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Levy County starts
WONP procedures

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(from left) Moments after speaking to the Levy County Commission, (from left) Cedar Key Police Chief Virgil Sandlin, Chiefland Police Chief Robert Douglas and Williston Police Chief Dennis Strow pause for a photo opportunity.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © March 3, 2015

     BRONSON -- Levy County is starting procedures to enter the War On Noise Pollution (WONP), following a consensus on Tuesday (March 3) from the County Commission directing County Attorney Anne Brown to research ordinances in place at Gainesville, Williston, Chiefland and Cedar Key.
    (WONP is an acronym created by HardisonInk.com.)

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     County Commissioner Mike Joyner initiated the action that may lead to a county ordinance to reduce a nuisance level of noise, like cars that go by with music so loud that the sound shakes windows, and trucks with special mufflers to make engines nosier rather than to muffle that noise.

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Levy County Commissioner Mike Joyner objects to loud music.

     Joyner said he became inspired to move forward with this suggested legislation after he was out with his wife and granddaughters and he heard lyrics of a song that were clearly demeaning to women and promoted physical abuse of women. This could be heard from across a big parking lot, he said.

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Williston Police Chief Dennis Strow (left) listens as Chiefland Police Chief Robert Douglas speaks about the Chiefland's ordinance.

     Joyner, a retired law enforcement officer, has heard lyrics that endorse beating down police officers too, he said.
     He objects to promoting such deviant behavior and he dislikes having his granddaughters exposed to such vulgar noise when he goes to grocery store parking lots and gas stations.
     Four law enforcement officers and each county commissioner gave their input about the matter.
County030315D     Cedar Key Police Chief Virgil Sandlin, Chiefland Police Chief Robert Douglas, Williston Police Chief Dennis Strow and Levy County Sheriff Robert “Bobby” McCallum Jr. shared their perspectives on the issue, as did County Commission Chairman John Meeks, County Commissioner Rock Meeks, County Commissioner Danny Stevens and County Commissioner Lilly Rooks.

Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum speaks about what his deputies do in the county already.

   Joyner’s proposal is for a criminal infraction where there would be a warning and then a fine as part of the proposed county ordinance to limit noise.
     Joyner said that while the music that belittles women is objectionable to him, Gospel, rap, country, rock and roll and any form of music should not be allowed if it is too loud. The measure of too loud will be that if it can be heard from 200 or more feet away, it is too loud. There is no need for sound meters to measure decibels, he said.
     The reason for having fines, he said, will be to force the offender to capitulate. Since they lack enough self-respect to be polite to people around them, a law enforcement officer is required to force them to not make imposing noise, he said.
     Joyner said he does not want things to reach the point where an offensive person will learn about the taste of an “RCA” (radio brand) from Joyner ripping it from a vehicle and applying that to the agitator.
     County Commission Chairman Meeks said the existing county ordinance deals with structures and residences. County Commissioner Rock Meeks said he remembers hearing that Chiefland’s Buie Park had loud music being played and adversely affecting the neighbors there.
     Chief Douglas of Chiefland said that he, Chief Strow of Williston and Chief Sandlin of Cedar Key have municipal ordinances that their police forces use effectively.
     The Chiefland ordinance covers loud trucks as well as residences, Douglas said. First there is a warning. Then there is a $250 fine, Douglas said. Second offense costs $500. The third offense is $1,000.

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(from left) County Commissioner Rock Meeks, Commission Vice Chairman Danny Stevens, Commission Chairman John Meeks and Commissioner Lilly Rooks listen to law enforcement officers about noise laws.

