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County Commission meeting
opens on a somber note

Levy County Commission
One side of the large auditorium in the Levy County Government Center shows the sparse attendance for the County Commission meeting on Tuesday (Oct. 4).

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 6, 2022 at 8:12 a.m.
     BRONSON –
Levy County Commissioner Matt Brooks opened the Tuesday morning meeting of the Levy County Board of County Commissioners with some thoughtful comments, and a 30-second session of silence.


 

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Levy County Commission
Another side of the large auditorium in the Levy County Government Center shows the sparse attendance for the County Commission meeting on Tuesday. Incoming Levy County Commissioner Tim Hodge (at far right in photo) is among the audience members on this side of the room. Hodge will be taking the seat currently occupied by Commissioner Lilly Rooks.

Levy County Commission
(from left) County Commissioner Lilly Rooks, who is wrapping up her last term in office, Chairman Rock Meeks, who was elected to another four-year term when no one else in that district wanted to compete via an election to take that job - where they serve the public, and Commissioner John Meeks, are three of the four members of this County Commission.

Levy County Commission
Commissioner John Meeks (left) moves a dysfunctional microphone as Commissioner Matt Brooks looks at material. Although the cities of Cedar Key and Williston transmit live broadcasts of those municipal government meetings via YouTube, neither Levy County, Dixie County nor Gilchrist County commissions provide that level of service. 


     Before providing the opening prayer, Commission Brooks reminded listeners that Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Michael R. Hartwick, 51, was killed Sept. 22 by a hit-and-run driver while the deputy was in the line of duty.
     Even more recently – earlier on that very Tuesday morning, Polk County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Blane Lane, 21, was killed in the line of duty. Deputy Lane was killed after he was hit by another deputy's bullet while they were serving a felony warrant in the early morning on Tuesday (Oct. 4), according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
     In a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd explained what led to the shooting and death of Deputy Lane.
     As is said in many opening prayers for government meetings, the danger of being a law enforcement officer is ever-present.
     Brooks asked everyone to keep the families of the fallen officers in prayer. He also reminded listeners that the late County Commissioner Mike Joyner (Oct. 3, 1950-Aug. 4, 2021) would have been wearing pink to help people recognize October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 
     Joyner had a long career in the law enforcement profession before retiring from that and becoming a county commissioner.
     Desiree Jerrels Mills was elected to fill the District 3 seat that Joyner left vacant. Tim Hodge, who was elected to fill the District 4 seat being vacated by Commissioner Lilly Rooks, was among the people in the audience Tuesday, as was Jason Whistler, who was elected to fill the unexpired term of the late Levy County Property Appraiser Osborn Gray “Oz” Barker (Dec. 24, 1964-Aug. 29, 2021).
     As he prayed Tuesday, Commissioner Brooks asked God to help protect all of the people helping those who are suffering from the impact of Hurricane Ian.
     As the meeting started, with Chairman Rock Meeks leading it and County Commissioner John Meeks being the fourth active commissioner present, County Coordinator Wilbur Dean found five of the six requests for approval he made scoring a 4-0 positive vote from the County Commission.
     The one item that had a 3-1 vote of approval happened when Commissioner John Meeks voted “No” to the request for $88,660 being paid by Levy County to Meridian Behavioral Healthcare Inc. This is an increase from last year’s $88,000 for annual service.
     The $88,660 is for the fiscal year from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2023.
     The five other approvals scored by 4-0 votes as requested by Coordinator Dean were for:
     ● A multiple-year lease agreement for continuation with Hudson Properties.
     ● An amendment to the three-party agreement between the County Commission, and the University of Florida Board of Trustees, and Dr. William F. Hamilton, M.D., for the District Medical Examiner Services for the fiscal year 2022-2023.
     ● The annual contract with the Florida Department of Health’s Levy County unit. Just as in Dixie County and Gilchrist County this year, the fee remained the same, with the state covering any increased costs. The fee for 2022-2023 for the FDOH for Levy County is $165,500.
     ● The annual contract for services with the North Central Florida Planning Council for local Government Comprehensive Planning Services for fiscal year 2022-2023 is $13,000.
     ● The annual contract for services with the North Central Florida Planning Council for annual monitoring of hazardous waste generators for fiscal 2022-2023 is $16,500.
     On another money matter that netted a 4-0 vote of approval, the County Commission agreed to pay the Nature Coast Business Development Council $66,400. The NCBDC also scored another $50,000 from Citrus Levy Marion CareerSource for this year.

Levy County Commission
Levy County Emergency Management Director John MacDonald looks at his phone during the meeting.


