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Dixie County slates workshop
for dog control ordinance


Story, Photos and Video

By Jeff M. Hardison © May 23, 2015
     CROSS CITY – A unanimous vote by the Dixie County Commission on Thursday night (May 21) resulted in a workshop being scheduled for 9 a.m. on June 4 in the commission’s meeting room in the Dixie County Courthouse in Cross City.
Dixie052115Pz     This workshop is to review and enhance the current county ordinance regulating nuisance dogs.

Judy Poitevint tells the Dixie County Commission about her frustration with the local government not being able to help her cure a problem from the stench of mounds of animal feces and continuous barking and howling, which she believes is happening from mistreated canines.

     The regular meeting Thursday night included extensive commentary from a few people about a piece of property in the Old Town area of the county, where a man is allegedly abusing dogs by keeping them in what sounds like untenable conditions.
     Judy Poitevint spoke on behalf of herself and her husband Ben. Dotti Leichner spoke on behalf of herself and her husband Bob. Al Rese and Lucille Rese of Levy County also spoke at length about this matter, and another neighbor of the Poitevints and Leichners shared the same perspective of this scene, which reportedly has been brought to the attention of the County Commission and Sheriff Dewey Hatcher Sr. for three years now.
     At least one county commissioner said he has been in office for about half a year now, and he has already heard this complaint at least a half dozen times. Since the recent departure of former County Manager Mike Cassidy, County Manager Tim Alexander said he is doing his best to transition into the duties and reminded the complainants that he is one man.


In this video, Judy Poitevint says she needs help quickly. In the background, she is playing the tape of dogs barking that she reportedly must listen to night and day because a person who does not live on the property is keeping dogs there.

