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temp agency in 3-0 vote;
Councilwoman Katie Park
throws hat in ring for town clerk job
Town Councilwoman Katie Parks is seen at the special meeting on June 12. She wants to be the next town clerk and will resign her job as a Town Council leader if appointed to the post.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © June 14, 2018 at 8:18 a.m.
BRONSON – Due to former Bronson Town Clerk Pamela Whitehead choosing to no longer serve as town clerk, three Bronson Town Council members on Tuesday night (June 12) chose to engage one of two contending temporary office worker agencies to provide a temp for the post.
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Mayor Bruce Greenlee is seen at the special meeting on June 12.
Vice Mayor Beatrice Roberts is seen at the special meeting on June 12.
Town Councilman Robert Partin is seen at the special meeting on June 12. Town Councilman Jason Hunt was absent from the special meeting on June 12.
Bronson Public Works Director Erik Wise sits in the town clerk seat during the special meeting on Tuesday night (June 12). Wise, and Parks and Recreation Director Curtis Stacy are pitching in to help with office duties in the absence of a town clerk or deputy town clerk. Former Bronson Town Clerk Pamela Whitehead and former Deputy Town Clerk Susie Robinson both quit recently. The town leaders are a bit perplexed because this is the time of year for budget workshops, as well as for sending Truth In Millage statements to the town’s taxpayers.
Bronson Town Councilwoman Katie Parks chose against participating in the discussion about Whitehead’s replacement, because she decided to be among the candidates for that job.
Town Councilman Jason Hunt was absent from the special meeting of the night of June 12.
Mayor Bruce Greenlee, Vice Mayor Beatrice Roberts and Town Councilman Robert Partin, on a motion by Partin, seconded by Roberts, chose to hire Express Employment Professionals, which had owner Jason Carr appear to present reasons to accept his firm for the temporary placement of a worker in the place where Whitehead formerly performed duties.
The other firm being considered was Wal-Staf. Both companies are based in Gainesville.
Another confirmed new employee for the Town of Bronson is recently accepted Deputy Town Clerk Melisa Thompson, who has a salary of $13.50 an hour when she stars. Former Bronson Deputy Town Clerk Susie Robinson has agreed to help Thompson understand some aspects of that job. Robinson recently quit working for the Town of Bronson too.
The current suggested salary range for the future Bronson town clerk will be $32,000 to $42,000 depending on applicant’s level of experience.
The job description is reportedly available on the website for the Florida League of Cities (FLC). Greenlee said he has been in discussion with FLC in regard to bonding for a temp, who might sit in the clerk’s seat for some period of time.
Meanwhile, even though it may take until June 28 to find a temp, the Town Council is seeking a full-time, “permanent” town clerk.
The current deadline for applications for the Bronson town clerk job is June 28.
Councilwoman Parks’ letter dated June 11 notes her intent to seek the job. As part of that letter, she notes she will not participate in discussion or voting on matters related to the temporary or permanent placement of a person in that post.
If selected, Parks said she will resign her job as a member of Bronson Town Council, Seat 2.
After the meeting, Parks told HardisonInk.com that she plans to take any courses required to bring her skill set up to the proper level to be the next town clerk. She believes the FLC offers a set of courses for clerks.
The next regular meeting of the Bronson Town Council is June 18, starting at 7 p.m. in the Dogan Cobb Municipal Building.
Crop duster visits Levy County
Here the crop duster is heading toward the photographer. Notice the swirl of mist to the left of the picture. That is caused by the air current left by the airplane’s passing through the air.
Story, Photos and Video
By Jeff M. Hardison © June 11, 2018 at 9:28 p.m.
All Rights Reserved (Do Not Steal This TV-20)
LEVY COUNTY – A crop-dusting airplane buzzed some crops in Levy County on Monday morning (June 11), providing not only good agricultural service, but also offering excellent photographic and video opportunities.
In this set of video clips of some passes by the pilot over the field, there are a couple of excellent moments for viewers, and there are some shaky moments from the long lens being held by hand. From the angle and place where the video was shot, there are some points where the plane looks as if it is in the rows of corn.
One of the many fields of vegetables growing to the northeast of the unrecorded subdivision known as Jemlands appears to be a corn crop.
The airplane making passes over it on Monday morning is an Ayres Thrush, formerly the model of plane was named the Snow S-2, Aero Commander, Ag Commander, and Rockwell Thrush Commander. It is an American agricultural aircraft produced by the Ayres Corp. and more recently by Thrush Aircraft. This particular plane is from the Ayres Corp., according to information from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The plane is owned by North Florida Ag Services Inc. of Brooker (Bradford County), according to information from the FAA.
