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Gilchrist County Rotarians
welcome future
Interact Club members

Alexis Haynes (left) and Hailey O’Steen, both who will be juniors next year at Trenton High School, pose next to the Gilchrist Rotary Club banner on Monday (March 19). These two students were the first future Interact Club members to appear at the meeting that afternoon. By the start of the meeting, they were joined by other THS and Bell High School Interact Club members.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © March 21, 2018 at 2:18 p.m.
     TRENTON --
Years ago, the Rotary Club of Trenton sponsored an Interact Club at Trenton High School.

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     During the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Gilchrist County on Monday (March 19), there was a trifecta of two programs and one relatively big announcement that brought happiness from hope – now and in the future – as well as a $1 donation to the club.
     The two programs were about the Food4Kids Backpack Program of North Florida; and the announcement of progress in the Rotary Club of Gilchrist County sponsoring two Interact Clubs that are starting next fall – one at Bell Middle High School and one at Trenton Middle High School.
     The third part of the trifecta day was the announcement by Gilchrist County Rotary Club President Bob Clemons of his intent to seek election to the Gilchrist County Board of County Commissioners – where he plans to run for the position (District II) being vacated by Gilchrist County Commissioner D. Ray Harrison Jr. – who is also a Rotarian with this club.
     Harrison is not seeking reelection, Clemons said.
     By Clemons making the announcement during a meeting, Gilchrist County Rotary Club Sgt. At Arms Damon Leggett assessed a fine of $1 to be paid by Clemons. Other fines and donations were collected in a relatively efficient manner,
     It was another wonderful Rotary Club meeting at the Woman’s Club of Trenton, 819 S.W. Gilchrist County Road 339, in Trenton.

Chef Jason Fuchs takes fresh chicken quesadilla servings from the oven at the Woman’s Club kitchen.

     The club has found Chef Jason Fuchs, owner of Springwater Events of High Springs, catering the weekly lunch.
    A chicken quesadilla bar, with all of the trimmings, was the main course of the day for lunch. Black beans and rice was available in this buffet style of service. Individually wrapped red velvet cupcakes with frosting and brownies were available for dessert. Tea and water were the drinks of the day.
     Fuchs said he gives the Rotarians the meals for the cost of the food. Cooking and service to the buffet table is by him, as he lets other staff members from his catering service work elsewhere on Mondays.
     This caterer said he likes to give to the Rotarians.

Dr. Andrew Nguyen. A medical doctor and Gilchrist County Rotary Club member, plays the piano at the meeting. This club sings Rotary songs. Dr. Nguyen said he plays cello and violin as well, although he feels those instruments are a little more difficult to master. He plays musical instruments from his home country of Vietnam as well, he said. Monnye Brown, an honorary Rotarian, is the usual pianist for this club. She was absent from this meeting.


     Rotary Club of Gilchrist County President-Elect Aaron Haynes brought the programs on Monday.
     He introduced Jennifer Moore, founder of Food4Kids Backpack Program of North Florida.
     This program works like this - Partner with schools to Identify at-risk children; Raise funds and collect food; Sort and pack food into backpacks; Distribute backpacks to kids for the weekend; They return the backpack and we get ready for the next week.
     The story of the origins of this program is captured on its website, where it notes “Several years ago on a Monday morning, Jennifer Moore took pizza, juice and cupcakes to Terwilliger Elementary School to celebrate her daughter’s birthday with her third-grade class. She noticed that as most kids were still finishing their first slices of pizza, a few were already asking for seconds and thirds.”
     When she asked the teacher about these children, she learned that the reason they were so hungry was because it was a Monday, and there was a very good chance that the last full meal they had eaten had been at lunch on Friday.
     The program started at that elementary school in Alachua County.
     Now the program has grown to the point where more than 750 children are being fed seven meals during the weekends. It grew from one school to now, where there are 28 schools. The most recent two are Chiefland Middle School and Chiefland High School.
     These children are fed breakfast and lunch in Levy County, she said. There is not always supper at home.
     Some children can even wonder if home will be there after school. Are their parents being served with an eviction notice? Is there electricity? Is there food?
     Moore said Food4Children runs on volunteer service and donations.
     To visit the Food4Kids website to learn more –including how to donate or help in other ways, click HERE.

After the meeting, people involved with the Interact Clubs in Trenton and Bell paused for a photo opportunity. They are (from left) Gilchrist County Rotary Club President-Elect Aaron Hayes, Bell High School Interact Club Faculty Advisor First Sgt. (Ret.) Jon Meinhardt, BHS Interact Club Member Nolan Frazier, BHS Interact Club President Sahara Henderson, BHS Interact Club Member Rebekah Floyd, THS Interact Club President Alexis Haynes, THS Interact Club Member Ty Powell, THS Interact Club Member Hailey O’Steen and Gilchrist County Rotary Club President Bob Clemons.


Ceremoniously ringing the bell to close the meeting are (from left) Gilchrist County Rotary Club President Bob Clemons, THS Interact Club President Alexis Haynes and BHS Interact Club President Sahara Henderson.


