Vision Christian Academy FBLA
has successful first year

Representing the Vision Christian Academy FBLA Chapter are (from left) Grace Kennedy, Kaleen Edwards Cricket Woodle and A.J. Kennedy.

Photo and Information
By Teresia Dulaney
Published March 22, 2017 at 1:37 p.m.
on the Business Page of
While Vision Christian Academy is in its ninth year of existence, 2016-17 was the school’s first time participating in the middle-high school chapters of FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America).


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     The FBLA organization has been around for 75 years, teaching students about careers in the business field. Students can continue to participate in this organization at the college level in PBL (Phi-Beta Lambda).
     While small in numbers VCA students hit the ground running, learning about the organization and all that it has to offer.
    “I was always involved in FBLA when I was in high school” Teresia Dulaney, VCA’s FBLA chapter advisor, said. “It was one of the many organizations that gave me a love for leadership and the free business enterprise system. I just want our students to learn that they have the power to do anything they want in life if they work hard enough for it. Plus, I want them to have the confidence and courage to make it happen.”
     To start the year off, the students attended the National Fall Leadership conference in Daytona Beach. It was a big undertaking for such a small group because of the expense. However, we raised the money through our business ventures that we had been learning about. The students could see how big the organization really was and see the opportunities that were available to them in leadership through this organization. The students also attended workshops that taught them how to dress for success, how important it was to not let social media ruin their future opportunities and how to step up into leadership roles.
     In January, students from all over the District 7 area competed in business related events for a chance to place and advance to compete at the state level. From there, students would be able to advance to the National level in June.
     “My goal for our students this year was for them get the experience of competition and to explore the different areas of business that they might be interested in,” Dulaney said. “To have three students place in the top three of their events was very exciting for them and myself!”
     Cricket Woodle earned Second Place in Middle Level Public Speaking, a performance category competition. However, only the First Place winner was given the opportunity to advance to state in that category.
     “In spite of having to fight back her nerves, Cricket performed very well, receiving positive comments from the judges,” Dulaney said.
     A.J. Kennedy earned Third Place in the Middle Level Business Math event, which qualified him to compete at the state leadership conference scheduled to be held March 23.
     Kennedy’s first choice was to compete in the Agribusiness event, but it is not available for middle school students.
     Kaleen Edwards competed in Introduction to Business Communications and earned Third Place, which allowed her to advance to state competition.
     Edwards has had no business experience. However, this event tests a range of skills like grammar, capitalization, parts of speech, editing, word usage and definitions in which she did very well.
     The students were recognized for their achievements at the District 7 Awards Banquet on March 10, held at the Marion Technical College in Ocala.
     “Our students that qualified for state competition have opted not to compete this year,” Dulaney said. “This is primarily due to the cost and the fact that it was our spring break and students had already made plans.
     “The time period between the district events and the state events did not allow us enough time to raise the money and change any plans,” she continued. “We look forward to planning ahead for next year.”
     The FBLA students are working on one last project that involves an educational learning experience and fun with the Walt Disney Co.
     “We are fundraising to participate in two of the behind the scenes workshops offered by Disney’s leadership programs,” Dulaney said. “We hope to be able to make that happen by the first week of May. Overall, we have counted our first year in the FBLA organization a huge success and look forward to next year.”

Late freeze damages
watermelon crops in Levy County

Notes on early peanut planting
Published March 21, 2017 at 2:27 p.m.
on the Business Page of
D. Anthony Drew, the row crop specialist and county agent with the UF/IFAS Levy County Extension Service, noted on Tuesday (March 21) that the watermelon crops were severely damaged as a result of the most recent freeze.