Pilots of crop-dusting planes are excellent at their profession, delivering either fertilizer, herbicides or pesticides in an efficient, quick manner that also provides onlookers with a neat event to watch.
Levy County's Blue Springs Park
reopens today (Saturday June 9)
Cutting the ribbon on Friday morning is Levy County Commission Chairman John Meeks. Seen here (from left) are County Coordinator Wilbur Dean, County Commission Vice Chairman Mike Joyner, Levy County Parks and Recreation (and Mosquito Control Department) Director Matt Weldon, Suwannee River Water Management District Executive Director Hugh Thomas, Levy County Commission Chairman John Meeks, County Commissioner Rock Meeks and County Commissioner Lilly Rooks. (Please notice the American flag in the background.)
Story, Photos and Videos
All Rights Reserved
By Jeff M. Hardison © June 8, 2018 at 8:08 p.m.
Updated June 9, 2018 at 6:26 a.m.
LEVY COUNTY – A ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning (June 8) heralds the opening of Blue Springs Park in Levy County for the summer of 2018.
Two red-bellied bream float over areas they made as nests. The round sandy areas are where they put their fish eggs.
In this video, Levy County Commission Chairman John Meeks welcomes everyone to Blue Springs as he cuts the ribbon. Seen here (from left) are County Coordinator Wilbur Dean, County Commission Vice Chairman Mike Joyner, Levy County Parks and Recreation (and Mosquito Control Department) Director Matt Weldon, Suwannee River Water Management District Executive Director Hugh Thomas, Levy County Commission Chairman John Meeks, County Commissioner Rock Meeks and County Commissioner Lilly Rooks.
In this five-minute silent video, Blue Springs Park is seen from the air. The video ends with a look at the volleyball net and then a landing, where some blades of grass are seen very close up. The video shows the playground, the 10 pavilions, the many picnic benches, the beautiful, clear inviting spring water, the concession stand and more.
Two of the entrances to the springs are seen from the air.
Sidewalks, two entrances to the spring, the playground, a picnic table and a few pavilions are seen from the air. The pavilion on the left has yellow tape across it because it has been too rainy to pour the concrete slab under it. That will be completed relatively soon.
The concession stand (with an aerial system operator in the shade), the beach volleyball game area and other parts of the county park are seen from the air on Friday (June 8).
The springs will be open to everyone starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday (June 9).
Blue Springs is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven-days-a-week. It costs $2 per person.
There is a 50 percent discount for Levy County residents 65 years and older, and for active members of the United States military with ID, or those with a disability.
Annual family passes cost $35 and individual passes for the season cost $20.
There is pavilion reservation available. Prepay $25 and call the attendant for available sites. Cash only. The park phone number is 352-486-3303.
This season the park has been significantly spruced up. The ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday celebrates the completion of $300,000 worth of improvements from last year, Levy County Parks and Recreation Director Matt Weldon said. Weldon is also the director of the Levy County Mosquito Control Department.
The spring pool of Blue Springs is 26 feet deep and the water is crystal clear. Little Blue Springs, which is right around the corner in the same park area, is 20 feet deep, Weldon said.
The $300,000 in improvements that were just completed were funded at $190,000 by the Suwannee River Water Management District and $110,000 by impact fees paid for parks and recreation in Levy County, Weldon said.
Among the improvements are a newly paved and lined parking lot; repaired concrete walls around the spring, improved draining from the parking lot to retention areas; four brand new pavilions; dredging; and debris removal.
A floating-dock has been ordered and will be added to Little Blue Springs, Weldon said.
This park has the two spring areas for swimming. There is a playground area with swings and a slide. There is a beach volleyball area. There are 10 pavilions, all with grills.
This project to improve Blue Springs Park included work by Parks and Recreation Director Matt Weldon; Stevie Keith, foreman of Parks and Rec and Mosquito Control; Robert Law, construction and maintenance in Parks and Recreation; T.J. McGinnes, builder tradesman II of Parks and Recreation; and Chuck Van Oder and Nomar Trinidad, both of Mosquito Control.
The Levy County Road Department paved and lined the parking lot, and sodded the park with grass, Weldon said.
The main Blue Springs are surrounded by a concrete retaining wall, with stair and dock access. Spring water issues from several sand boils scattered across the bottom of the pool. Blue Springs discharges to the southwest down a short run and into the nearby Waccasassa River, which flows south to the Gulf of Mexico.