     The Rotary Club of Gilchrist County had a Poker Paddle event on Nov, 4, 2017, President Clemons said.
     That event generated $3,000—which the club voted to put toward the start of Interact Clubs in Bell and Trenton. This money will provide a stipend to the faculty advisors, as well as to go toward club supplies.
     The Interact Clubs will begin in the fall of 2018 with the Rotary Club of Gilchrist County being the sponsor of both clubs, President-Elect Haynes said.
     Both schools have their club presidents in place. They are Trenton High School Interact Club President Alexis Haynes and Bell High School Interact Club President Sahara Henderson. Both presidents were presented with their gavels to be used during the next school year.
     Both schools have faculty advisors for their clubs. At Bell High School there are two advisors Ag Teacher Bill Martin and JROTC Instructor Army First Sgt. (Ret.) Jon Meinhardt.

Power outage
shuts down courthouse;

Boaters warned about tomorrow

This graphic provided by Ana Gibbs, a senior communications consultant for Duke Energy, shows that as of approximately 4 p.m. today (Monday March 19), Duke Energy Florida had 509 customer outages across the state of Florida. This shows the estimated time of restoration. The time is estimated as of about 4 p.m. on Monday (March 18). Duke Energy serves 1.8 million customers in 35 counties in Florida.

This chart provided by Duke Energy shows the number of outages Duke had throughout the day. Notice that from 4 a.m. to noon on March 19, there were about 4,000 customers affected in what appears to be a spike of issues.

By Jeff M. Hardison © March 19, 2018 at 7:38 p.m.
     BRONSON –
Monday morning (March 19) was somewhat stormy in the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties.
     Duke Energy Florida provided information showing outages at 4 p.m. in several Florida counties, and this is after Duke linemen were repairing electric transmission issues from the morning.
     The morning blackout in Bronson led to the closure of the Levy County Courthouse, when all employees were sent home. Business interests were adversely affected by the lack of power in Bronson, Newberry and other metropolitan areas and in the rural areas too.
     Power came back to the Levy County Courthouse in Bronson at about 1 p.m., more or less, according to some sources, but the members of county staff were not asked to return.
     The traffic light at U.S. Alt. 27 (Hathaway Avenue) and State Road 24 (Thrasher Drive) was not working. The Levy County Sheriff’s Office stationed deputies to watch after putting up signage to show the intersection was a four-way stop.
     Some activity in court went forward despite the power outage.
     Levy County Judge J.T. “Tim” Browning conducted first appearance hearings at the Levy County Jail on Monday morning, Levy County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Scott Tummond said.
     The forecast for Tuesday (March 20) is rain and wind, similar to Monday’s weather although it may be a bit more intense.
     Levy County Emergency Management Director John MacDonald and Assistant Emergency Management Director David Peaton said boaters are advised to stay off the water tomorrow.
     The following three graphics below are provided by the National Weather Service and are shared by the Levy County Emergency Management Department.
     While boaters will want to remain on land, all other travelers will want to think about the weather and govern their actions accordingly. If water is crossing a road and appears to be a small stream – turn around, don’t drown.

2-year-old boy is found

(from left) Todd Smith, Jimmy Jones of the Levy County Public Safety Department's EMS, baby Todd Watson, mom June Watson and Paramedic Katy Yanok are seen in the back of a Levy County .
* Published March 17, 2018 at 8:28 p.m.

Photo Provided

Here is a recent picture with Todd Watson’s haircut as it is now.

Photos Provided

By Jeff M. Hardison © March 17, 2018 at 6:38 p.m.
Updated March 17, 2018 at 8:28 p.m.
-- A 2-year-old boy who was missing from his home in the Rosewood area for a few hours has been found, according to press releases from the Levy County Sheriff’s Office and other sources.
     The LCSO issued the notice to be on the lookout for the boy at 3 p.m.
     The notice to be on the lookout for Todd Mitchell Watson was issued at 4:21 p.m. on Saturday (March 17) from Levy County Emergency Management via the Code Red Phone Network as well an email that described the child and how to contact the LCSO.
     The notice that he was found was issued via email from the LCSO and via Code Red at 6:09 p.m. on Saturday (March 17) from the Levy County Department of Emergency Management.
     Searchers used vehicles in the air and on the land as well as having started a grid search on foot before discovering the young child.
     Law enforcement from the Levy County Sheriff's Office, the Florida Department of Corrections Cross City K-9 and the Citrus County Sheriff's Office Aviation Unit and approximately 150 volunteers searched the wooded area near the child's home located at 9730 S.W. 67 Street in Rosewood, the LCSO said.
     Todd Mitchell Watson, 2, was found safe and is currently being evaluated by EMS.
     The LCSO and Sheriff Bobby McCallum offer their sincere thanks to all of the volunteers who expended their time and extraordinary efforts to make this a successful community effort, LCSO Lt. Tummond noted in an email.



WPD and WFR honor people
WPD Officer of the Year Dakota Wilson &
WFR Firefighter of the Year Timothy Berrios

The Rev. Charlz Caulwell is seen above on Thursday morning (March 15)
 preparing to remove pollen from a Williston Police Department cruiser. The Rev. Caulwell was honored with Jimmy Willis Sr. on Friday evening as those two gentlemen accepted the 2017 Auxiliary Teamwork Award during a banquet.
Photo by Jeff M. Hardison (but the photos below are by Danny Wallace)

By Jeff M. Hardison © March 14, 2018 at 3:48 p.m.
Photos By Danny Wallace
(Photos transferred to a flash drive for by WFR Chief Lamar Stegall)
The 2017 Williston Fire and Police Awards Banquet held Friday evening (March 9) was once again a resounding success.

