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Goodbye 2013

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Levy County saw many changes

By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

The year 2013 started with change in the air in Levy County as the County Commission became composed entirely of Republicans. Other changes came as the result of retirements, career moves and the November elections. 

Commissioners Mike Joyner, of Morriston, and John Meeks, of Bronson, both Republicans, were elected and Commissioner Danny Stevens, of Williston, switched parties from Democrat to Republican.   

The county commission moved in January to try securing money from the 2010 BP oil spill settlements by hiring a consultant for $18,000 to shepherd the county and its municipalities through the expected maze of rules and regulations governing the money's distribution.

The county also won a one-year extension to implement a new $900,000 narrow-band radio system for fire and EMS systems from the Federal Communications Commission. 

January's jobless rate in Levy was 9 percent, down from a year ago when it was 10.3 percent, 

The body of DeAnna Lee Stires, 18, of Brooksville, was found east of Otter Creek by hunters on Jan. 18. Stires was killed on Dec. 25, 2012, in Citrus County, and her body was dumped days later in Levy. Byron Lee Boutin was convicted of second degree murder in her death, but has appealed his conviction. Crystal Michelle Brinson, charged with first degree murder in Stires' death, has not been tried.  

The first two of 21 traffic fatalities in Levy County in 2013 occurred in January.

 

FEBRUARY

 

The Value Adjustment Board started its year by advertising for a new attorney, but by the end of the year still had Ron Stephens of Bronson as their legal adviser. 

Circuit Judge Stan Griffis, rejected a plea deal for a 10-sentence, instead giving former sheriff's Lt. Zachary Knight to 30 years for attacking and imprisoning his former companion.

A 90-year-old Levy County man, who lived outside Bronson, died after contracting eastern equine encephalitis ? the first in the state in 2013.

The Levy County County Republican Executive Committee snagged freshman Congressman Ted Yoho of Gainesville for its 2013 Lincoln Reagan Memorial Dinner at Williston Highlands Country Club. 

The Greater Chiefland Area Chamber of Commerce bestowed the 2012 Citizen of the Year award to Rob Alexander and a new award, the Humanitarian of the Year, to Kelly Baylor. 

The security of Chiefland schools was questioned by some after two men walked into Chiefland Middle School and distributed flyers on a revival in Bronson.

The jobless rate for Levy County residents dropped 0.6 percentage points to 8.4 percent in February ?  the lowest level since November 2008.

 

MARCH

 

Three people were arrested on charges of manufacturing and selling meth out of the Bronson Motel while a 5-month-old infant was also in the room, according to a Levy County Sheriff's Department press release. 

In an unrelated case, four women from Inglis are charged with aggravated manslaughter in the death of a 5-year-old child in October 2012, according to the State Attorney’s Office in the Eighth Judicial Circuit in Levy County. 

Bill Hammond, the City of Chiefland building official, will start in April as the Levy County building official. 

Levy County's two remaining community banks ? Perkins State Bank and Drummond Community Bank ? are in the final steps of completing the merger they announced in June 2012. 

Allied Veterans of the World, a group that once had an internet cafe located north of Chiefland, is accused by a multi-state task force of Florida and federal officials of being an illegal gambling business and 57 people face charges. Only 2 percent of the revenues went to veteran causes.

A hog raised by Chiefland Senior FFA member Tyler Bennett won Grand Champion Swine at the 2013  and sold for $13 per pound as the Grand Champion Fat Steer award went to Erin Jones of Trenton Senior FFA and sold for $7 per pound and the Grand Champion Feeder Steer award went to Amy Anderson of Dixie Senior FFA and fetched $10 per pound at the Suwannee River Fair. 

Levy County unemployment dropped to a level not seen since July 2008 ? 7.6 percent. 

 

APRIL

 

It took three tries, but despite the opposition of his neighbors developer Darryl Diamond won a 3-2 vote of the Levy County Commission to rezone four acres of property along U.S. Highway 19 near Inglis for offices and a mini storage facility. It was voted down in the past due to concerns about a bar being located on the property.

The Levy County Commission, looking to collect more money in billings for its Emergency Medical Services, has approved a three-year contract with EMS Management & Consultants, Inc. The county bills $3,524,298 annually and collects only about $1.8 million. 

A shooting at the Williston Crabfest, an unorganized annual gathering in East Williston each April, left one person dead and four wounded. The event attracted 10,000 people and shut down County Road 318.

 

MAY

County Commission  Chair Ryan Bell of Chiefland said a workshop will be held at a future date to discuss the annual Williston Crab Fest and how to handle the crowds. 

After a public hearing where a number of citizens spoke against extending alcohol sales from a midnight cutoff to 2 a.m., the County Commission decided against making any changes to the current ordinance. 

Chandler Beach, whose Suwannee River Fair pig No. 132 was auctioned for more than $27,000 in 2012 to benefit a teen with cancer, fails to get his 2013 pig in the 2013 SRF. Undaunted, he raffles off the pig and donates the $800 he raised to Haven Hospice in memory of his great grandmother. 

