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Levy County building booms
David Meyer
Levy County Development Director David Meyer speaks to the County Commission on July 16 about people building houses and placing mobile homes in Levy County this year.

Story and Photos By Jeff M. Hardison © July 17, 2024 at 3 p.m.
All Copyrights Protected By Federal Civil Law
Do Not Copy and Paste to Social Media or Elsewhere
     BRONSON –
Levy County Development Director David Meyer’s request for $130,000 budget amendment on the fiscal year 2023-2024 budget received a 5-0 vote of approval from the Levy County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday morning (July 16).


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     That budget revision is for two vehicles, Meyer said, one is a replacement for the one he is driving, which has more than 200,000 miles on it; and the other vehicle is for the future planning manager who will replace the former planning manager.
     Levy County is growing, he said.
     From Jan. 1 through June 30, Meyer said, there were 1,199 building permits issued from the Levy County Building Department.
     The department completed more than 5,000 inspections in those same first six months of this calendar year, he said.
     In that same six months, Meyer continued, there were 116 permits for housing construction issued, and 132 mobile home permits. 
      County Commission Matt Brooks asked how this compares with previous years. Meyer said the permits are about the same number, because most permits are for roofing construction inspections and there are air-conditioning start-ups. 
     As far as house construction and mobile home placements, Meyer said, there are about 18 percent more in the first six months of 2024 in contrast with the same months in 2023.

Levy County
Levy County Emergency Management Director John MacDonald speaks to the County Commission, which unanimously agrees to all of the requests for the department.

Other Actions
     The County Commission approved the following as well:
     ● Levy County Human Resources Director Jacqueline Martin’s request for Group Insurance Open Enrollment meeting dates for Aug. 12, 13 and 14 for the county’s employees; 
     ● Levy County Tourist Development Executive Director Tisha Whitehurst’s request for approval of the 2024-2025 Levy
County Visitors Bureau Marketing Plan;
     ● Levy County Emergency Management Director John MacDonald’s requests for approval of the Hazard Analysis
Grant Agreement, Emergency Management Preparedness and Assistance Grant Agreement; approval of the Public Safety
Complex Design Grant Agreement; approval of Resolution 2024-36, amending the final budget to incorporate the Public Safety Complex Design Grant in the amount of $400,000; as well as the approval of the Memorandum of Agreement for use of Starlink Satellite Kits between the Florida Department of Management Services and Levy County.
     ● Levy County Maintenance Director Doug Partin’s for a three-year Customer Value Agreement between Levy County and Ring Power in the amount of $36,936.52, each year, for three years.
     ● Levy County Procurement Coordinator Alicia Tretheway’s request for approval of the Task Assignment between Levy County and Barnett Fronczak Barlowe & Shuler Architects in the
amount of $28,905.

Levy County
Levy County Procurement Director Alicia Tretheway (left) and County Attorney Nicolle M. Shalley speak to the County Commission. When this photo was taken, Shalley was speaking to the commissioners not in a role as a legal adviser but more in relation to logistics for procurement of services of a future county manager and the projected timeline and qualifications of that future employee, who would be the only other employee – other than the county attorney -- directly hired by the County Commission.

     The County Commission discussed and approved the concept to move forward with outsourcing veterinarian services via request for proposals.
     The County Commission moved forward with heading toward hiring a county manager in the salary range of $100,000 to $165,000 a year depending on qualifications. The county currently pays the county coordinator an annual salary of $107,000.


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Whom Should You Choose As A Trustee?
Published July 15, 2024 at 2 p.m.
     NEWBERRY --
When drawing up your estate plans, you might find it useful to create a revocable or irrevocable trust, either of which can help your estate avoid probate court and give you significant control over how and when your assets are distributed.
     But who should oversee your trust?

