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Local News

  • Cedar Key man charged with first degree murder over neighbor death

    An argument between neighbors turned deadly for a Cedar Key man.

    According to the Levy County Sheriff’s Office, Cedar Key resident Matthew Whyte, 27, was arrested for first degree murder after he struck his neighbor, Thomas Rafferty, 55, twice with a board and drown him near the edge of a Cedar Key shoreline the night of Dec. 30.

    Whyte was under the influence of methamphetamines, according to the report.

    Earlier in the day, Whyte and Rafferty, Whyte’s roommate and another neighbor and acquaintance of the men, identified as the eyewitness to the deadly incident, were all hanging out together and having drinks at 3011 D Street (State Road 24). The witness reported having an argument with Whyte’s roommate which was broken up by Whyte. The suspect left the house for several hours and returned to find the victim encouraging the eyewitness to fight Whyte’s roommate, according to the report.

  • County to authorize waste service franchises, establish licensing procedure for haulers

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    The Board of County Commissioners took steps on Dec. 18 toward controlling the flow of solid waste in Levy County and regulating the collection service system.

    Levy County Solid Waste Department Administrative Director Rod Hastings presented ordinance 2018-009, which will allow the County to require all solid waste haulers to obtain a license.

    Hastings said he fields complaints from residents about rural haulers on a regular basis with reports of leaking haulers and garbage in the roads. “I have a lot of individuals call up and complain about debris just getting blown out onto the road and I have no control over that,” he said but added that a licensing procedure would change that.

    “What this does, is it increases that control and it does help us. There’s identification that’s going to be put on the vehicles,” Hastings said. “There’re certain criteria that they have to maintain. That gives us the ability to make sure that it is being perceived not as an option, but mandatory.”

  • Levy County school bus driver handbook up to speed

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    Levy County school buses will now be running at posted speed limits instead of being restricted to 55 MPH on non-interstate highways and 65 MPH on interstate highways.

    The School Board of Levy County adopted a revised 2018-2019 Bus Drivers Handbook at the Dec. 11 meeting that addressed the speed limit changes, specific student behavior and rules, and engine idling restrictions.

    “There’s no documentation that it’s unsafe to go posted speed,” said Director of Transportation Gary Masters who took over the department in July.

    “Furthermore, we did a survey of the districts in the State to find out, and 87 percent of the districts in the State go posted speed. So we are just following the law.”

    The 55 MPH school bus limitation law known as Florida Statute 316.183 was removed on Jan. 1, 2013 but some districts such as Levy County opted to retain the limitations.

  • Ribbon cutting on the reef

    The University of Florida and project construction and engineering crew members gathered on Dec. 10 for a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly restored Lone Cabbage Oyster Reef in Cedar Key. Boats carrying guests and media members, including a national correspondent for NPR, launched at low tide from the Shell Mound Boat Ramp.

    According to UF experts, oyster reefs help increase coastal resilience in the face of climate change and sea level rise, but are disappearing. Over the past 30 years, 88 percent of large offshore oyster reefs have degraded or disappeared entirely. Dr. Peter Frederick and Dr. Bill Pine of UF’s Wildlife and Ecology Conservation Department, along with Leslie Sturmer in Extension are the team of scientists who coordinated the 3-mile-long project. The project was funded by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement, without state or federal tax dollars, through the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund. For more info on the project visit: www.wec.ufl.edu/oysterproject/

  • City expands alcohol sales days, hours

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    The Chiefland City Commission amended the alcohol sales ordinance in a 3-2 vote at the Nov. 26 meeting.

    Effectively immediately, the ordinance allows consumption on the premises of any place holding an alcoholic beverage license under state law, as follows:

    Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to Midnight; Friday from 12 a.m. to 2 a.m. and from 7 a.m. to Midnight; Saturday from 12 a.m. to 2 a.m. and from 7 a.m. to Midnight; and Sunday from 12 a.m. to 2 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to Midnight.

    Alcohol sales for consumption off-premises is now as follows:

    Monday through Thursday 7 a.m. to Midnight, Friday through Sunday from 12 a.m. to 2 a.m. and from 7 a.m. to Midnight.

    “If January 1 falls on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, then consumption and service shall also be allowed from Midnight to 1 a.m. on January 1,” the ordinance reads.

    Commissioner Tim West, Vice-Mayor Chris Jones and Mayor Betty Walker voted in favor of the changes and said the community has been wanting this for some time. “I hope we have some businesses come here,” Walker said.