The Levy County Commission will improve its animal shelter replacing the more than 20-year old roof for $5,400 and spending $2,776 to put up metal sides on the cages made of fencing. 

Central Florida College Levy Center Provost Marilyn Ladner says she is saddened and disappointed by Gov. Rick Scott's veto? his second in two years ?  of $4.25 million to get work started on the Chiefland campus. 

Keith Maynard, organizer of the 2013 Wild Hog Canoe and Kayak Race, presented a check for $11,600, the proceeds of the event to Levy ARC Executive Director Betty Walker. 

Tax Collector Linda Fugate, who asked the Levy County Commission to pass a belated resolution authorizing her to conduct county business at a satellite office in Chiefland that she has operated for several years, got the approval. 

The Cedar Key Aquaculture Association is not happy with the state agency overseeing clam leases and  the Levy County Commission will send a letter to the state expressing its disapproval of a proposal to add 157 new 2-acre leases to the 251 already in existence. 

 

JUNE

 

It has been five long years, but county workers will see a 3 percent pay raise in the checks they receive on June 20. Included in the raise: those employed by the county's constitutional officers.

Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones told the Levy County Commission she will be including $250,000 in her budget request for next year to purchase new voting machines in time for the 2014 elections.

County Clerk Danny Shipp tells the county commission he needs $200,000 to rewire the courthouse for more modern computers and new servers.

The jobless report shows unemployment in Levy County inched up to 8.3 percent — up half a point — in the month of June. 

 

 

JULY 

 

Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones has revamped her office's website, www.votelevy.org. The office has also launched its first Facebook page. 

Jones also wins the Levy County Commission's approval for an exhibit “Voting in Honor of Vets,” in the courthouse lobby that will remind visitors they should honor veterans by voting in elections. 

The county commission approves a plan by Eagle Scout candidate Hunter Bell of Chiefland to build picnic tables and trash receptacles at Blue Springs in Bronson. 

The Levy County Commission also OK'd absorbing a 6.4 percent health insurance premium increase for employees.

 Gov. Rick Scott has asked the 8th Judicial Circuit Nominating Commission to seek applicants for the judicial vacancy created by the retirement of Circuit Court Judge David Glant in June due to illness. 

Gov. Scott has appointed James M. Colaw of Green Cove Springs to fill the judgeship created when 8th Judicial Circuit Judge Martha Lott retired earlier this year.

Recent rain and the mosquitoes it will inevitably help breed is prompting area officials to remind people to take precautions this summer.

 

AUGUST

 

The Levy County Commission has set the tentative property tax millage rate at 8.3307 ? up from 8.01 ? for the coming year, but it could back off that number by Sept. 30 when the final budget is adopted. The 8.3307 is expected to raise $13,020,020 for the general revenue fund. The commission is considering a proposed of $62.730,153.

The Levy County Commission unanimously approved a contract with the University of Florida and the 8th Circuit Medical Examiner's Office.

Electrical contractor Billy Hinote of Chiefland has been reappointed to the Levy County Contractor Licensing Board. 

There was 16.72 inches of rain measured in July by the National Weather Service's Chiefland rain gauge ranks ? the 7th wettest month on record. 

Duke Energy, which merged with Progress Energy Florida, announces the proposed two-reactor plant to be built near Inglis won't be built. But the company will continue to pursue the operating license for the plant. Duke has spent approximately $59 million on the project and will recover approximately $106 million from customers in 2014 to cover pre-construction costs.

The company also announced that the Crystal River No. 3 nuclear plan, which has been out of service since 2009 when problems were encountered during repairs, will instead be shut down. Starting in January, the slice for CR3 costs will increase by 89 cents per month for an average bill; customers currently pay about $3.45 a month for costs associated with CR3.

Levy County Sheriff's Cpl. Tom Martin won the gold medal with a 397.5 pound bench press in competition at the 2013 World Police Fire Olympics held in Belfast, Ireland. Martin, along with friends, raised the money for his trip at fundraisers and with donations. 

Chiefland City Manager Kevin Gay took his request for a 25 percent ? $48,000 increase ? in Chiefland Fire Rescue's contract with the Levy County Commission to a budget workshop on Tuesday and had a fiery clash of words with county officials. 

The summer program at the five public libraries was a success. The theme was "Dig Into Reading" and each branch library offered a new subject todig into weekly.

 

SEPTEMBER

 

The Levy County Commission won an injunction against an unpermitted Labor Day weekend concert  outside East Williston. The organizers had not applied for or received a permit under the county's music entertainment and festival ordinance. 

The City of Chiefland did not get everything it asked for in a new county fire services contract, but it did get an increase in funding on par with that given to the City of Williston's fire department.

The budget will go from about $199,000 to $204,000. The county commission also approved a 6 percent one-time payment for equipment and materials amounting to $12,300 and disapproved giving the city a Certificate of Need that would allow firefighters who are also trained paramedics to provide Advanced Life Support while awaiting transport for injured and sick residents. 

