The Florida Department of Children and Families is currently scheduled to be administering the Food for Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program for the Tri-County Area beginning tomorrow -- Thursday (Oct. 19) at 6:30 a.m. at the Suwannee River Livestock Fairground located in the City of Fanning Springs. The fairground facility is located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 19 and Northwest 90th Avenue in Levy County. This event is expected to continue until Monday, Oct. 23. The event is expected to create major traffic congestion issues. All motorists should avoid this area if not participating in the program. Expect traffic delays. Law enforcement officers are expected to be at the location to assist with traffic issues. Message boards will be posted for individuals who are participating in the event. The Levy County Sheriff's Office is scheduled to be closing Northwest 90th Avenue Thursday morning at 6:30 a.m. to not allow through-traffic to be on that roadway during the event. Only the participants for this event will be allowed into the fairground facility via the Northwest 90th Avenue roadway at the north entrance into the fairground parking area. Event coordinators expect that it will take approximately 30-35 minutes to process each applicant. This will be a slow process and participants should expect long lines and excessive wait periods. The Levy County Sheriff's Office is asking for everyone’s patience as the LCSO attempts to direct participants through the event site. There could be additional road closures, which will be dependent on traffic conditions as the day progresses. (Scroll down to see the story about the DCF Food Assistance For Hurricane Victims Story.)
Published Oct. 18, 2017 at 11:47 a.m.
Information and Graphic Provided by LCSO Lt. Scott Tummond
on Behalf of Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum
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Woman’s body found in RV fire;
Firefighter tests positive
for alcohol consumption
By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 17, 2017 at 4:37 p.m.
LEVY COUNTY – The body of a 51-year-old Chiefland woman was recovered from the scene of a fire early Sunday morning (Oct. 15), according to records.
The body of Lisa Richard, 51, of Chiefland was found in the remains of an RV that was completely destroyed by fire, according to records.
A call to the Levy County Sheriff’s Office’s 9-1-1 dispatch center at 2:10 a.m. Sunday morning (Oct. 15) brought a quick response from Chiefland Fire Rescue.
CFR Engine 71 responded at 2:11 a.m. on Sunday to a fire in a recreational vehicle at 7191 N.W. 95th St., near Chiefland, according to LCSO and CFR records.
The RV was fully involved Chiefland firefighters found upon their arrival, according to records.
After the fire was extinguished, a human body was discovered in the RV, according to records.
Other agencies responding to the fire were Levy County Department of Public Safety’s Rescue 7, LCDPS ALS 100, Fanning Springs Fire Rescue Engine 77, the LCSO and the Chiefland Police Department.
The LCSO is investigating the death. The Medical Examiners’ Offices in Florida documents all deaths in the state, and in this instance is among the agencies helping the LCSO.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the fire.
Det. Mike Lofton is the fire investigator.
A spokeswoman at the Fire Marshal’s Office in Tallahassee said the investigators of fires simply look at the cause and the origin of fires. They assist agencies such as the LCSO, she said.
This incident included a sad twist, because a firefighter-paramedic from Fanning Springs Volunteer Fire Rescue is believed to have been under the influence of alcohol on the scene, according to records.
Fanning Springs Firefighter II-Paramedic Mark W. James, 38, Firefighter I Shaun Gibson and Fanning Springs Support Member Jennifer Poppell responded on Fanning Springs Volunteer Fire Department Engine 77.
That unit was paged at 2:15 a.m. and arrived at the scene at 2:27 a.m., and that mission was completed and the unit was back available at 4:40 a.m. on Sunday, Fanning Springs Fire Chief Roy Bass said.
Engine 71 from Chiefland Fire Rescue arrived at 2:23 a.m., according to records.
The personnel from Chiefland on that fire engine were Capt. Daniel C. “Cal” Morgan, and Firefighter-EMT John A. Lake II. CFR Firefighter Kevin Davis responded as well. Davis is also a deputy with the LCSO, according to records.