     As the person who established the trust — known as the “grantor” or “settlor” — you can also name yourself as trustee. However, this may not be the best move, particularly if the trust is irrevocable. An irrevocable trust protects the assets in the trust from creditors and civil judgments, but if you serve as trustee, this protection will disappear. It might be more advantageous for you to be the trustee of a revocable (living) trust, which can be modified without much trouble and allows you to move assets in and out of the trust and to change trust beneficiaries. You should work with a qualified estate-planning attorney to determine which type of trust, if any, is appropriate for your situation, and to get some guidance on the wisdom of serving as your own trustee. 
     If you decide to choose someone else as trustee, you’ll want to consider the following factors:
     ● Trust – In thinking about whom you might want to serve as your trustee, the most important attribute is trust. Do you trust that this individual will always act in your best interest? If so, then they may be a good trustee candidate, but you’ll also need to look at other considerations.
     ● Financial management skills – The person you choose to be your trustee doesn’t have to be an accountant or a financial professional — but they should be skilled at managing their own finances. And they should be well-organized and good with details. 
     ● Mental and physical fitness – Your trustee could serve in that position for many years, so you’ll want to name someone who is in good physical and mental health. Of course, things can change over time, so if you observe that your chosen trustee has begun to suffer physical or mental decline, you may need to name a successor trustee in your trust document.
     ● Conflict of interest – You want your trustee to carry out your wishes in a fair manner — so, you should pick someone who doesn’t have a conflict of interest with any of the beneficiaries you’ve named in your trust. Of course, this can be tricky if you want to name a family member as trustee. So, if you do, you’ll need to spell out your wishes clearly — to the trustee and to other family members.
     Here’s something else to think about: Instead of choosing an individual, you could name a corporate trustee. By doing so, you can receive some key benefits, such as objectivity and potentially avoiding some of the family-related disputes that can arise when an estate is settled. Also, corporate trustees have the expertise and resources to navigate the various tax and inheritance laws affecting living trusts. 
     Whether it’s a trusted individual or a corporate entity, the right trustee can make a big difference in the effectiveness of your living trust — and, by extension, the outcome of your comprehensive estate plans. So, start your search, get the help you need and take the steps necessary to arrive at a choice for trustee that’s right for you and your family.
     Publisher’s Note: This article was written by Edward Jones for use by Edward Jones Financial Advisor - Sheila K. Smith and Edward Jones Financial Advisor Ashlyn Burtle, 25349 W. Newberry Road, in Newberry. Phone 352-472-2776.


Job fair set for July 23 in Ocala
Citrus, Levy and Marion counties’
residents are invited

By Laura Byrnes, Director of Communications
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published July 9, 2024 at 1:30 p.m.
     OCALA --
Summertime doesn’t have to be “bummer time” for those who believe their employment prospects are lukewarm at best. 

     Those prospects are set to heat up at the Summer Job Fair on Tuesday, July 23 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Howard Academy Community Center, 306 N.W. Seventh Ave., Building 3, in Ocala.
     Area businesses are set to showcase hot opportunities at a job fair in Ocala.
     The job fair is hosted by CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion in collaboration with the Marion County Hospital District and its Community Home Project in partnership with Marion County Public Schools.
     The event is free and open to residents of Citrus, Levy or Marion counties. Those planning to attend are asked to register at bit.ly/SUMMERJOBFAIR.
     “This job fair is ideal for anyone looking for good, gainful employment, whether they’re seeking temporary, part-time or full-time employment,” said Rusty Skinner, CEO of CareerSource CLM. “Job seekers will find a variety of businesses with immediate and multiple positions to fill in a wide range of industries including healthcare, manufacturing, construction, hospitality, government and public service.”
     To date, the following businesses plan to participate: AutoZone, Brookdale Chambrel Pinecastle, Champion Manufacturing, Chick Fil-A Ocala, City of Ocala, Empath Hospice of Marion County, Fidelity Manufacturing, Florida Department of Corrections, HCA Florida Ocala Hospital, Hilton Ocala, Kids Central, Marion County Board of County Commissioners, Native Construction Group, LLC., Owens Corning, Quad Nurse, Ring Power CAT, Sonic Drive In, and World Equestrian Center.
     Representatives from CareerSource CLM will be on hand to assist attendees with applications and other services.
     Prior to attending the event, job seekers are encouraged to complete a full registration at EmployFlorida.com or update an existing registration. Participants are encouraged to dress professionally, bring printed copies of a current resume, and be prepared to discuss skills and qualifications with hiring managers.
     Those interested in preparing for the job fair are invited to stop by any CareerSource CLM career center for fee-free staff assistance. 
     Centers are open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and are located in Citrus County at 683 S. Adolph Point, in Lecanto; in Levy County at 2175 N.W. 11th Drive, in Chiefland; and in Marion County at 2703 N.E. 14th St., in Ocala.
     For more information and updates on participating businesses, call 800-434-JOBS or visit careersourceclm.com/event/summer-job-fair.


