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Local News

  • Bright futures

    The Chiefland Middle High School Class of 2018 Florida Academic Scholars, which are students who are eligible to receive 100 percent tuition funding at a public university through the Bright Futures Scholarship Award Program, are, from left: Savannah Hudson; Anya Tapia; Nathalie Solatorio; Sarah Lourcey; Tori Hutson; Morgan Fisher; Enya Tapia; and Sydney Allen. See 4A and 5A for more.

  • Schools Foundation honors ‘best of the best’

    By Carolyn Ten Broeck, editor@willistonpioneer.com

    The Levy County Schools Foundation, along with the School Board of Levy County, honored the “Best of the best” Monday night with a reception and ceremony at Williston Elementary School.

    The Foundation will award 55 scholarships in 2018 totaling $45,000, according to its President Justin Hardy. He also told honorees and their guests that more than $55,000 came back to the schools themselves via education grants for teachers.

    “Every person who comes in contact with a student,” School Board member Cameron Asbell said, “whether it’s a janitor, a teacher or a volunteer, is shaping the future not just of a town, but of the world.”

    School Superintendent Jeff Edison said the evening was to celebrate the folks who change students’ lives and Paige Brookins, also a School Board member, added that volunteerism is the cornerstone of our country and schools are made better by those who donate their time.

  • Bronson celebrates blueberries

    The Town of Bronson is celebrating the Fourth Annual Blueberry Festival Saturday, May 19, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at James H. Cobb Park. The Festival hosts local growers with fresh berries for sale as well as vendors selling a wide assortment of crafts, goods and various foods, blueberry-related and otherwise. There will be music and a children’s play area. The morning of the festival will include the 5k Blueberry Stomp, with registration starting at 7 a.m. and the race starting at 7:30am. The 3.2-mile course will wind through town to finish in the James H. Cobb Park. The Blueberry Pageant will be May 12 at 9 a.m. at Bronson Elementary School. The Blueberry Parade is May 18 at 6:30 p.m. Call (352) 486-2354 for more details.

  • A day of remembrance

    Sergeant Noel Ramirez’s infectiously positive attitude and smile could brighten anyone’s day.

    Deputy Taylor Lindsey always seemed to know the right thing to say to lift up a fellow officer or friend.

    According to many of those who knew them best, both officers were exemplary in their service, representing the best their profession had to offer.

    On May 3, at the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office, fellow officers and friends joined Ramirez’s widow and mother of his two children, Gigi, to provide a testament to the lives touched by the two fallen Gilchrist officers who were killed while having lunch together in Trenton on April 19.

    “I think it’s changed everybody’s life from here on out,” said Kyle Schultz, a K-9 unit officer for the Chiefland Police Department and close friend of Lindsey’s. “It’s hard to say it, but when you take two people out of this world that were so special and meant so much to you, you feel like a piece of you is gone.

  • Y-I club awards scholarships

    The Yankeetown-Inglis Woman’s Club held its Scholarship Luncheon and installation of new officers meeting Wednesday, May 2.

    President Helen Ciallella shared the history of the scholarship luncheon. Graduates from the Citadel, UF, FSU, College of Central Florida, including a Ph.D. from Ohio State have all received Woman’s Club Scholarships.

    In 1970, scholarships were $75 - $200 and the ladies played Bridge games to generate the scholarship fund, handing out three scholarships each year from Bridge. In 1989 Bingo took over scholarships. Playing Bingo every Thursday night, and now having the option of purchasing dinner prepared by Lucy Duncan, the revenues have increased. To date, the Woman’s Club has raised over $100,000 for scholarships.

    “Thank you Bingo players and thank you community for supporting this. We are real excited about it, I love being able to say over $100,000 because it makes me smile.” Ciallella said.

  • Wild waters

    The extremely low water level in the Waccasassa River made last year’s Wild Hog Canoe Race, its 40th anniversary, a tough slog for canoers and kayakers.

    The water was up for this year’s event, held April 28, making for a smoother ride.

    But it’s never easy, as the 107 boaters who participated this year can attest.