     Alexander said he and his staff are working 12 to 14 hours every day to bring departments up to speed and to take care of matters as they come up.
     The County Commission repeatedly told the accusers that this commission is not a law enforcement body. The County Commission sets policy for its staff, and it can create local legislation such as animal control ordinances. The High Sheriff of Dixie County is the top law enforcement officer in the county.
     If the people see reason to believe Sheriff Hatcher is not performing his duties, then people can complain to Third Judicial Circuit State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister, County Attorney Rhett Bullard said. Siegmeister may approach the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Executive Investigations section to review Hatcher’s alleged lack of response to complaints filed from witnesses of alleged crimes.
     Poitevint opened the dialogue by stating that she believes the County Commission has failed to act. She has repeatedly approached this body to report “a neighbor’s illegal dog-breeding and kenneling operation,” she said.
     She said she and her husband have endured circumstances that include them suffering a daily assault from the stench of mounds of animal feces. They hear the ceaseless barking and howling of dogs in distress.
     “None of you could live out there,” she said to the members of the Dixie County Board of County Commissioner. “None of you could live out there in what I am living in.”
     She reminded County Attorney Bullard that when she complained of these same conditions in February, he had said, “Miss Judy, we are going to get you some help out there.”
     “And nothing’s been done. Why?” Poitevint asked.
     County Commissioner Gene Higginbotham reminded the woman that he had been out to the scene and helped her overcome a problem with livestock that this neighbor had. The commissioner said the man replaced the horses with a lot of dogs.
     She went on to tell everyone who was listening that there are fighting roosters out there now, too.
     “We need a workshop to get this taken care of,” Poitevint said.
     The county resident said there is a Dixie County ordinance dealing with nuisance animals, according to what she was able to find on the Internet.
    Actually, in regard to nuisance dogs, there are limits. Here is what the current county ordinance shows in that regard “Sec. 6-28. - Control of nuisance dogs. After the receipt of a complaint in any form of a nuisance dog, the animal control officer is authorized to determine if the dog is a nuisance. If the nuisance dog is a stray, the officer is authorized to immediately pick up or seize the dog and handle the dog in accordance with this article as a stray dog.”
     These dogs have not been determined to be strays.
     And there is Florida law regarding animals in distress.
     Florida Statute 828.073 states "Animals found in distress; when agent may take charge; hearing; disposition; sale
     (1) The purpose of this section is to provide a means by which a neglected or mistreated animal can be:
     (a) Removed from its present custody, or
     (b) Made the subject of an order to provide care, issued to its owner by the county court, any law enforcement officer, or any agent of the county or of any society or association for the prevention of cruelty to animals appointed under s. 828.03, and given protection and an appropriate and humane disposition made.
     (2) Any law enforcement officer or any agent of any county or of any society or association for the prevention of cruelty to animals appointed under the provisions of s. 828.03 may:
     (a) Lawfully take custody of any animal found neglected or cruelly treated by removing the animal from its present location, or
     (b) Order the owner of any animal found neglected or cruelly treated to provide certain care to the animal at the owner's expense without removal of the animal from its present location, and shall forthwith petition the county court judge of the county wherein the animal is found for a hearing, to be set within 30 days after the date of seizure of the animal or issuance of the order to provide care and held not more than 15 days after the setting of such date, to determine whether the owner, if known, is able to provide adequately for the animal and is fit to have custody of the animal. The hearing shall be concluded and the court order entered thereon within 60 days after the date the hearing is commenced. No fee shall be charged for the filing of the petition. Nothing herein is intended to require court action for the taking into custody and making proper disposition of stray or abandoned animals as lawfully performed by animal control agents.
     (3) The officer or agent of any county or of any society or association for the prevention of cruelty to animals taking charge of any animal pursuant to the provisions of this section shall have written notice served, at least 5 days prior to the hearing set forth in subsection (2), upon the owner of the animal, if he or she is known and is residing in the county where the animal was taken, in conformance with the provisions of chapter 48 relating to service of process. The sheriff of the county shall not charge a fee for service of such notice. If the owner of the animal is known but is residing outside of the county wherein the animal was taken, notice of the hearing shall be by publication in conformance with the provisions of chapter 49.
     (4)(a) The officer or agent of any county or of any society or association for the prevention of cruelty to animals taking charge of an animal as provided for in this section shall provide for the animal until either:
     1. The owner is adjudged by the court to be able to provide adequately for, and have custody of, the animal, in which case the animal shall be returned to the owner upon payment by the owner for the care and provision for the animal while in the agent's or officer's custody; or
     2. The animal is turned over to the officer or agent as provided in paragraph (c) and a humane disposition of the animal is made.
     (b) If the court determines that the owner is able to provide adequately for, and have custody of, the animal, the order shall provide that the animal in the possession of the officer or agent be claimed and removed by the owner within 7 days after the date of the order.
     (c) Upon the court's judgment that the owner of the animal is unable or unfit to adequately provide for the animal:
     1. The court shall order the animal to be sold by the sheriff at public auction, and shall provide in its order that the current owner shall have no further custody of the animal and that any animal not bid upon shall be remanded to the custody of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society, the county, or any agency or person the judge deems appropriate, to be disposed of as the agency or person sees fit; or
     2. The court may order the animal destroyed or remanded directly to the custody of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society, the county, or any agency or person the judge deems appropriate, to be disposed of as the agency or person sees fit, upon the testimony of the agent who took custody of the animal, or upon the testimony of other qualified witnesses, that the animal requires destruction or other disposition for humanitarian reasons or is of no commercial value.
     3. Upon proof of costs incurred by the agent or officer, the court may require that the owner pay for the care of the animal while in the custody of the agent or officer. A separate hearing may be held.
     4. The court may order that other animals that are in the custody of the owner and that were not seized by the officer or agent be turned over to the officer or agent, if the court determines that the owner is unable or unfit to adequately provide for the animals. The court may enjoin the owner's further possession or custody of other animals.
     (5) In determining the person's fitness to have custody of an animal under the provisions of this act, the court may consider, among other matters:
     (a) Testimony from the agent or officer who seized the animal and other witnesses as to the condition of the animal when seized and as to the conditions under which the animal was kept.
     (b) Testimony and evidence as to the veterinary care provided to the animal.
     (c) Testimony and evidence as to the type and amount of care provided to the animal.
     (d) Expert testimony as to the community standards for proper and reasonable care of the same type of animal.
     (e) Testimony from any witnesses as to prior treatment or condition of this or other animals in the same custody.
     (f) The owner's past record of judgments under the provisions of this chapter.
     (g) Convictions under the statutes prohibiting cruelty to animals.
     (h) Any other evidence the court considers to be material or relevant.
     (6) If the evidence indicates a lack of proper and reasonable care of the animal, the burden is on the owner to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he or she is able and fit to have custody of and provide adequately for the animal."

