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CareerSource to provide
broadband infrastructure training
By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC, FCWP
Director of Communications
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published Oct. 3, 2023 at 1:45 p.m.
OCALA, Fla. (Oct. 3, 2023) – CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion (CLM) has received a $1.73 million grant that will train workers for the installation and ongoing maintenance of broadband infrastructure in Levy County and 10 other rural counties as part of the federal Building Pathways to Infrastructure Jobs program.
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Levy County residents interested in enrolling in the program should send an email to email@example.com.
CareerSource CLM will work in partnership with two other workforce development regions CareerSource North Florida which covers Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee, and Taylor counties; and CareerSource Florida Crown which covers Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, and Union counties.
The five-year United States Department of Labor award is part of nearly $94 million in grants supporting 34 public-private partnerships to provide worker-centered sector strategy training programs in 25 states and the District of Columbia.
CareerSource CLM is one of two entities in Florida to receive a grant, the other is Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
Rusty Skinner, CEO of CareerSource CLM, noted that the College of Central Florida is a “critical partner” in providing the training needed and that the “grant is the result of convening business and industry partners from all geographic areas” to be served.
The training will support jobs in renewable energy, transportation, and broadband infrastructure sectors. Skinner said the training is “designed to provide a workforce needed to support Gov. Ron DeSantis’ broadband initiative that is making funding available to expand broadband across rural areas of Florida.”
Skinner added that CareerSource CLM looks forward to working with the other regions on the project.
“This program is a win-win in that it not only helps make training in a high-demand industry possible but puts people back to work while ultimately providing broadband infrastructure which is as critical to our lives as transportation and utility infrastructure,” he said.
For eligible participants, the program covers a wide variety of training options and provides wrap-around supportive services such as travel assistance, uniforms, and required tools of the trade.
Duke Energy donates $100,000
from Tampa Bay Rays' wins
Electric company helps
people pay electric bills
By Duke Energy
Published Oct. 3, 2023 at 7:15 a.m.
ST. PETERSBURG – Thanks to a collaboration with Duke Energy and the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team, Florida agencies will get $100,000 to help customers pay their energy bills. The company contributed $1,000 to Share the Light Fund® agencies for every regular season win by Tampa Bay’s Major League Baseball team.
The Share the Light Fund program is a customer assistance program to help Florida residents pay for utility expenses such as electric, natural gas, oil or wood. Donations are matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000, by the Duke Energy Foundation.
“Duke Energy is grateful to work alongside organizations like the Rays and the local community agencies that are dedicated to uplifting our communities,” said Melissa Seixas, Duke Energy Florida state president. “Collaborations like these are critical in helping us connect customers to available assistance. We look forward to continuing to work together to help individuals and families in need.”
To highlight the collaboration and help raise awareness of the available financial assistance, the Rays recognized Duke Energy and local agency representatives during their last home game on Sunday, Sept. 24.
“Once again, the Rays are proud to team up with Duke Energy to give back to our Tampa Bay community,” said Rays President Brian Auld. “Not only is this an important program to help those in need, but it also offers an opportunity to highlight the exceptional work of our local community agencies.”
One hundred percent of funds collected are distributed locally by county on a monthly basis to 14 United Way and other social service agencies to assist Duke Energy Florida customers, based on need.
Since last year, more than $1.7 million in energy bill assistance was distributed to Florida customers through the company’s Share the Light Fund.
Residents who need financial assistance are encouraged to visit duke-energy.com/sharethelight to locate available resources.
Levy County invites business connections
Session set for Oct. 19 at 6 p.m.
By Levy County Procurement Department
Published Oct. 1, 2023 at 7:15 a.m.
BRONSON -- Anyone who has ever thought about doing business with the Levy County Board of County Commissioners is invited to attend an informative session.
