking the City Commission if it wanted to pay 100 percent of that bill, or not, so that the County Commission would know at its Oct. 21 meeting.
     Mayor Pomeroy said the money is not in the budget. Vice Mayor Walker said the City Commission needs to find the money because the people want the improved medical service.
     Pomeroy argued with Walker and said that people wanted recycling until they had to pay an extra $1 a month.
     Chief Harris reminded Mayor Pomeroy that it is a benefit to be able to tell companies that the city has an ISO rating of 4, for fire insurance purposes, and it will likewise be a stronger attraction for a business if it knows the standard of EMS by the fire station includes paramedics who can practice at an ALS level.
     County Commission candidate Jamie Griffin said he was at the last County Commission meeting, where the majority rejected the request for assistance in funding the study. Griffin said he believes it will behoove the city to move forward and fund this study.
     Griffin added that he believes this will pay off more than $11,000 to the city of Chiefland in the long run.
     City Attorney Norm Fugate advised the City Commission to be certain the $11,000 comes from the city ad valorem tax revenue rather than from the funds the county gives the city for fire protection. The county demands those funds are to be spent on fire services, whereas this is going to be on the medical service part of the fire department, he said.
    Fugate added that he believes the study needs to show this is not a new practice in Florida, and that it does not interfere with the legality of the EMS assessment program in Levy County.
     On a motion by Commissioner Barron, seconded by Walker, the City Commission voted 5-0 to pay up to $11,000 for the study from funding other than that provided by the county.
     In other news, Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum presented a check to the city from federal forfeiture cases that were brought in the past.
     Since the Chiefland Police Department is part of the Levy County Sheriff’s Office Multijurisdictional Drug Task Force $19,478. This brings $59,500 since last Aug. 13 that the DTF gave Chiefland.
     The sheriff said Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz has not worked out all of the details so that it can be part of the DTF yet, Sheriff McCallum said, although to the best of his understanding the GCSO does plan to join.
     Chiefland Police Chief Robert Douglas reported about a Ford truck that ran into the Murphy Express gas station.
     Students of the month for September were recognized. They were Jada Cooper of Chiefland Elementary School, Colby Reed of Chiefland Middle School and Lauren Cabeza of Chiefland High School.
     Cooper, a fifth grader, is the daughter of George Norman. She was said to be conscientious and a hard-working student.
     Reed, an eighth grader, is the daughter of Terance and Christie Reed. She was said to be an athletic student who is very polite and a natural leader who gets along well with other students. is
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Forty-Sixth Jingle Singer

The newest performer of the jingle is Steve Bloom at Ace Hardware of Bronson, who is a singer in the choir at First United Methodist Church of Williston. Everyone is invited to sing the jingle. If you see Jeff Hardison and you want to sing the jingle, just let him know or send an email to He asks people to sing it, too, and some of them agree. (Thanks people!) This video was posted Oct. 6, 2014. The next jingle singer will be a person who has not even been videotaped doing it yet.
-- Video by Jeff M. Hardison

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Levy, Dixie, Gilchrist counties

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