     County Agent Drew said the recent cold snap inflicted some of, if not THE worst damage on melons that he has seen in his career since farmers started growing on plastic mulch.
     "I spent this past Friday (March 17) looking at fields and trying to quantify the damage," Drew wrote in his field notes on Tuesday. "We saw fields with near 100 percent loss and down the road a bit we saw fields with less than 5 percent damage. I’m too old to be stupid enough to ascribe 'rhyme or reason to the 'why' in every case."
     Nevertheless, Drew noted a couple of his general observations. They follow.
     ● Plants experienced temperatures in the 80s since planting just prior to the cold. They were not “hardened” off. We saw this in the freeze of the early 1980s that killed citrus down to I-4.
     ● There were definitely geographical areas that got more uniform damage across fields and growers. I can only assume they were “cold spots” on the map. Northeast Levy County is a case in point.
     “Regardless of all the above,” Drew noted, “we are now faced with the rest of the season. I asked Dr. Matthews Paret to weigh in on the issue of whether or not we should be aware of and do anything different in the fields as related to the cold damage on our plants.”
     Here is Dr. Paret’s response in that regard:
     This is a unique situation and if you remember from 2013, the cold damage led to quite a lot of replanting and using plants that were not of the topmost quality. The presence of the pathogen
Pseudomonas syringae (the bacterial “angular leaf spot”) in the poor transplants and the subsequent cool wet weather really get it going. I would say that I am more worried about bad quality transplants coming in for replanting more than anything else.
     Secondly, damage can help many pathogens and saprophytic pathogens also to proliferate. They all should be looking at damage including heavy water-soaking on leaves. If there is heavy damage and Pseudomonas (the bacterial “angular leaf spot) or other pathogens present it could be a problem.
     They all need to watch for this for some days to a few weeks and if risk is noted, then maybe a single spray of copper mancozeb or actigard can slow things. You certainly know the rules on copper use low rates to minimize injury.
Early peanut planting
     We finally got some moisture to plant our dryland peanuts and many of you are starting or will shortly start to plant. A few facts about soil temperatures and seed vigor follow.
     1.) “Ideal” soil temperatures for most of our varieties are in the 65 to 68 degree (daily average) point at seeding depth. Yesterday I measured 64 degrees as an average in a sandhill field. We are expecting increasing temperatures over the next few days.
     2.) It is important to note that this time of year, peanut germination and vigor can be adversely affected by sudden drops in soil temperature. The bottom line is this: monitor the weather forecast and if you are planting early (mid-March through early April) peanuts, try not to have germinating peanuts in the ground when the temperature is forecast to drop even if the soil temperature is OK at planting.
     3.) Peanut seed vigor is influenced not only from lot to lot but between varieties as well.