On Oct. 19 starting at 6 p.m., staff members from the Levy County Procurement Department are scheduled to go over key factors for doing business with Levy County. The session is planned to be held in the County Commission Meeting Auditorium of the Levy County Government Center at 310 School St. in Bronson.
This presentation will include answers to frequently asked questions about doing business with Levy County and about DemandStar, and DemandStar Subscription Plans.
Staff members will show how to create a FREE DemandStar Account, and much more.
To attend, RSVP to Tretheway.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 352-486-5288, extension 2.
What To Know About HSAs And FSAs
Published Oct. 2, 2023 at 3 p.m.
NEWBERRY -- Managing your finances and investing for your future are important tasks — and they can be challenging. But you don’t have to go it alone.
Many people benefit from working with a financial advisor, someone who knows their needs and goals and makes appropriate recommendations. If you’re considering getting some help, you’ll want to ensure a particular financial advisor is right for you, so it’s a good idea to ask questions.
Here are some to consider:
• Have you worked with people like me? All of us are unique individuals. Yet, you do share certain characteristics with others — age, income, family situation and so on. And you might feel comfortable knowing that a financial advisor has worked with people like you and can readily understand and appreciate your needs and specific goals: college for your children, a certain type of retirement lifestyle, the kind of legacy you’d like to leave and others. The more information you can provide about yourself upfront, the better your chances of finding a good match.
• Do you have a particular investment philosophy? Some financial advisors follow a particular investment style, while others might focus on specific investments or categories. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these types of approaches, but you might be better served by working with someone who takes a broader view — one that emphasizes helping clients meet their goals over any particular philosophy or strategy.
• How will you communicate with me? Open and frequent communication are key to a successful relationship with a financial advisor. So, you’ll want to know what you can expect. Will you have annual or semi-annual reviews of your accounts? In between these reviews, can you contact your advisor at any time with questions you may have? How will an advisor notify you to recommend investment moves? Is the financial advisor the individual you’ll communicate with, or are other people involved?
• How do you define success for your clients? Some investors track their portfolios’ performance against that of a specific market index, such as the S&P 500. But these types of benchmarks can be misleading. For one thing, investors should strive for a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds and other investments, whereas the S&P 500 only tracks the largest U.S. stocks. So, when you talk to potential financial advisors about how they define success for their clients, you may want to look for responses that go beyond numbers and encompass statements such as these: “I’m successful if my clients trust me to do the right things for them. And, most important, I’m successful when I know I’ve helped my clients reach all their goals.”
• How are you compensated? Financial advisors are compensated in different ways — some work on commissions, some charge fees, and some combine fees and commissions. There isn’t necessarily any best method, from a client’s point of view, but you should clearly understand how a potential advisor is compensated before you begin a professional relationship.
These aren’t the only questions you might ask a potential financial advisor, but they should give you a good start. When you’re trusting someone to help you with your important financial goals, you want to be completely comfortable with that individual — so ask whatever is on your mind.
Publisher’s Note: This article was written by Edward Jones for use by Edward Jones Financial Advisor - Sheila K. Smith, 25349 W. Newberry Road, in Newberry. Phone 352-472-2776.
NASA Astronaut Frank Rubio
safely returns to Earth
Record set for longest time spent
in space so far by an American
Information and Photo Provided
By National Aeronautic and Space Administration
Published Sept. 27, 2023 at 10 a.m.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER -- After spending an American record-breaking 371 days in space, Frank Rubio, a National Aeronautic and Space Administration astronaut, departed the International Space Station, along with Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, on Wednesday, Sept. 27, and made a safe, parachute-assisted landing southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.
Rubio launched on his first spaceflight on Sept. 21, 2022, alongside Prokopyev and Petelin. Rubio’s spaceflight is the longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut, breaking the record previously held at 355 days by NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei.
During his mission, Rubio completed approximately 5,936 orbits and a journey of more than 157 million miles, roughly the equivalent of 328 trips to the Moon and back. He witnessed the arrival of 15 visiting spacecraft and the departure of 14 visiting spacecraft representing crewed and uncrewed cargo missions.