Fraud alert saves credit union member
Fraud is rampant in America

By Jeff M. Hardison © July 8, 2024 at 3 p.m.
An award-winning journalist learned more about credit card fraud this year in America on the Fourth of July.

     This was the second instance of an attempt to steal from him via fraudsters.
     “Thanks to credit union’s fraud alert system,” Jeff Hardison said on Monday (July 8), those would-be thieves did not get $2 that they tried to scam me out of.”
     Hardison said he recognized most recently after the “$1” fraud scam was tried again.
     The first time, he cancelled a Sears credit card earlier this year. He had used that card for at least three decades before he cut it into small pieces when Sears dragged its feet on his complaint about a theft.
     “Sears sent me a new credit card and I called in the number to turn it on,” he said. “There was an email that came after that to be notified via email about purchase and the like with the Sears card.”
      Hardison said the company was named something like “Just Answers” and it showed how to obtain the Sears information electronically for $1.
     “There was a $1 charge, but there also was a $50 charge on the card,” he said. “I called Sears and the person there said that $51 was going to be credited. It was not credited and the next month there was an additional $50 charge.”
     Hardison said he called Sears and told the person answering the phone that he was disconnecting from its credit card services. They offered to send a new credit card. He declined that offer and let Sears know that he did not want to conduct business with them anymore.
     The company sent a check for $101. 
     “I don’t suffer fools gladly,” Hardison said. “I fall short of what I know God wants me to do in that regard. I don’t see me buying Sears products or seeking a Sears card ever again.”
     Meanwhile, on July 4, 2024, Hardison wanted to rent an Uber to take a ride back to a hotel from an attraction. He went to a website noted to be able to offer the Uber Ap, and he filled in credit card information to obtain the Uber Ap.
     That company, he later learned is known as GYMRCS. It noted his application for an Uber Ap was rejected and that the credit card was charged $1 for this service. Then, there was another $1 charge for “Sport & Flex” tagged on.
     The credit union’s fraud prevention service immediately sent an email and called the man about those charges. He confirmed those charges that looked like fraud, were fraud. 
     On Monday, he went to the office of the credit union, and he obtained a new credit card to replace the one that became destined for a shredder.
     Hardison, who had been a business writer before being a managing editor of a newspaper in Naples, said he is not happy with the number of people who are trying to steal money. 
     As noted in a story by Michael Rubinkam of The Associated Press, which was updated at 12:03 a.m. EDT on July 7, the scammers may be winning to some degree.
     “Sophisticated overseas criminals are stealing tens of billions of dollars from Americans every year, a crime wave projected to get worse as the U.S. population ages and technology like AI makes it easier than ever to perpetrate fraud and get away with it,” Rubinkam noted.
     “Internet and telephone scams have grown ‘exponentially,’ overwhelming police and prosecutors who catch and convict relatively few of the perpetrators, said Kathy Stokes, director of fraud prevention at AARP’s Fraud Watch Network,” Rubinkam added in his story published July 7.
     The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is catching some of these crooks in this realm, nonetheless.
     “If you are the victim of online or internet-enabled crime, file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) as soon as possible. Crime reports are used for investigative and intelligence purposes. Rapid reporting can also help support the recovery of lost funds,” the FBI notes.
     For more information from the FBI and it seeking to combat cybercrime, click HERE.