Records showed that Fanning Springs Firefighter-Paramedic James registered .22 on a breathalyzer, which was administered by Chiefland Police Department at the scene when he was showing symptoms of alcoholic intoxication.
Chief Bass told Capt. Morgan that Firefighter James resigned from the Fanning Springs Fire Rescue Department at the scene on that night immediately after this part of the events of the night.
A reading of .08 on a breathalyzer that registers alcohol content is enough to have reasonable cause to arrest a person in Florida for driving while under the influence of alcohol.
A .22 breathalyzer reading, therefore, is more than twice .08 and almost three times that amount.
Some fire chiefs in Florida, even on volunteer departments, advise their firefighters not to respond to calls even if they have had one beer in the hour previous to being called. Firefighters who have alcohol in their bloodstream are seen by some people as not being able to perform their duties in a safe manner.
Late Tuesday afternoon (Oct. 17), Fanning Spring Fire Chief Bass responded to a question about former Firefighter-Paramedic James’ choices early Sunday morning.
“He (James) was not driving any Fanning Springs’ apparatus,” Chief Bass said. “He responded from home to the station and rode to the scene as a passenger. This is not a reflection on Fanning Springs Fire Rescue -- as this type of behavior is not tolerated by me for any member of my service.
“Even if he (James) would not have resigned on scene at that point,” Chief Bass said, “he would have been removed from my department for his actions.”
DCF to help Tri-County Area
by Hurricane Irma
State tries to assure healthy meals
By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 17, 2017 at 10:07 a.m.
FANNING SPRINGS -- The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) is operating a relief center at the Suwannee River Fair and Livestock Pavilion, 17851 90th Ave., in Fanning Springs, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., from Thursday (Oct. 19) through Monday (Oct. 23) to help people affected by Hurricane Irma in regard to food.
This is known as the Food For Florida (Disaster SNAP/D-SNAP) Program.
D-SNAP will not be issued to anyone who is currently receiving SNAP benefits.
Applicants must have lived in one of the 48 declared counties on Sept. 5. Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties are among those counties.
Applicants must have suffered a disaster-related loss due to Hurricane Irma such as:
● Reduction or loss of income;
● Loss of food;
● Damage to home or self-employment equipment; or
● Other disaster-related expenses.
Applicants will want to pay attention to the "Income and Asset Requirements."
Accessible assets include cash on hand, and any funds in checking or savings accounts. Expenses to be considered are those during the disaster period only. Another factor that applicants need to remember is that the state is investigating and will prosecute for fraud.
The applicants must have identification; household income and asset information for every individual in the household.
Applicants are urged to apply online at the Food for Florida site, which allow for faster processing. Click HERE to go to that website.
One EBT card will be issued per eligible household. Only one applicant needs to visit the Food for Florida site. Non-applicants at the sites will contribute to longer lines and longer waiting for service.
USDA holds disaster assistance
& hurricane recovery workshops
Published Oct. 17, 2017 at 10:07 a.m.
GAINESVILLE -- USDA Service Centers in Florida are holding disaster assistance and hurricane recovery workshops in 48 counties for farmers and ranchers impacted by Hurricane Irma now and during the next few weeks.
The event is free and open to the public.
To find meeting dates and locations, go to https://www.fsa.usda.gov/state-offices/Florida/state-events/index.
Representatives from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) will present information on the various disaster assistance programs and resources available for farmers, ranchers and rural communities.
Workshop topics include emergency assistance for livestock and crop-related expenses and losses; financial assistance programs to help with farm and farmland damage; deadlines for applying for disaster assistance programs and programs to help with restoration and rehabilitation of farm and ranch land.
Food for Florida
site closed today (Oct. 17);
Plans are made
to reopen later this month
Published Oct. 17, 2017 at 10:07 a.m.