(from left) Marion County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Robert Douglas looks over as Williston Fire Chief Lamar Stegall, Williston Mayor R. Gerald Hethcoat and Williston Police Chief Dennis Strow pose. Mayor Hethcoat was awarded the 2017 David W. Moss Humanitarian Award.

(from left) WFR Deputy Fire Chief Lake Raymond, 2017 Firefighter of the Year Timothy Berrios and Fire Chief Lamar Stegall pause for a photo opportunity. In the background are Police Chief Dennis Strow and Deputy Police Chief Clay Connolly.

(from left) WFR Deputy Fire Chief Lake Raymond, Fire Chief Lamar Stegall, 2017 Officer of the Year Dakota Wilson and Police Chief Dennis Strow pause for a photo opportunity.

2017 Chiefs’ Award winner Brooke Willis holds the plaque she earned. This is at least her second consecutive year as the person who earned this recognition. In the background (from left) are WFR Deputy Fire Chief Lake Raymond, Fire Chief Lamar Stegall, Police Chief Dennis Strow and Deputy Police Chief Clay Connolly. Willis is the winner from the perspective of both the Police Department and the Fire Department.

In the center of this photo and holding the plaque is WFR Lt. Jimmy Willis Jr. He earned the title of 2017 Fire Officer of the Year. Around him are some of the many members of the Fire Department who were at the banquet.

(from left) Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods, Williston Police Chief Dennis Strow and Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum are among the many law enforcement officers at the banquet on Friday evening in Williston. There were many other county and city officials as well.

Here are five of the dozen members of the First United Methodist Church of Williston’s youths who helped serve the people. They are joined (in the background) by an adult church leader – Fran Taylor. The young ladies in the front are (from left) Samantha Poupard, Kaley Klinkscales, Ana Rivera, Katie Taylor and Lauren Taylor. First UMC of Williston has sent volunteer youths to serve during this annual banquet for several years now.

Williston Fire Rescue Lt. Kenny Maddox and his wife Stacey Maddox are seen at the porch in the front of the dining room at Williston Crossing RV Resort.

Williston Police Department Officer Kathy Long is seen at the event with some of her colleagues in the background.

Duane Fugate (left) and Tommy Hicks are cooking the steaks. Every year, the steaks are tender and delicious. Linda Fugate and several other people help assure the banquet is a great event too.

Sophia Brooks (center) holds the plaque she earned as the 2017 Distinguished Volunteer. Police Chief Dennis Strow (at the podium) explains how she deserves the recognition as Deputy Police Chief Clay Connolly stands by.

      Williston Fire Rescue (WFR) and Williston Police Department (WPD) again worked as one team to honor people that night for those individuals’ success in 2017.
      Williston Fire Chief Lamar Stegall and Williston Police Chief Dennis Strow led the program.
     WPD Deputy Chief Clay Connolly was at hand in the leadership role as was WFR Deputy Chief
     On Friday night, the theme was 100 percent positive as the men and women of the WFR and WPD, and others, were presented with awards, titles and promotions in recognition of their service to others.
     The whole event all crystalized in the clubhouse of Williston Crossings RV Resort, 410 N.E. Fifth St., in Williston. There was off-site parking due the overwhelming success of the RV resort in attracting winter visitors to the area. That resort is jam-packed with RVs.

      Williston Mayor R. Gerald Hethcoat was presented with the 2017 David W. Moss Humanitarian Award.
     The late WPD Cpl. David W. Moss died in the line of duty on July 30, 1988. He is the only WPD officer to have died in the line of duty. Cpl. Moss touched the community and still does, Chief Strow said. His widow Lori Moss was present for the awarding of the 2017 David W. Moss Humanitarian Award this year.
     Former WPD Chief Dan Davis created this award, which now includes a laser-etched actual fingerprint from the late corporal on the clear acrylic award.
     The award goes to a person who commits to the welfare of the
The David Wayne Moss Humanitarian Award is given to a citizen who has been devoted to promoting the welfare of the citizens of Williston.
     “This year’s recipient has been active in the affairs of this town most of his adult life,” Chief Strow said as he spoke about Mayor Hethcoat. “He has served as mayor for 16 years, during which time he was fire chief or assistant fire chief. He retired from the Council and then took up the mantle of mayor for most of the next 20.
     “As mayor,” Strow continued, “he has presided over the police and fire departments and been the spiritual leader of the City Council. He has presided over dozens of National Days of Prayer. He has had a passion for supporting our veterans. Now it’s his opportunity do to something he really doesn’t do very well: Retire!
     “I can think of no one who has had a greater interest in promoting the welfare of this City’s citizens,” Strow concluded. “Mayor Hethcoat, for your many years of service, we would like to recognize you with the David Wayne Moss Humanitarian Award.”