Rubio’s extended mission provides researchers the opportunity to observe the effects of long-duration spaceflight on humans as the agency plans to return to the Moon through the Artemis missions and prepare for exploration of Mars.
State offers funds for tech infrastructure
Levy County Local Technology Planning Team Chairman John Meeks (wearing a blue shirt at left) speaks with Levy County Tourist Development Council Executive Director Tisha Whitehurst as Central Florida Electric Cooperative General Manager Denny George reads on his cell phone just before the start of the meeting.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 28, 2023 at 10 a.m.
LEVY COUNTY – A few months into its new name, a state agency sent a representative to Bronson on Tuesday (Sept. 26) to help the Levy County Local Technology Planning Team know more about funding opportunities.
Another member of the agency now named FloridaCommerce (the brand name for the Florida Department of Commerce) replaces what was once known as the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) attended the meeting via Zoom.
Mattea Hampton, a Local Technology Planning Team coordinator and government operations consultant III with the Office of Broadband, which is part of the new Florida Department of Commerce – which goes under the brand name of FloridaCommerce, gave some information about possible funding for infrastructure to help people in Levy County.
Renate Cannon listens to Levy County Local Technology Planning Team Chairman John Meeks at the outset of the meeting. She had said the opening prayer and he had led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.
Ed Suor of the Nature Coast SCORE organization is seen here in his Levy County Citizens On Patrol uniform. He is extremely well-versed in modern technological matters; unlike a stereotype some people may have formed in regard to people who are older than them. As an LCSO COP volunteer that morning, Suor was slated to help with traffic for a funeral procession.
Levy County Local Technology Planning Team Chairman John Meeks speaks to the group as he leads the program on Tuesday (Sept. 26). The group did not meet during the summer due to so many people going on vacation at various points.
An overhead screen projection shows a representation of the six people attending the meeting via Zoom.
George Buckner III provides the most comprehensive report of the morning to reflect how well Fiber By Central Florida is actually creating fiberoptic service in the Tri-County Area of Levy County, Gilchrist County and Dixie County.
Levy County Local Technology Planning Team Liaison Alicia ‘Ali’ Tretheway provides a review of her experiences at a summit with the newly formed Florida Department of Commerce. Tretheway, who also serves as the procurement coordinator for the Levy County Board of County Commissioners, shared with the group information she gained as the representative from Levy County.
Mattea Hampton, a Local Technology Planning Team coordinator, speaks to the committee showing that she knows all of the acronyms and abbreviations formed by the Office of Broadband, which is connected with the FloridaCommerce brand. She spoke about money available to Florida through federal efforts to improve the nation’s infrastructure – including the machines needed to work with the Internet.
New labels and branding are part of the revision of how the state government pays its bills now – and more.
On May 31, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation that was passed “to streamline economic development in Florida.”
The May 31 press release from FloridaCommerce noted DeSantis announced his intent to appoint J. Alex Kelly to lead the newly created Florida Department of Commerce.
The new Florida Department of Commerce is led by Kelly, who previously served as deputy chief of staff for the governor, according to the May 31 press release.
The creation of a singular Department of Commerce in Florida streamlines and modernizes Florida’s economic development agencies to meet the needs of today’s businesses, according to the government agency’s May 31 press release.
The law creating the new merged agency, is noted by FloridaCommerce, to perform the following actions:
● Consolidates the responsibilities and resources of Enterprise Florida Inc. (EFI) into the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), which the bill also renames as the Department of Commerce;
● Creates a new direct-support organization (DSO) responsible for international economic development within the Department of Commerce;
● Reconstitutes VISIT FLORIDA and the Florida Sports Foundation also as DSOs of the Department of Commerce; and
Repeals several underutilized and duplicative economic incentive programs that often create more confusion than answers for business and industry.