    One of the early finishers was lamenting the spider web he passed through as he swatted away one of those spiders from his head after arriving on the banks.

    The charity ride, which starts at the Wacassassa Bridge along Highway 24 and leads to the event site just north of Gulf Hammock along U.S. 19, is 15 miles and generally takes at least two hours for the full distance. Riders can go solo or as duos, and there a divisions that categorize participants by their ability, experience, age and boat type.

    The boaters face a handful of obstacles along the way, including a couple of logs toward the finish that require competitors to submerge their bodies in the water and lift their boat over the wood.

  • CRC approves 8 ballot proposals

    By Lori Prevatt, Citizen Correspondent

    The Constitution Revision Committee approved eight of 12 proposals recently that are wide ranging in scope when they appear on the November ballot.

    According to Chris Doolin of the Small County Coalition of Florida, many items were grouped together in order to pass certain pieces that would not pass on their own merit.

    Levy County Schools Superintendent Jeff Edison, shared a series of email correspondence from Doolin regarding the committee. Twelve proposals were on the CRC agenda, according to Doolin, but the number was reduced to eight.

    Proposals on the November ballot are listed:

    Proposal 6001 involves restoring rights to victims of crime and increases the age limit that judges may serve.

    Proposal 6002 aims to add an additional fee to college tuition and establishes death benefits for families of military and first responders.

    Proposal 6003 changes the way charter schools are designated; and proposes an eight-year term limit for school board members. It also requires civic literacy to be added to public education curriculum.

  • Deputy injured during traffic stop

    A Levy County deputy sustained minor injuries Friday, April 27, while he was conducting a traffic stop

    According to a Florida Highway Patrol press release, deputy Matthew King, 49, of Bronson, was in a marked 2017 Ford Explorer with emergency lights engaged. The sheriff’s vehicle was parked on the south shoulder of eastbound CR 318 conducting a traffic stop on other traffic. Another vehicle, a 2004 Toyota Sienna driven by Jacqueline E. Laster, 51, of Florida City, was traveling east when it sideswiped the left side of the Ford.

    King had opened the door and his left leg was out of the vehicle, according to the press release. He sustained minor injury to his left leg.

    Laster was found to be operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. She was arrested and transported to the Levy County Jail where she refused a breath sample.

    She was booked for DUI and issued a citation for violation of the move over law.

  • Shooter's motives are still unknown

    Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert Schultz described the man who shot two of his deputies before turning the gun on himself as a recluse who was not identifiable by neighbors and his motives are still unknown.

    He said during a press statement April 27 in Gainesville that it is important to provide information the investigation has uncovered so far in the murders of Gilchrist County deputies Sgt. Noel Ramirez and Deputy Taylor Lindsey.

    Ramirez, 29, and Lindsey, 25, were in the Ace China Restaurant April 17 at about 3 p.m. when they were killed.

    The shooter was later identified as John Hubert Highnote, 59, of Bell. He was found dead in a pickup truck outside the restaurant from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

    He said nothing law enforcement knows is an answer, but the community deserves to know what law enforcement knows so healing may begin.

    “I am only going to speak about this person one last time, then send him back into obscurity where he came from and, frankly, belongs,” Schultz said.

  • County sees win-win scenario in school purchase

    The purchase of the old Bronson High School building, located adjacent to the Levy County Courthouse in Bronson, could kill two – or more – birds with one stone for the county.

    At its meeting April 24, the Levy County Commission reached a consensus to advise County Coordinator Wilbur Dean to seek a deal for the purchase from the School Board of Levy County.

    Acquiring the space would allow the county to avoid the estimated $12 to $15 million in costs to build a new courthouse, which has reached its functioning capacity for the county and the courts, and to consolidate more Levy County services – with more parking – in one place to make it easier on residents. The county would move offices to the new site, allowing more space for the judicial system in the current courthouse.

    While negotiations are still ongoing, Dean said the 40,000-square-foot property would cost less than $2 million. He quoted a tentative estimate of $38 to $41 per square foot, which would put the purchase at around $1.6 million.