There are restrooms, picnic pavilions and a concession stand onsite. It is a very popular place for families to enjoy.
It’s watermelon harvesting time in the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties. This famous stand in Levy County started its service to the public last week. Bricen Clemons, 5, is helping Maurice Corbin as the child is seen next to some fresh watermelons. (The young Mr. Clemons, by the way, is actually five and one-half years old. He knows how to spell his first and last name already too.) This stand is known for high quality watermelons and cantaloupes year after year. It is on U.S. Alt. 27 between Bronson and Levyville, near Levy County Road 124. Melba Tillis and her family sell the delicious, fresh watermelons grown in the area. These watermelons were selling at $4 each. There are both seedless and seeded watermelons there for that price. These watermelons are grown in Levy County, and they are delicious, sweet and juicy. Cantaloupes are selling for $1 each, and they are great too. There are also cucumbers, eggplant and squash there right now, and sweet corn is expected to be available for sale there soon.
Photo by Jeff M. Hardison © June 5, 2017 at 9:28 p.m.
County Commission votes
5-0 to buy old Bronson High
School campus from
School Board for $1.5 million
By Jeff M. Hardison © June 5, 2018 at 3:28 p.m.
BRONSON -- The Levy County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday morning (June 5) agreed to buy the former Bronson High School campus from the Levy County School Board for $1.5 million.
County Coordinator Wilbur Dean on Tuesday afternoon said this is a win-win situation for the County Commission, for the School Board and for the people of Levy County.
This purchase creates a potential for the county to not have to replace its current courthouse, as it has been told is necessary for safety.
A general description of the piece of the property being bought is the “School Complex containing 72,681 SF (MOL) of improvements on 13.17 acres of land known as the Old Bronson High School, physically located at 310 School Street, Bronson, Florida 32621 - Located in Section 17, Township 12S, Range 17E Levy County, Florida.”
With this new property, the Levy County Courthouse can be used for judicial matters and for the office of the Clerk of Court, Dean said.
This proposal came to light first on April 24 when County Coordinator Dean told the five commissioners that he had been contacted by the School Board to possibly start negotiating the sale again. The County Commission and School Board previously had discussed this potential sale, which is now on the brink of being a done deal.
When the new Bronson Middle High School came into being, the old BHS was changed into the site for students who had disciplinary problems to the extent that they needed to be separated from the general student population. At one point it was named Hilltop. Then it became named the Levy Learning Academy.
Dean said he has spoken with Sheriff Bobby McCallum, County Clerk Danny Shipp, Property Appraiser Osborn "Oz" Barker, Tax Collector Linda Fugate, County Judge J.T. "Tim" Browning and Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones. The county coordinator also has spoken, he said, with administrative officials in the Eighth Judicial Circuit who conduct trials in the courtrooms of the courthouse.
“The buildings and the campus over there have been maintained very well,” Dean said previously. “All the A/C, the computer lines, a lot of that is very updated. I know (Levy County Maintenance Director) Jimmy Jones was very impressed by the things they have done.”
Dean said the addition of this property is what he sees as the most cost-effective manner to alleviate space and security issues at the courthouse. This will add space, too, he said, so that county building, zoning and planning departments could be moved off of Hathaway Avenue (U.S. Alt. 27) so that people could visit one area for building and zoning matters, as well as other county business.
He added that by moving county offices from the main street in Bronson would open that property for purchase by a private interest, which not only would provide revenue to Levy County from the sale, but it would help increase the tax base.
With the potential to relocate the Levy County Tax Collector’s Office and the Levy County Property Appraiser’s Office to an area away from the courthouse, it would make those locations even more handicap accessible, Dean said, while freeing space at the courthouse to improve security for judges, lawyers, civil litigants and criminal defendants.
County Commission Chairman John Meeks previous has said this could help the county at least delay a mandate to build a new courthouse, adding that this would save a considerable amount of tax dollars.
The tentative projected cost of a $12 million courthouse, Chairman Meeks said, was opposed by him vehemently. That $12 million is just a base estimate to build the building, he said, and does not include the cost of furniture revisions for equipment and the like.
In a telephone interview with Sheriff McCallum on April 26, he indicated that he sees this as a positive action. The sheriff mentioned that he is required by law to provide security for the courts and judges.
The other county offices in the courthouse now enjoy a level of security by the LCSO, however if those offices moved to the former BHS campus, then there may be a need for discussion about more funding for the LCSO to provide security there too.