     In another set of two 4-0 votes of approval Levy County Emergency Management Director John MacDonald, to amend the final budget for fiscal year 2022-2023. Another approval for MacDonald was for the chairman of the County Commission  signature on the Emergency Management Performance Grant.
     In other information provided during the twice-monthly meeting, one resident was reminded that “mandatory evacuations” are proclaimed as a means to show residents and visitors within an area that importance to leave, due to the high probability of injury or death happening when a known disaster is on the horizon.

Levy County Commission
Inky the cat Hardison stands next to a soft cat carrier she traveled in during a recent evacuation from The Ink Pad. She found her way into the box springs of a giant bed at a motel while being taken away from a possible hurricane strike zone; however, she was rescued by Big Daddy Jeff, and then she was among the first to return to The Ink Pad after that mandatory evacuation.

Levy County Commission
Needles the Community Cat of the unrecorded subdivision named Jemlands, within the unincorporated area of Levy County generally between Chiefland and Cedar Key, strikes a pose on one of the wooden decks at The Ink Pad to show he was not blown away during some recent high winds.

Levy County Commission
The cat stayed in the woodsy neighborhood, even though his key human benefactors left the relatively undeveloped area. Needles remains as a mostly feral cat that cannot be easily caged or trapped, although his essence of being shows he is one cool cat.


     One elderly woman complained that she chose against leaving her home that was in an area designated for mandatory evacuation because she lacks enough animal transport resources to save all of her pets. She was told that Levy County Animal Services can provide some level of help during a situation like this. However, getting in contact with LCAS before the evacuation is advised. Also, there are limits for that service as well. Gov. Ron DeSantis urged motel owners to ease restrictions on people taking pets with them as they evacuated, as he noted these helpless, furry, domestic creatures are a part of a family. Meanwhile on Tuesday morning, at least two of the four county commissioners in Levy County said that people come before pets when it comes to evacuations.
     While there is no method for the government to actually force a person to heed a mandatory evacuation order, each person and family can make choices to increase odds for survival by heeding a warning that is that strong.
     Another Levy County senior citizen told the four county commissioners about his and his wife’s choice to take their domestic cat and evacuate with enough food, water, clothing, medicine and materials to get through seven days. They returned home after the potential threat of severe danger had passed.
     The couple had to leave an outdoor quasi-feral community cat behind. That cat was ready to be fed per his usual twice-daily feeding schedule upon the return of the couple. Meanwhile, that couple’s son and daughter-in-law survived the direct strike in North Port (Sarasota County), where the son performed heroic deeds to preserve lives – although he does not want to be noted for those actions.

Levy County Commission
Levy County Attorney Nicolle M. Shalley provides the County Commission with insight about the law.


     Levy County Attorney Nicolle M. Shalley received 4-0 vote of approval of a resolution ratifying the Emergency Declaration(s) issued by the Chairman and Administrative Order(s) issued by the County Coordinator in response to Hurricane Ian.
     In other news, it was mentioned that the County Commission approved payment by the Oct. 1 deadline for an annual program with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration -- to hopefully help fund the ambulance service more in Levy County. So far, Levy County has paid but has seen zero return on this investment.

 


UF/IFAS addresses storing
food and water during a power outage

Story Provided
By Samantha Murray
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences 
Published Sept. 29, 2022 at 9:12 p.m.
     GAINESVILLE
-- As Hurricane Ian hits Florida, many residents sheltering at home are at risk of losing power.
     UF/IFAS food safety experts Keith Schneider shares tips for handling and storing food and water during a power outage, including:
     ● How long food stays fresh in a refrigerator or freezer once the power goes out;
     ● Using coolers and ice to store food;
     ● What temperatures constitute the “danger zone” for food spoilage; and
     ● How to cook without electricity.