Among the notes from the new state agency’s public relations writers, FloridaCommerce “… will continue to support and collaborate with Florida’s family of economic development and workforce development partners, including Space Florida, CareerSource, Florida Housing Finance Corporation, Visit Florida, the Florida Sports Foundation, the Florida Defense Support Task Force, the REACH Office (2021 Reimagining Education and Career Help), the Florida Department of Education, and the State University System Board of Governors.”
Meanwhile, in Bronson, the Levy County Local Technology Planning Team (LCLTPT) showed item 5 on its agenda for Sept. 26 as “DEO update (if any).”
The LCLTPT had not met during the summer due to so many members taking vacations at various points.
The LCLTPT meeting opened Sept. 26 with a prayer by Levy County resident Renate Cannon and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited by all, led by LCLTPT Chairman John Meeks, who serves also as a member of the Levy County Board of County Commissioners.
This county’s Local Technology Planning Team, like in all 67 Florida counties, must exist for the county to obtain state funds and federal funds for broadband construction.
Present for the Aug. 26 meeting were Chairman Meeks; LCLTPT Liaison Alicia Tretheway, who is also the procurement coordinator for the Levy County Commission; and LCLTPT members Mike West of the Levy County Sheriff’s Office; Florida Department of Health Tri-County Unit Medical Officer Natalie McKellips (via Zoom); UF/IFAS Agriculture Agent Mark Warren (via Zoom); Tisha Whitehurst, executive director of the Levy County Tourist Development Council; and Nature Coast (Levy County) Economic Development Council Executive Director Scott Osteen.
Members of the LCLTPT who were absent from the meeting are Levy County Department of Public Safety (Fire Rescue) Battalion Capt. Clayton Drew; Levy County Library Coordinator Darlene Slattery; Levy County Superintendent of Schools Chris Cowart; Burke Brooks, a businessman; Levy County Prevention Coalition Executive Director Jonathan Lewis; Levy County Parks and Recreation Director Matt Weldon; and Internet Service Provider – WiFiber Corp. President Michael Johns.
In addition to the LCLTPT members and FloridaCommerce staff, also at the meeting were Butch Gerhard of the LCSO, Edward Suor of Nature Coast SCORE, Denny George of Central Florida Electric Cooperative, “Andrew” of Central Florida Broadband (Via Zoom) and Dan Pollock of AT&T (via Zoom).
In the first bit of business, there was a copy of a letter dated Oct. 3, 2023, to Central Florida Electric Cooperative under the letterhead of the Levy County Board of County Commissioners. The letter dated in the future was approved by the LCLTPT to move forward.
It shows that the LCLTPT identifies Fiber By Central Florida as the preferred provider when the county seeks state and federal funds to help broadband improvements in Levy County.
It is anticipated that the LCLTPT’s endorsement will meet with a vote of approval from the Levy County Commission on Oct. 3.
George Buckner III, a leader with Fiber By Central Florida, provided a report about this group’s progress with bringing fiberoptic Internet service to Levy County, Gilchrist County and Dixie County.
As of that Tuesday morning, Fiber By Central Florida had 1,051 customers with installed service, Buckner said.
That is in the first three months of installations starting, he added.
Other highlights for the single strongest fiberoptic Internet service provider in the Tri-County Area showed as of Sept. 26:
● Make Ready Engineering crews are continuing work in Levy County.
● Make Ready Construction crews are working in the Tri-County Area.
● Contract crews are pulling and splicing fiber in Trenton, Bell and Dempsey substations, in Dixie and Gilchrist counties.
● Between 30 and 40 miles of mainline fiber are being added each week.
The current 90 to 100 customers who are turned on each week, Buckner said, are going toward a new goal of 150 to 160 new customers each week.
Home installation is active in Gilchrist County now, Buckner said. Otter Springs is planned to be online in the next few weeks, and then the crews are going to Bell, and from there moving across the river to Dixie County, Bucker said.