     Chiefland is in a contractual agreement with Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Bill Cervone’s Office, where it will prosecute municipal violations, Douglas said.
     There is an ordinance to stop semi tractor-trailers from using “Jake Brakes” or downshifting and making loud noises in Chiefland. Meanwhile, some people add “glass packs” to their exhaust system to make their pickups noisier. They will be cited in Chiefland, Douglas said.
     Some people do not reduce their noise after a warning. When they are given a $250 citation, they stop making too much noise, Douglas said.
     Williston Police Chief Strow said there was a state law that prevented certain noise levels from vehicle radios. A Florida attorney contested it, and the Fifth District Court of Appeal overruled the citations, saying that the statute was unable to be enforced.
     Strow said Gainesville create a noise ordinance that State Attorney Cervone said he will prosecute. The Gainesville ordinance does not require the use of a noise meter. It depends on the officer’s judgment based on being a certain distance from the source of the noise, Strow said.
     With permission from Gainesville, Williston used that city’s ordinance and adopted it into Williston’s set of local laws, Strow said.
     Commissioner Meeks questioned enforcement of the law on the private property of a parking lot at a store. Chief Strow and Chief Douglas said the law applies anywhere within the city limits and it will be enforced in the Walmart parking lot, for instance.
     Joyner said another reason to enact this ordinance is because people with their music that loud will be unable to hear sirens.
     Chairman Meeks was the person who pointed out that noise is a form of pollution that infringes on the happiness of others.
     Commissioner Stevens said he remembers a resident complaining about Derby Gold -- a mill that made pine shavings. Stevens wants business owners to be able to manufacture products without fear of prosecution for noise.
     Stevens said trains can be heard for a quarter of a mile. There can be noisy airplanes too, he said.
     Chief Strow said there are exemptions for business, construction, emergency vehicle sirens and other reasonable sources of noise.
     Chief Sandlin said Cedar Key City Park has basketball courts. Some young people think they cannot shoot a basket without loud music, Sandlin said. However, the city does have a noise ordinance, and the players are reminded about the need to consider other people.
     Commissioner Rooks asked about the noise from dogs barking. Chief Douglas said it can be applied with the same ordinance. Officers go to the home and ask the offending property owner to quiet the dogs. After that warning, there is a $250 fine.
     County Attorney Brown was asked to review ordinances and draft one to limit noise by vehicles, at residences and in public places like parks. The ordinance would cover the unincorporated part of Levy County.
     Towns like Bronson, Fanning Springs, Inglis, Otter Creek and Yankeetown are covered by the Levy County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement. Sheriff McCallum will be enforcing this law there.
     He is working with Inglis, too, to enforce its city ordinances. Other cities’ ordinances are not normally enforced by the LCSO.
     Dana Sheffield, a resident of Fanning Springs – one of the municipalities that does not have a police department – said he has had discussions with one of his neighbors. When Sheffield listens to some songs, it takes him back to when his hair was darker and he was thinner.
     Sheffield said that as the ordinance is drafted it is important to remember everyone’s rights as Americans, including The First Amendment, which does protect freedom of speech, which goes to the content of some lyrics.
     Sheriff McCallum reminded the County Commission that there already is a noise ordinance. The agency under his command has deputies who respond to calls three or four nights a week, he said, because of loud music and loud parties. He mentioned this to assure that homes are included, as well as vehicles and public parks when the county ordinance is revised.


9th Annual FFA Barnyard Day
unites Bronson schools

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Students in BES teacher Becky Fries first grade class interact with BMHS FFA students as they discuss the garden and what they have in their gardens at home.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Feb. 27, 2015 @ 3:27 p.m.
     BRONSON --
Teachers and students from Bronson Middle High School and Bronson Elementary School united again as the 9th Annual FFA Barnyard Day provided an opportunity for the younger children to learn more about agriculture on Thursday (Feb. 26).

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Allie Huber prepares to speak about goats with the visiting children. These two goats are named Annabelle and Ruth.

     Bronson FFA Advisor Marcia Smith and Bronson FFA Advisor Jennifer Bray watched as their students showed the hundreds of students from BES the garden area and various livestock at the outdoor FFA Lab, which is behind the main campus of BMHS. Children were transported from BES to BMHS on flat open trailers, like at a hayride. The trailers were slowly pulled by either a tractor or a pickup truck.
     After that fun ride across the street, the BES students went in groups to the various stations set up to help them learn about many aspects of farming and ranching. The children saw goats, rabbits, chickens and even the two Bronson FFA Chapter steers. They heard about the garden where the 75 junior and senior Bronson FFA members grow green beans, carrots, potatoes and other crops.
     The potatoes are going to be enjoyed by the FFA members and guests at the annual banquet.
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Megan Taylor (left in bottom picture) and her sister Lainey Taylor tell children about the Bronson FFA Chapter steers. These sisters are scheduled to show the animals at the Suwannee River Fair in Fanning Springs.
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City Council meeting offers
roller-coaster ride for listeners

Fire chief objects to
very widely differing evaluations

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Chiefland Fire Chief James Harris stands with two of the founding fathers of the Chiefland Fire Department with plaques. The chief thanked Oma Harrison (left) and Roman Putchaven for their service to the residents and visitors of Chiefland.