Levy County approves

website owner's offer for ad
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © March 21, 2017 at 8:27 a.m.
The Levy County Commission recently chose to accept an offer from publisher and owner Jeff M. Hardison. offered Levy County the chance to start a trend to help investors and Florida taxpayers.
     Levy County accepted the opportunity to better market the upcoming list of delinquent tax certificates for sale from the office of Levy County Tax Collector Linda Fugate.
     While the Chiefland Citizen is anticipated to collect thousands of dollars to publish the list in three weekly editions (May 11, 18 and 25) of that tabloid-sized weekly newspaper with a circulation of fewer than 2,000 paid subscribers, Hardison is scheduled to publish a link to the part of Levy County Tax Collector Linda Fugate's website where people can check on delinquent property taxes for $150. has an average of 15,000 unique visitors a month -- in January and February. has an average of a million hits a month.
     For $150, the ad and link will run on all seven pages 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week during the weeks of May 11, 18 and 25.
     Initially, Hardison offered to run the delinquent tax notices republished on a different webpage for one year for $5,000.
     After conducting more research, the website owner found the most efficient and least expensive method to bring in the most added revenue to the county coffers through the revised method.
     The owner of the 7-year-old daily news website named notes that the site primarily covers news in Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties. However, there are occasions where statewide news, national news and even global news – such as NASA (or ULA or Space-X) events – are covered.
     The high quality of writing, photography and videos accounts for the continual growth. With so many people visiting the website, and many of those beyond the Tri-County Area, the advertisements draw from local and well as distant potential buyers.
     “I am pleased to announce that the Levy County Commission accepted my offer to increase the odds of selling delinquent property tax certificates from this county by reaching a much larger audience than it reaches through just the Chiefland Citizen,” Hardison said.
     This action increases the marketing of sales of delinquent tax certificates to possible buyers. It will be visible to all people via the internet for the three weeks when those sales are most promoted.
     There is no subscription purchase required to view
     This ad will be promoted on as well as just existing there, as are all advertisements on the site.
     Levy County is the first Florida county to use this independent daily news website.
     The tax collectors in Dixie and Gilchrist counties chose not to accept the offer, Hardison said.
     A weekly newspaper’s representative noted that it is required to place legal ads on a website. This placement of a link on is better than that.
     Those ads are not easily found, and this ad will be much better promoted. This ad for a link is going to be on itself – not some separate place.
     “Another reason to accept my offer to go beyond the mandatory minimum required by law is because I am a local vendor,” Hardison said. “The weekly newspaper is owned by a Florida corporation, which is owned solely by a Kentucky corporation. I am a resident of Levy County, and my daily news website is owned by me.”
     Hardison said he appreciates the Chiefland Citizen putting in a correction adfter one of its former editors noted was a “blog.”
     “For the past 45 years, since 1971 in high school and through college and graduate school,” Hardison said, “I have covered the news all over Florida. I have earned seven awards in competition with other Florida journalists.”
     With the reach of this website beyond the county lines, the odds of having more buyers of these tax deeds is increases enough to buy this ad space.
     It was Levy County Commissioner Rock Meeks who first asked about reducing the price.
     Hardison said he after speaking with Tax Collector Fugate and considering the best management practice for this new enterprise, this is the best price for the highest return on investment for Levy County.
     County Commissioner Mike Joyner has said he has used for his political ads, and he believes Hardison does “a wonderful job.”
     County Commission Chairman John Meeks and County Commissioner Matt Brooks have used the website to advertise, and Brooks continues advertising a business interest that he co-owns -- B4 Signs & Advertising, BUSINESS PAGE.
     During one meeting, Joyner asked County Attorney Anne Brown whether the weekly newspaper had exclusive rights to this ad space.
     Attorney Brown said that she needed to review and make sure the county has not given exclusive rights to the weekly newspaper to publish the delinquent tax notices.
     It was after her review that Levy County Coordinator Wilbur Dean contacted Hardison to say the county wanted to accept his offer.
     Levy County Tax Collector Fugate said historically, there have been 5,000 to 8,000 parcels listed for delinquent taxes. From that approximately 2,500 remain unsold each year, she said.
     This additional ad would increase the marketing of those tax certificates.
     A couple of people have complained to the County Commission that there is not the enough Internet access in Levy County to make them content.
     However, the people buying the certificates noted via would be those people who do have Internet access and money to invest, and there is no requirement for those buyers to live in Levy County.
     The idea of buying the ad in is to expand the reach of the marketing of this investment item beyond the four corners of Levy County, and so while a few people might complain about their lack of Internet service in some parts of the county, that is not very relevant.
     In fact, too, every single Levy County resident has access to one of the five county libraries, where Internet service is provided for free.
     Dale Bowen, an employee of the Florida corporation that owns the Chiefland Citizen and is wholly owned by a Kentucky corporation has done what he could previously to influence the County Commission to not accept the offer from
     Although that Kentucky-based group already captured the mandatory ad sale, since it has a monopoly as the only qualified bidder – which Bowen himself noted in his bid proposal, Bowen still felt compelled to attempt to crush Hardison’s (an independent business owner) offer to help the county.
     Bowen said people who want to search for public notices can go to This site is every legal notice from every newspaper in Florida.
     Linda Cooper, the former office manager of the Levy County Journal, has said she prefers because it is a free publication and it is of a better quality for news and human interest content than the Chiefland Citizen.    
     “The county is not paying $150,” Hardison said. “The tax certificate buyers are paying for the ads. If there are 5,000 certificates sold, then that is less than one penny per certificate buyer for this added advertisement.
     “I have to laugh at the weekly newspaper,” Hardison continued. “One of its former editors noted is a blog.”
     Hardison said he and his attorney – Sunshine Baynard of Baynard Law, P.A., (another advertiser) has noted in writing and verbally that this offer is not a bid to advertise the delinquent tax notices in competition with the weekly tabloid. This is an offer beyond that. And the law that precludes other newspapers does not exclude the county from accepting the offer.
     “By the way,” Hardison said, “for people who do not know what a blog is, it is a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group that is written in an informal or conversational style. It’s an online journal.
     “ is a daily news website,” Hardison said. “News websites are recognized by professional journalism societies all over the world. Back when I worked for newspapers that were in print, I earned two awards for investigative reporting (1983-The Jasper News and 2007-a newspaper in Levy County). I earned one for environmental reporting (1990-a New York Times Regional Newspaper Group-owned newspaper). I earned one for community service (1989-Glades County Democrat). I earned one for best public service (1989-Glades County Democrat). I earned one for front page layout (1989-Glades County Democrat). And I earned one for best use of full color (1984-Naples Star).”

City of Fanning Springs
advertises for attorney again

By Jeff M. Hardison © March 16, 2017 at 12:17 p.m.
Mayor Howell E. "Trip" Lancaster decided against automatically renewing the annual contract with the Dell Graham Attorney Firm of Gainesville to be the City of Fanning Springs’ attorney.