Fiber By Central Florida notes its appreciation for the cooperation with every county in the Tri-County Area, Buckner said. Each county has helped by streamlining the permitting process for this project, he said.
The buildout plan of four years, Buckner said, has not been moved with a goal to complete the construction in three years.
As one example, after one attendee asked about service in Bronson, that service is planned to be available within the period from January through June of 2024, Buckner said.
Tretheway was the next to speak.
She told listeners about her participation at the Florida Department of Commerce’s summit in Orlando.
She mentioned that Chief of Broadband Initiatives Sean Lewis of FloridaCommerce was among the speakers. Lewis was attending the Levy County meeting via Zoom. Later in the meeting, he provided some more insight.
Local Technology Planning Team Coordinator Hampton said funds are available to retrofit a community center, like the Tommy Usher Community Center, to provide an area to help senior citizens and students to have more access to Internet services.
To qualify to apply for these funds, the county would need to show the retrofitting would help matters related to the workforce, education and telehealth needs of the community.
The deadline to apply for these funds is Oct. 19, she said.
The LCLTPT is a team of volunteers who are part of the effort to help bring funds to help Levy County’s residents and visitors have more access to the Internet. Some conversation during the meeting showed a certain part of the population here has no interest in using the Internet for anything, and that some people fear the government.
Other comments made during the meeting showed some people using a stereotype to reflect a belief that older people are inept in regard to modern technology.
$34.1 million aquaculture loss
estimated from Hurricane Idalia
By FDACS Communications
Published Sept. 26, 2023 at 9 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE – Today (Tuesday, Spt. 26), Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson announced the results of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Hurricane Idalia Aquaculture Economic Impact Survey.
The survey estimated that the adjusted reported losses from Aquaculture Certificate of Registration holders and shellfish processors totaled $34,159,952 from Hurricane Idalia.
“Aquaculture is Florida’s most diverse agribusiness, and it took a hard hit following Hurricane Idalia – particularly the shellfish industry in the impacted areas,” said Commissioner Wilton Simpson. “While these numbers are estimates, they are expected to increase as farmers continue to evaluate losses, and we will do everything we can to support this important industry unique to Florida and ensure that they have all the tools they need to recover.”
The department continues working to complete a damage assessment for agriculture that includes comprehensive crop and animal losses as well as damage to agricultural infrastructure, like barns, fences and irrigation systems.
County saves money
by accepting federal aid
Other Levy County Commission news
Levy County Commissioner Tim Hodge speaks with Levy County Coordinator Wilbur Dean just before the Sept. 19 meeting in Bronson of the County Commission.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 20, 2023 at 4 p.m.
All Rights Reserved
BRONSON – Just as had been or will be done in Dixie County and Gilchrist County, the Levy County Board of County Commissioners agreed Tuesday morning to a request from Department of Public Safety (Fire-Rescue) Director Mitch Harrell to approve an agreement that benefits the county.
The Public Emergency Transportation (PEMT) letter of agreement from Levy County with the Florida Agency for Health Administration (AHCA) leads to the remittance of funds not to exceed $347,629.55 when invoiced by AHCA.
Levy County, like Gilchrist and Dixie County, is among the 94 government-owned emergency transport services in Florida and they are all participating in the PEMT funding agreement. This program is in its fifth year of this cycle. Levy County is participating now for the third year.
Levy County Department of Public Safety (Fire-Rescue) Director (Fire Chief) Mitch Harrell tells the County Commission about the program that benefits the county by a state agency accepting federal funding.
Levy County Fire-Rescue Chief Harrell explained that these are funds to reimburse for the money spent by Medicaid for ambulance transportation, where the approved funding for that transportation by Medicaid is below what the county invoices.
All 94 entities in Florida participate with AHCA in the buy-down by Florida with the federal government, Harrell said.
The federal funds come back to the counties through managed-care organizations, he said.
