CPD seeks camera-wielding man;
Walmart visitors take pictures
of rifle-toting police sniper
on store's rooftop

One of at least two pictures on Facebook of a police sniper on the roof of the Chiefland Walmart is seen here.

By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 30, 2015 @ 10:57 a.m.
The Chiefland Police Department is on the lookout for a man suspected of taking pictures in the Chiefland Walmart on Nov. 18, according to a Nov. 20, 2015 (3:57 p.m. EST) post on the Chiefland Police Department's Facebook page.

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     There was no press release issued about this suspicious activity, although the CPD sought Facebook viewers' input.
     Following is a verbatim copy of that CPD Facebook post:
     "This man is being sought by the Chiefland Police Department in reference to suspicious activity which occurred at the Chiefland Walmart on the evening of Wednesday November 18th. The subject arrived and parked on one end of the building, walked across the front taking several photographs of the exterior. Entered the store and spent the next hour and ten minutes taking photographs of the cash register area and the grocery area only. The subject at no time appeared to be interested in shopping or merchandise. A citizen noticed his activities and attempted to capture a picture of him. The subject noticed this attempt and fled the store immediately. He is described as a white male, approx. 5'3" tall,dark brown or black hair, beard. He was driving a small light colored 4 door passenger car. Anyone having information as to the indentity of this subject should respond to the Chiefland Police Department at (352)493-6777 or the Levy County Sheriffs Office (352) 486-5111 or via our web page chieflandpd.com or our Chiefland Police Department facebook page."
     The CPD posted a photo taken with a Walmart camera that shows this person of interest to be departing from the store on Nov. 18, 2015 at 6:45 p.m. (at left)
     More upsetting to some residents and visitors to the Chiefland Walmart than a man taking pictures in Walmart, is a photo taken by a person and posted on Facebook where there is a man with a rifle in view on top of the store.
     Chiefland Mayor Teal Pomeroy said there appears to have been an issue at Walmart that caused concern for the police department this past weekend. Lt. Scott Tummond of the Levy County Sheriff's Office said the LCSO assisted the CPD at the request of the city's police department on Thanksgiving.
     On Monday (Nov. 30), CPD Chief Robert Douglas said the Facebook posting 10 days earlier of the now 12-day-old photo of the man that the police wanted to find -- had produced zero results.
     The CPD continues to seek this person who acted suspiciously, Douglas said.
     Due to that Nov. 18 incident at Walmart, where a man was taking pictures of the store, and given the suspicious activity throughout the nation, Douglas said he thought the CPD should have an added show of force as a precaution.
     He said there was no direct threat made at this Walmart, but there are threats throughout the nation that led him to feel justified in having a sniper visible on the rooftop of the Walmart in Chiefland, when adding the fact that store cameras recorded a suspicious person on Nov. 18 and there was a big crowd at the Walmart on Thanksgiving.
     And while some residents and visitors to Chiefland may have felt that placing a visible sniper on the rooftop of the Walmart during the Thanksgiving Day opening of "Black Friday" sales was too dramatic, and in fact was frightening to some law-abiding shoppers, Chief Douglas said he heard from other shoppers who said they felt even more comfortable walking into the store that was guarded by the CPD.
     The chief said there were no injuries or deaths during the Thanksgiving Day shopping event at the Walmart in Chiefland.

Clay Landing Days
reflects local history

Wagon Master Lynn Ditullio, a retired park ranger, prepares to depart on 'The Manatee Express,' a covered wagon used to provide tours of the park. Here she is seen with some visitors to the park who enjoyed the Clay Landing Days experience.

Story, Photos and Video
By Jeff M. Hardison, © Nov. 27, 2015 @ 10:47 p.m.
– Individuals, couples and families looking for fun on Saturday (Nov. 28) may want to visit Manatee Springs State Park between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

In this video, Nancy Robinson explains how to use a sweet potato to spin alpaca fur into string.

     Saturday marks the second of two Clay Landing Days. Riding in a covered wagon pulled by a pickup truck with a retired ranger sharing insight about the park is part of the fun.

Leon Bath stands next to a bee display that shows bees in a cross-section of a hive. He can catch wild bees if need be, and he has honey for sale. Just call him at 352-493-2329.

     On Friday (Nov. 27), there was not only the covered wagon, but there was a trailer too. Tours were provided each half hour. The ride is about an hour long and it includes a visit to a Native American hut.
     The focus during this event is on the history of Clay Landing and the part of Florida that became Manatee Springs State Park.

  Howard ‘Matt’ Meyer, a retired park ranger, prepares to share insight with visitors to Manatee Springs State Park on Friday.