What are the biggest food safety concerns during a power outage?
     One of the biggest things you have to worry about is any perishable food you’re storing in your freezer or refrigerator being in the “danger zone” — above 40 degrees Fahrenheit — for too long. The more time spent in that zone, the greater the chance of food spoiling. 
How long will food stay fresh in a refrigerator after the power goes out?
     When the power goes out, the clock starts ticking. Once the inside of your fridge goes above 40 degrees, the “danger zone,” you typically you have about 4 hours before food starts to spoil. Freezers take longer to reach the “danger zone,” usually about 48 hours. How quickly your unit goes above 40 degrees depends on how well insulated it is. Consider putting a thermometer in your fridge and freezer to help you monitor the temperature. 
However, you don’t want to be opening and closing the fridge or freezer frequently once the power goes out. The more you open it, the faster the temperature is going to rise. 
Is it better to keep food in the fridge or transfer it to a cooler filled with ice?
     If you know a power outage is possible and you’re not evacuating, having a cooler with ice is an advantage. Transferring your perishable foods to a cooler with ice once the power goes out is a good idea. 
What should people do if their perishable foods have been in the “danger zone” for more than four hours?
     The motto here is, “When in doubt, throw it out.” This is also why having an ample supply of non-perishable foods on hand is so important, especially if your power is out for an extended period of time. 
Are canned foods safe to eat right out of the can? What about foods that say “refrigerate after opening”?
     Yes, these kinds of foods are safe to eat right out of the can or container and don’t have to be heated to be safe. However, if you have lost power and don’t have a working refrigerator, these foods will spoil if left unrefrigerated after opening. 
     A tip for stocking canned food: If you typically use an electric can opener, make sure you have a hand-operated one in your hurricane kit.
How often should you replace the nonperishable foods in a hurricane kit?
     Go by the expiration dates on the containers. If the item has expired, it’s time to replace it. Even bottled water has an expiration date. These expiration dates don’t have so much to do with the food as the container—over time, the can or bottle can degrade, and that’s why you want to replace those items after their expiration date. 
     A good rule of thumb for stocking non-perishable foods is, “first in, first out.” That means that when you add new items to your pantry, move older items to the front of the shelf so they can be used first. This helps ensure you use food before it reaches the expiration date. 
How can you cook or heat foods without electricity?
     If you have a gas or charcoal grill, you can use that to cook your food, but you’ll need to be sure to have propane or charcoal on hand, and you need to use your grill outdoors. If you have a gas stove top, keep in mind that those use a built-in electric-powered igniter to light the flame. To use a gas stove top when the power is out, use a long butane lighter to light the gas.

 


Coalition provides
Friday Night Done Right in Levy County

Levy County Prevention Coalition
Levy County Prevention Coalition Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Lewis (left) and Chairman Crystal Seley agree to a photo opportunity just before the start of the quarterly luncheon meeting Friday afternoon (Sept. 23).

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 24, 2022 at 5:12 p.m.
     WILLISTON –
The Friday afternoon (Sept. 23) meeting of the Levy County Prevention Coalition (LCPC) showed the Friday Night Done Right – Natural High Campaigns is offering opportunities for many Levy County students to enjoy high school football games.

Levy County Prevention Coalition
Part of the buffet setup for the luncheon shows it includes another wonderful set of food on the menu. There were drinks available as well.

Levy County Prevention Coalition
Levy County Prevention Coalition Treasurer and Founder Robert Wells has other titles as well. He is the executive director of the Gilchrist Prevention Coalition. Perhaps, the most important title he holds is ‘Man of Faith.’ Wells and LCPC Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Lewis are among the few community leaders in Levy County who started this organization long ago.


     The fall quarterly meeting of the general body of the LCPC included plenty of information about the success from the summer program, the fall activities and reports from partners with the LCPC.
     Members and guests had an opportunity to enjoy a tasty lunch as well. Ham, macaroni and cheese, green beans, rolls and drinks were available.
     LCPC Chairman Crystal Seley, Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Lewis, Secretary Brett Beauchamp, Treasurer and Founder Robert Wells were all present for the meeting. 


Friday Night Done Right – Natural High Campaigns
     Before speaking about Friday Night Done Right, Chief Operating Officer Lewis gave details to show all nine schools in Levy County having levels of service in the Achieve Enrichment Programs from the LCPC by the end of October.
     This fall, Lewis said the school system has pumped up its football, cheerleading and band programs.
     For football games at Chiefland, Bronson and Williston, the LCPC is giving away tickets to students who are selected by the schools to go to the football games for free. The coalition reimburses the schools for the tickets that are used on those Friday nights’ home varsity football games.
     “We’re also taking groups of kids to away games,” Lewis said. “Last Friday (Sept. 15) we took a little bit over 20 kids to the Chiefland-Dixie county game.”
     At the end of October, some Bronson students will be taken to an away game, he said.
     During the regular football season, Lewis said the LCPC anticipates giving away a couple of hundred tickets to students to attend the home football games.
     If a Levy County football team qualifies in the playoffs of the Florida High School Athletic Association, then the LCPC intends to take Levy County students to all of the playoff games, Lewis said.
     The LCPC is active in all home games of the Williston Red Devils, Lewis said. The Friday Night Done Right – Natural High program, Lewis said, helps the youth stay tobacco-free, alcohol-free and drug-free as they participate in activities on Friday nights.
     Lewis conceded to a potential revision in the away-game program. By taking Chiefland students to the Dixie County game, the adult escorts found the children know each other in the two counties and there was an inclination for the visitors to mingle with the hosting team.
     While socialization with neighboring counties is great, it presents a logistical challenge when transporting and assuring safety for a whole group of students. The better plan might be for taking students to away games, where they are not familiar with the other students.
     When the group is taken to a place like Pahokee, they all stay on the visitors’ side, Lewis said.
     In contrast, the Chiefland students wandered over to the Dixie County audience side of the field, because they knew everyone.
     This presented some tense moments for Lewis as he was concerned about any untoward comments being made while the Chiefland students visited with friends on the Dixie County side of the field.
     The visitors from Chiefland represented the school well, Lewis said, and there were no issues.         


