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Today's News

  • Fighting fire with fire

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    You can hear the blades spinning in the distance. Florida Forest Service crew members are hoping that the helicopter on its way from Withlacoochee to the Goethe State Forest headquarters will be a big one.

    “Hear the bird?” one firefighter yells out. “Sounds like the Huey!”

    Within 10 minutes, a Bell UH-1H, aka “the Huey,” with the No. 24 on its nose, comes into view, makes a smooth landing and is greeted by Incident Commander Jerry Horton.

    Everyone’s happy to have the Huey because of the extra room. Not only will the copter carry veteran Rotary Craft Firefighter Pilot Keith Fender and a spotter but also an Aerial Ignition Dispenser that will be operated by Forest Ranger Robert Dorminey, plus thousands of plastic balls that will ignite thousands of acres. The Jan. 10 prescribed burn is officially known as the 2019 Daniels Island Aerial Burn.

    Two hours before the Huey landed, about 40 Florida Fire Service crew gathered for a morning briefing and went over the incident action plan.

  • County in final stages of permanent School Resource Deputy placement

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    Cedar Key High School Principal Kathy Lawrence says she is looking forward to the permanent placement of School Resource Deputy Julie Gironda at the home of the Sharks on Jan. 9.

    Gironda has been part of the rotating coverage of CKS since March 2018 with other Levy County Sheriff Office deputies who have been working overtime on their days off from patrol or other assignments. “It will be good for the students build a relationship with a permanent SRD,” Lawrence said.

    In the 10 months that have passed since the Florida Senate Bill 7026, also known as The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, was signed and put in place, the Levy County School Board along with the Board of County Commissioners and the LCSO have pooled resources to make sure that every school in the County has had a deputy in place.

  • 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.”

  • 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/

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Anglers offer advice ahead of saltwater license-free fishing day

    By Suzette Cook/Reporter

    Florida residents and visitors can try their skills and luck at catching saltwater fish without being required to have a recreational saltwater fishing license on Nov. 24.

    The rest of the year, a recreational saltwater fishing license is required for Florida residents and nonresidents who fish for saltwater fish, crabs, clams, marine plants or other saltwater organisms except for non-living seashells and lionfish with certain gear. 

    According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), free fishing days “provide an excellent opportunity for parents who don't yet have licenses to take youth fishing, or avid anglers to introduce a friend to fishing without having to purchase a license.”

    There are four freshwater and four saltwater license-free fishing days scheduled throughout the year.

  • Annual pie auction serves up $4,600

    By Suzette Cook/Reporter

    When Chiefland High Senior Ashtyn Brown lifted the cover of pie auction entry number 20 and revealed a triple-layered lemon chiffon cake dripping with frosting and lemon filling, a showstopper was born.

    Student Government Association members stared at the cake and auctioneer Chad “Cracker” Johnson asked the crowd, “What’s a chiffon?”

    Two minutes later, the cake crafted by Sherry Smith McElroy garnered $285 and was in the hands of Jack Spann of Spann’s Heating and Air.

    The tradition of the 27th Annual Pie auction played out in the CMHS cafeteria and, in about an hour, generated $4,600 in proceeds that directly benefit the SGA.