RFPs sought for various services
for older Americans in Putnam County
Notice of Intent deadline is Aug. 1

Information Provided By Elder Options
Published July 5, 2024 at 6:30 a.m. EDT
Updated July 8, 2024 at 9:15 a.m.
Competitive proposals for the designation of the Community Care for the Elderly Lead Agency for Putnam County will be received by the Mid-Florida Area Agency on Aging (doing business as) Elder Options until 4 p.m. on Sept. 3.
     The Community Care for the Elderly Lead Agency designation includes the provision of an array of home and community-based services to frail older persons.
     The Community Care for the Elderly program is administered pursuant to provisions of Chapter 430, F.S. Contracts are awarded contingent upon the availability of funds.
     Details for the 2025 CCE RFP will be available on July 5, 2024 on the Elder Options website (www.agingresources.org) under the “NEWS” section. Elder Options reserves the right to reject any and all proposals.
     A Bidders/Prep-Proposal Conference is scheduled to be conducted concerning this Request for Proposal at 3 p.m. on July 25 at the following location and via Zoom: Elder Options, 100 S.W. 75 St., Suite 301, Gainesville.
     Click HERE.
     A Notice of Intent must be submitted, per instructions in the RFP, by 5 p.m. on Aug. 1, by each entity that intends to submit an RFP. In the event t than two Notices of Intent are received that fewer than two Notices of Intent are submitted per county, per Chapter 287, Florida Statutes, the Area Agency on Aging will institute the Exceptional Purchase provisions for a single-source contract. 
     Correspondence concerning this Request for Proposals should be addressed to:
Janet Kreischer, Director of Program Operations
Elder Options
100 S.W. 75 St., Suite 301
Gainesville, Florida 32607
or via email to: 


CF students win third place
in national robotics competition

CF Engineering Technology student Cameron Muncy

Story and Photo Provided
By CF Marketing Public and Community Relations 
Published July 3, 2024 at 10:30 a.m.
     OCALA —
A College of Central Florida robotics team was awarded a bronze medal at the SkillsUSA National Leadership & Skills Conference, held June 24-28 in Atlanta.

     CF Engineering Technology students Cameron Muncy and Shane Reedy, under the guidance of award-winning associate professor Sam Ajlani, built, designed and constructed a robot for the SkillsUSA Urban Search and Rescue competition. During the event, they directed their robot to travel through a course designed to look like multifamily housing, searching for and removing simulated explosive devices.  
     “We are really excited to have represented our school on a national level and to have brought something back,” said Muncy, who expects to graduate in December and said he has “always been interested in cars and machines.” The CF team was the only Florida team to place in the Urban Search and Rescue category. 
     The SkillsUSA Championship is the premier showcase of America’s most highly skilled career and technical education students and is one of the largest hands-on workforce development events in the world. Held in conjunction with SkillsUSA’s National Leadership & Skills Conference each June, this awe-inspiring event features more than 6,000 state champions from across the United States competing head-to-head in 115 skilled and leadership competitions.
     CF students Justin Bowen and Daniel Francois represented the college in this year’s drone event. 
     “The College of Central Florida’s Engineering Technology program is focused on preparing students for a variety of high-paying, high-tech careers, including robotics,” said Dr. Jennifer Fryns, vice president of Workforce Development and Innovation. “We are so proud of the CF students who took the opportunity to apply practical engineering principles to real-world applications at the SkillsUSA competition.”


Extension agent introduced
And other actions

Levy County
The four members of the Levy County Board of County Commissioners present for the Tuesday morning (July 2) meeting are (from left) County Commissioner Matt Brooks, Commission Vice Chair John Meeks, Commission Chair Desiree Mills and Commissioner Tim Hodge. Commission Rock Meeks was too ill to attend, according to what was said at the meeting.