Summer Program
     LCPC Chief Operating Officer Lewis said all nine Levy County Schools participated in the 2022 Summer Program – Achieve Summer Camp 2022.
     This year’ program was big, he said. It lasted from June 6 through July 8. More than 700 students participated, including 415 elementary students, and 293 middle school and high school students.
     They went on five field trips. The 158 Levy County School Board employees who worked in the program received more than $503,000 in pay.
     There were zero children lost or injured during the program.
     LCPC Youth Development Coordinator Sarah-Michelle Swartz spoke about the program that lasted five weeks.
     Among the important accomplishments academically was credit retrieval for middle school and high school students, Swartz said. 
     From an academic perspective for the elementary school students, she said, the first week centered around the theme of ocean habitats. Students learned about various marine animals, the different levels of habitats in the oceans and coral reefs. The first week wrapped up with a field trip to the Florida Aquarium in Tampa.
     On the second week, the theme was rainforest habitats. Lessons included this environment in South America. Students had an opportunity to learn about the various animals and plants found only in the rainforest, and its hot, humid climate. Students took a virtual field trip to the Amazon Rainforest and created rainforest dioramas. Week two ended with a field trip to the Lowery Park Zoo in Tampa.
     Students learned about the desert environment during week three of summer camp. They learned about furry and scaled creatures, as well as the hearty plants that can thrive in a desert. Week three ended with a day of water-oriented activities at WES. Students also were given a tour of the Williston Fire Department and Williston firefighters provided a special water demonstration.
     The fourth week of camp involved learning about space as an environment. Students learned about life for astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The day campers also participated in a project-based learning activity, where they explored the planets of the solar system. They designed their own space station colonies on one of the planets. The week of space exploration wrapped up with a trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County.
     The fifth week of summer camp through the LCPC included learning about Savannah habitats in Africa. Students learned about animals that live there and how they adapt to their environments. Student went on a virtual safari as they pretended they were researching animals for a science magazine. Since this concluded summer camp, the students were rewarded with a field trip to Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park in Orlando.
     When asked if there was a limit to how many students could participate, Chief Operating Officer Lewis said that while there is a technical top number of students who can partake of the program, the LCPC has never had to turn away a child from registering for summer camp so far.
     Lewis said the LCPC staff members primarily coordinate activities and support the Levy County School District staff members at each school to make the summer camps work.


Reports From Partners With The LCPC
Levy County Prevention Coalition
Gwen Love of CDS Family & Behavioral Health Services and Suwannee River Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Tobacco Treatment Specialist Kenetta Sutton-Wilson are seen at one of the tables during the meeting. They are among the partners who are working with the Levy County Prevention Coalition to make this coalition successful in its missions.

     Gwen Love of CDS Family & Behavioral Health Services mentioned that Lisa Campbell and Nancy Leech-Gartrell plan to be active in the Red Ribbon Week activities in Levy County from Oct. 24 through Oct. 28, as is the LCPC.
     Love mentioned the LCPC has been instrumental in helping CDS keep its Too Good For Drugs Program going in the fall this year. The LCPC has been especially helpful due to Love having a staff person needing to be absent due to medical leave.

Levy County Prevention Coalition
Levy County Undersheriff Beauchamp shares some relatively unpleasant news about students being violent with school district staff and what this can mean for those students’ reputations after they are arrested for performing a violent act in violation of Florida law.

     Levy County Undersheriff Beauchamp, who is the secretary for the LCPC, said he enjoyed the pre-meeting activity of “hide the meeting” on Friday. Beauchamp, Love and the lone journalist who has covered the LCPC for 16 years all thought the meeting was going to be in a room other than WES Room 407, where it had to be moved due to other plans at the elementary school related to Halloween.
     In other information the undersheriff mentioned, he said he was sad to report there have been instances of students demonstrating violent actions against Levy County School District staff members.
     Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum and Levy County Superintendent of Schools Chris Cowart have agreed, Beauchamp said, on having a very low tolerance or no tolerance for that behavior, which can lead to the arrest of the suspected perpetrator of a violent act.
     Sheriff McCallum is an honorary board member of the LCPC, and Superintendent Cowart is co-chairman of the LCPC with Chairman Seley. They both were unable to attend the Sept. 23 meeting.

Levy County Prevention Coalition
Suwannee River Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Tobacco Treatment Specialist Kenetta Sutton-Wilson speaks about programs AHEC has to help people stop using tobacco.

