Meeks leads with
thoughtful motion;
Scores 3-2 vote

Levy County Commissioner John Meeks explains to his colleagues (from left) Danny Stevens, Ryan Bell, Mike Joyner and Chad Johnson why he believes the county should help the city if the study shows the ALS option for Chiefland will not affect the funding method for Levy County in regard to EMS. Johnson had mentioned this previously, and he is the commissioner who voted against rejecting the city's plea for help a couple of weeks prior to this meeting on Oct. 21.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 22, 2014

     BRONSON – In the evolution of a positive relationship between Levy County and the city of Chiefland in regard to public safety, County Commissioner John Meeks took the lead Tuesday (Oct. 21).
     It was on a motion by Meeks, seconded by County Commissioner Chad Johnson, that the majority of the current County Commission agreed to potentially reimburse the city up to $11,000 for a study that is going to be conducted by Nabors, Giblin and Nickerson, and Government Services Group to determine if the city’s proposal to add the Advanced Life Support level of service by Chiefland Fire Rescue paramedics.
CntCom102114E     That 3-2 vote showed Meeks, Johnson and Commission Chairman Ryan Bell voting in favor of it, while county commissioners Danny Stevens and Mike Joyner voting against it.

Chiefland City Manager Mary Elley (left) and Vice Mayor Betty Walker appear before the County Commission.

     Before Meeks made his motion, Chiefland City Manager Mary Ellzey and Vice Mayor Betty Walker appeared at the podium.
     Ellzey told the County Commission that the city would fund the whole study, per the direction of the Chiefland City Commission’s unanimous vote, which followed the county’s 4-1 vote earlier against helping the city. Commissioner Johnson was the lone dissenter back then.
     Ellzey and Walker thanked the County Commission for continuing to work with the city on this endeavor. Walker invited everyone to enjoy $10-a-plate all-you-can-eat fish dinners at the Levy Association for Retarded Citizens campus in the town of Otter Creek.
     The Ride To Provide is Saturday, Walker said, and everyone is invited for this event. Motorcyclists are anticipated to be arriving in the afternoon for the lunch that wraps up their fundraising ride.
    After Ellzey and Walker had completed their expressions of gratitude and the invitation to buy fish dinners, Meeks started making his statements.
     Meeks reminded the other commissioner that this ALS proposal by Chiefland could become a countywide practice, where municipal fire departments that have paramedics would help keep people alive with ALS rather than just basic first aid, as the patients await the arrival of an ambulance.
     If Chiefland completes what is needed for this practice to come to fruition, then the county should reimburse the city for the study, Meeks said. The research is being conducted to assure there is no negative impact on the county’s special EMS and Fire Taxing methods.
     The motion shows a reimbursement of up to $11,000 for the study. However, out-of-pocket expenses by the researchers would not be covered for reimbursement. Also, if the study shows the ALS advantage would endanger the taxing methods, then the city would have to simply pay for the study and that is the end of it.
     “Thank you,” Ellzey and Walker said.

Voting goes strong in Levy County
Published Oct. 21, 2014
     BRONSON -- Early voting is under way in Levy County, having started on Oct. 20, and early voting is an option through Nov. 1 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., every day, including Saturday and Sunday, Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones noted in an Oct. 21 media alert.

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    Early voters must bring identification (such as a Florida driver license) that includes a photo and signature. Other forms of ID can be found at Voters who do not have proper identfcation will be required to vote a provisional ballot.

     Sample ballots were mailed to every active registered voter who did not request a mail ballot for the upcoming election. Voters are encouraged to review the ballot, and even bring it to the polls, with pre-determined choices marked, to expedite the voting process. Voters may also visit to download a sample ballot.
     Voters may exercise the option to request an absentee ballot to be mailed to them. Absentee ballots cannot be forwarded. So any voter who is not going to be at their Levy County address will need to provide, in writing, the address where they want the ballot mailed.
     Requests for absentee ballots can be completed at or by calling the Elections Office at 352-486-5163. The deadline for voters to request an absentee ballot to be mailed to them is the close of business on Oct. 29.
     Voters who wait until Election Day – Nov. 4 – must go to their assigned polling locations. Voters can confirm their polling location by clicking “Find Your Precinct” on the website or by calling the Elections Office.
     Save time by planning ahead. Voters may view voter turnout from the Elections Office homepage under “What’s New.” For more information call 352-486-5163 or send an email to

Jamie Griffin wants
economic development

Photo and Story
By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 20, 2014
Griffin101714     LEVY COUNTY -- Jamie Griffin, the Democrat seeking the Levy County Commission District 4 seat, said he wants economic development and a countywide youth facility when he was asked why he wants to be a county commission.