Dixie052115J
Dixie County Manager Timothy Alexander (left) and County Attorney Rhett Bullard are relatively new to this issue, which reportedly has been going on for three years now. Before them, it was something being handled by former County Manager Mike Cassidy and County Attorney Jennifer Ellison. Cassidy resigned his post and Ellison was elected as Dixie County Judge.

     When County Commissioner Jason Holifield asked her what she would like the County Commission to do, she turned on a tape she made of dogs barking.
     “This is what I listen to day and night,” she said. “Every day, I listen to this. Every day. I can’t have functions at my house. I can’t go in my yard. You can’t even open the doors, and the flies, the flies are not in my house. I need to buy stock in Raid. So, I just need some help out there. And I need it fast.”
     County Attorney Bullard told the County Commission that he believes former County Manager Cassidy had started on this project, but then he left. He told Poitevint that the County Commission is not a law enforcement agency.
     Whether the law can be enforced may be a point of dissension between Poitevint and the Dixie County Sheriff’s Office, Bullard said, but the County Commission is not the board to approach in that regard.
     County Manager Alexander said he met with Sheriff Hatcher the previous Friday and he had met with DCSO Maj. Scott Harden on Thursday morning (May 21). He noted that Commissioner Higginbotham has told him to work on this matter – to make it a priority.
     Higginbotham said that when the ordinance is revised, the county needs to take care not to over-impose on people with hunting dogs.
     Commissioner Holifield said he sympathizes with Poitevint with what she is having to hear and smell.
     Commissioner W.C. Mills said he does not think this issue is about hunting dogs, and if the current ordinance is not up to dealing with this type of situation, then there needs to be some amendment to that ordinance.
     The next person to speak is a business owner in Old Town.
     Dotti Leichner is a neighbor of the Poitevint couple. There is one lot between them.
      Leichner said she her son and daughter-in-law were visiting her at her house in Old Town for Mother’s Day. She said the noise is horrible.
     “We tried to sit outside and have a lovely evening,” Leichner said, “and the noise was embarrassing. It was terrible. I was embarrassed to live where I live, because of the noise.
     “But for us,” she continued, “it goes beyond the noise. It’s animal cruelty that is going on back there. And it hurts me to live in a place where people don’t care that these animals are being treated like they are being treated.”
     Every day, the Poitevints, the Leichners and other neighbors within earshot of this place, are reminded that these animals are suffering as they howl and bark consistently.
     “They are not being fed,” she said. “They are not being watered. They have improper pens. In my opinion there should be some kind of emergency function to get them off. The owner of the animals is not even on the property.”
     The resolution of this problem is moving slowly, Leichner said.
     “Bob and I have talked about moving out of the county because of this issue,” she said. “It’s not a place where we want to live, where that kind of thing goes on. I just wanted to let that be known. Bob couldn’t be here. He had to stay at the store (Dixie Music Center). But we both feel the same way.”
     On a motion by Holifield, seconded by Mills, the County Commission voted 5-0 to conduct the workshop on June 4 at 9 a.m.


Widget added to Home Page
Published May 23, 2015 @ 9:47 a.m.
     THE WORLD -- Anyone viewing HardisonInk.com on the Internet will now be able to participate in surveys thanks to a widget that was added to the Home Page during Memorial Day Weekend.

     "What I anticipate people seeing," owner and publisher Jeff M. Hardison said, "is nationally syndicated opinion polls as well as polls that will be generated by me. On the first version of installation, I noticed it is placed twice. So, I am having my web guy help me fix that issue."
     The publisher noted that the opinion poll service will be functioning properly in the relatively near future, although it is Memorial Weekend, so there may be a few days before the kinks are removed.
     People will be limited to casting one opinion answer per computer, per question. Participants will see results as of their posting as to what percentages voted on the various questions. For the time being, it is in a beta stage.
     “I plan to learn more about what I need to do to submit my own polls, too,” Hardison said. “That will be happing soon.”
     In regard to the stories that are coming soon to the whole website, these include -- Dixie County Slates Workshop For Dog Control Ordinance (Video); Dixie County Earns Top Emergency Management Certification; Levy County 4-H Vegetable Garden Thrives; Levy County 4-H Hosts District Events; Log Cabin Quilters and more.