  • Christmas festival schedule

    Christmas festivies in the area get started Saturday, Dec. 1. The schedule of events are as follows:

    Dec. 1 – Fanning Springs Festival of Lights

    • Festival opens at 10 a.m. and lasts until 7 p.m.
    • Car show all day, registration is free with Toys for Tots donation; call 727-422-0787 for more.
    • Santa arrives directly from North Pole at noon
    • Rubber Duck races to benefit Fanning Fire Dept. at 3 p.m.
    • Boat parade at dark, featuring first-place prize of $1,500.
    • Craft and food vendors, children's activities, live music and more.
    • Visit fanningspringschamber.org for more.

    Dec. 1 – Light Up Williston

    • Sponsored by the Williston Chamber of Commerce
    • Christmas parade down Noble Avenue at 6 p.m.
    • Holiday festivities in Heritage Park begin at 7 p.m.

    Dec. 8 – Chiefland Rudolph Run, Christmas Festival and Parade

  • World champion kayaker talks course feasibility for Levy County

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    Eight hours into his visit to Florida and the Inglis Bypass Spillway, Whitewater Park Designer and Olympic Kayaker Scott Shipley said, “I think it’s a homerun here.”

    State, County and City officials and other invested representatives of environmental and economic organizations met with Shipley on Nov. 20 at the potential site of the first year-round whitewater kayaking venue in the U.S.

    Shipley, a mechanical engineer who is president of S2O Design, has been hired by the City of Inglis to complete a feasibility study which Shipley said he will deliver to Inglis Mayor Drinda Merritt in about six weeks. The design firm has completed projects across the globe from Durango, Colorado to London, England.

    Shipley is veteran of three Olympic games in 1992, 1996, and 2000. He earned four world titles during his 25-year-long career in the sport. Now he uses his experience and degrees Mechanical Engineering to create recreational and competition courses.

  • World champion kayaker talks course feasibility for Levy County

    Suzette Cook

    Reporter

    Eight hours into his visit to Florida and the Inglis Bypass Spillway, Whitewater Park Designer and Olympic Kayaker Scott Shipley said, “I think it’s a homerun here.”

    State, County and City officials and other invested representatives of environmental and economic organizations met with Shipley on Nov. 20 at the potential site of the first year-round whitewater kayaking venue in the U.S.

    Shipley, a mechanical engineer who is president of S2O Design, has been hired by the City of Inglis to complete a feasibility study which Shipley said he will deliver to Inglis Mayor Drinda Merritt in about six weeks. The design firm has completed projects across the globe from Durango, Colorado to London, England.

    Shipley is veteran of three Olympic games in 1992, 1996, and 2000. He earned four world titles during his 25-year-long career in the sport. Now he uses his experience and degrees Mechanical Engineering to create recreational and competition courses.

  • Local veteran parting way with his patriotic ‘Vette

    By Suzette Cook/Reporter

    Now that his family is growing, local Barnhill Landscapes Owner Bobby Barnhill says he’s is ready to part with his one-of-a-kind-treasured 1977 Corvette.

    “I bought it on Veteran’s Day six years ago, and painted it red, white and blue,” Barnhill said about the once white Corvette that is now decked out in stars and stripes.

    The hood front of the car has red stripes veering off in V formation and the center of the hood becomes the star spangled section with more white stars in blue wrapping around the rear tires.

    Barnhill, a 2001 graduate of Chiefland High School, says he’s not a professional painter by any means, but this car inspired his patriotic side. He was ranked as a sergeant when he got out of the United States Army National Guard and spent 17 months in active duty stateside during Operation Enduring Freedom. Barnhill worked in small engine repair.

  • Interagency agreement played crucial role in CPD raid

    By Suzette Cook/Reporter

    Chiefland City Commissioners joked during the Nov. 12 meeting that Chiefland Police Chief Scott Anderson timed the raid of eight local internet cafés to happen as the date of his annual review approaches. But Chief Anderson was quick to explain that the Nov. 3 bust was carried out as soon as his fiscal year reset and funding was available.

    “It had to do with manpower and search warrants,” Anderson said. “It was based on the issuance of search warrants from the State Attorney’s Office and the allocation of manpower from several law enforcement agencies.”

    At the State Attorney’s request, Anderson gathered evidence two weeks prior to the raid of the internet cafes The Fish Treasures, Blumas, Tropical Treasures, Chiefland Arcade, Hady Days Arcade, Cyber Center, Patriot Social Club, and Blue Lagoon.

    “We had officers go into all of the casinos and gamble,” Anderson said. “And they were paying out cash money which they can’t do, it’s against the law. We did all that on video for court documentation.”