Story, Photos and Video By Jeff M. Hardison © July 2, 2024 at 10 p.m.
All Copyrights Protected By Federal Civil Law
Do Not Copy and Paste to Social Media or Elsewhere
     BRONSON –
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Levy County Extension Director Mark Warren introduced a new Extension agent Tuesday morning (July 2) during the County Commission meeting in Bronson.
     Levy County Coordinator Wilbur Dean and Commission Chair Mills sat as members on the selection panel for this new Extension agent to be added to the team with Warren advancing to become the director in Levy County.

Levy County
UF/IFAS Levy County Extension Director Mark Warren tells about some of the many agricultural revenue drivers in Levy County, as Extension Agent Michah Gallagher (standing behind him) listens.

     Warren opened by speaking about success in agriculture as a business in Levy County. It is among the most significant economic engines, with tourism and government work being other parts of that three-legged stool for major revenue production.
     Figures from 2022, Warren said, show Levy County completed $144 million in agricultural sales that year. There were 24,000 acres used for crops and pastureland, he said. 
     Levy County ranked seventh in Florida for livestock and poultry sales. It ranked third in Florida and seventh nationally in the area of equine livestock, Warren said.

Levy County
UF/IFAS Levy County Extension Director Mark Warren introduces Micah Gallagher, the new Extension agent at the office in Bronson, and she says how pleased she is to have been selected. Click on the PHOTO so see and hear this video. This video was made July 2, 2024 by Jeff M. Hardison for HardisonInk.com. All Rights reserved.

     After an exhaustive search with 14 qualified candidates, the selection committee chose Micah Gallagher as the new Extension agent for livestock and forestry in Levy County, Warren said.
     She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Florida in Animal Sciences. She earned her master’s degree in Agricultural Education and Communication.
     Gallagher spent the last several years at UF in many agriculturally oriented fields of research and application, including food safety.
     She is a Levy County resident and is involved with the Levy County Farm Bureau, and the Levy County Cattlemen’s Association, Levy Extension Director Warren said.
     Gallagher said she is thrilled to accept the position in her home county. 
     Chair Mills that like her, Gallagher packs a lot of power for her size.
    Mills said the new Extension agent is a welcome addition to the staff, and she looks forward to good things happening from this talented Levy County woman.

Other Actions
In other action by the four County Commission members present for the July 2 meeting, the following actions occurred:
     ● Commissioners listened to an angry man and an angry woman during the “Public Comments” part of the agenda. (If the woman were speaking in such a manner in Gilchrist County, she would have been stopped because she clearly violated its rules of decorum, which includes “• All persons shall observe proper decorum and shall speak in a civil or courteous manner and shall not yell, scream, or use foul language.”
     ● Levy County Department of Public Safety (Levy County Fire Rescue) Director (Chief) Mitch Harrell received a 4-0 vote of approval to his request to amend the budget for Fiscal Year 2024 in the amount of $97,230.
     ● Levy County Human Resources Director Jacqueline Martin received a 4-0 vote of approval for group health insurance plans and premiums for 2024/25. The overall premium increase is nine-tenths of 1 percent.
     ● Levy County Procurement Coordinator Alicia Tretheway presented the Procurement Department’s first and second quarter reviews.

Levy County
Levy County Procurement Coordinator Alicia Tretheway tells the County Commission about accomplishments by the department during the first two quarters of the fiscal year. Renate Cannon, an avid watcher of government activities is seen seated, wearing an orange blouse.

     ● Levy County Procurement Coordinator Alicia Tretheway mentioned that Levy County will host two, in-person meetings to hear from residents, business interests and other community stakeholders for the Levy County Comprehensive Vulnerability
Assessment (which is noted on the Community Calendar under the July 12 set of events).

Levy County
Levy County Transit Director Connie Conley seeks and receives three resolutions from the County Commission with 4-0 votes of approval.