Watermelon052115IBus 'O' Melons

To see related photos to this one and to read a little bit about these watermelon buses, please visit the CALENDAR PAGE.
Published May 21, 2015 @ 8:07 a.m.
~
All original photographs and videos published on HardisonInk.com are the exclusive intellectual property of the sole proprietor of this business - Jeff M. Hardison. Reproduction by copying and pasting or through other means is prohibited (including to Facebook or anywhere else), including by other print and broadcast media in any market, according to civil law that protects this property from that taking by other interests.
Photo by Jeff M. Hardison


FDOT hosts meeting to discuss replacement of the
Waccasassa River Bridge
on Levy County Road 339;

Other road projects and Cedar Key bridges update provided
CntCom051915D

Jordan Green of the DOT Planning and Environmental Office (left), and Nelson Bedenbaugh, a senior project manager with the DOT Design Office, speak to the Levy County Commission about the DOT plans for roads and bridges in Levy County.

Story and Photos

By Jeff M. Hardison © May 20, 2015 @ 7:37 p.m.

     BRONSON -- The Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) is scheduled to host a public meeting on Thursday, May 28, to discuss the proposed replacement of the Waccasassa River Bridge on County Road 339 in Levy County, according to a May 19 press release from DOT District Two Public Information Director Gina Busscher.
     The meeting is slated to be in the Dogan Cobb Building, 660 E. Hathaway Ave. (U.S. Alt. 27), in Bronson. DOT will send staff  to answer questions from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Comments from the public will be taken starting at 6:30 p.m., she said.
     DOT proposes replacing the existing two-lane bridge with a new bridge consisting of two 12-foot wide lanes and 10-foot wide shoulders. During construction, the roadway will be closed to through traffic and a detour route is proposed, Busscher said.

CntCom051915E
Levy County Commission Chairman John Meeks (left), County Commissioner Lilly Rooks and County Commissioner Mike Joyner listen to the presentation.

     The improvements, currently estimated at $2.6 million, are anticipated to begin in late 2019, Busscher said.
     On Tuesday, Jordan Green of the DOT Planning and Environmental Office, and Nelson Bedenbaugh, a senior project manager with the DOT Design Office, spoke to the Levy County Commission about the DOT plans for roads and bridges in Levy County.

CntCom051915F
Levy County Commissoner Rock Meeks (left) and County Commission Vice Chairman Danny Stevens look at the information provided by the DOT.

     The state fiscal year is from July 1 through June 30, Green said, as he opened his presentation.
     He presented the work program slated for adoption for Levy County on July 1. These projects reflect what needs to be done to take care of the DOT’s infrastructure – roads, sidewalks and the like.
     Of the four categories listed on the five-year plan for Levy County (2016-2020), Green and Bedenbaugh focused on the local roads and the “off state highway system/off federal system” road projects.
     The Waccasassa River Bridge replacement is on there. Next on that list are two sidewalk projects -- on Levy County Road 40 from the Yankeetown General Store to the end of the existing sidewalk. That is 1,900 feet long. Construction is seen in 2017 currently for that.
     There is a sidewalk project for Levy County Road 32 (Northeast 90th Street) From CR 337 (Court Street) to State Road 24 in Bronson. Green told County Commission Chairman John Meeks that he has heard the request to move that project up from the preliminary engineering currently set for 2017.
     Meeks said the students of Bronson Middle High School appreciate that effort to expedite that sidewalk project.
     Levy County Road 337 north from SR 24 to the Alachua County line is slated for resurfacing in 2018.
     Levy County Road 40 from the Bird Creek Boat Ramp to U.S. Highway 19 in the Inglis area is set for widening and resurfacing in 2018.
     There are three bridge replacement projects in Cedar Key, and Bedenbaugh addressed these.