     Timothy Berrios received a plaque as the 2017 WFR Firefighter of the Year.
     This is a prestigious award that stands for excellence, determination, work ethic, leadership and dedication to Williston Fire Rescue, and the residents and visitors of the city and other areas that the WFR serves, Chief Stegall said.
     Berrios went above and beyond the call of duty, to help our department and those in need, the chief said.
     This award recipient is selected by their peers and approved by The WFR Command Staff.
     “As I read over the nominations in the past for this award,” Chief Stegall said, “I have discovered that choosing the Firefighter of the Year can be a very tough decision for our personnel. This was not the case this year.
     “This year it was a near unanimous decision,” he continued. “This year’s recipient has shown a great work ethic, works extremely well with other personnel and has fantastic customer service skills. He repeatedly takes time to help train new personnel and offer them help in any way he can. During his time with our department he has competed Firefighter 1 and 2 training, and to be an Emergency Medical Technician.”

     The 2017 WPD Officer of the Year is Dakota Wilson.
     Chief Strow said the Officer of the Year must be productive, proactive as well as reactive and have a heart for service.
     “We expect him or her to be upbeat and appropriate in all situations to include verbal confrontation and physical combat,” Chief Strow said. “This is a tall order and there are several officers who meet this criterion, but one stood out this year for his calm demeanor and willingness to excel.
     “He has several commendations from citizens for his efforts and has been filmed by local citizens interacting with area children playing basketball with them,” he continued. “Several of the videos have been posted on social media creating a very positive view of WPD and community relationship. He contributes to the health of the department by working beyond his strict job description. He has pursued advanced training and routinely seeks to improve his value to the department”

     Jimmy Willis Jr. accepted the plaque as the 2017 WFR Fire Officer of the Year.
     This award recognizes a WFR fire officer who holds the rank of lieutenant or above, whose acts and deeds have demonstrated a commitment to serve their profession, their department and their community as a fire officer.
     The chief said Willis “… has shown an exceptional commitment of leadership, dedication and valuable contributions toward their fellow firefighters through training, leadership, safety, and preserving life and property.
     The chief added that Willis exhibits the qualities of a true leader, whether on the fire grounds or the administrative platform. His leadership is hallmarked by his abilities to work through problems by utilizing strong interpersonal dynamics, tactical knowledge and seamless communications.
     This was at least the second consecutive year when Willis earned this honor.

     The WPD and WFR chiefs named two men as 2017 Civilians of the Year.
     Williston Animal Control Officer Wayne Carson earned the title from the WPD and Danny Wallace earned the title from the WFR.
     Chief Strow said Carson is the Animal Control Officer, as well as the Code Enforcement Officer and he maintains the city’s generators and message boards as required.
     “He also is instrumental in a dozen other unspecified tasks that we require to keep this ship afloat,” Chief Strow said. “Probably no one wears as many hats as Wayne Carson, our Civilian of the Year.”
     This was at least the second consecutive year when Carson earned this award.
     As Chief Stegall made the presentation of the plaque to Wallace, the fire chief said “Danny, who has been a member the Fire Department now continues to serve in a different mode. He has really stepped up in his new role as Inspector and procurement officer for the city. With the fire department He has continued to be a key member to the success of our department.”

     The 2017 WFR Rookie Firefighter of the year is Justin Hoeschele.
     The Rookie of the Year is given to a firefighter with less than two years as a member of Williston Fire Rescue that has shown the most improvement in training, dedication and responsibility.
     The chief said that with Hoeschele, the word that stands out the most about him is “determined.” The 2017 WFR Rookie of the Year is as the dictionary defines “determined,” the chief said, and that is “having made a firm decision and being resolved not to change it, and processing or displaying resolve.”
     Hoeschele also earned the 2017 WFR Most Improved Firefighter plaque.

     The 2017 WPD Reserve Office of the Year is David Drennan.
     The reserve officer does not get paid but dedicates countless hours to the community.
     Chief Strow said the department has several well-experienced reserve officers who are generous with their time and efforts but during this especially problematic year for personnel issues.
     “One officer stepped up, came out of retirement and plugged right into the schedule to cover shifts that would otherwise would have cost a lot of overtime and painful schedule changes,” the chief said as he named Drennan as the recipient. “Thank you for a job well done!”
     This was at least Drennan’s second consecutive year of earning this award.

      The 2017 WPD Communications Officer of the Year is Angela Massa-King.
     She is a model employee, Chief Strow said, and she has a great personality. Massa-King is always wanting to improve her skills and knowledge of all aspects of the department, the chief said. 
     “Angela has taken on different task outside of communication to help assist with other departments and investigations,” Strow continued. “With only being full-time for about eight months, Angela handled two armed robberies within 10 days of each other which was not an easy task being the only dispatcher on while still dealing with the normal day-to-day tasks communications requires.”

     The Rev. Charlz Caulwell and Jimmy Willis Sr. accepted the 2017 Auxiliary Teamwork Award.
     Both gentlemen are multiple award-winning contributors to the wellbeing of the residents and visitors of Williston.
     “Each year we have two auxiliary volunteers who invest their time and energies patrolling the city, communicating problems to officers and assisting in a variety of administrative efforts from pushing paperwork to vehicle maintenance,” Chief Strow said. “Their eyes and ears are every bit as good as any officers, and they selflessly make themselves available to assist in protecting the public, resulting in the savings of thousands of dollars to the city.”