     ● Granted by a 4-0 vote the requests of Levy County Transit Director Connie Conley for a resolution amending the final budget for fiscal year 2023-2024 in the amount of $140,000 for operational funds; a resolution amending the final budget for fiscal year 2023-2024 in the amount of $165,178 to pave the parking lot; and a resolution amending the final budget for fiscal year 2023-2024 in the amount of $1,329,703 for to construct a maintenance bay to work on the Levy County Transit System fleet of vehicles .
     ● Set July 30 starting at 6 p.m. for a workshop in the County Commission meeting room to discuss matters related to affordable housing in Levy County with SHIP Housing Planner
Marlon Gayle, as well Gussie Boatwright, the chair of the Affordable Housing Committee, and others. There was mention of telling the general public about the goals of this workshop to help bring more input from the people.

Levy County

Levy County
At her last County Commission meeting, Levy County Planning and Zoning Director Stacey Hectus seeks a final plat approval, which is granted by a 4-0 vote after a public hearing where no member of the public said anything about the final plat approval. In the bottom photo, Levy County Coordinator Wilbur Dean, who plans to leave his office in February, is seen in the background seated. 

     ● In the last Levy County Planning and Zoning public hearing with Director Stacey Hectus, the County Commission approved 4-0 a request by Theodore Burt, attorney, representing Berta Jenkins, individually and as personal representative of the Estate of Colin Dewayne Jenkins, petitioning for a Final Plat (Jenkins Farms) to divide 80.97 acres more or less, into four lots. This
parcel is located in Section 34, Township 10, Range 15 in Levy County, land use and zoning of Agricultural/ Rural Residential (A/RR), which is a 10-acre minimum.


Commissioner John Meeks
elected as FAC Second Vice President

John Meeks
Information and Photo Provided
By Mary-Ellen Harper,
Public Information Officer for Levy County Commission
Published July 1, 2024 at 8 p.m.
     BRONSON --
Levy County Commissioner John Meeks was elected as second vice president of the Florida Association of Counties (FAC) on Friday (June 28).

     Founded in 1929, the Florida Association of Counties helps counties effectively serve and represent Floridians by strengthening and preserving county home rule through advocacy, education and collaboration. 
     Meeks has been an active member of FAC since 2012. He has served on the Board of Directors since 2016 and has demonstrated his passion for advocacy by volunteering on many of FAC’s policy committees, including Agriculture & Rural Affairs, and Health, Safety & Justice, and others. 
     “I am deeply honored to have been elected as the second vice president of the Florida Association of Counties by my esteemed colleagues,” Commissioner Meeks said. “Since joining the association, I have been dedicated to serving our communities and advocating to benefit all Floridians. I look forward to continuing this important work and collaborating with my peers to address the pressing issues facing our counties.”
     Commissioner Meeks also serves as Chair of the Institute of County Government (ICG), a division of FAC focused on enhancing the leadership skills of county officials through educational courses. As Chair of ICG, Commissioner Meeks has completed coursework of the Advanced County Commissioner II program, the highest designation offered by ICG.
     “Commissioner Meeks’ dedication, leadership and commitment to advocacy and education have significantly contributed to the success of our association,” FAC Executive Director Ginger Delegal said. “We are excited to see him step into the role of second vice president, and confident that he will continue to inspire and lead with the same passion and dedication that he has demonstrated over the years.”
     Commissioner Meeks is joined on the FAC Executive Committee by President Terry Burroughs of Okeechobee County, President-Elect Michelle Lincoln of Monroe County, First Vice President Rene Flowers of Pinellas County, and Immediate Past President Bill Truex of Charlotte County.
     As the 2024-2025 FAC second vice president, Commissioner Meeks is on track to be the 2027-2028 FAC president.


NASA advances research
to grow habitats in space from fungi

Space Bricks
Bricks produced using mycelium, yard waste and wood chips as a part of the myco-architecture project. Similar materials could be used to build habitats on the Moon or Mars. This project also has uses on Earth in addition to applications on other worlds. Mycelia could be used for water filtration and systems that extract minerals from wastewater.