MARION COUNTY -- The Florida Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) Marion County Food for Florida location is closed.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office yesterday was still getting an influx of calls and a large number of people who are still coming to the facilities for this program.
DCF is advising that their customers can call their Customer Call Center for any additional Food For Florida questions (including problems with their EBT/ Food For Florida Card).
That information is noted below:
Customer Call Center
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday
Florida Relay 711 or
OCALA -- The Marion County Sheriff’s Office Jail Visitation Center Food for Florida disaster food assistance site is closed in response to public safety concerns.
Additional days will be announced for Marion County soon in order to make sure that all residents in need have the opportunity to receive needed assistance.
DCF will continue to follow the direction of local law enforcement in every community to ensure the safety of those we are committed to serving. Information on date, time, and location will be posted on the Food for Florida website and announced as soon as possible.
Sheriffs Thank Senator
On Thursday (Oct. 5), many of the high sheriffs of counties in District 5 of the Florida Senate gathered in Columbia County to present State Sen. Robert 'Rob' Bradley (R-Fleming Island, Dist. 5 - Dixie, Gilchrist, Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Lafayette, Levy, Suwannee, Union and part of Marion counties) with an award for his efforts in supporting the Florida Sheriff’s Association and the Florida Sheriffs. Senator Bradley was truly focused and supportive of legislation that effected law enforcement. He is always open to the concerns of the Florida sheriffs. Sometimes legislators become embroiled in heated legislation and aren’t receptive to the knowledge from those who have expertise in the field. Sen. Bradley demonstrated that he is continually allowing input from the sheriffs of Florida. For his efforts, the sheriffs of the 5th District wanted to recognize him and present him with their Legislative Award. Seen here (from left) are Lafayette County Sheriff Brian Lamb, Dixie County Sheriff Dewey Hatcher Sr., Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz, Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum, Sen. Rob Bradley, Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter, Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith, Baker County Sheriff Scotty Rhoden, Clay County Col. Craig Aldrich and Union County Sheriff Brad Whitehead.
Published Oct. 10, 2017 at 1:37 p.m.
Photo And Information Provided
As A Professional Courtesy By Dixie County Sheriff's Office Maj. Scott Harden
Students share insight from
trips at CFEC Annual Meeting
Boom trucks hold an American flag over the driveway into the CFEC headquarters and warehouse. At this moment on Saturday morning, a Chiefland Fire Rescue squad truck driven by Firefighter-EMT Robby Kalaf with Firefighter-EMT John Lake as the passenger was on the brink of passing under the flag.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 8, 2017 at 11:27 p.m.
CHIEFLAND -- A couple of young ladies shared some of the insight they gained this past year when they were the guests of honor Saturday morning (Oct. 7) during the Central Florida Electric Cooperative Annual Meeting.
Just before the business meeting part of the day, Katie Lott of Bronson Middle High School and Sydney Groom of Dixie County High School shared their insight from being part of the 2016 Capital Youth Tour participants.
CFEC Communications Specialist Whitney Feather is seen with Katie Lott shortly before the start of the meeting.
CFEC Communications Specialist Whitney Feather is seen with Sydney Groom before the start of the meeting.
CFEC Communications Specialist Whitney Feather introduces Katie Lott and Sydney Groom.
CFEC General Manager Mike Campbell introduced CFEC Communications Specialist Whitney Feather, who introduced Lott and Groom.
Feather said the cooperative program she looks forward to the most each year is the Capital Youth Tour Program. After an extensive process, CFEC takes six students to Tallahassee each year for a two-day tour of Florida’s capital city.
From those six qualified high school juniors who go to Tallahassee, three are selected to go to Washington, D.C., for a weeklong tour of the nation’s capital city.
These three students have the opportunity to learn more about rural electric cooperatives as well as to meet thousands of other young people from across the United States, Feather said.
Other than Lott and Groom, the third student this past year was Whitney Hodge of Dixie County High School. Hodge was not at the annual meeting on Saturday.