     The Tuesday night (March 14) announcement led to a request for proposal advertisement being placed in newspapers.
     During a telephone interview with Mayor Lancaster on Wednesday, he said the $42,000 the city spent with the Dell Graham Attorney Firm of Gainesville in its first nine months of service to the city was a factor in the choice to seek another city attorney.
     There is a clause in the current contract which shows the city must let the law firm know of its intent against automatically renewing the contract 60 days before that time, Lancaster said and that is why.
     The current two attorneys from the Gainesville-based firm that have been to Fanning Springs City Council meetings are attorney David Delaney and attorney Jamie Lynn Shideler (who is also known as Jamie Lynn White).
     There was a short time when Mayor Lancaster had hired an interim city attorney before the city hired the current firm.
     The City of Fanning Springs lost its previous attorney -- who had served as city attorney for the previous 28 years -- when he resigned spontaneously on Feb. 10, 2016.
     Former City Attorney Conrad C. Bishop Jr. of Perry had remained through the conclusion of the almost three-hour meeting in that fateful Tuesday night in 2016.
     Bishop made his announcement to resign as soon as then-active and now former City Councilwoman Jane Nogaki made a motion, seconded by City Councilwoman Barbara Locke and unanimously adopted, to send out requests for proposal for candidates to be the city attorney.
      Former City Attorney Bishop had been driving to Levy County from Taylor County for the City Council meetings since 1988.
     That was the first meeting for City Councilman (Seat #1) “Tommy” Darus III, who has since become the City Council chairman.
     In a telephone interview on Thursday morning (March 16), Darus said the city is involved with grants that require everything to be exact, and there are occasions where Mayor Lancaster or City Clerk Sheila Watson need to ask for legal advice.
     Darus said he is very pleased with the work by the Dell Graham Attorney Firm of Gainesville so far, however, he did say in 2016 as the lone dissenter that he felt the contract was too open-ended.
     Darus said in 2016 that the contract made it too difficult to budget, because there was not some more solid annual amount. In making the budget for the current fiscal year, he unsuccessfully argued to budget more for legal fees than was placed in the budget.
     As for responses to the requests for proposals by possible city attorneys, Darus said he hopes to see the Dell Graham Attorney Firm of Gainesville providing a proposal. He is hopes to see some offer that the City Council can accept and feel more comfortable with in regard to a more firm figure so that the city’s budget will match with what is required.
     In other action from the March 14 meeting, Fanning Springs joined some number of other cities and counties across Florida in adopting a moratorium against medical marijuana dispensaries being allowed.
     The voters of Florida chose to allow medical marijuana to be dispensed, but the actual logistics to make this happen are not all in place yet. In the meantime, anti-marijuana groups are lobbying to circumvent the implementation of the new law.
     In other news from the City of Fanning Springs, during his interview on Wednesday Mayor Lancaster said a possible new motel to be built within the City of Fanning Springs is awaiting a review of archeological studies at the site.
     Given there is no delay as a result of finding artifacts, the mayor foresees the motel project moving forward.

Water conservation urged
Information  by SRWMD
Published March 15, 2015 at 9:07 a.m.
on the Business Page of
     LIVE OAK –
Rainfall across the Suwannee River Water Management District (District) dipped in February following a strong start in January.

     In conjunction with water usage changes for Daylight Savings Time, the District encourages residents to monitor water usage and follow water-wise conservation practices.
     “No matter the time of year or level of rainfall, water conservation is everyone’s responsibility and is core to the mission of the District,” said Noah Valenstein. “Wise water use is always important and ensures the long-term sustainably for the environment and users. Times of decreased rainfall are vital to remind us of the importance water provides for all resources.”
     February rainfall averaged 1.1-inches across the District, down from the long-term average of 3.89-inches. Gilchrist and Levy counties saw the greatest amount of rainfall, both receiving over 1.3-inches of rain. The highest gaged monthly rainfall total of 1.73-inches was recorded at the rainfall station at Goose Pasture in southern Jefferson County.

     The northern part of the district saw the least amount of rain. The rainfall pattern was similar in the Georgia portion of the Suwannee River Basin, with no area receiving more than 50 percent of normal monthly rainfall.
      “Rainfall patterns fluctuate from year to year and it’s important to view levels with a historic, long-term perspective,” said Tom Mirti, director for division of water resources with the District. “With the increase in data and information, water managers are better able to monitor rainfall and identify impacts.”
     On a District-wide basis, Floridan Aquifer water levels decreased slightly during the month to the 41st percentile on average. However, almost half of the District’s long-term wells showed an increase in aquifer level.
     For ways you can help conserve water and to view the full February Hydrological Report, visit under the under the “Water Resources” tab.
     The mission of the Suwannee River Water Management District is to protect and manage water resources using science-based
solutions to support natural systems and the needs of the public. The District holds true to the belief of water for nature, water for people.
     Headquartered in Live Oak, Florida, the District serves 15 surrounding North Central Florida counties.