/CntCom051915B
Terry Witt asks about the renewal of the 6-cents gasoline tax during an earlier part of the meeting. Unless at least 51 percent of the municipalities in the county agree to an interlocal agreement for this 30-year 6-cent local option gasoline tax renewal, then funding for county roads by the state through various small counties' projects cannot occur. This tax was first adopted 30 years ago. Distribution of funds to cities is re-evaluated every five years. Commission Chairman John Meeks had Witt use the microphone, as Meeks did all parties, so that the dialogue could be heard by everyone in the audience. The County Commission agreed 5-0 to move forward with the renewal. The deal hinges on cities agreeing to the interlocal agreement for the tax to continue.

     Green said DOT has been meeting with the town leaders of Cedar Key and with the business owners in regard to the bridges. DOT must apprise the county commission of its work plans, and so this is an update on the bridges of Cedar Key.
     Daughtry Bayou Bridge, Bedenbaugh said, has construction that is anticipated to take 18 months with a cost of approximately $2 million. Traffic will be detoured to the east of the existing bridge during construction, he said. This is on CR 456 (Gulf Boulevard).
     This bridge project is important, he said, because it goes to the George T. Lewis Airport. This will allow large trucks needed for that construction to cross the bridge after it is replaced, he said. This will be two 10-foot lanes with two three-foot shoulders on each side, Bedenbaugh said, and six-foot sidewalk next to that on each side, he said.
     The next bridge project to the north is Lewis Pass Bridge, also on Gulf Boulevard. There are three options for this project. One is to build a temporary bridge to the east side of the existing bridge, Bedenbaugh said. Another option is to build a temporary bridge to the west side of the existing bridge, Bedenbaugh said.
     The third option is to build a temporary bridge farther to the west, because there are no houses on the property. Bedenbaugh said this is a preferred method, because then there is not a need to buy houses to knock them down and build a temporary bridge.
     In the first two options there would have to be two houses taken out on each side of the temporary bridge, he said. The estimated cost of that bridge replacement is $1 million, he said.
     The most difficult bridge replacement is on C Street, he said. This is the Cedar Key Channel Bridge leading to Dock Street.
     The replacement of this bridge presents the most challenge because of its potential impact on the Dock Street business interests.
     Bedenbaugh said the DOT has considered eight different options on this bridge, and some of those have as many as four side options. There have been two meetings with the business owners, he said.
     That project which has a bridge impacting Dock Street has been requested to be moved out to Fiscal Year 2019, he said.
     The other two projects have construction dates starting in April of 2017, he added.
     The C Street Bridge started as a repair project, rather than a replacement project. The walls that tie everything together, he said, need replacement and the review showed the whole bridge and walls must be replaced. The current estimated cost on the C Street Bridge is $3 million, he said.
     One option is to close the bridge. Construction with that option is 24 months, he said. The business owners think that if the bridge was closed, it would kill their business, Bedenbaugh said. The idea of having people park on one side and get shuttled to their businesses did not meet with acceptance, he said.
     There are too many flaws in that idea to make it feasible. Also, people who want to leave the hotel in the middle of the night will see that as being a problem. Public safety is another problem, because ambulances and fire trucks would have a difficult time reaching locations with the bridge closed.
     Among the various elements causing design distress is a desire to raise the bridge four feet taller when it is replaced. This calls for putting tie downs further out, he said. This means that if the old bridge was left open until the new section of bridge was complete, it would still take six to nine months of bridge closure to complete that project, he said.
     Business owners said they cannot last six to nine months with that bridge closed to traffic, he said.
     In option six, the plan raises the bridge one foot, calls for a two to four-month closure and creates a wiser bridge as well.
     Bedenbaugh said DOT is still working with the residents and business interests in Cedar Key to create the best plan for that bridge replacement.


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Fifty-Eighth Jingle Singers


The newest performers of the HardisonInk.com jingle are Tay Villegas, 15, of Dunnellon and Dominic Hammons, 15, of Inglis. They performed on May 18, 2015 at the park next to Inglis City Hall. Tay was practicing basketball and his friend was on the bench. The two young men play in Dunnellon Little League’s Senior Team. Everyone is invited to sing the HardisonInk.com jingle. If you see Jeff Hardison and you want to sing the jingle, just let him know or send an email to hardisonink@gmail.com. He asks people to sing it, too, and some of them agree to sing it. (Thanks people!) The next jingle performer has not been recorded yet.
Published May 18, 2015 @ 4:27 p.m.

-- Video by Jeff M. Hardison


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