With little fanfare and low attendance the Levy County Commission unanimously approved a millage rate of 8.3307 mills and a budget of $66,105,032 for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. It also renewed property assessments for fire, EMS and solid waste and raised the road assessments to keep up with rising costs. The  EMS assessment is $119 per residential parcel. The fire assessment is $90 for residential parcels.

 

OCTOBER

 

The City of Cedar Key says it is not interested in taking possession from the county of the “Big Dock,” a concrete structure that sits well above the water. City officials would like to do away with an agreement with the county calling for the city to take the dock and operation of George T. Lewis Airport and various roads within the city. 

Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum introduces the deputies he will assign to Town of Inglis when policing duties are transferred to fromt eh town to his office. Joining the Sheriff's office in Inglis are Justin Mashburn, Kerry Runnels and Tim Rogers.

An Inglis campground that caters to a motorcycle riding clientele was denied a special exception permit for on-premise sale and consumption of beer and wine by the county commission after residents complained that it did not fit the rural residential zoning and atmosphere of the neighborhood. 

Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution won conviction of Kelly Mathis in the Allied Veterans of the World case. The jury found Mathis guilty of 103 counts. The organization had a cafe north of Chiefland. 

A former corrections captain at Lancaster Correctional Institution sits was convicted by a jury on a DUI manslaughter charge in the Jan. 31, 2011, death of Tom Bailey, manager of the Chiefland Golf & Country Club, Keith Shane Bush was driving north in the southbound lanes of U.S. Highway 19  shortly after 5 a.m. when his pickup truck collided with Bailey's sedan. The prosecution said Bush's blood alcohol level was two to three times the state's legal limit in the hours after the crash. 

A new state law that requires the public be given the opportunity to have a say in their government during public meetings has led to a new policy for the Levy County Commission ? one that reads a lot like the way the commission already does business. The commission hears public comment at the beginning and end of the meeting and allows citizens to raise a hand during a meeting and ask questions of the commission, staff or presenters. 

A mistrial was granted Wednesday morning in the trial of Devonte Tremaine Ocasio, 20, in the Williston Crab Fest shootings after information was received late in the case by attorneys on both sides. Ocasio is accused of killing Barry Barney, 36, and the wounding of four others. 

 

 

NOVEMBER

 

The City of Chiefland wants to change the terms of its contract with Levy County for the operation of the Luther Callaway Public Library, but the county is not budging. The  contract calls for automatic renewal on Sept. 30 of each year unless one party notifies the other of its intent to cancel at least 60 days in advance of Sept. 30. The city wants a 30-day cancellation notice that can be given at any time. 

 Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones told the commission that Dominion Voting of Denver, Colo., was the only vendor to provide a proposal for voting equipment and software. The choice is to buy all new equipment and software for $275,225, plus an eight year maintenance and upgrade contract that would total $435,455. Or obtain equipment, software, upgrades and maintenance through an eight-year program with an initial payment of $137,612.50 and seven annual payments of $37,088.62 for a total fo $397,232.84. 

Representatives with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program, which left Levy and Gilchrist counties in 2012, want the folks in Levy and Gilchrist counties to know the program is back. 

The county's Department of Public Safety has revealed plans to station two new ambulances ? one in Morriston and another in Fanning Springs in the coming year. Also new: living quarters for a fire crew at Fowler's Bluff fire station which is now staffed only during the day.

 

DECEMBER

 

 

The Levy County Tax Collector is interested in purchasing an office building in the Williston, and a tourist destination, Blue Grotto, won approval of a land use change that may revitalize it. 

Yankeetown residents were not impressed by the latest development proposal from the Izaak Walton Investors to build 60 units.  Bitterness over court battles from the Investors’ last attempt to develop in Yankeetown was obvious at a council workshop.

 

DECEMBER

 

The former corrections captain convicted of DUI manslaughter who in thre traffic death of Tom Bailey,  the manager of Chiefland Golf & Country Club on Jan, 31, 2012, has been sentenced to 13 years in prison followed by two years of drug offender community custody.

Levy County Commissioner Mike Joyner wants homeowners and business owners to be alert to repair and construction scams by fly-by-night, out of state work crews that could leave them in worse off than they started. 

Attorney and Williston Highlands resident Beth M. Gordon, who has filed a protest against the proposed Sabal Trail with the Florida Public Service Commission, said the 36-inch pipeline that will carry methane gas at 1,200 pounds per square inch of pressure through Alabama, Georgia and Florida will be buried only 3 feet from the surface appeals to the commission. The line is being built by Spectra Energy for Florida Power and Light. “The commission has many things it can do,” Gordon said. “It can require county easements to be used for the pipeline. It can require a certain amount of insurance.”

The Levy County Tax Collector buys a building to house her Williston office and turns over ownership to the county upon closing. Fugate paid $130,000 for the building a former dance studio and pharmacy.