     The WPD and WFR awarded Sophia Brooks the 2017 WPD Distinguished Volunteer Service plaque.
     Brooks volunteered 168 hours during the summer helping the police and fire departments.
     Some of the task she performed were organizing training files, evidence and records. Her daily dedication was valuable to the departments. Brooks is a very respectful and organized young lady with an amazing personality that fit in well with the departments, both chiefs concur

     The 2017 WFR Call of the Year plaque resulted from response to a structure fire. The responders who merited the award are Capt. Daniel Smith, Lt. Tony Moos, Lt. Larry Neal, Firefighter Timothy Berrios and Firefighter Garret Mullins.
     On April 15, Engine 722 and Tanker 72 responded mutual aid to an adjoining fire district for a structure fire. Travel distance was almost 12 miles. E-722 arrived on scene with units from a sister department to a single story mobile home with smoke and flames coming from the alpha/bravo corner of the residence.
     The E-722 crew took a hose line into the front door of the residence and performed an offensive attack while at the same time conducting search and rescue.
     The T-72 crew assisted the interior crew with tools and equipment.
     The E-722 crew knocked down the fire and rescued three dogs from the interior of the residence. Without their quick actions, there is no doubt this family would have lost their home and would have lost their pets.

     The 2017 Medal of Commendation certificate was awarded to WPD Officer Kathy Long, Sgt. David Johnson, Officer Rich Peters and Deputy Chief Clay Connolly.
     During October of 2017, the WPD responded to Good Samaritan Assisted Living Facility in reference to an assault resulting in bodily harm.  During the course of the investigation of this case, three other cases involving neglect arose.
     The investigation of allegations led to the arrest and charges being filed on seven defendants (workers and administrators) for neglect.
     After many hours of investigation with Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Attorney General’s Office, as well as interviews and follow-ups into the alleged lack care that was being provided by facility to its residents, Good Samaritan was shut down on Dec. 23.
     Without the dedication and persistence these WPD officers showed in their investigation, this facility would still be open providing substandard care to its residents.

     WPD Officer David Drennan and Sgt. David Johnson responded on April 16, 2017 to the Williston Regional Airport in reference to a report of a plane crash. They found that a family of four had succumbed to the injuries suffered in the crash.  These two officers spend many hours working directly with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the family to resolve this incident.
     WFR Capt. Daniel Smith, Lt. Tony Moos, FTL Brent Stegall, FTL Cody Murphy, PIO Daniel Wallace, and firefighters Drake Doherty, Jared Caswell, Justin Hoeschele, Garret Mullins, Tim Berrios were dispatched to the crash.
     They found a small, single-engine airplane that was approximately 100 feet off of the taxiway. There was heavy damage to the plane. Under the leadership of Capt. Smith, the crew worked with the FAA preserve evidence and to extricate the victims in a professional and compassionate manner

     Firefighters Kyle Spencer, Justin Hoeschele and Stephen Burnett responded on Oct. 29 to U.S. Highway 41 and Northeast 184th Terrace for a vehicle accident with major entrapment.
     WFR firefighters worked diligently to extricate the patient from the vehicle. This process was extensive and at most departments would have included a call out for a technical rescue team.

     WPD Sgt. Bryan Landis and Officer Marquis Wright, and WFR Capt. Daniel Smith, FTL Cain Schultz, and firefighters Drake Doherty, Richie Sookhan, Tim Berrios and Justin Hoeschele responded to an accident before the start of the July 3 Parade in Williston.
     The accident was at Noble Avenue and Main Street, where a child on a bicycle was struck by a motor vehicle.
     First responders found a 9-year-old boy lying on Noble Avenue with WPD officers and off duty Firefighter Shultz administering patient care. The boy was severely injured and through a great team effort made a full recovery.

     John Pauls was given a plaque for his dedication and services to the WPD.
     Fred Morris was given a plaque for 17 years of service, as he goes into retirement.
     Each year the City of Williston sponsors four or five parades and events.
     Parades have 39 “posts” which require a police officer or auxiliary member to close the road and keep parade participants safe. The WPD can only field about half that number.
    For their continued support and assistance with these events, which is needed for the events to occur, Chief Strow thanked the following agencies: the Florida Highway Patrol, Dunnellon Police Department, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Levy County Sheriff’s Office and Ocala Police Department.
     Each agency was given a plaque.
     Tri-County Oil Distributors and Todd Tucker were given a plaque for help rendered during Hurricane Irma.
     During Hurricane Irma, the fuel supply was very limited due to the statewide evacuations that was ordered by the governor.
     Tucker went above and beyond the call of duty to help the City of Williston maintain its operations by making service calls throughout the days and nights.
     Tri-County Oil closed for business for a couple of days but continued to provide fuel to the county’s first-responder cadre and kept the WPD in business during this time of crisis.
     Janet Marks was given a certificate of appreciation.
     Dedication to make city events possible is what earned Marks this recognition. She takes the time to find sponsors, donations and helps to organize the Police and Fire Banquet along with the 3rd of July Celebration every year.
     Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Freddie Thompson has been involved in community programs with the WPD, in everything from Milk and Cookies with Santa to Church Security programs.
     Trooper Thompson was given a certificate of appreciation for his helping the WPD in 2017.
     Linda and Duane Fugate received a certificate of appreciation for their dedication in making the annual department banquet possible. The Fugates take time to shop, cook and serve the police and fire banquet every year.
     Special recognition was given to the following firefighters for their successful Clearing of the Probationary Black Helmet checklist -- Justin Hoeschele, Matthew Batton, Chad Williams and
Richie Sookhan.