Lott, now a senior at BMHS, was the first to speak.
Lott is thankful for the opportunity to have gone on this past year’s CFEC Youth Tour, she said.
It was an eye-opening experience for her to go to Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., where she saw how elected representatives make decisions for the state and the country, Lott said.
She also enjoyed learning more about history and rural electric cooperatives in America.
One of her favorite historic sites was Mount Vernon, the home of President George Washington. Learning details about how government functions was another valuable part of the experiences she enjoyed while on the tours.
Lott said she was pleased to meet other young people who enjoy learning about politics, history, co-ops and leadership.
This trip inspired her to make a bigger impact on her community, school “and possibly even the world,” Lott said.
She believes this trip is important to inspire future leaders, and more importantly the future leaders of this co-op.
“I think Central Florida Electric Cooperative is doing a great thing here,” Lott said, “by cultivating our future and the future of the next generation of our nation’s leaders. It is my hope that this trip continues so that I can pass on my experience and inspire the next generation as well.”
Groom said she felt fortunate and blessed to have been part of the tour this year with Lott.
Groom, who like Lott is a senior this year, faced her fear of heights on this trip. It was the first time she had been in an aircraft.
Facing a fear to reach a goal means a lot, she said.
“And I am only 16, and I flew without my Mamma,” Groom said.
Feather took the girls from CFEC under her wing, Groom said, including holding her hand as they took off. And coming from a small town, Groom said the visit to Washington put some fear in her as well, but she overcame it.
Groom was prepared to learn a lot during the trip.
She was awestruck, however, when she visited the museum and met a military veteran. Groom said her heart was touched, and she is thankful for being able to go on their tour to have that once-in-a-lifetime experience.
While these two students were stars on the stage, another 30 students from Williston and Bronson FFA chapters volunteered to help the hundreds of CFEC members and guests at the event. The FFA chapters selected to assist with the annual meeting rotates from among the schools within the cooperative’s service area.
CFEC Board of Trustees President Barbara Townsend welcomes everyone to the meeting.
Among the many people registering members at the entrance to the meeting area, are Williston Middle High School FFA Sentinel Hannah Robertson, CFEC Customer Services Representative IV Jose Morales and CFEC CSR Michelle Longoria.
Jim Menasco, CFEC mechanic, spins the tickets in the bin where people placed them after registering before the start of the meeting.
A board displays some of the notes of thanks from members who were helped by CFEC this year.
Among the fun opportunities is this potential for photos.
Beyond the youthful energy abounding at the meeting, there was a positive set of facts presented mirroring a relatively positive year, despite the loss of power by members during Hurricane Irma.
Linemen from several states joined the core group from Central Florida Electric Cooperative and they brought back electric service as quickly as was possible while using best methods to assure safety for employees and co-op members.
The thing about making an error with 14,000 volts is that there is no second chance.
The Reflectsons sing Gospel music. They are (from left) Glen Thigpen, Pam Renew and Dale Thigpen. Not pictured is sound man and bus driver Bruce Renew.
Before the meeting started, the Gospel music group named The Reflectsons performed. Dale Thigpen, lead singer and founder of the group, was joined by one of his sons and a founding member of the band Glen Thigpen. They are from Trenton. Bruce Renew and his wife Pam Renew of Bartow were part of the group. Bruce drives the 45,000-pound bus and performs duties as the sound guy while Pam sings with Glen and Dale, although Dale is a substitute singer now.
Also before the meeting, members and guests had an opportunity to see displays about safety, and the equipment that is used. There was a cutout area for people to take photos as if they were linemen.
Vegetation management team members were available to speak about this aspect of continuously providing safe and reliable electric service to members. There were free bottle of cold water and soft drinks available for everyone.
The warehouse meeting hall had fans include a very big fan at the top of the ceiling. CFEC Chief Financial Officer Eddie Thomas said that fan can be cranked up to create a very strong draft if needed. Thomas, Manager of Customer Service A.D. Goodman and Billing Supervisor Connie Ward were among the many staff members who were ready to help customers find answers to any questions they had.
