Local News

  • Valdosta promises early spill notice, makes upgrades to sewage facilities

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    Levy County Commission Chair John Meeks brought back some answers after a visit with Valdosta, Georgia officials where sewage spills were taken to task.

    On March 19, the Board unanimously adopted a resolution that insisted that Valdosta answer concerns about making progress on sewage spill prevention.

    Meeks said those concerns about spillage were put into perspective and that facility upgrades have continued despite the fact that Valdosta has received no financial aid from FEMA or state agencies after a calculated 6 billion gallons of rainfall landed inside the municipality over a three-day period resulting in a sewage spill that affected downstream counties.

    “The incident happened in December and sparked the outrage that we have as citizens of Florida,” Meeks said.

    But what he learned in an hour-long time period with Valdosta officials and Georgia Tech engineers clarified the situation.

    “They’re doing as much as they can,” Meeks said about made major investments in improvements.

  • Levy County residents can help map internet connectivity

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    Levy County Commission Chair John Meeks can prove internet connectivity is below Federal Communication Commission (FCC) standards and so can any resident who wants to help supply data for a nationwide experiment that could help improve internet service.

    During the comments section of the April 16 meeting, Meeks took his phone out and encouraged residents to prove that the lack of reliable internet in Levy County is unacceptable.

    “If you would take the time to download this on your phone and more importantly tell two of your friends to download this on their phones,” Meeks said about the app TestIT which was developed for the National Association of Counties (NAOC).

    According to NAOC’s website “a Rural Community Assistance Partnership and Rural LISC have teamed to develop the “TestIT” app to collect data that can be used to advocate for funding for broadband infrastructure in unserved rural areas.

  • Third generation rancher sets stage for life lessons

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    Cattle Rancher Eugene Carter III is at home on a horse named Tennessee. He is flanked by his two Black Mouth Cur dogs that are under his command just as the five bulls in front of him are. With a series of whistles, Carter, 56, steers the dogs that steer the bulls, and they all make their way across his arena.

    On the other side of the pen, a new generation of bull riders is gearing up. Spurs, vests, helmets, chaps.

    For Carter, a 1980 graduate of Chiefland High School, where he was an active member of the FFA, this is a full-circle moment.

    Carter said he built his first bull riding ring back in 1986 and named it “the dungeon.”

    “I rode bulls, my brother rode bulls,” Carter said. “We had cows, and me and Daddy and my brothers would get our bulls and try to ride them.”

    Carter started hauling bulls and now, more than 30 years later, he manages 90 acres, 75 head of cattle and is the founder of Renegade Rodeo. Carter’s four sons followed in his footsteps helping out on the ranch and learning the ins and outs of rodeo and arena life.

  • Bess the Book Bus is a calling for Rotary visitor

    The Suwannee Valley Rotary Club welcomed a special guest on April 18, as Jenn Frances, owner and manager of Bess the Book Bus, showed how she introduces the love of reading to children across the United States.

    Frances, who has a degree in child psychology, began her book bus business 16 years ago when she was looking for a career change.

    “I was very unfulfilled in what I was doing,” she recalled. “I started journaling and I was having trouble sleeping.” Frances the idea just came to her one day and she felt it was what she was meant to do.

    Frances started the book bus in the Tampa area and now makes nation-wide trips to visit schools and detention centers. Her visits begin with read-alouds with the students. Frances says the story time is very interactive. After the read-alouds, the students shop on the book bus. Each student is allowed to pick one book. Frances also goes to community events. There is no charge for the books.

    Frances says she has given away over 71,000 books through the book bus program.

  • Trenton veteran stays active despite disabilities

    Mike Worner, a 55-year-old veteran from Trenton, has been disabled since he was 22 years old. Worner is a quadriplegic who cannot use his legs and only has use of his fingers on one hand.

    While working on a submarine in the Navy, Worner one day had to go ashore to retrieve supplies and was hit by a newspaper delivery vehicle traveling 70 MPH. He was serving on the USS Dallas in Groton, Connecticut during the time of the accident.