This manatee picture was taken by park volunteer Ben Drake on Saturday morning (March 10) at Manatee Springs State Park.
Published March 11, 2018 at 11:58 p.m.

Photo by Ben Drake

Fourth Annual
Spring Into The Springs event
attracts many, even manatees

Story and Photos (below)
By Jeff M. Hardison © March 11, 2018 at 8:08 a.m.
Updated March 11, 2018 at 11:58 p.m.
People interested in swimming, scuba diving, hiking, learning about plants and the environment, fishing, paddling boats and observing flora and fauna found the 4th Annual Spring into the Springs event at Manatee Springs State Park in Levy County providing those opportunities on Saturday (March 10).

(from left) Volunteer Paul Dornfeld, volunteer Dede Miller, Park Manager Mark Abrizenski and volunteer Jeff Bailey pause for a second at an entrance to the recreation area of the park. Visitors found plenty of happy, helpful people to show them this Florida State Park.

Enjoying their spring break from Indiana University, these three students were among the people touring Manatee Springs State Park during the Spring Into The Springs event. (from left) Sydney Carey, a sophomore majoring in speech and hearing science; Maddy Mewhinney, a junior majoring in media advertising; and Carrie Hardy, a senior majoring in health care administration paused for a photo opportunity.

The tram prepares to depart as Volunteer Dave Treharne (right of tram) assists people. Treharne and UF/IFAS Levy Extension Program Assistant Barbara Edmonds were among the people who assisted in the interpretive guide of the park, looking at four ecological systems.

Some of the many volunteer Master Gardeners man the booth for the UF/IFAS Levy County Extension seen here (in no particular order) are Katie Granger, Carol Davis, Eugene Gibbins, Diane Wilson, Sue Stockman, Else Brunner, Debra Weiss and Peter Weiss. UF/IFAS Levy County Extension Program Assistant Barbara Edmonds was among the guides helping people on tram tours as they went through the state park and looked at plants and ecological systems.

Scuba divers listen as an instructor speaks to them about diving in this type of environment.

Scuba divers enter an algae-covered spring, which is connected but away from the main spring boils at Manatee Springs.

Moments after teaching a few children how to cast a line, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officers Brennan Starling (left) and Chandler Wells stand near three rods and reels. The law enforcement officers also let visitors learn about one of the boats in the FWC.

Several people are seen enjoying paddling in the spring run that empties into the Suwannee River from Manatee Springs.

Some paddlers ventured out to the Suwannee River, seen here relatively close to the shore.

Those four oblong shapes under the water are some of the many manatees in the Suwannee River near Manatee Springs on Saturday.

Volunteer Ben Drake points to where he captured an excellent photo of a manatee on Saturday. He is at the end of the boardwalk that goes out over the Suwannee River at Manatee Springs State Park.

People line the rail on the boardwalk on the Suwannee River looking at many manatees in the water.

     “Spring into the Springs” was a full day and evening when individuals were given opportunities to learn about one of Florida’s First Magnitude Springs.
    There were Interpretive Wagon Rides of the North Trail, a Prescribed Fire Program, a Springs Question and Answer Program, a Springs Walk 'n' Talk, and booths by organizations involved in springs' protection.
    Visitors left with a greater understanding of the delicate balance of a North Florida Springs System.
    As if they knew people would like to see them at Manatee Springs State Park, several manatees were in the Suwannee River at the point where the springs empty into the river.
     The event began at 9 a.m. and went until 4 p.m. on Saturday with a Film Festival following in the evening. The films lasted from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m. that Saturday.
     The Film Festival included guest speakers showing and explaining the complexities of the North Florida Springs Systems.

Councilman takes oath of office

Senior Judge Joseph Smith (right) and Williston City Councilman Justin Head provide a photo opportunity after the councilman took the oath of office.

Story, Photo and Video
By Jeff M. Hardison © March 9, 2018 at 3:08 p.m.
All Rights Reserved
Eighth Judicial Circuit Court Senior Judge Joseph Smith administered the oath of office Tuesday night (March 6) bringing Williston City Councilman Justin Head into the fold as an elected municipal leader in the easternmost city of Levy County.


In this video, part of the judge's pre-oath speech is captured, and then there is the actual investiture ceremony.

     Judge Smith shared with listeners that he is certain the “silent majority” is appreciative of public servants who give of themselves to improve their communities.
     As for Head, 41, the judge mentioned that this recently-elected City Council member is a native of Williston as well as a graduate of Williston High School of 1994.
     Later Head graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s degree. He is currently the branch manager and loan officer of Drummond Community Bank at its Williston office.
     Justin Head and his wife Crystal live in Williston with their two children Logan and Emma.
     He currently serves as the vice president of the Levy County Schools Foundation, which is a fundraising organization to help the school system.
     Head is an active member of the Rotary Club of Williston.
     Judge Smith said he is pleased to see Head is willing to take on the duties as a member of the Williston City Council, especially because the judge knows Head has the city’s best interests in his heart.
     With a relatively short introductory speech by the judge, who has been known to give some relatively longer speeches, Judge Smith conducted the investiture ceremony and Head took the oath of office.
     Williston City Councilman Head’s first vote was to approve the consent agenda.