January delivers expected
bump in unemployment rate;

Ocala MSA posts state’s
fastest job growth rate in two key sectors

Story Provided by CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published March 13, 2017 at 5:27 p.m.
on the Business Page of
     OCALA –
Employment in Citrus, Levy and Marion counties tracks state and national trends for January, with an increase both over the month and, for the first time in recent memory, over the year in unemployment. But that increase is tempered by a strong boost in the number of those with jobs.

     The unemployment rate for the three-county region was 6.6 percent, up 0.8 percentage point over the month and 0.3 percentage point higher than the region’s year ago rate of 6.3 percent, according to the jobs report released today by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).
     Out of an expanded labor force of 199,922, there were 13,140 unemployed or 1,616 more than the previous month and 921 more than January 2016. At the same time, there are 186,782 people with jobs in the region or 5,527 more than the same time last year.
     Additionally, the Ocala MSA had the fasted job growth rate compared to all other metros in the state in professional and business services (+11.2 percent) and trade, transportation and utilities (+6.6 percent).
     In all, four nonfarm industry sectors grew at a faster rate in the Ocala metro than statewide and no industries lost jobs over the year.
     Rusty Skinner, CareerSource CLM’s CEO, said that in the past, the three-county area has seen some “significant swings” from the preceding December’s numbers because DEO recalibrates its data regarding employment for the January report.
     “That is not the case here,” Skinner said, noting that the labor force and employment numbers have expanded in all three counties. “That is generally perceived to be a positive sign. I think what we’re seeing is more people are in the labor force, seeking employment because of expanding employment and job markets.”
     Skinner said that another positive indicator is the fact that more than 40 employers are set to participate in the Marion County Spring Career Fair on March 21 and 20 are on tap for the March 23 Citrus County Spring Career Fair.
     In addition to job-market optimism, Skinner said another factor that may contribute to the bump in unemployment is that in January employers typically tend to make seasonal staff adjustments.
     “When the February report is issued later this month, we will be able to see if some of the optimism of job seekers has resulted in their absorption into the ranks of the employed,” he said, adding that if the region’s employment trend of the last five years continues, all three counties will see the unemployment rate drop in February.
     The following is a breakdown of preliminary employment numbers for each county:
     ● Citrus County's labor force increased by 483 to 47,749, the number of employed rose slightly by 22 to 44,146, and the number of those without jobs increased by 461  3,603 over the month, an increase of 181 over the year. The unemployment rate for January 2016 was 7.2 percent.
     ● Levy County's labor force expanded by 114 to 16,760, the number of employed was virtually unchanged with an increase of 12 to 15,810 and the number of unemployed increased by 102 to 950. The unemployment rate a year ago was 5.5 percent.
     ●Marion County’s labor force expanded by 1,053 to 135,413, the number of employed increased by 111 to 126,826 and the number of jobless rose by 1,053 to 8,587. While that’s 695 more unemployed over the year, the number of those with jobs increased by 5,218 compared to January 2016 when the unemployment rate was 6.1 percent.
     The boost to the region’s employment numbers was largely fueled by a 4.4 percent over-the-year job growth rate the Ocala Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The Ocala metro posted 102,700 nonfarm jobs in January, down 1,500 jobs over the month, but an increase of 4,300 jobs compared to January 2016. 
     The unemployment rate for the region, Levy County continues to hold the lowest unemployment rate in the region, at 5.7 percent, an increase of 0.6 percentage point over the month and up 0.2 percentage point compared to January 2016; Marion County follows again with a jobless rate of 6.3 percent, up 0.7 percent over the month and 0.2 percent over the year; and Citrus County at 7.5 percent, an increase of 0.9 percent since December 2016 and 0.3 percentage point compared to a year ago.
     The nation’s jobless rate as well as Florida’s rate – both seasonally and not seasonally adjusted – also ticked up over the month. The not seasonally adjusted rates, which most closely mirror local data, are 5.1 percent and 5.2 percent, up 0.6 percentage point and 0.5 percentage points respectively over the month. But while Florida’s rate increased 0.2 percent over the year, the national rate dropped 0.2 percent.
     According to DEO, the unemployment rates increased in all but two of Florida’s 67 counties over the month. Compared to January 2016, rates rose in 59 counties, dropped in three and were unchanged in five.
     Compared to December 2016, unemployment rates rose in all Florida’s 22 metro areas, and over the year, rates increased in 21 metros and were unchanged in one.
     Among the counties, Citrus County’s rate ranked third highest behind Hendry County (8.1 percent) and Sumter County (7.6 percent); Marion County tied for 10th highest with Dixie and Holmes countie4s; and Levy County was in a five-way tie for 26th.
     The Villages MSA posted the highest rate among the states metros, Homosassa Springs (Citrus County) was second and Ocala third. 
     Industries gaining jobs over the year were trade, transportation and utilities (+1,500 jobs); professional and business services (+1,000); education and health services (+800); mining, logging and construction (+600); leisure and hospitality (+100); manufacturing (+100); and government (+100).
     Professional and business services (+11.2 percent); mining, logging and construction (+9.1 percent); trade, transportation and utilities (+6.6 percent); and education and health services (+4.5 percent) grew faster in the metro area than statewide over the year.
Information, financial activities, and other services were unchanged. No industries lost jobs over the year.
     Nonfarm employment in the Homosassa Springs metro area (Citrus County) was 33,100, unchanged over the year.
     The February employment report will be released on Friday, March 24.