Sheriff McCallum sees this coming budget year as being a time when he must request an increase in tax revenue for the Sheriff’s Office, because there are mandatory minimum standards that must be met by law; and to meet those requirements will require what may be the most significant Sheriff’s Office budget increase in the history of Levy County, he said.
Summertime is the traditional start of many budget meetings for county offices all over Florida.
Multi-state case continues
with suspect shot in Bronson
A member of the team of law enforcement officers involved in the apprehension of the suspect packs up some equipment.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © June 4, 2018 at 10:08 a.m.
* Updated June 4, 2018 at 4:18 p.m.
All Copyrights Reserved
BRONSON – A man who is wanted in Georgia on various charges, and is at least a person of interest in an infant’s death was shot by an Alachua County Sheriff’s Office SWAT member Monday morning (June 4) in Bronson, according to information from ACSO Public Information Officer Sgt. Brett Rhodenizer.
ACSO Public Information Officer Sgt. Brett Rhodenizer speaks to members of media outlets based in Gainesville.
A member of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement picks up material to use in the investigation of an officer-involved shooting in Bronson by an ACSO SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) member.
Part of the crime scene here shows the red SUV the suspect tried to leave the apartment complex in as it is stopped in the driveway. Some apartment complex residents may have been inconvenienced due to the need of investigators to keep the crime scene free from traffic or materials that would hamper the investigation.
A small patch of blue wildflowers grows near the sign to the apartment complex.
Bronson Community Church is the place where the ACSO was meeting members of the press to release information about the shooting at the apartment complex. Immediately southeast of the church is the Levy County Transit Department. A bit northwest of the church is the location of the villas.
Carlton James Mathis
Mug Shot Provided
The Hall County (Georgia) Sheriff’s Office called the ACSO just after 8:30 p.m. last night (June 3), Rhodenizer said.
The HCSO told the ACSO that is had received information about an individual possibly involved in a possible infant homicide was in Alachua County at that time, Rhodenizer said.
The HCSO derived its lead to Alachua County, Rhodenizer said, from some OnStar vehicle information.
An immediate investigation led deputies to believe the suspect – Carlton James Mathis, 28, of Georgia was at the Bronson Villas Apartments, Rhodenizer said.
Mathis was wanted for Violation Of Probation, Rhodenizer said, and he had been put on probation as part of a sentence for burglary.
The ACSO contacted the Levy County Sheriff’s Office for assistance, Rhodenizer said, as well as deploying the ACSO SWAT.
“We observed Mathis in the Bronson Villas and Villages Apartments shortly after 4 a.m. this morning (June 4),” Rhodenizer said. “We were looking for him and developing this investigation throughout the night.
“When he was seen, again after four o’clock or so this morning,” Rhodenizer continued, “he was seen getting into a vehicle. Based on the information, we attempted to stop the vehicle – a red SUV, to make sure he was in that vehicle. He was armed with a handgun.”
The ACSO public information officer said the suspect was engaged (shot) by an ACSO SWAT team operator. The suspect was treated on scene and then was taken to a Gainesville hospital.
After the suspect is stabilized, Rhodenizer continued, he will be taken to the Levy County Jail where he will be booked on a charge of aggravated assault for pointing the gun at a person. Other charges from Georgia, such as VOP, are to be determined, and the role of the man in the alleged infant’s homicide are yet another matter in this two-state, and possible three-state (Alabama) path left by this fugitive who is now in custody.
* As events unfolded, Rhodenizer said, the Dothan (Alabama) Police Department served a search warrant in that city and located what are believed to be the remains of the child that prompted the search for Mathis.
The investigation into both the child’s case and shooting is ongoing, Rhodenizer said.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the officer-involved shooting at the request of the ACSO, Rhodenizer said.
“Our policy (the ACSO) is always to have the FDLE investigate an officer-involved shooting," he said.
covers new ground
This view from the Historic Chiefland Train Depot Park looking across Main Street (U.S. Highway 19) shows one small part of the multitude of tents set up by vendors in the location for the annual Chiefland Watermelon Festival on Saturday (June 2). A new area for parking, in the city-owned grass area just north of this other piece of city property, was utilized by some motorists, and the parking lot and neighborhood at the Train Depot on the east side of U.S. 19 was used for parking as well.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © June 3, 2018 at 5:08 a.m.
CHIEFLAND – The annual Chiefland Watermelon Festival found a new location this year, with scores of vendors planting their tent stakes on the west side of Main Street (U.S. Highway 19).
(from left) Krystle Skelly, Leah Gamble and Christine Dunn help represent the College of Central Florida at the Watermelon Festival.