Jamie Griffin stands in front of the door of Bett’s Big T Restaurant on the north end of Chiefland.

     "I want to be able to give my expertise in business to help with the future of economic development and tourism for Levy County," Griffin said. "Another one of my top goals is to build a youth-oriented countywide program like Boys and Girls Clubs or the YMCA for the youth in Levy County. I want a permanent countywide facility for kids, and we might even use the springs, the Gulf of Mexico and the Suwannee River."
     Griffin endorses increasing jobs in Levy County. As for the local option being offered voters to allow the County Commission to give incoming business interests a short-term ad valorem property tax break, Griffin said he favors that.

     "For Levy County to attract a larger, serious business, we need this competitive edge," Griffin said. "We are in a competitive market for businesses and I want to add this potential to bring jobs to the county. I want to build our economy and jobs."

     Griffin mentioned that he has been attending the County Commission meetings and other government meetings and functions, and has participated in some as a candidate for the office.
     Another improvement Griffin wants to see for Levy County would start in the Chiefland area, and relates to what he has seen in the County Commission meetings and the Chiefland City Commission meetings.
     He favors the county helping the city more with funding the effort for Chiefland Fire Rescue to have the ability for its paramedics to provide Advance Life Support (ALS) non-transport. In a recent Levy County Commission vote, that issue went 4-1 against the county paying any of the cost for a study.
     "I would have voted to split the cost of the study by half," Griffin said. "ALS is something the people have expressed that they want. I would have voted to split the cost because this study will benefit future decisions that will help the entire county. This will help Chiefland and its surrounding area today, and in the future it will help the whole county."
     Griffin knows that some people may want to focus on errors in judgment he made before, which resulted in him having to spend time in the Florida Department of Corrections. Griffin has seen the error of his ways, served his sentence, and will not do that again, he said.
     "I will not let my past determine my future," he said.
     As for his heavy duties as an owner of three restaurants, Griffin said this also lets him have an active finger on the pulse of the community. With restaurants in Bronson, Cedar Key and Chiefland, he hears from patrons and workers.
     “I have been on a commission and worked in the restaurant before,” he said. “I plan to give my attention to the duties of being a county commissioner. I am conditioned and accustomed to working many hours a day.”
     Griffin stressed that he is ready, willing and able to serve the people of Levy County on the commission.
     “I am prepared physically and mentally on Nov. 18 to begin the job from day one,” Griffin said.

Lilly Rooks wants to help
Photo and Story
By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 20, 2014

Rooks102014     LEVY COUNTY -- Lilly Rooks, the Republican candidate for Levy County Commission District 4, said she is running for office because she loves helping people.

Lilly Rooks sits at Burger King in Chiefland on Monday morning (Oct. 20).

     Rooks said she tries to be a problem-solver. During the past three years, since she lost the previous election to County Commissioner Ryan Bell, Rooks said she was getting calls from people.