     Another contributor to the program on Sept. 23 was Suwannee River Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Tobacco Treatment Specialist Kenetta Sutton-Wilson.
     Students in Levy County are becoming addicted to nicotine, Sutton-Wilson said.
     She said AHEC is modifying its programs to orient them more toward young people now, especially in an effort to teach them about the inherent dangers from smoking tobacco, chewing tobacco and vaping.
     “Kids know that vaping is as bad as smoking,” Sutton-Wilson said, “but they are so hooked (addicted) that they can’t stop.”
     This has become so bad in schools, Sutton-Wilson said, that some students are “renting” vape machines. 
     “It’s like $5 a puff,” said. “So, everybody’s mouth is on this one vape.”
     The Suwannee River AHEC is seeing terrible behavior by young people, she said. One girl told Sutton-Wilson that she was unable to enter the restroom because a group of students were in there vaping, and they had locked the door.
     “It’s just getting so bad with the kids,” Sutton-Wilson said. “Their brains are not fully developed. So, they can’t understand how horrible it is for them. And they are so addicted, that they (can’t quit). So, now we are trying to figure out a way to reach them to have them understand how bad it is for them.”
     She shared information about Zoom events for learning to quit using tobacco. Those are on Oct. 1 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.; Oct. 9 from 2 to 4 p.m.; Oct. 10 from 12 to 2 p.m.; and Oct. 18 from 9 to 11 a.m.
     There is a one-time group meeting in the Williston Public Library from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Sutton-Wilson said teenagers are welcome to the in-person meetings to learn about quitting by AHEC cannot give them nicotine gum, or patches to help them quit using tobacco.
     There is a Suwannee River AHEC meeting set for the Tri-County Community Resource Center in Chiefland on Oct. 13 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Pre-registration is required. Call 352-507-4000 to pre-register for that meeting to quit using tobacco.
     


Gilchrist County government helps people
Gilchrist County
Rosemary McDaniel speaks to the Gilchrist County Commission. Gilchrist County Finance Director Richard Romans is seen sitting in the background. Romans is in the office of Gilchrist County Clerk Todd Newton. The clerk himself was at this meeting, too, as was a relatively new deputy clerk for recording and composing minutes from this meeting.

Story and Photos 
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 20, 2022 at 9:12 a.m.
     TRENTON –
As always, the five-member Gilchrist County Board of County Commissioners helped residents of, and visitors to, the county.

     During its regular twice-monthly meeting in Trenton on Monday evening (Sept. 19), the Gilchrist County Commission even started helping the community by listening to people who had three-minute limits during the public participation portion of the agenda.
     In the first instance, Rosemary McDaniel, a member of the Waccasassa Lake Property Owners Association, learned that her pleas for help were answered with action.
     Apparently grass seed (and other agricultural products) transport trailers were parked in the residential subdivision on a lot that is not meant for that purpose.
     A mound of grass seed residue, too, needed to be spread rather than being in a huge pile because the property is for residential purposes, according to what was shared verbally during the meeting.
     McDaniel, who had spoken with the County Commission during its most recently prior meeting, was relatively unhappy with a land use designation that had been amended.
     As she spoke about the immediate problem from trailers being parked on a residential lot, and grass seed residue, she let the County Commission know that almost all of the 325 lots of the Waccasassa Lake “Campsite” are sold. This property, she said, is not conducive to the activities for which some of it is being used, she said.
     Gilchrist County Commissioner Sharon A Langford (District 1) was the first to speak to McDaniel about the issue. Commissioner Langford apologized that she no longer has a home telephone, but instead has a cell phone only.
     Other members of the County Commission are Chairman Bill Martin (District 2), Vice Chairman Darrell Smith (District 3), Commissioner Marion Poitevint (District 4) and Commissioner Kenrick Thomas (District 5).
     Chairman Martin asked if the mound of grass seed could be spread across the residential lot to solve that part of the problem.
     County Administrator Bobby Crosby brought the County Commission into awareness of the most recent findings.
     When the county first reviewed the complaint, he said, the belief was that the trailers were parked, and the seed residue was placed on property that is part of the seed mill. Further research showed that presumption was incorrect, Crosby said.
     County staff found it was on a residentially platted lot in that subdivision, Crosby said.
     The owner of the trailers was told they cannot be parked there, Crosby said. The trailers will be moved off of the lot that is almost five acres in size. As far as the seed, Crosby said, it will be spread across the land to grown into grass as soon as the trailers are moved.

Gilchrist County
Lilly Miller of the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging speaks to the County Commission on Monday evening.