    After his accident, Worner, who served two years in the Navy, tried everything he could to learn to walk again. At the point he realized that he would not be able to walk, he began to adapt to his lifestyle as a quadriplegic, not allowing his disability to get in the way of his favorite activities.

  • Guardian ad Litem needs more volunteers

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    Lisa Siedzik, the newly appointment chair of the Guardian ad Litem Foundation is raising awareness and asking for community support and for more volunteers to help children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected.

    At Chiefland Rotary, Siedzik gave the background and mission of the program that serves the Eighth Judicial Circuit which includes Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union counties.

    According to its website, “The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program will continue to be a powerful and effective voice advocating for the best interests of Florida’s abused, abandoned and neglected children and be recognized and respected as a partnership of community advocates and professional staff. To the fullest extent possible, this vision will be realized through volunteers who will advocate as Guardians ad Litem for the children they serve.”

    Program volunteers are trained to visit children on a monthly basis to check on safety, and to be a mentor and collect information and identify resources.

  • County upgrades ambulance fleet

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    With the approval of Levy County Public Safety Director Mitch Harrell’s request to transfer of $140,000 from reserves to the equipment fund, three new ambulances will be headed to Levy County.

    The Levy County Board of County Commissioners’ approval went toward the total $653,000 price tag for three Ford-550s.

    Harrell said changes in ambulance specifications in 2016, which added weight to the trucks, is prompting the change from Mercedes to Ford, along with a switch from diesel fuel to gasoline motors.

    “The diesel exhaust systems have issue,” Harrell said. “A major benefit of switching to Ford vehicles is that our fleet maintenance can work on the vehicles, and we have the computer to be able to read the codes when the check engine light comes on.”

    According to Harrell, the purchase order will be submitted by Friday “so that they can order the trucks.”

  • Professional UF athletic trainers will continue to serve Levy County athletes

    By Suzette Cook, Reporter

    The School Board of Levy County will renew its contract with the University of Florida’s College of Medicine Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation starting in July for the 2019-2020 school year.

    Williston High School will have a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) on duty for 20 hours a week, Chiefland Middle High School will have one for 25 hours a week, and Bronson/Cedar Key schools will have a ATC on duty for 25 hours per week.

    According to the contract, “The overall goal of the program is to help plan, organize, coordinate, and supervise the sports medicine program for all sports within the athletic program at the respective schools.”

    This will mark the third year that the UF Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Institute's Adolescent and High School Sports Medicine Outreach Program will provide sports physicians to Levy County, according to Dr. Jason Zaremski who is Co-Medical Director of the Adolescent and High School Sports Medicine program.

  • It's a go: Golf carts approved for three streets in Chiefland

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    The City of Chiefland determined that golf carts may safely travel on certain city streets.

    According to newly adopted Ordinance NO. 19-01, golf carts can now be legally operated on NW 21 Avenue between NW 11th Drive and the entrance to the Southern Leisure RV park, on NW 11th Drive between NW 5th Street and the NE corner of the CVS parcel, and on NW 5th Street between NW 11th Drive and the NW corner of the NAPA building.

    “Those roads were chosen because golf carts cannot cross State highways,” said City Manager Mary Ellzey.

    Commissioner Donald Lawrence said he has already seen some unique carts on the move at the RV park. “I bet I counted 20 to 25 golf carts there,” he said.

    Although signs will be ordered to designate the allowed areas, the ordinance took effect on April 8.

  • RV park manager, commissioner seeks upgrade for dusty road

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    Tim West, managing member of Strawberry Fields RV Park and Vice Mayor of Chiefland, asked the Board of County Commissioners to help resolve a dust issue with a road that runs parallel to the under-construction facility.

    West shared a photo of dust flowing from NW 110 Street across the park with County Commissioners at the April 2 meeting promising that it was not staged.

    “I’m not looking to get the road paved,” West said. “I am looking just to keep the dust down.”

    The road stretches partially in unincorporated Levy County and partially in the City of Chiefland.

    West said Strawberry Fields originally offered to mill the street, but was told that would lead to having to eventually pave it.

    “I wanted to see about sharing costs,” West said. “Before the park opens.”

    West said attempts at grading the street actually created more dust, and other attempts have been made graveling or tacking it occasionally.