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Local News

  • County caps insurance payouts for employees

    Levy County is on the high end of spending on health insurance for employees among Florida counties, and it’s proving costly to keep up with rising insurance costs while still offering competitive compensation packages to recruit and retain its workforce.

    At the Board meeting on July 18, the County Commission voted unanimously to cap its health insurance payouts for non-elected county employees who sign up for insurance.

    The resolution also increases employee wages while bringing insurance costs for the county more in line with similar-sized counties, as Levy is relatively low on the spectrum in employee pay in the state.

    The Board voted to max out its payouts for employee insurance at $9,512 per employee, while increasing the average wage of full-time employees by $2,180. The wage increases will be offered in tiers, with the highest paid employees seeing $1,000 more per year, and the lowest gaining $3,000 in per-year salary.

    Commissioner Matt Brooks offered the motion, and it was seconded by Rock Meeks.

    The resolution doesn’t change the coverage options, so employees can keep their current plans.

  • County adopts tentative millage rate

    Levy County was on its way to being unable to pay its bills by the end of 2019, according to budget figures presented by Finance Officer Jared Blanton at the tentative millage meeting Thursday, Aug. 3, in Bronson.

    Recent moves by the county commission – most notably, an uptick in millage, a new gas tax, department cuts and reallocations, and, going forward, a cap on employee insurance plans – have helped paint a more optimistic financial future for the county.

    The board passed a tentative millage resolution at the meeting that will keep the millage rate at 9.0. The resolution passed unanimously, on a motion by Matt Brooks, backed by Rock Meeks.

    The final millage rate can be lower than the tentative rate, but it can’t exceed that number. While it’s the same rate, it will generate $641,000 (approx. 3.1 percent) in additional tax revenue – and costs to taxpayers – thanks to rising property values.

  • County criticized over handling of insurance, wage changes

    The Levy Board of County Commissioners Tuesday came under criticism during public comments for their handling of recent changes to insurance and wages for county employees.

    The Board on July 18 voted unanimously to cap insurance payouts while offering tiered offsets in the form of increased wages.

    Sally Ann Collins introduced the issue in public comments, lamenting the lack of transparency over the changes. She criticized the Board for voting on the changes during an afternoon budget meeting, rather than during it’s regular morning meeting.

    “I’m here in hopes of allowing the public to become more aware of the pros and cons of what’s happening, since I had absolutely no idea of the ramifications of these changes until now,” Collins said.

    Collins then invited up to speak Jeremiah Tattersall, of the North Central Florida Central Labor Council, which represents Florida AFL-CIO, a federation of local labor unions, in the 12-twelve county North Central Florida area.

  • LCSO arrests 3 in first drug sweep

    By SCOTT TUMMOND, LCSO Media Relations

    The Levy County Sheriff’s Office Drug Task Force and Uniformed Patrol Division conducted a targeted drug enforcement operation Thursday, Aug. 3, in the Rosewood/Cedar Key area which began Wednesday evening and continued into Thursday morning.

    Citizens who reside in these areas of the county have filed complaints of recent drug activity in their neighborhoods and Sheriff Bobby McCallum answered their call.

    Early Wednesday afternoon, K-9 Sergeant K. Kinik conducted a traffic stop in Rosewood and with the assistance of his K-9 partner Zombie located marijuana and drug paraphernalia in the vehicle.

    The driver was issued a notice to appear in court for both misdemeanor violations and released at the scene.

    Shortly afterward, DTF investigators made a traffic stop on SR 24. DTF investigators arrested Chad Hammock (2-21-78) of Cedar Key for possession of methamphetamine, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia; and Heather Woods (8-13-91) of Cedar Key for possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

  • IFAS ‘science’ protects lawns, not springs

    By Bob Palmer, Florida Springs Institute

    For five years, researchers from UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have presented highly flawed recommendations to city and county commissions all over the state. Many commissions concluded that IFAS’s advice constituted “sound science” and voted accordingly, ignoring contradictory evidence from concerned citizens deemed less “scientific” than IFAS. However, it’s now apparent that IFAS’s positions are closer to junk science than sound science. And sadly, the upshot of heeding IFAS’s advice has been further degradation of already impaired springs, rivers, and estuaries.

    The issue is lawn fertilizers, the stuff we spread in our pursuit of perfect greenness. Nitrogen fertilizers may help grass grow, but they also bleed into the environment, threatening our waterways with unwanted pollution and algal gunk.

  • Food pantry recognizes student’s community service

    Bill Brown wanted to recognize the kind of students that embody the values of giving back that his food pantry The Children’s Table has practiced.

    Brown says The Children’s Table has distributed 29 million pounds of food to the needy in North Florida in its 21 years of operation, with a primary focus on Levy County, and rural communities from Putnam, Alachua, and Bradford counties.

    His food charity has now created a new program to award Levy County students who excel in community service.

    At the Levy County Commission meeting Tuesday, Brown presented the first such award to Thomas Ruth.

    Ruth was presented a plaque in recognition of his “dedicated service as an outstanding junior citizen for the citizens of Levy County.”

    Brown noted Ruth’s service, including through programs for the homeless as well as his work with The Children’s Table, which has included carrying baskets of food for those who were physically impaired.

  • Chamber gets lesson on computer security

    Never open an email from an unknown sender to prevent successful phishing expeditions on computers.

    That’s the best piece of advice Miranda Hudson and Justin Schmitz offered members of the Greater Chiefland Chamber of Commerce Friday during the monthly meeting at Haven Hospice. Once an email containing a virus or malicious software (malware), then the sender can take over the recipient’s computer.

  • Epic turnout for end-of-summer bash

    Near 1,000 parents and children went to the First United Methodist Church Saturday for school supplies to get students ready for the first day of school Aug. 10.

    Parents who took advantage of the free school supplies saved families an estimated $30 to $50 for elementary students, not counting clothes.

    It was the 6th Annual Epic End of Summer Bash to help families get ready for school. The church gave away 650 backpacks filled with school necessities. There was no income test, everyone was welcome.

  • Walker seeks help for Levy Arc

    By Rebecca Gallagher, Citizen Correspondent

    “Ms. Betty” Walker spoke to the Chiefland Rotary Club Wednesday, July 26, as executive director of Levy County Arc to ask for “help.” Walker is also mayor of Chiefland.

    The Levy County Arc is a chapter of The Arc, the largest community-based national organization advocating for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD).

  • Levy gets top audit rating

    Levy County received a top rating for its recent fiscal audit report at the July 18 meeting of the Levy Board of County Commissioners.

    Frank Mason, a CPA with the auditing firm Carr Riggs & Ingram, presented the audit report to the commission, congratulating the County for receiving the highest level "Unmodified Opinion."