     Another person who spoke with the County Commission during the public participation portion of the meeting found the public servants wanting to help her with her mission.
     Lilly Miller is the job developer of the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging (NCBA) mentioned that she lives in Madison County. Miller introduced Selena Morrell, who is a job counselor.
     Miller’s office is in the CareerSource North Florida office in Madison County. Morrell’s office is in the CareerSource Florida Crown Office in Lake City.
     However, the NCBA for this region includes counties in the CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion region as well.
     Morrell’s business card shows she serves in the Senior Community Service Employment Program. Her office telephone number connects through CareerSource Florida Crown, which serves as the state agency to connect employers with people seeking jobs in Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist and Union counties.
     Morrell’s business card, however, also shows she serves people in Dixie, Gilchrist, Levy and Suwannee counties. Levy County is in the CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion region. Suwannee County is in the CareerSource North Florida region, which serves Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor counties.
     During her presentation in Gilchrist County, Miller said the NCBA program she serves as a job developer is to help people who are 55 years and older, who have been unable to gain employment for four years.
     The program pays the older workers for six months to a year in a job they can do, Miller said. An employer may hire the NCBA worker after their program help ends, she said when asked.
     Commission Chairman Martin asked if these workers receive benefits beyond the salary. Miller said that the NCBA covers only the salary of these workers.

Gilchrist County
Gilchrist County Clerk Todd Newton, who is the clerk to the County Commission as well as to the Gilchrist County Court and the Gilchrist County part of the Eighth Judicial Circuit, helps county commissioners understand an aspect of government business during the regular meeting on Monday.


OTHER HELP
Gilchrist County
County Administrator Bobby Crosby (left) and Gilchrist County Attorney David Miller ‘Duke’ Lang Jr. Administrator Crosby and Attorney Lang, and others, helped the County Commission learn more about local land development regulations during a one-hour workshop just before the regular meeting started at 4 p.m. on Monday. The Gilchrist County Commission has been working for several months to learn about laws, codes, regulations and other matters that govern and guide the development of property in the county.


     In other manners where the five elected public servants helped the residents and visitors of Gilchrist County, they performed their duties of setting policy, approving budget matters and directing the county administrator and department heads as outlined for this local government.
     Among the plethora of action that late afternoon and evening, the Gilchrist County Commission also:
     * Approved payment of a $40,200.56 invoice from Allstate Construction for its work in building the future Gilchrist County Jail.
     * Approved payment of $36,454.75 to the Suwanee River Economic Development Council for homeowner occupied rehabilitation reimbursement for Denise Wells.
     * Approved for Gilchrist County Tourist Development Council (TDC) Director Donna Creamer to attend AAA Threads 2022 representing Gilchrist County, Nov. 13-16, in Orlando (Not to exceed $2,500 and funds are budgeted).
     * Approved for TDC Director Creamer to attend VNNF Retreat representing Gilchrist County, Nov. 16-18, 2022, at Spirit of Suwannee – Live Oak (Not to exceed $500 and funds are budgeted).
     * Approved to place several TDC ads (Not to exceed $5,000 and funds are budgeted for the 2022-2023 fiscal year).
     * Approved TDC purchase promotional items (Not to exceed $4,500 and funds are budgeted for the 2022-2023 fiscal year).
     * Approved the annual funding agreement with Levy County for Guardian Ad Litem services as the cost-share in these two counties’ part of the Eighth Judicial Circuit. The Eighth Judicial Circuit includes Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties. This year, that percentage of cost is 28 percent, Gilchrist County Administrator Crosby said, adding this is in the typical range.
     * Approved the Hazardous Waste Agreement with the North Florida Regional Planning Council. The annual fee approved is $2,697 for Fiscal Year 2022-2023 and it is in the budget. This service by the NFRPC takes care of monitoring all business generating hazardous waste in the county, as required by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
     * Approved the $83,889 annual payment to the Florida Department of Health for services in Gilchrist County. This is the same fee as the past six years. Although costs have gone up, the state government has covered that and it is paying about $1 million for the services in this county by the FDOH, County Administrator Crosby said.
     The County Commission members also heard a report from County Administrator Crosby regarding grants that are helping the county.
     These local support grants are provided by appropriations of the Florida Legislature, and the County Commission asked Crosby to send a note of thanks to Sen. Jennifer Bradley (R-Fleming Island) and Rep. Chuck Clemons (R-Newberry) for their help in obtaining these funds.
     The following grants were approved for Gilchrist County: construction of a new Gilchrist County Fire Station - $777,420; assistance with the Gilchrist County Jail construction - $600,000; and assistance with the Gilchrist County combined communications system - $400,000.
     There are two regular County Commission meetings scheduled for October. However, there is only one regular Gilchrist County meeting set for November and slated in December.
     The November meeting is scheduled to be at Thursday, Nov. 17 at 4 p.m. and the December meeting is scheduled to be at Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 4 p.m.  All of the regular County Commission meetings are in the building that looks like an old church located on the southeast corner of Main Street (U.S. Highway 129) and Southeast First Avenue.
     