Hardy Dean Jr., a member of the First United Methodist Church’s congregation, greets visitors at the church’s tent. This is a church without walls, and one that welcomes all people to come as they are. The United Methodist Church is known for ‘Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.’
There are four birds in this photo. There were representatives of many non-profit organizations at the event on Saturday, including this one.
The annual Chiefland Watermelon Festival event held the first Saturday of June each year has historically been on East Park Avenue, sometimes in the grass next to the Police Station a little bit, and down a few streets to the south -- however primarily in the Historic Chiefland Train Depot Park on the east side of U.S. 19 in years past. Free slices of cold watermelon, once one of the memorable hallmarks of the event, were more easily found in years past than in the 2018 version that happened on June 2 too.
There may have been more vendors this year than in the past. The Watermelon Festival Pageant has evolved over the decades as well, and it happened again this year, as did the Watermelon Festival Parade. There were years when the pageant was held the same weekend as the festival and there were pageants at the Tommy Usher Community Center in years past.
Likewise, in years past, the individuals and groups that put on the festival, the pageant, the parade and the Rotary Club’s bicycling event sent press releases to announce the events before they happened.
There was one year where weather shut down the event, and the potential of rain existed this year but it did not stop any activities.
Another relatively new feature for this annual happening in the Chiefland area is the Rotary Club’s bicycle ride named the Tour de Melon. It is hosted by the Suwannee Valley Rotary Club, the newer of the two Rotary Clubs in the Chiefland area, where the Chiefland Rotary Club is the historic benchmark for Rotary Clubs in that municipality.
This fundraiser now attracts hundreds of bicyclists who ride various distances after paying an entry fee to help the Rotary Club with its charitable missions.
As occurs during years when there are political races, there were candidates in the mix on Saturday, in the parade as well as on the new festival grounds.
Among the many potential candidates in municipal, county, circuit, state and national races, was Tim West who plans to qualify to run in the Chiefland City Commission race for Seat 4, which is currently occupied by Chiefland City Commissioner Teresa Barron.
West was among the people strolling the new grounds for the Watermelon Festival on Saturday.
“I’m not running against anyone,” West said in regard to Barron. “I am running for the city of Chiefland.”
The candidate said he considers Chiefland to be a very welcoming city.
“I would like to see Chiefland prosper,” West noted on a handout, “while maintaining the values and integrity that make living here so pleasant. Vote for me and together we’ll keep Chiefland our favorite place to call home.”
While qualifying time is just around the corner for this city’s elections, and for the Levy County races, three candidates who are qualified already for one race were all present at the Chiefland Watermelon Festival. That race is for the one vacant seat to be an Eighth Judicial Circuit Court judge.
Julie Waldman, one of three candidates for Eighth Judicial Circuit Court judge is seen at her tent on Saturday.
In this HardisonInk.com archive photo, Bronson Elementary School Principal Michael Homan (left) stands next to Gloria Walker, a candidate for Eighth Judicial Circuit Court Judge as they are at the Bronson Blueberry Festival held in May. Candidate Walker was at the Watermelon Festival as well.
David Robertson, one of three candidates for Eighth Judicial Circuit Court judge, is seen in this photo that was provided upon request. Candidate Robertson was at the Watermelon Festival as were the other two candidates in that race.
One of the three candidates for one seat on the bench as an Eighth Judicial Circuit Court judge will be elected on Aug. 28. The Eighth Judicial Circuit includes Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties.
As far as circuit court judges’ races in this circuit in 2018, Eighth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Stanley “Stan” H. Griffis III, Eighth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Denise R. Ferrero and Eighth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Susanne Wilson Bullard were all reelected without opposition.
Three candidates are seeking to fill one Eighth Judicial Circuit Court judge seat. Those candidates are David Robertson (NOP), Julie Waldman (NOP) and Gloria Walker (NOP).
Those three potential judges were all at the Watermelon Festival, and they all had tents on the new grounds.
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In this still shot taken from the video, Tracey Hurley is seen as she sings the jingle.
102nd Jingle Performer
Tracey Hurley sings the HardisonInk.com Jingle on May 24, 2018 at the podium where she would later that evening give her keynote address to GED graduates at the College of Central Florida’s campus in Levy County. Each performer or set of performers brings his or her, or their (when it is two or more performers) own special something to the jingle. If you see Jeff Hardison and you want to sing the jingle, just let him know or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. He asks people to sing it, too, and some of them agree to sing it. (Thanks people!)
Published May 25, 2018 at 1:38 p.m.
© Video by Jeff M. Hardison, All Rights Reserved