Story and Photo By NASA News Releases
Published June 27, 2024 at 7 a.m.
     WASHINGTON, D.C. --
As the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) prepares for long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars for the benefit of all, a habitat-growing concept selected Wednesday by the agency could help “grow” homes using fungi for future explorers.
     A team of researchers at NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley will receive new funding under the NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program to propel their habitat research.
     The Phase III NIAC award will provide $2 million over two years to continue technology development of the Mycotecture Off Planet project in preparation for a potential future demonstration mission. The work is led by Lynn Rothschild, a senior research scientist at NASA Ames.
     The Ames Research Center, also known as NASA Ames, is a major NASA research center at Moffett Federal Airfield in California's Silicon Valley.
      “As NASA prepares to explore farther into the cosmos than ever before, it will require new science and technology that doesn’t yet exist” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “NASA’s space technology team and the NIAC program unlock visionary ideas – ideas that make the impossible, possible. This new research is a steppingstone to our Artemis campaign as we prepare to go back to the Moon to live, to learn, to invent, to create – then venture to Mars and beyond.”
     Some habitats, such as landers and rovers, will be delivered to planetary surfaces. However, the mycotecture project team is developing technologies that could “grow” habitats on the Moon, Mars, and beyond using fungi and the underground threads that comprise the main part of fungi, known as mycelia. With this development, explorers could travel with a compact habitat built out of lightweight material containing dormant fungi. By adding water, fungi can potentially grow around that framework into a fully functional human habitat, while being safely contained to avoid contaminating the environment.
      “We are committed to advancing technologies to transport our astronauts, house our explorers, and facilitate valuable research,” said Walt Engelund, associate administrator for Programs in the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We invest in these technologies throughout their lifecycle, recognizing their potential to help us accomplish our goals – benefiting industry, our agency, and humanity.”
     The mycotecture project could enable a new, multi-use material for in-space construction, reducing mass and saving resources for additional mission priorities. The proof of concept for this technology was demonstrated through earlier NIAC awards. The team created multiple combinations of fungal-based biocomposites, fabricated prototypes, tested materials in a planetary simulator, evaluated enhancements including incorporating radiation protection, and drafted detailed mycelium-based Moon habitat designs.
     This project also has uses on Earth in addition to applications on other worlds. Mycelia could be used for water filtration and systems that extract minerals from wastewater.
     From deep space human exploration to advanced propulsion and robotics, NASA aims to change the possible by supporting early-stage space technology research that could radically change the future.
      “Mycotecture Off Planet exemplifies how advanced concepts can change how we envision future exploration missions,” said John Nelson, NIAC Program Executive. “As NASA embarks on the next era of space exploration, NIAC helps the agency lay the necessary groundwork to bring innovative visions to life.”
     Work under the Phase III award will allow the research team to optimize material properties. It also will enable the team to progress toward testing in low Earth orbit. Future applications of this project could include integration into commercial space stations or infusion into missions to the Moon with the ultimate goal of use on Mars.
     NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts supports visionary, early-stage research ideas through multiple progressive phases of study. In January of this year, NASA announced 19 Phase I and Phase II proposal selections. NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is responsible for developing the new cross-cutting technologies and capabilities the agency needs to achieve its current and future missions, funds NIAC activities.


Interest grows
in creating natural shorelines

A volunteer plants saltmeadow cord grass as part of a living shoreline restoration project.

Photo by UF/IFAS

Story and Photos Provided
By University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Published June 26, 2024 at 4:30 p.m.
Promoting the idea of installing a living shoreline was once a losing battle.
     Savanna Barry recalls a colleague who attempted to introduce the concept during a gathering of marine contractors about a decade ago.

      “He was asked to leave,” said Barry, a Florida Sea Grant (FSG) regional Extension agent for the Nature Coast. “Late last year, the same organization invited him to come give a talk about living shorelines at their annual conference. So, there is a change in thinking about this.”
     The Nature Coast is Florida's largest coast and spans eight counties including Wakulla, Jefferson, Taylor, Dixie, Levy, Citrus, Hernando and Pasco counties.

Volunteers plant saltmeadow cord grass as part of a living shoreline restoration project
Photo by UF/IFAS

Reef balls, seen in the water offshore, serve as part of a Cedar Key living shoreline demonstration site.