Sheriff gets promise
to seek improvements

Dixie County
Dixie County Sheriff Darby Butler (left) speaks with Dixie County Emergency Services Division Chief Roy Bass before the start of the Sept. 15 Dixie County Commission meeting.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 18, 2022 at 9:12 a.m.
     CROSS CITY --
Dixie County Sheriff Darby Butler asked three of the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners to add a couple of things to its requests of the Legislative Delegation for the spring work that is set to happen in Tallahassee.


Dixie County
Dixie County Sheriff Darby Butler speaks to the three members of the Dixie County Commission present for the regular twice-monthly meeting on Thursday night.

Dixie County
County Commissioner James Valentine (left) and County Commissioner Mark Hatch listen to the sheriff.

Dixie County
(from left) County Commissioner Jody Stephenson, County Manager Duane Cannon and Dixie County Attorney Chana M. Watson listen to the sheriff on Sept. 15.


     Present for the regular twice-monthly meeting of the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners on Thursday night (Sept. 15) were Commissioner Mark Hatch, Commissioner Jody Stephenson and Commissioner James Valentine.
     Commissioner Hatch served as the acting Dixie County Commission chairman that night, due to the absences of Dixie County Commission Chairman Jamie Storey and Dixie County Commission Vice Chairman W.C. Mills.
     Sheriff Butler said the Florida Legislature did not appropriate money he had sought to improve the countywide radio system. 
     After he asked for County Commission support in the upcoming spring session of the Florida Legislature for state aid in funding the radio system, Commissioner Stephenson made a motion to support it, and Commissioner Valentine seconded it, and it met with a 3-0 vote of approval.
     Additional space in an evidence, property storage and training facility for the Dixie County Sheriff’s Office is needed, Sheriff Butler said.
     The county law enforcement agency has “outgrown its footprint” at the current location, which includes the Dixie County Jail, Butler said.
     He asked the County Commission to approve him moving forward with North Florida Professional Services (NFPS) of Lake City to create what is needed. The NFPS website shows it offers a broad range of engineering services, and its team of experienced staff will provide innovative solutions to meet needs, including site development and more.
     Butler is looking for a blueprint as well as a funding application to pay for the future structure. Commissioner Stephenson made a motion to support the sheriff’s request, and Commissioner Valentine seconded it, and it met with a 3-0 vote of approval.
     The sheriff was asked a couple of questions unrelated to radios or structures after he made his two requests.
     When being asked about sexual predators moving into Dixie County, Butler said that with the change of attorneys – from M. Michael O’Steen to Chana Watson, he remains certain the county is conducting research to improve an existing ordinance related to where in the county sexual predators are allowed to reside, although he could provide no update on the ordinance that night.
     Commissioner Hatch asked County Attorney Watson to confer with the sheriff about that ordinance’s creation.
     Commissioner Stephenson asked the sheriff about the DCSO acting to reduce the destruction of driveways, and to reduce the danger to life and limb presented by ATVs of various forms driving all over the county, despite traffic laws to prohibit those actions.
     The sheriff said the DCSO has seen some progress in local communities where ATVs and UTVs have been misused and caused damage, as he seeks to help the public understand the limits of where those vehicles can be legally operated.
     When people are stopped from destroying others’ driveways, the sheriff is hearing “Thank you.” From the other end of the issue, he is hearing the question from riders as to why they can’t ride wherever they want, whenever they want.
     The sheriff said he is making progress as he explains the law to the people who may not have understood the law before.
     The sheriff let the county commissioners present know there have been crashes in the past year in Dixie County that required transport to hospitals due to failure to use enough care when operating this type of vehicle.
     Through positive enforcement and education, the sheriff said he hopes to reduce or eliminate the damage to property and the injuries to people from improper use of those vehicles in Dixie County.

OTHER ACTION
     Dixie County Manager Duane Cannon found 3-0 votes of approval on all of his requests, including:
     ● Execution of the construction and maintenance agreement between Dixie County and the Florida Department of Transportation for Dixie County Road 55A between the two points where it intersects with U.S. Highway 19. This Dixie County Attorney Chana Watson reviewed $313,000 project’s documents, and she said the agreement appears to be “legal, proper, and correct.”
     ● Execution of the construction and maintenance agreement between Dixie County and the Florida Department of Transportation for the sidewalk project for the CR 351A (Northeast 223rd Avenue) connector trail from U.S. Highway 19 to the Nature Coast Trail. This is a $152,250 project. This Dixie County Attorney Chana Watson reviewed local agency program agreement’s documents, and she said the agreement appears to be “legal, proper, and correct.”
     ● The agreements with the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council for planning services for $13,000, as well as for annual monitoring of hazardous waste generators for $2,717 for the coming fiscal year were approved.
     ● The annual contract with the Florida Department of Health for operation of the Dixie County unit of the FDOH was approved with a cost to the county of $25,000.
     County Manager Cannon also accepted tasks and revisions to the many other activities he conducts for the County Commission as everyone strives to serve Dixie County’s residents and visitors.