Inglis seeks county help
with recreational project

Inglis Town Clerk Sally McCranie speaks with the Levy County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday (March 6).

Photo and Story
By Jeff M. Hardison © March 9, 2018 at 10:18 a.m.
     BRONSON –
Inglis Mayor Drinda Merritt was otherwise engaged, and the mayor sent Inglis Town Clerk Sally McCranie to request assistance from the Levy County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday (March 6).
     Mayor Merritt was involved with a conference call at the time of the Tuesday meeting (March 6), and that call related to this very project -- a future whitewater kayak facility. Hence, the mayor called upon the town clerk to represent the town in this request.
     Mayor Merritt has been at the forefront of adding a whitewater-kayak recreational outlet to the Town of Inglis.
     This project is tentatively to be built south of Levy County Road 40 near to a canal.
     The mayor has said a drop from the dam that controls the flow through the canal is significant enough to create a whitewater environment for kayakers to enjoy.
     “It is roughly an average of 1,000 cubic-feet per minute,” Mayor Merritt said in a telephone interview Friday.
     The feasibility study for this project is in progress and it is anticipated to be released on April 15, Mayor said.
     As for help from the county, the request McCranie made on Tuesday was for the town to lease from the county 27 acres on the east side, adjacent to the South Levy Recreational Park.
     Clerk McCranie mentioned that the town already leases 40 acres of the park property from the county, which is adjacent to the particular piece for this request is to add the whitewater kayak facility. This added area will include a disk-golf (Frisbee) concession; a hiking trail; a dog park and other facilities in addition to the whitewater attraction, she said.
     The proverbial bottom line on the request from the mayor, the town clerk said, was for the County Commission to instruct County Attorney Anne Bast Brown to work with Inglis Town Attorney W. Blake Fugate.
     After being asked by County Commission Vice Chairman Mike Joyner if the county had plans for that property, County Coordinator Wilbur Dean said the county had considered it for a future wastewater facility, but research showed this is not the best location for that potential RESTORE Act project.
     There is a tower there, Dean said, that is scheduled for removal and the county is seeking quotes on that project. Another potential issue, he added, is right-of-way rights with Duke Energy that are a carryover of the time when that company had planned to build a couple of nuclear-powered electricity generation plants in Levy County.
     County Commissioner Lilly Rooks said she believes the Duke Energy right-of-way issue can be resolved, as can the tower removal.
     County Attorney Brown was instructed to work with Town Attorney Fugate so that Inglis can create its future project. This resulted on a motion by Joyner, seconded by Rooks, and the motion was unanimously approved.
     Mayor Merritt in an interview on March 9 said this whitewater kayak project will attract tourists to the southern Levy County area. That will create jobs and help the local economy, she added.
     In another matter the County Commission considered Tuesday, that is related to the Bird Creek Park at the west end of CR 40 in Yankeetown, the commission told an enterpriser that it cannot grant his request.
     A Yankeetown resident who owns a food truck as well as kayaks for rent and other recreational equipment asked the County Commission to set up a rental stand at the county park.
     Since he is an owner of a for-profit business, the county said it would need to offer the option to all other interested parties. More fundamental in the county leaders’ choice to reject his request, is that his operation would take away parking space at the park, as well as adding more vehicles coming to the area to park as those occupants rent kayaks, etc.
     That park is currently served by a portable toilet facility, too. There is a pavilion in the park, where people can enjoy picnic lunches, but the County Commission declined the request due to the issues related to parking, bathroom facilities and the potential dilemma from one company having exclusive use of public property to make money.

Encephalitis alert
issued in Levy County

Published March 7, 2018 at 5:08 p.m.
     BRONSON --
The Florida Department of Health in Levy County (DOH-Lvy) today (Wednesday, March 7) issued a mosquito-borne illness alert for Levy County.
     A case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis has been confirmed in a flock of Emus in the Bronson area and there is a heightened concern that residents could become ill.
     DOH-Levy continues to advise the public to remain diligent in their personal mosquito protection efforts by remembering to “Drain and Cover.”
     DRAIN standing water to stop mosquitoes from multiplying.
     ● Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other containers where sprinkler or rain water has collected.
     ● Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that aren't being used.
     ● Empty and clean birdbaths and pet's water bowls at least once or twice a week
     ● Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.
     ● Maintain swimming pools in good condition and appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.
     COVER skin with clothing or repellent.
     ● Clothing - Wear shoes, socks, and long pants and long-sleeves. This type of protection may be necessary for people who must work in areas where mosquitoes are present.
     ● Repellent - Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing.
     ● Always use repellents according to the label. Repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, and IR3535 are effective.
     ● Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old.
     Tips on Repellent Use
     Always read label directions carefully for the approved usage before you apply a repellent. Some repellents are not suitable for children.
     Products with concentrations of up to 30 percent DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) are generally recommended. Other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved repellents contain picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or IR3535. These products are generally available at local pharmacies. Look for active ingredients to be listed on the product label.
     Apply insect repellent to exposed skin, or onto clothing, but not under clothing.
     In protecting children, read label instructions to be sure the repellent is age-appropriate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mosquito repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under the age of three years. DEET is not recommended on children younger than two months old.
     Avoid applying repellents to the hands of children. Adults should apply repellent first to their own hands and then transfer it to the child’s skin and clothing.
If additional protection is necessary, apply a permethrin repellent directly to your clothing. Again, always follow the manufacturer’s directions.
     COVER doors and windows with screens to keep mosquitoes out of your house.
Repair broken screening on windows, doors, porches, and patios.
     For more information on what repellent is right for you, consider using the Environmental Protection Agency’s search tool to help you choose skin-applied repellent products: Click HERE.
     The Department continues to conduct statewide surveillance for mosquito-borne illnesses, including West Nile virus infections, Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, malaria, chikungunya, and dengue. Residents of Florida are encouraged to report dead birds via the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s site - Click HERE. For more information, visit DOH’s website -- Click HERE or call your local county health department.
     About the Florida Department of Health -- The department works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.