Mayor looks at
Florida Legislature's action

Published March 11, 2017 at 7:37 p.m.
On the Business Page of
     Publisher's Note: Inglis Mayor Drinda Merritt provides her insight from visiting Tallahassee. After her notes on this issue related to Visit Florida, and other matters, a new email from the leader of Visit Florida is provided.
This week the Legislative Session started. This committee split the bill into two bills.

    One bill completely guts Enterprise Florida and moves what remains of it to DEO. The Visit Florida bill changes it to puts restrictions on expenditures and contracts that require Legislative oversite that will hinder the ability of Visit Florida to do quick response advertising after events like the BP oil spill or hurricanes like Matthew. Even though once again the public majority that testified were against these measures was passed by this committee.
     The assault on Home Rule is very aggressive this year with a number of Bills filed that restrict how municipalities regulate business, wireless infrastructure, Community Redevelopment. House Bill 17 and Senate Bill 1158 contradict the will of the citizens for Florida who expressed an unequivocal desire for broad Home Rule powers in their state constitution. Many local issues of concern to citizens would be in the hands of a centralized state body, located hundreds of miles away from their homes and businesses. This did not work in the past in Florida and will not work again.
     The wireless communications industry is pushing for state legislation that prohibits local governments from regulating the placement of small cell wireless infrastructure, establishes unrealistic time frames and conditions on local government permitting of wireless communication attachments to local government infrastructure and restricts the fee that may be charged for the use of a city structure to a nominal fee of $15 per year. This also ignores local governments’ need to underground utilities for safety and aesthetics while allowing an unlimited number of new poles in the right of ways with no regard to local zoning regulation.
     This legislature also wants to do away with Community Redevelopment Agencies. Currently there are 178 CRAs in Florida that were established to encourage new investment and job creation in urban areas that were blighted as a result of substantial growth moving away from the urban core. The tax increment funding is relied on heavily to fund the CRA’s. These CRA’s have worked to revitalize many towns and cities across the state and will continue to help many others unless the legislature has its way. At this point this is only a bill in the House and the Senate does not have a companion bill at this point.
     Many in Tallahassee feel that this is going to be a very contentious session. If you care about these issues please let your legislators know your position.

Call issued
to support tourism in Florida

     Publisher’s Note: Following is a recent email sent by Visit Florida President and CEO Ken Lawson.
     This week, the Florida House of Representatives advanced HB 9, a bill that would jeopardize Florida's tourism industry and kill VISIT FLORIDA's ability to remain competitive. Rest assured, we are still fighting every day in Tallahassee to ensure that this bill does not become law.
     The next stop for HB 9 comes tomorrow when the bill will be considered on the floor of the Florida House. We expect this bill to be up for a final House vote this Friday. Although there is no companion bill in the Florida Senate, we are taking this attack on tourism very seriously and communicating with legislators every day about how this bill will kill jobs.
     We need you to do the same. Please consider contacting your local legislator ( to tell them why they need to vote down HB 9.
     Florida's tourism industry has shown its influence over the last few weeks, and we still need to demonstrate to the Florida Legislature why the jobs tourism supports are important. You can find everything you need to effectively advocate at ( Thank you for continuing to stay involved.
     As we continue to press forward in our mission to break more visitation records, I'm glad to announce new roles for three people within the VISIT FLORIDA family. First, Nelson Mongiovi will be serving as Chief Marketing Officer on an interim basis. Nelson has been with VISIT FLORIDA since 2013, serving most recently as Director of Marketing Operations.
     Staci Mellman will now be serving as interim Vice President, Global Brand. Staci began working at VISIT FLORIDA in 2011 and has been serving as Brand Director.
     Last, Meagan Chiamardas will be assuming Staci's former position, Brand Director, on an interim basis. Meagan has been with VISIT FLORIDA since 2008, most recently serving as Associate Brand Director.
     Nelson, as part of his new role, will be reaching out to Chief Marketing Officers across the state to gain their input. In consultation with me, he has decided to host a webinar with interested CMOs to explain the steps VISIT FLORIDA is taking going forward. Details on this webinar will be shared soon.
     Please join me in welcoming these three into their new roles. I am confident that Nelson, Staci and Meagan will help increase the value that we provide to Floridians every day.
     I look forward to seeing many of you next week at Florida Tourism Day.
Ken Lawson
President & CEO