Story, Photos and Video

By Jeff M. Hardison © Feb. 24, 2015 @ 2:47 p.m.
     CHIEFLAND – Residents and visitors of Chiefland found a roller-coaster of emotions at the Chiefland City Commission’s regular bi-monthly meeting Monday night (Feb. 23).
     It was like a trip to the top of Mount Everest followed by the steep decline into one of the outer rings of The Inferno described by Dante Alighieri's in the first part of his 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy.

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Chiefland Fire Chief James Harris stands with two of the founding fathers of the Chiefland Fire Department with plaques. The chief thanked Oma Harrison (left) and Roman Putchaven for their service to the residents and visitors of Chiefland.

HONORING FOUNDERS
     Fire Chief James Harris started his part of the evening by presenting two of the founding fathers of the Chiefland Fire Department with plaques. The chief thanked Roman “Putch” Putchaven and Oma Harrison for being among the active members of the Chiefland Fire Department, which began in 1950.
      Careful listeners would have heard that a large part of the city burned during one large fire event in 1945.
CHIEF CRITIQUED
     After the firefighters of old were recognized, the squabble and wrangling began from an agenda item titled “Revision to the Performance Evaluation Composite Form and the Summary of Evaluation for Fire Chief James Harris.”
     Despite the 4-1 approval of his contract and increase in salary two weeks ago (Feb. 9), there were 10 points where Vice Mayor Betty Walker had noted as potential for improvement by the chief. The lone dissenter against the contract renewal on Feb. 9 was Mayor Teal Pomeroy.
      Near the beginning of the discussion, City Commissioner Teresa Barron noted the critique by Walker seemed flawed because it was vague – too broad and sweeping of allegations.
     The result of a 20-minute discussion was that the City Commission chose to do nothing more in regard to the 10 points where Walker contends Harris needs to improve. The deliberation included a moment where Walker said she would resign as the city commissioner who deals with the fire department, and she would let Barron have the duties as fire commissioner again.
     There was another point where Chief Harris had heard enough and was ready to depart from the room, because he was affected by what appeared to be an attack from Walker to which he had responded enough, and he was not in a frame of mind to want to continue with the debate about the job he was doing.
     The chief said he questioned some of Walker’s verbiage. Other critical comments, he said, seem to be outdated.
     “Am I on some kind of probation?” Harris asked.
     Walker said he was not on probation and that she just wanted to see the chief rectify issues she had noted as somewhat problematic within some timeframe. Although Walker alleged that she had spoken with Harris about all of the low points she saw in his performance, Harris said these matters had not been gone over, except for a couple of them on the Friday before that Monday night meeting two weeks ago.
     The fire chief perceived something was askew, because logic does not hold when there is such a wide swing of evaluations within one year.
     Harris said this one-year evaluation includes six months when he answered to Barron, and six months when he was under Walker’s direction. Barron gave him an excellent review, and Walker noted 10 points where she believes Harris needs improvement. This seems confusing to him, he said.
     People have different perspectives Walker said. Barron may not see what Walker saw, and vice versa, Walker said. Perhaps Walker missed things that Barron saw. Everyone has their own opinion, Walker said.
     Barron said the phrase “Not working with other agencies” is vague.
     Walker said she has seen for three years that Harris had not been working with the Levy County Commission. Pomeroy said he had heard from the Levy County Department of Public Safety that there was “zero communication.”
     “So you want to see more communication between the two (Harris and LCDPS Director David Knowles),” Barron said as she tried to clarify Walker’s notation.
     “However you want to put it,” Walker said. “They need to work together.”
     Barron said she would prefer specific statements on a department head’s evaluation, because that statement may be interpreted differently by various readers.