Bronson leaders hear requests
for cluster zoning ordinance;
and approve a special exception
for a future small RV park

The whole Bronson Town Council is seen Monday night (March 5) as they listen to proposals to develop more residential opportunities within the town’s limits. Above are (from left) Bronson Town Councilman Robert Partin, Councilwoman Katie Parks, Mayor Bruce Greenlee, Vice Mayor Beatrice Roberts and Town Councilman Jason Hunt.

Story and Photo
By Jeff M. Hardison © March 7, 2018 at 3:08 p.m.
     BRONSON --
The potential exists for a cluster of low-rent small residences to be added to a neighborhood in Bronson if one developer is granted her requests, although Bronson Mayor Bruce Greenlee is not in favor of that.
     In another and separate residential zoning-changing action Monday night (March 6) at the Bronson Town Council, there was a unanimous vote of approval to allow a special exception for the development of an RV park on the far western edge of the town limits -- on the eastern side of Hathaway Avenue (U.S. Alt. 27) and a bit south Northeast 90th Street.
     Heidi Samec, a Realtor and a Bronson resident since 2007, presented an idea to the Town Council about creating a “garden home village.”
     This project would be on a six-acre plot on Main Street (Martin Luther King Jr. Street). There are currently four residences on the land, she said.
     She wants the town of Bronson to create a new zoning designation that it does not have yet. This is known as “cluster zoning,” and it puts many very small structures within a relatively close area.
     She would have 12 tiny homes (480 square-feet under roof, more or less) with one existing structure that would become a “club house” for use by people in that small community. She envisions green space, where the residents grow blueberries, tomatoes and other edible fruits and vegetables.
     This will be ideal for people who have little income and would like to live in a minimalist environment, she said. Older people are discovering that their large homes and yards become more of a burden than a joy, she said. They want to downsize.
     These rentals would be perfect for them, she said. There are no income or age restrictions on possible renters, she said. Rent would be in the $300 to $600 monthly range, Samec said.
     Mayor Greenlee, who lives in the area, said he is against allowing for this creation of a new type of zoning. Putting 12 small structures within a tight area, he said, creates the trailer park type of community that he has seen elsewhere.
     “I don’t see where this is going to be positive in that community,” Greenlee said.
     He feels this is sending the wrong message that can lead to the creation of places like “tent city.”
     Vice Mayor Beatrice Roberts, Councilwoman Katie Parks, Councilman Jason Hunt and Councilman Robert Partin indicated that they are inclined to be in favor of creating this type of zoning, and to endorse this project.
     Karen Smith, another Bronson are Realtor, said she endorses the idea. She said her husband Steve Smith, a local contractor, both are in favor this innovative idea, even though he might not be the builder for the developer.
     Smith said she sees this proposal as being a positive idea to show Bronson intends to grow and to progress with new ideas coming to fruition within the city limits.
     Town Attorney Steven Warm seemed to intimate that he would conduct some preliminary research for the town’s leaders to consider moving ahead with a possible new ordinance for cluster residential zoning, given there was a straw vote of 4-1 in favor of this project.
      A solid 5-0 vote of approval was granted to Jorge Lorie for a six-plus acre RV campground.
     Lorie’s request for a special exception to the 8-acre requirement to build an RV campground in the town limits met with unanimous approval.
     Given that he meets all of the requirements of the Florida Department of Health, the Suwannee River Water Management District and other regulators, his RV campground will be west of the traffic light.
     This RV campsite will be in competition with three other developments that are sprouting up in Levy County. One is east of Williston and two are in the city limits of Chiefland.
     Given the success of Williston Crossings RV Resort, developers are seeing this county as a prime area for that type of facility.
     On one other possible matter for consideration – the frequency of meetings, the Town Council chose to continue meeting on the first and third Monday of the month starting at 7 p.m.


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100th Jingle Performer

Krista Campbell performs her own version of the Jingle on Saint Patrick’s Day (March 17, 2018) at the 12th Annual Quilt Festival in Trenton. This is Campbell’s second original spontaneous creation of the jingle. Her first version was made on Dec. 4, 2016, when it was a one-take session in front of Dixie Music Center just before the start of the 2016 Annual Christmas Music Festival at that esteemed store for music in Old Town. Each performer or set of performers brings his or her, or their (when it is two or more performers) own special something to 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 to sing it. (Thanks people!)
Published March 18, 2018 at 8:08 a.m.

© Video by Jeff M. Hardison, All Rights Reserved

Your weather just got better.

THURSDAY  MARCH 22  8:08 a.m.
Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties

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