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Today's News

  • County adopts new water rates

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    The Levy County Board approved two resolutions that put into effect schedules of water rates, fees and charges for customers of University Oaks and Manatee Utilities water systems.

    According to Commission Chair John Meeks, the new rates will help the County collect on abandoned utility bills. “We are increasing the deposit because the old deposit was so low, that people would leave us and wouldn’t come by and pay their bill,” Meeks said. “So this way, at least $100 covers the majority of water usage.”

    The deposit amount increase will not be applied to current customers.

    For returned checks, “We had a $35 return check charge,” said County Water Department Director Jim Jones. Now, the amount charged to a customer for a returned check will be, “the amount that the County is charged,” he said. Sometimes the charge for a returned check is more than the previously set $35 fee, explained Jones.

  • Goat yoga a chance to connect, take cool selfies

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    Rule No. 1: The goats will get into everything. Rule No. 2: Hide your phones. Rule No. 3: Really good manners matter.

    It’s Sunday morning at Black Prong Equestrian Center in Bronson. Two dozen yoga students are set up with mats, towels, water bottles and a bag of treats.

    Yoga Instructor Melissa Montilla of Gainesville is explaining to her class, “We approach them with lovely manners, and do our best to invite them in and invite ourselves to be open enough to invite them in.”

    For Montilla who started out as a dancer and eventually added yoga into her dance training, creating a peaceful space is top priority. “Pygmy fainting goats,” she says. “I would like them not to faint because that means they are stressed out, so we tone down the movement as they come inside.”

  • Common Core end leaves Levy schools in limbo

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    An executive order delivered by Governor Ron DeSantis on Jan. 31 leaves future textbook and classroom curriculum purchases for Levy County schools in limbo.

    Executive Order 19-32 outlines a path for Florida to “improve its education system by eliminating Common Core and paving the way for Florida students to receive a world-class education to prepare them for jobs of the future,” states a press release from the governor’s office.

    “I have heard parents from across the state loud and clear and they all agree that it is time to finally end Common Core,” said DeSantis. “So today, we are taking action through this executive order to ensure that Florida has the best academic standards in the nation and eliminating Common Core from our schools, as well as reaffirming my commitment to prepare our students for the real world through an increased focus on civic education,” the statement reads.

  • Bronson meeting gets heated over mayoral appointment procedure

    The Bronson Town Council drew criticism from citizens at a contentious meeting on Feb. 4 over what was perceived as an injustice against former Vice Mayor Beatrice Roberts.

    Roberts, who was then the vice mayor, was not appointed as the town’s mayor after the recent resignation of Mayor Bruce Greenlee and Vice Mayor Katie Parks late last year.

    Robert Partin was voted mayor by a majority vote from the council after Greenlee and Parks’ positions were filled by Berlon Weeks and James Beck through appointment. The mayoral vote and council member appointments were done at a Town Council meeting on Jan. 22.

    Partin selected Councilman Jason Hunt as vice mayor at the meeting.

    In December, Mayor Bruce Greenlee stepped down for personal reasons as did Council member Katie Parks. Roberts presided as interim mayor at various times over the past year when Greenlee was away from office due to health reasons, and it was Roberts who presided over the meeting on Jan. 22 in which Weeks and Beck were appointed to replace Greenlee and Parks on the council for the remainder of their terms.

  • Levy County graduation rates top State average in 2018

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    Levy County School District’s graduation rate for the 2017-18 school year rose to 87 percent surpassing the State graduation rate of 86.1 percent.

    Superintendent of Schools Jeffery R. Edison said the number of students graduating in Levy County fluctuates from year to year. School Board of Levy County recently prepared a total of 368 high school diplomas. Bronson Middle High School had 93, Cedar Key High School had 14, Chiefland Middle High School had 96 and Williston had 165 diplomas to award.

    Edison attributes the increase in graduation rates to the strategies initiated by the overall mission of LCSD and the execution of a comprehensive countywide strategic plan.

    “It’s a lot of hard work from our teachers and staff who focus on our kids that are not passing State tests,” he said. “It’s working with individual kids to make sure they have a plan to be successful.

    “We have hired graduation coaches, they work with counselors and our kids are doing a better job.”

  • City considers charging event planners for road closures

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    The Chiefland City Commission is considering a fee schedule for events held in city limits that require road closures.

    Mayor Betty Walker raised the topic as new business during the Jan. 28 meeting, and commissioners and the Police Chief Scott Anderson starting doing the math on what it costs taxpayers every time roads are closed.

    “I think when we are doing new events, I think they need to pay a price,” Walker said. “I think some other cities are going to that.”

    Commissioner Tim West suggested setting a maximum amount and agreed that tax payers shouldn’t foot the bill for some events that rent out booths or sell tickets.

    City Manager Mary Ellzey explained that events such as festivals held at the City park cost taxpayers, but also generate revenue for the event holder.

    “Maintenance, police and fire go out and block the roads. There is a cost to the City for closing the roads,” she said.

  • Inglis community gets first look at Bird Creek Boat Ramp rebuild plans

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    At 4 p.m. on Jan. 23, boater Mark Reno was lining his Carolina Skiff up to a trailer on the north side of Bird Creek boat ramp at the end of CR 40 in Inglis. Since his parents lived in Inglis, Reno has visited from Crystal River and used the ramp for more than 20 years. He knows the structure’s shortcomings. “That big hole right out there,” Reno said about the ramp. “Everybody I know has started using the left side.” But it’s the changing tides outgoing or incoming that Reno says are the biggest challenge. “You have to pick the side you want,” he said. “If you’re over there, it’s going to push you onto the concrete. You don’t have any barriers other than that pole.”

    Reno was out testing a boat that he had done some work on. He’s a welder by trade at the local power plant, but gets out of the water when he can. “It’s easy going out, but the split current and tide change makes it challenging on the way in.”

  • Levy school district driving force behind proposed accommodations bill

    Suzette Cook, Reporter

    Florida Senator Bill Montford filed a proposed bill on Jan. 16 that will address student accommodations when taking Florida Standards Assessments (FSA).

    According to Levy County Superintendent of Schools Jeffery R. Edison, students currently cannot utilize accommodations such as graphic organizers on the exams, even though they are allowed to use them in the classroom.

    The proposed bill known as SB 348: Exceptional Student Education State Assessment Accommodation Task Force was proposed by Levy County School District with a goal of “establishing the Exceptional Student Education State Assessment Accommodation Task Force within the Department of Education for the purpose of making recommendations on school accommodations for exceptional students.”

    “The goal is, we have children that are allowed to have certain accommodations in the classroom but on the FSA test, many of those accommodations are not allowed,” said Edison.

  • 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.