     "I told them they needed to call Ryan," Rooks said.
     She said the callers told her that they were not getting return calls. Rooks said she was able to help them, even though she is not a county commissioner, because she knows what it takes, and she knows how to get through.
     Rooks said she wants to return to being a county commissioner, because she loves Levy County and she loves doing her job as a county commissioner.
     "When you love a job," she said, "you pour everything into it. You do better at it when it is something you love doing."
     Rooks said she wants to look at all of the roads in Levy County, because roads are very important. They affect people's lives every day, she said.
     She preferred to take care of a road problem before a person had to call to report it, Rooks said.
     "I would be out walking on a road and looking at it," she said, "and people would stop. 'Are you broken down?' they would ask. I would say, 'No. I am just looking at the road.' They would be tickled when I said that."
     Rooks said another reason voters should vote for her is because she is experienced as a county commissioner. She was in office the year that the area was impacted by hurricanes.
     "I've done it," she said. "I got water, ice and food into Levy County. And I got the National Guard in here."
     Rooks was the chair of the County Commission and she worked with then Sheriff Johnny Smith as well as County Coordinator Freddie Moody, Emergency Management Director Mark Johnson and the whole Emergency Operations Center staff. Rooks and the other leaders did decide policy during the emergency, and as chair of the County Commission, she was a significant part in making everything happen.
     She mentioned, too, that she is familiar with the procedures for emergency issues with what was Progress Energy and is now Duke Energy if there were a nuclear incident at the reactor in Crystal River. Since then, it has been shut down, but there is still spent fuel stored there.
     As for economic development, Rooks said having adequate fire, police, water and sewer facilities are important to attract clean, good business to the county.
     Rooks said she loves Levy County and this is where she raised her four children - Jo-Anne Osteen, James Hathcox, Kalanu Helton and Logan Rooks, who are all in Levy County. And she has six grandchildren.

State puts boots on the ground

Fact finders see potential
positive opportunities in Dixie County

Bev Pivacek waits for the group as she prepares to lead them on the last leg of the tour of some of the unpaved Nature Coast State Trail, which was formerly a train track.

Story and Photos

By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 16, 2014
Trail101614F     CROSS CITY -- Four members of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's state parks service toured Putnam Lodge Hotel and Spa, the Nature Coast State Trail and the Cross City Train Depot on Wednesday (Oct. 15) in a fact-finding mission.

Looking south on the Nature Coast State Trail from its northern point in Dixie County shows a long, straight stretch of prime real estate for biking, rollerblading or hiking.

     They were shown potential positive opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy the Nature Coast Trail even more in northern Dixie County.
     Lou Scruggs, chief of the DEP Office of Park Planning, was joined by DEP Planner Matt Klein; Assistant District Bureau Chief Brian Fugate; and Park Manager Larry Steed of Fanning Springs State Park.
     The Office of Park Planning provides a wide range of technical support and professional services beneficial to management of the Florida Park Service.

The end of the paved portion of the Nature Coast State Trail in northern Dixie County.

     Florida is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts with 160 state parks offering something for everyone. The physically active can select from hiking, biking, rollerblading and equestrian trails. History buffs can spend their time visiting the many forts preserved from days gone by. Water worshipers can surf, swim and dive in oceans, rivers, lakes and springs. And boaters and anglers need just to choose saltwater, fresh water or the mix found in some estuaries.

     On Wednesday, Eddie and Bev Pivacek helped Scruggs and colleagues see why Putnam Lodge Hotel and Spa should be named as a trail head location for the Nature Coast Trail.
     Eddie Pivacek took the four men on a quick tour of the rooms, conference meeting rooms, big dining room and bar, and the kitchen.

An old water tower from a turpentine plant stands as a sentry from the past.

     He shared stories with them about notorious gangsters and rum-runners of old, and a President who may have stayed in the rooms. He shared the actual history of the lodge with them as well.
     After that tour, Bev and Eddie Pivacek guided the men along a former spur line of train track that goes onto their property and connects to the Nature Coast State Trail. Once on the paved part of the trail that runs from Chiefland to the property next to the eastern edge of the Putnam Lodge Hotel and Spa property, the sojourners walked to the official end of the paved portion.

     Bev Pivacek became the tour guide then as she led the safari group through the woods on what used to be the train tracks. She showed them signs of the Nature Coast State Trail beyond the paved section and then urged the group farther along the less developed path to a train trestle.

A sun-faded sign shows the Nature Coast State Trail extends beyond the paved portion.

     As a babbling brook made its way to meander toward the west, perhaps eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico, the peace and beauty of Florida’s natural woods surrounded the group.
     The fact-finding state employees, and the Pivacek couple, and a couple of other men, made their way back to Putnam Lodge Hotel and Spa. Scruggs said he and his team will report to a committee that will consider options for possible improvements to that part of the Nature Coast State Trail.