Spring career fairs in full bloom
By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Communications Manager
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published Feb. 24, 2017 at 4:17 p.m.
on the Business Page of
     OCALA --
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion will hold a pair of career fairs in March in Marion and Citrus counties.

     The career fairs, which take place March 21 and 23, are free and open to anyone seeking employment. To date, more than 30 employers with jobs to fill plan to participate.  
     “Holding these on two days and in two locations provides plenty of opportunities for career seekers and employers,” said Brenda Chrisman, CareerSource CLM’s business services officer. Chrisman said the annual fairs provide a “fast, efficient and effective” recruiting option for businesses while offering career seekers the ability to meet one-on-one with hiring managers.
     While there is no need to register, professional dress is required. 
     Both career fairs take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
     Marion County Spring Career Fair is set for Tuesday, March 21 at CF’s Klein Conference Center in Ocala. To date, 26 area employers plan to participate: AFLAC, ASB Financial, Auto Customs, Benefit Advisors, Cardinal LG – Ocala, College of Central Florida, City of Ocala - Water Resources, Episcopal Children’s Services, Florida Department of Children and Families Mental Health Treatment Facilities, Florida Department of Corrections, Harmony United Psychiatric Care, Health Matters, Kindred Hospice, Marion County Board of County Commissioners, McCall Technology Group, MGM Hotels, Middlesex, Ocala Community Care, Ocala Electric Utility, Ocala Police Department, On Top of the World, Raney’s, Silver Springs Bottled Water Company and Sitel.
     Citrus County Spring Career Fair takes place Thursday, March 23 at CF’s Citrus County campus, 3800 S. Lecanto Highway, in Lecanto. More than a dozen employers are lined up for the event: Aflac, ASB Financial, Auto Customs, Benefit Advisors, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, Citrus County Fire Rescue, Episcopal Children’s Services, Florida Department of Corrections, Health Matters, Home Instead Senior Care, Key Training Center, Middlesex and Teleiman, LLC.
Free career fair preparation assistance is available at CareerSource CLM career centers. For more information, visit Career Fairs at or call 800-434-JOBS, ext. 1200.
     CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion is an equal opportunity employer/program. Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request in Spanish and to individuals with disabilities. For accommodations, call 800-434-5627, ext. 7878 or e-mail Like CareerSource CLM on Facebook, follow on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. CareerSource CLM is a proud partner of the American Jobs Center network and member of CareerSource Florida.

CF to host career expo
at the Paddock Mall on March 24

Information Provided by CF Marketing
Published March 2, 2017 at 2:37 p.m.
on the Business Page of
      OCALA –
The College of Central Florida is scheduled to host its 60th Anniversary Showcase and Career Expo on Friday, March 24, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Paddock Mall, 3100 S.W. College Road, Ocala.
     The event is targeted to those seeking volunteer positions, full- or part-time employment, and those looking for education opportunities. Participants should bring résumés and cover letters and come dressed to impress.
     More than a dozen local businesses will be represented, including CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion, Champions for Champions, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Earth Fare, Family Endeavors, Florida Department of Corrections, Habitat for Humanity of Marion County, Home Depot, Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection, Marion County Homeless Council, Marion County Public Library System, Talent Center, Vocational Rehabilitation, Volunteer America and the United States Army.
     For more information, please contact CF recruiter Elvie Tyler at 352-854-2322, ext. 1366, or send an email to
     To learn more about the College of Central Florida, visit

Rep. Neal Dunn announces 2017

Congressional Art Competition;
High school students
are encouraged to submit artwork

Published March 8, 2017 at 9:07 a.m.
on the Business Page of
U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn (R-District 2 Florida) recently announced the 2017 High School Congressional Art Competition.