     Howard “Matt” Meyer, a retired park ranger who served in that capacity for 47 years, shared some insight. The first Clay Landing Day was in 1981, which makes this year’s event the 34th year since then. Perhaps next year’s 35th Clay Landing Days will be an even bigger event.
    Meyer said the first one was at night.
     Meyer said the covered wagon that is seen today used to have a fiberglass top, but he remembers the efforts to replace that with the cloth top that it sports today.
     Park Services Specialist Chris Dixon said the Spring Into The Springs event will include covered wagon rides, too, but the theme will be more about the flora, fauna and springs of today. The Clay Landing Days event keys on the historic foundations that have led to today’s Florida.
     Dixon said there is an effort under way to enlist more members in the Friends Of Manatee Springs State Park. There is an application to join. Friends can join as a family for $30 a year, or for $15 for an individual. There are Business Friends rates and Sponsor Friends rates too.
     Another interpreter beyond Meyer on Friday was Lynn DiTullio, another retired park ranger with plenty of years of service and knowledge about Florida and this park.
     The drivers during the morning were Mike Fox, a volunteer, and Park Services Specialist Kirk Marhefka.
     The other noteworthy item about using an open trailer as well as the covered wagon is that the trailer made it possible for people in wheelchairs to take the tour. The rides continue on Saturday.
     Manatee Springs State Park is located at the end of State Road 320 West. The address is 11650 N.W. 115th St., Chiefland. The park includes a first magnitude spring that feeds into the Suwannee River. Even without Clay Landing Days’ activities, which are free with the $6 per-car entry fee (with up to eight occupants per vehicle) to the park, it is a great place to visit.
     Friendly vendors will share information about the crafts, arts, foods, history and other offerings they have for sale or for discussion. There are participants on the North Trail, who will speak about Native Americans’ role in Florida history. There are also "pioneers" who will tell visitors about certain aspects of Florida's past, and how they fit into the history of the state.

Park Services Specialist Chris Dixon stands next to a display he made to announce the Jan. 1 First Day Hike. Like other parks in Florida, Manatee Springs State Park is encouraging people to start walking in parks in 2016 on Jan. 1. He also had a photo display of the first-ever Spring Into The Springs event, which happened last spring at Manatee Springs State Park. That is set to happen again in the spring of 2016.

     Clay Landing Days activities start at 10 a.m.
     The Friends of Manatee Springs State Park comprise the biggest section of volunteers who bring this all to fruition. Park Service Specialist Dixon is among the state employees who put this particular event on. Clay Landing Days were happening as an annual event for at least a decade of consecutive years now, even though the first one was decades ago.

Nancy Robinson shows the knife she uses to cut sweet potato disks that are used as weights in a process to make string from alpaca fur. This method is even more primative than with a spinning wheel.

Nancy Robinson shows the method for twining grass to make common household twine. Here she is using brown corn grass.

     Clay Landing Days participants who are showing their wares and telling about the manner in which artifacts came to be include Nancy Robinson.
     Robinson, who is the owner of Laughing Woman Trading Company, was joined by Mary Weaver, another person who dressed in period attire.
     Robinson and Weaver set up a tent-like structure to represent what a trading area might look like in the 1830s. She is dressed as a travelling peddler. She can explain why things such as a copper pot and glass beads could be seen as very valuable in the early 19th Century at Clay Landing, which is on the Suwannee River near where the spring feeds into the river.

Gene Fourakre stands next to his improved wood chair-recliner.

     Robinson showed how alpaca fur can be spun into thread by using a sweet potato and a primitive spindle tool. She also made household twine by twining grass blades together by hand.
     Robinson explained that the Native Americans of Northwest Florida would use black-colored Spanish moss to weave highly-developed dresses. They had artistic sensibility, she said, and were not as some people may have depicted them as being savages who simply covered themselves with moss pulled right from a tree.
     There are other people present to share stories from the Clay Landing Days.
    Another couple who were there to help people learn about crafts and olden ways were Gene Fourakre, who will be 85 on Dec. 13, and his wife of 58 years Rosalee Fourakre, who turned 78 on Sept. 11. They are from Ocala.
     Mr. Fourakre tells listeners about grinding corn to make grits. He has ground corn since he was six years old. He was using a hand-powered, cast iron corn grist mill grinder on Friday. This mill was manufactured by Logan and Strobridge of New Brighton, Penn., in the 1850s to 1870s.
     He rebuilt part of the mill with help by other machinists. He spent about $500 restoring it, he said. Fourakre was a diesel mechanic in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.
     After returning to civilian life, he later retired after becoming a master electrician.
     Rosalee Fourakre has been making rugs and crocheting since she was eight.
     Not only is Gene Fourakre well-versed in corn grinding, but he is very adept at woodworking. His portable and comfortable wooden chair now has the reclining option added to it.
     He only had one of those available on Friday. They are selling for $185. He makes each one by hand.
     David Marston of Morriston is another man who works with wood and creates items for show and sale. His rustic wood creations include folding tables, birdhouses and toys. His wife Candace "Molly" Marston is cooking and selling "Original Kettle Korn." This is popcorn cooked in a giant kettle. It was both sweet and salty to just the right degree to make it a prime example of Kettle Korn at its finest. Her business is "Miss Molly's Original Kettle Korn."
     Leon Bath of Levy County was present Friday. He plans to be there Saturday. He will speak with visitors about beekeeping and he knows a lot about this type of agricultural activity.
     He had various sizes and types of honey; as well as peanut and pecan brittle made from honey for purchase too. The brittle is selling for $2 a bag, and it is amazing.
     Bath first starting beekeeping about 10 years ago, when the late Rob Mathis introduced him to the science of keeping bees. Now Bath has 20 hives. He had 45 hives last spring.
     Another bigger beekeeper in the area is Scott Barns, Bath said. Barns has 3,000 hives. He lives in Michigan for six months and spends six months in Florida.
     A couple of wild bees from a nearby hive smelled the honey Bath brought to the park. They were buzzing around him, but they did not bother anyone.
     The Friends of Manatee Springs State Park also manned a booth that included applications for people who want to help the park by volunteering time or donating money or both. This CSO helps maintain the Covered Wagon used to take people through the woods on the ranger-guided tours.