For every $1 Levy County puts into the annual program, it receives back $2.60, Harrell said as he simplified the formulas and procedures.
He provided more details about the positive economic impact for the county’s ambulance service as a result of participating through AHCA in the PEMT.
Commissioner John Meeks made a motion to approve the request, and that motion was seconded by Commissioner Desiree Mills, voting in favor of the motion with commissioners Matt Brooks, Rock Meeks and Tim Hodge.
By participating so far, Chief Harrell said, Levy County is seeing a benefit of $124,000.
Commission Chairman Brooks asked about the sustainability. He learned the program goes in five-year cycles, and this is the fifth year; but it is projected to start another five-year cycle upon the conclusion of this round.
Florida Department of Health Tri-County Area Unit Planner II Caleb Hardee (left), the preparedness lead for the agency, and Florida Department of Health Tri-County Area Heal Officer Natalie McKellips, JD, are seen in the audience just before the meeting.
Levy County Animal Services Manager Rod Hastings speaks to the County Commission and is given permission to buy a couple of pickup trucks for animal control officers. One old truck is going to be used for administrative duties, and the other old truck is going to be declared as surplus. An idea of donating it to the road department resulted in that being noted as just giving that department a repair nightmare because the truck is too old with too many miles to keep repairing.
Among the many other actions by the County Commission on Tuesday it voted 5-0 to make the following happen:
● Reappoint Marvin Gayle as the Levy County representative on the Central Florida Community Action Agency Board of Directors.
● Approve the agreement between Levy County and the University of Florida Board of Trustees in regard to the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
● Approve the agreement between levy county and the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council for the annual monitoring of hazardous waste generators. These include business or government operations that create hazardous waste, as well as monitoring the levy county landfill.
● Approve the State Aid To Libraries Grant agreement between the Florida Department of State and Levy County Board of County Commissioners for the Levy County Public Library system in the fiscal year 2023-2024.
● Approve the agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental protection for the waste tire amnesty grant where tires will be collected in levy county at the landfill on Oct 28, 2023, and April 13, 2024. The tires will be recycled.
● Give to the city of Fanning Springs EMS station that formerly housed Levy County Fire Rescue personnel. This station was given to Levy County from Air Methods as a donation. It is no longer used by Levy County Fire Rescue. It is believed to be planned for use by the Fanning Springs Water Department.
● Approved the agreement between levy county and the Florida Department of Health’s Tri-County Area Unit for fiscal year 2024.
Ag commissioner announces
Taylor County business closure
Wilton Simpson invites investors
By FDAC Communications
Published Sept. 19, 2023 at 11:30 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE – Today (Tuesday, Sept. 19), Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson issued the following statement regarding the closing of the Georgia-Pacific Foley Cellulose Facility in Taylor County:
“Today, I spoke with top executives at Georgia-Pacific to discuss the devastating decision to close the Foley Cellulose Facility in Taylor County. While there is never a good time to lose a major employer, particularly in a rural county, this news could not come at a worse time for families devastated by Hurricane Idalia.
The decision is final and cannot be reversed. We were not informed in advance, but I can confirm that there were no state laws, regulations, or economic conditions within state control that contributed to the shutdown. According to their leadership, the macroeconomic conditions resulted in another business casualty.
While Georgia-Pacific cannot make the numbers work for their corporation, they are willing sellers. As a state leader, I would welcome another investor or company to come in and take over operations. There are many economic incentives available, and Florida has an excellent climate for business. I challenge anyone to find harder working people than those in Taylor and surrounding counties.
To Georgia-Pacific, I have asked that they do all they can to assist with finding jobs for the hundreds that are displaced. This will not only impact the direct employees, but the many industries that are a part of the complex network supporting the operation such as loggers, truckers, and other essential workers.
I would ask that Georgia-Pacific look for ways to go above and beyond on severance pay and insurance assistance. The people of Taylor and surrounding counties are hurting and need a glidepath.”