 


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Friday, Oct. 7, 2022 at 7:12 p.m.


KEEPING THE TENSION TIGHT

Read Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 22:39-46

     And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
-- Luke 22:44 (KJV)


     Exactly when does a person lose his or her soul? Many of King David’s deeds were foul, but because he was often in agony over them, he didn’t lose his soul. There was always tension in him between right and wrong. For such a person there is always hope.
     Our souls are really lost only on that day when within us there is no longer any tension between good and evil. We are somewhat like violin strings; tension produces music. But let the thumbscrew get loose in inattention, and the violin is worthless until it is tightened again. So long as there is a fight taking place within us between right and wrong, the beautiful and the ugly, the ideal and the present horror, our souls are alive.
     Jesus knew this and spent 40 days pondering it in the wilderness. Throughout His entire ministry the struggle continued. So great was His agony of final decision in the Garden, as he faced all the pent-up devilry of humanity, that He sweat blood.
     When within our souls there is a wrestling match like that depicted in the statue of the two wrestlers in the Metropolitan Museum as they struggle in the death grapple, the face of one leering and evil, that of the other strong, clean, and confident, then we are never without hope. But beware of the slum area of the soul where all colors look the same.
     O THOU who art “closer than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet,” I thank Thee for the church, the school, and the home which planted in my heart high ideals. I pray that I may, by Thy strength, and their memories, keep myself sensitive to the highest within me, in spite of all the forces that tear me down. Keep me ever in that presence whereby “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Amen.
The Rev. Frank Cleveland Martick (1908-1999)
First Presbyterian Church
Cloquet, Minnesota
Strength for Service to God and Country
(Whitmore & Stone © 1942; Renewed 1969 by Norman E. Nygaard; Second revised edition © 2002 Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, Providence House Publishers)

 



Outdoor Truths Ministry

By Gary Miller © Oct. 3, 2022 at 8:12 a.m.

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     As a young adult, I remember fishing the riverbank at Mr. MacDonald’s farm. (Yes, Old MacDonald Had a Farm. LOL!) He was an older man whose property ran along the river. I don’t remember how we first discovered this place, but it seemed to not upset him when we set up camp at his place. Many of those days he would come by and check on us and tell us a few stories about days gone by. One of his tobacco barns stood only a few yards from where we fished, and it seemed no matter what time of year it was, he always had a few tobacco plants hanging inside. On occasion he would give us some leaves to take home and twist for a good homemade chew. His recipe was either to cut up a fresh apple and let it marinate the leaves for a few days, or to ease that twist of tobacco down into a jar of honey or molasses. This was my favorite.
     Alongside that same bank was his boat. It was one like I had never seen before, or since. I can only describe it as a flat bottom canoe, made of wood. It was long and not very wide or deep. And I can only remember a couple of places to sit down. Now I’m sure he had landed a few fish from this boat in times past, but now the boat was used for occasional transportation. When the weather was good and the river was calm, each Sunday, Mr. MacDonald would gather his long homemade oar, get in his homemade boat, and traverse the small river to the church he attended downstream. I’m sure he had other ways of getting there, but the boat was his preferred means. Now, as a younger fellow, I never asked him why he did that. I wished I had. As an older man, I can imagine the reasons. There’s no doubt the short journey prepared his mind for that morning’s gathering.
     The trip itself, for someone like you and me, and him, would be its own worship experience. I can imagine the sights he must have enjoyed as he prepared to meet with fellow believers. I can imagine how he must have been awestruck by the picture of God as painted by creation. I can imagine how the voices of each animal became God’s unique choir as they were sung in unison. The Biblical David must have taken that same trip, when he sung the words, “The heavens declare the glory of God!” It’s true. And even though that boat is perhaps rotted and ruined, the sights and sounds that declare the glory of God are still there for us, if we’ll put ourselves in the place to see and hear them.

-- Gary Miller  gary@outdoortruths.org

     Gary Miller has written the Outdoor Truths articles for 20 years now. He also has written four books which include compilations of his articles and a father/son devotional. He speaks at wild-game dinners and men's events for churches and associations. Gary Miller's website is located at http://www.outdoortruths.org/.
 


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