This is a big, big fan.
Among the many people helping members find answers to questions are (from left) A.D. Goodman, Connie Ward and Eddie Thomas.
There are at least 478 members here and about 600 people altogether. One, two, three... There is a requirement to have at least 1 percent of the membership present for a quorum. That amount of members is achieved every year very soon after registration begins.
As for the annual meeting, there were door prizes galore. And there were free gifts for all members who registered. Members received a bag with a tumbler that could hold cold and hot beverages, a light bulb, a night light and literature.
Seminole Electric Cooperative, the power-generating group, sent a contingent of representatives who shared literature and information, and gave away lightbulbs as well.
There were 200 door prizes. Those included an electric can opener, a jigsaw, an electric skillet, an electric knife, two drill-driver sets, a blender, a coffee maker, a crock pot, a multi-cooker steamer, a hand mixer, a tea maker, a Thermacell, a George Foreman grill, a Ninja Master Prep, a DVD player, a Dremel tool, a slow cooker, a trunk organizer, a mechanic tool set and an electric griddle.
Among the door prizes were cash prizes and gift cards.
There was one $500 cash prize. There were seven $100 cash prizes. There were scores and scores of $25 and $50 door prizes.
The 600 or so people attending the meeting on Saturday morning had an opportunity, too, to see a man who has served CFEC as an employee for 43 years, including this being his 20th annual meeting where he was active.
This was the last annual meeting for Randy Vogel as an employee, General Manager Campbell said, because he is retiring. Vogel accepted a plaque at the meeting in recognition for his service.
CFEC President and Trustee from District 9 Barbara Townsend expressed her appreciation to all of the employees for their work during this past year, and especially in dealing with the obstacles from Hurricane Irma. She also said she is grateful to the CFEC members for their patience during the period of electric service outage.
General Manager Campbell also expressed his gratitude to the employees this year for a job well done.
During the meeting, Campbell gave a breakdown of how 98 percent of all members who lost electric service had it restored by Sept. 16, within a week after the hurricane swept through the CFEC service area.
Some of the hardest hit areas with more damage or flooding took a few more days, he added, with full restoration being achieved by Sept. 18.
In addition to the hardships from the hurricane, there were other sad points during the year. Three members of the CFEC Board of Trustees passed away.
Thelma McCain, 76, of Cedar Key (District 1) passed away on Sunday, March 5, 2017 at home.
Campbell mentioned that she was the president of the board of trustees when she died. She had represented District 1 for 13 years.
George Stephens (District 2) died in early September, Campbell said. He had served that district for 33 years.
Clyde Earnest Townsend, 90, of Bell (District 9), passed away on Sept. 23. He was a member of the CFEC Board of Trustees for 28 years and he was a member of Seminole Electric Cooperative Board of Trustees for 16 years.
Here are (from left) CFEC Attorney Greg Beauchamp, Trustee Kyle Quincey (District 4), Tony Weeks (District 3); Carl Roof Sr. (District 2); and James McCain (District 1).
Here are (from left) Secretary-Treasurer Alan Mikell (District 6), Donald Lane (District 5) and General Manager Mike Campbell.
Here are Vice President Randy Mikell (District 8) and Kenneth O'Steen (District 7).
Following is the list of all of the CFEC Board of Trustees:
President Barbara Townsend (District 9); Vice President Randy Mikell (District 8); Secretary-Treasurer Alan Mikell (District 6); James McCain (District 1); Carl Roof Sr. (District 2); Tony Weeks (District 3); Kyle Quincey (District 4); Donald Lane (District 5); and Kenneth O’Steen (District 7).
McCain, Lane and Townsend were re-elected without opposition this year for another three-year term. There are three trustees up for election each year and all nine serve for three-year terms.