Workers Show Colors

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. People who work in the Gilchrist County Courthouse joined local businesses, non-profits and local government agencies in raising awareness about end-of-life care by wearing purple, the official color of Haven Hospice, to the courthouse on Friday (Nov. 13). During National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, Haven Hospice seeks to amplify efforts to raise awareness for end-of-life care and encourages members of the community to learn more about hospice as an important option before they are faced with a medical crisis. Several other organizations in the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties participated in Purple Out including the Chiefland Medical Center, Tri-County Primary Care and Haven Hospice Tri-County Care Center in Chiefland. Haven Hospice noted its appreciation for all who participated.
Published on the Home Page of HardisonInk.com
on Nov. 27, 2015 @ 9:07 a.m.

Photo and Information Provided


Cedar Key Chamber
employee arrested

By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 24, 2015 @10:27 a.m.

     CEDAR KEY --
A woman who has been the managing director of the Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce for the past two years was arrested a week ago Monday (Nov. 16) for grand theft, scheming to defraud and fraudulent use of a credit card, according to Cedar Key Police Chief Virgil Sandlin, the arresting officer.
     Leslie Ann Valen, 41, of Cedar Key was arrested without incident, Sandlin said, and she claimed to him this is just a misunderstanding that resulted from the Cedar Key Board of Directors not paying as much salary as she felt she was owed.
     However, she did not have authority to use Chamber credit cards that she used, Sandlin said.
     Current Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce President Caryn Stephenson saw discrepancies between income and expenditures and the amounts that were recorded in the Chamber’s bank account, Chief Sandlin said. On Sept. 29, Stephenson contacted the Cedar Key Police Department about what appeared to be thefts.
     A review of credit card statements showed that from Nov. 14, 2014 there was in excess of $2,000 worth of purchase made by Valen for her personal use, Sandlin said. She bought a computer, a couple of iPhones, groceries from Winn-Dixie, paid monthly NetFlix charges, paid her monthly cell phone bills and bought items from Amazon.com, Sandlin said.
     There was cash taken as well, which can be proved by records, Sandlin said.
     The previous system of checks and balances now has been revised, Sandlin said.
     Former Chamber President Bill Heckler said the new safeguards will prevent this from happening again. There is now a new paid person and there are volunteers who are manning the Cedar Key Chamber Of Commerce Welcome Center.

     Heckler said there are Chamber board members who are continuing to help assure the Chamber serves its members as well as the visitors to Cedar Key, just as it has done for many years now.
     When there is little or no supervision of the manager of any account, that can be a situation that is ripe for exploitation, Heckler said. He added that everyone was shocked by Valen performing actions that indicate she violated the law by allegedly stealing from this public, non-profit Chamber of Commerce.
     Valen’s bond was set at $90,000 after her first appearance in court on these charges.
     Sandlin mentioned there were three months when there were zero cash deposits made.  The Chamber lost $5,000-plus, Sandlin said financial records showed. If he was guessing how much was actually lost, it could be in excess of $10,000, Sandlin said.
     Sandlin said that once a person discovers they can take without proper authorization and not be caught, they are tempted to continue on that road. Some people just take what is not rightfully theirs until they are caught by a law enforcement officer, he said.
     The police chief said it can be embarrassing for the person accused of a crime, just as it is for him, when he knows them. Sandlin said he had worked with Valen on a number of Chamber functions. It is his job, though, to enforce the law.

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Sixty-Sixth Jingle Singers


The newest duo of singers to perform the HardisonInk.com jingle are Ed and Bev Pivacek. They sang on Sunday evening (Nov. 29) at The Putnam Lodge in Cross City. Here they are in the spacious dining room, where delicious food is served. If you see Jeff Hardison and you want to sing the jingle, just let him know or send an email to hardisonink@gmail.com. He asks people to sing it, too, and some of them agree to sing it. (Thanks people!)
Published Nov. 30, 2015 @ 8:57 p.m.

-- Video by Jeff M. Hardison

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