In this video, the final minutes of the heated exchanges between Mayor Teal Pomeroy, Vice Mayor Betty Walker, City Commissioner Chris Jones and Fire Chief James Harris is captured.

     The revised evaluation form, Barron said, shows “benchmarks” have been removed – where previously improvement could be measured and recorded by a person who was criticized for falling short in some fashion on his or her job in the city government.
     If the chief was not communicating at all, and is now communicating more with Knowles, then that is seen as a measured improvement, Barron said.
     Barron said Harris and Knowles have communicated in the past because they must so as a matter of getting their jobs done.
     Walker disagreed with Barron in this regard.
     “I don’t think it should be this vague,” Barron said. “I really don’t”
     Pomeroy added a thought.
     “Do you want to put Levy County Board of County Commissioners in there?” he asked.
     The mayor went on with his thought as he said no one cares if the chief is working with Alabama or Sumter County, and so noting Levy County is unnecessary.
     Barron said Levy County has claimed for at least 11 years that the various Chiefland fire chiefs do not communicate with the county government. She mentioned the same allegation was made against former Chiefland Fire Chief David Burnett, when Barron first ran for office, and it has continued through the fire chiefs since then and now with Harris.
     Walker said her critique of the fire chief is not meant to put him down. The intent is to help lead toward continual improvement. Walker said she has been “wrote up” by staff from state and federal agencies that help to fund the Levy Association for Retarded Citizens, where she serves as executive director.
     Walker said there are 10 LARC Board of Directors and some may not evaluate her as highly as some others.
     Barron said the written critique of Harris was supposed to be from the whole City Commission. Walker said no one else had comments in their notations from two weeks ago.
     Barron said it seems unfair to have noted these 10 points before the whole commission discussed and agreed that all of these alleged issues should be noted on the chief’s evaluation report.
     As for the person to be the liaison between the City Commission and the fire department, that does not necessarily have to be the vice mayor.
     While the city charter shows the mayor is the liaison between the police department and the City Commission, and the mayor is over the police chief. The charter does not mandate the vice mayor to be in that role for the fire department, although tradition has led to this happening.
     The fire chief does not like being evaluated in an open meeting.
     Harris said evaluations should be done in private. The public critique is not a common practice, he said.
     City Attorney Norm Fugate explained there is the money issue of an annual salary for the fire chief in the contract which requires public discussion. A written evaluation of a public employee is a public record, with certain exemptions such as the Social Security number and health matters.
     City Commissioner Chris Jones expressed his belief that Harris had a pre-conceived negative view about how he would be evaluated. Jones said he heard that Harris had told people Jones would be among the people who were going to fire him.
     “That’s not true,” Harris said.
     Jones went on to say that Harris should forget the gossip he hears from people who call him on the phone, and just to do his job.
     Mayor Pomeroy said that if the new evaluation form had come into existence earlier, then perhaps former City Manager Kevin Gay would have modified his method of management so that a majority of the City Commission would have voted to renew his contract.
     This current method appears to need some refinement, because nothing more than haggling and squabbling occurred Monday night, and there was no resolution to any alleged operational flaws in the administration of the Chiefland Fire Rescue Department.
     There is a stark contrast between Walker’s evaluation and the way Barron saw Harris’ performance.
     Harris said his previous 30 years’ worth of evaluations more closely match Barron’s evaluations in contrast with what Walker noted.


 



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Fifty-Fourth Jingle Singer

The newest performer of the HardisonInk.com jingle is Chiefland Elementary School Music Teacher Roxanne Simpson. Everyone is invited to sing the HardisonInk.com jingle. 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. (Thanks people!) She performed the jingle in Chiefland on Jan. 27, 2015. This video was posted on Feb. 21, 2015. The next jingle performers will be Three members of Women On A Mission For Christ - Eula Patterson, Cindy Mathis and Debra Smith.
 -- Video by Jeff M. Hardison


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-- UPDATED --

TUE.    MARCH 3   4:57 p.m.
Levy, Dixie, Gilchrist counties



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