     District 2 of Florida for the United States House of Representatives includes Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist and other counties.
     The United States House of Representatives sponsors this competition each spring to recognize and honor talented young artists from each congressional district across the country.
     High school students residing in Florida’s Second District are encouraged to submit their work. The winning piece will be hung in the United States Capitol building along with artwork from across the country. The Congressional Art Competition began in 1982 and since then more 650,000 young artists have been involved.
     “The Congressional Art Competition is rich in tradition and brings together students from around the country,” Dunn said. “I know we have a vast amount of talented young artists in Florida’s Second District and I look forward to displaying the winning piece in the Capitol for all to see.”
     Submissions can include paintings, drawings, collages, and photography, among other mediums. Artwork entered in the contest may be up to 26 inches by 26 inches, may be up to 4 inches in depth, and not weigh more than 15 pounds. The deadline for submission is April 20. For full competition guidelines visit Dr. Dunn’s website at

Poll worker orientation slated;
Deadline to reserve is March 27
Published Feb. 15, 2017 at 8:37 a.m.
on the Business Page of
The Levy County Supervisor of Elections Office is scheduled to hold Poll Worker Orientation on the dates below:

     This is a mandatory orientation for anyone interested in becoming a Levy County Poll Worker. The purpose of this orientation is to provide details about requirements of being a poll worker.
     Anyone who is interested may attend one of the two following dates:
     ● Tuesday, April 4 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
     ● Thursday, Oct. 12 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

     The orientation is set to be held at the Levy County Supervisor of Elections Office - 421 S. Court St, in Bronson.
     Please use the side entrance of the Elections Office.
     If you plan to attend please email to RSVP. The deadline to reserve a space is March 27. For more information, please call 352-486-5163.

66th Annual Florida Beef Cattle
Short Course Is May 3 - 5

The 2017 Florida Beef Cattle Short Course Program Committee and the Department of Animal Sciences would like to welcome you to this year’s Short Course. We look forward to this week every year in anticipation of delivering the premier educational event for serious beef cattle producers in the Southeast. The 2017 Florida Beef Cattle Short Course will be held at the Straughn IFAS Extension Professional Development Center at 2142 Shealy Drive in Gainesville. For additional information, registration, costs and updates on the 66th Annual Florida Beef Cattle Short Course click HERE.
For information or questions concerning livestock in Levy County, please contact Levy County Extension Director Ed Jennings  at 352-486-5131.
Published Feb. 13, 2017 at 2:27 p.m. on the Business Page of

Photo and Text Provided

Free AARP tax prep help offered
in the Tri-County Area

Published Jan. 30, 2017 at 7:37 a.m.
Updated Jan. 31, 2017 at 5:07 p.m.
on the Business Page of
There is free assistance available for tax preparation by volunteer tax preparers with the American Association for Retired People (AARP).

     For assistance at any of the following places on the dates and times shown, people who want help must bring the following: LAST YEAR'S TAX RETURN; and SOCIAL SECURITY CARDS for all persons included on the 2016 Tax Return. The free AARP tax preparation team will be using new IRS software this season. This team of volunteers will not have any prior year's information, just as in the past.
     The free AARP tax preparation team will be at the Gilchrist County Public Library, 105 N.E. 11th Ave., in Trenton from through April 10 on Mondays only. The hours are from 12:30 p.m. until 4 p.m. To schedule an appointment on Mondays in Trenton, please call 352-463-7135.
     The free AARP tax preparation team will be at the Dixie County Public Library, 16328 S.E. U.S. Highway 19, in Cross City from through April 11 on Tuesdays only. The hours are from 12:30 p.m. until 4 p.m. To schedule an appointment on Tuesdays in Cross City, please call 352-498-1219.
     The free AARP tax preparation team will be at the Williston Public Library, 10 S.E. First St., in Williston through April 7 on Thursdays only. The hours on each Thursday in Williston are from 12:30 p.m. until 4 p.m. To schedule an appointment on Thursdays in Williston, please call 352-528-2313.
     The free AARP tax preparation team will be at the Luther Callaway Public Library, 104 N.E. Third St., in Chiefland through April 11 on Fridays only.  The hours are from 11:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. To schedule an appointment on Fridays in Chiefland, please call 352-493-2758.


WEDNESDAY  MARCH 22  1:37 p.m.
Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties

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