Photo by UF/IFAS

     A growing number of contractors and private owners of coastal property are considering installing living shorelines, according to research that Barry and her colleagues conducted and recently published in tandem with the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC). 
     In contrast to hardened structures like seawalls and bulkheads, living shorelines promote healthy ecosystems and stabilize coasts through the strategic placement of natural materials like native vegetation, rocks and oyster shells. Generally, they are cheaper to install and require less maintenance. And, perhaps most persuasively, they act as natural wave breaks.
      “After shorelines are damaged in hurricanes — especially when we see widespread seawall failures but living shorelines usually faring very well — this opens people’s minds to the fact that a nature-based solution may work better than they may have originally expected,” Barry said.
     In the study, scientists and Extension agents provided education about living shorelines to contractors through a series of workshops and trainings — and to property owners through demonstrations, site visits, courses and an informational website. 
     In Florida, for example, FSG began offering a two-day course for marine contractors in 2019. Since that time, agents have conducted 12 training sessions. Study evaluations indicated 58 percent of the 191 participants would “definitely” or “likely” add installation of living shorelines to their services.
     To educate property owners, FSG developed a three-day coastal shoreline restoration module for UF’s Florida Master Naturalist Program. Instructors taught the course 35 times to 593 participants living in 16 Florida counties. Assessments revealed a 46 percent knowledge gain about living shorelines, according to the study.
     Despite positive strides, the study’s authors acknowledge barriers to living shoreline installation, namely, in the form of strict regulatory requirements. These include rules regarding the height of breakwaters as well as the distance from shore the living shoreline may extend.
      “Permitting for living shorelines can sometimes take longer than permitting for a seawall, and for some people that process can be either too daunting or too frustrating,” Barry said. “But state officials are working hard to improve the rules.”
     To learn more about living shorelines, contact the nearest FSG county Extension agent.
     The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life.
     With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.

Six amendments set
for November ballot in Florida

By John Koch of McAlpin, Independent News Services
Published June 17, 2024 at 7 a.m. EDT

     TALLAHASSEE -- There are six amendments proposed to the Florida Constitution on November's General Election ballot.
     Below is a summary of those amendments in the order they will be presented on the ballot on Nov. 5.     AMENDMENT ONE: Partisan election of members of district school boards. Proposing amendments to the State Constitution to require members of a district school board to be elected in a partisan election rather than a nonpartisan election and to specify that the amendment only applies to elections held on or after the November 2026 general election. However, partisan primary elections may occur before the 2026 general election to nominate political party candidates to that office for a spot in the 2026 general election.
     AMENDMENT TWO: Right to Fish and Hunt. Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to preserve fishing and hunting permanently, including traditional methods, as a public right and preferred means of responsibly managing and controlling fish and wildlife. Specifies that the amendment does not limit the authority granted to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission under Section of Article IV of the State Constitution.
     AMENDMENT THREE: Adult personal use of marijuana. Allows adults 21 years or older to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingestion, or otherwise; allows Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers and other state-licensed entities to acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute such products and accessories. This change applies to Florida law; it does not change or immunize violations of federal law. The amendment establishes possession limits of cannabis for personal use. Allows consistent legislation, defines terms, and provides an effective date.
     AMENDMENT FOUR: An amendment to Limit Government Interference with Abortion. No law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient's health, as determined by the patient's health care provider. This amendment does not change the Legislature's constitutional authority to require notification to a parent or guardian before a minor has an abortion.
     AMENDMENT FIVE: Annual adjustments to the value of certain homestead exemptions. Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to require an annual adjustment for inflation to the value of current or future homestead exemptions that apply solely to levies other than school district levies and for which every person who has legal or equitable title to real estate and maintains thereon the permanent residence of the owner, or another person legally or naturally dependent upon the owner is eligible. This amendment takes effect Jan. 1, 2025.
     AMENDMENT SIX: The repeal of public campaign financing requirement. Proposing the repeal of the provision in the State Constitution, which requires public financing for campaigns of candidates for elective statewide office who agree to campaign spending limits.


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