A view of some of the woods next to Nature Coast State Trail – beyond the pave part in Dixie County.

     Currently, there is a bit of a walk from the lodge to the trail.
     Executive Chef Jeno Koch carries his rollerblades to the paved part of the trail as he walks from the lodge, Bev Pivacek said. While the old railroad base below the earthen trail is solid, the top few inches are dirt and leaves from the trees that have deposited there since the end of rail service.
     As for the area to the trestle, and beyond into Taylor County, there was some discussion about possibly mowing it at least to the trestle.
     In the meantime, five of the 16 acres next to the 28-room lodge, restaurant and bar are being viewed by the Pivacek couple for development into a paintball game range. Farther into the future, Bev Pivacek said she envisions a shopping area with a historic motif.

A brook runs beneath a trestle that used to carry trains over it.

     Putnam Lodge Hotel and Spa is also now known for its excellent meals. Supper is served from 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and there is an amazing Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Trail101614P     After the special lunch on Wednesday, Dixie County Manager Mike Cassidy and others toured the Cross City Train Depot. The DEP staff looked at this existing Trailhead for the Nature Coast Trail and considered opportunities that could happen for this historic building.

Seen here is the table a bit before the start of a luncheon being served for the visitors from the DEP and other invited guests. Seen here is lemon grass soup with wontons. The featured dish was Cornish hens stuffed with cornbread-cranberry-raisin stuffing. The dessert of the noon meal, prepared by internationally-renowned Executive Chef Jeno Koch, was coconut mousse.

     The Dixie County Chamber of Commerce has become very active in recent months as it seeks to attract new business and assist existing business interests in continuing to thrive. And the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners has helped where it could.
     Eddie and Bev Pivacek’s work at Putnam Lodge Hotel and Spa may be thought of as one of the cornerstones for the eco-tourism attractions in Dixie County.
     Putnam Lodge Hotel and Spa is a state historic landmark, as noted by the Florida Society of American Foresters. "Built in 1927, Dixie County's Putnam Lodge was once a haven for visitors to one of Florida's largest sawmills," the FSAF notes on its website. "Now the lodge is the most visible reminder of an era during which the Putnam Lumber Company annually produced 40MM board feet of tidewater red cypress and 100MM board feet of longleaf yellow pine at its mill in Shamrock. To commemorate this landmark, the Suwannee Chapter's Dr. Ed Barnard spearheaded efforts to erect a historical monument at the lodge and dedicate it with a ceremony held on Dec. 8, 2004."
     To see a previous story, photos and video about Putnam Lodge Hotel and Spa, click HERE.

Poker Run Helps Haven Hospice
Motorcyclists rolled into the parking lot for The Attic, Haven Hospice's thrift store at 112 E. Rodgers Blvd. (U.S. Highway 19) in Chiefland, on Saturday morning (Oct. 11) as they registered to participate in the Fourth Annual 'Hutch' Hutchinson Legacy Poker Run for Haven Hospice. Val Hutchison, Hutch's widow, stands next to a memorial display for her husband who was among the first Toys For Tots Motorcycle Run organizers in the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties.

Motorcyclist Bill Wiggins of Rock Bluff is seen here registering with Wendy Davis, one of the many volunteers who made the Fourth Annual 'Hutch' Hutchinson Legacy Poker Run succeed.

Meanwhile, Jason O'Brien and Stephanie Boyd are seen on a 2013 Switchback Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The After Party started at 3 p.m. This poker run benefits the Haven Hospice Tri-Counties Care Center in Chiefland. Participants collect cards during the five stops. The best hand wins a three-night cabin stay at the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground. The minimum recommended donation was $15 for drivers and $5 for each passenger or each additional hand. Participants had the opportunity to enjoy the poker run, an after-ride party with prize drawings and a 50/50 drawing. Brad Groom is among the organizers of this event.
Photos by Jeff M. Hardison

WED.  OCT. 22   2:47 p.m.
Levy, Dixie, Gilchrist counties

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