The Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office has cleared an unspecific bomb threat at the County Courthouse. Story coming soon.
-- June 24, 2016 @ 5:07 p.m.


Candidates qualify in
Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties

By Jeff M. Hardison © June 24, 2016 @ 6:27 p.m.
     TRI-COUNTY AREA –
County constitutional officers in Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties qualified as of noon on Friday (June 24), and the county with the most candidates running is Dixie County.


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     Not only that, but there is on very peculiar situation in the race for Dixie County Sheriff.
DIXIE COUNTY
     In Dixie County, Sheriff Dewey H. Hatcher, Sr. is seeking reelection. He is a No Party Affiliate (NPA) and therefore his race will be decided in the General Election on Nov. 8.
     Sheriff Hatcher is facing Christopher Paul Cambron (NPA), who is not a law enforcement officer.
     Cambron is currently awaiting trial on charges of principal in the purchase of a controlled substance and possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana, according to records. His wife Brenda Cambron was arrested on April 4, too, for the purchase of a controlled substance and possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana, according to records. Bond was set at $30,000 for each of the Cambrons.
     Trials for these defendants have not started, according to records.
     While the race for Dixie County Sheriff is rather strange, a number of other incumbents are not so controversial, because they are the only ones who qualified for their posts.
     In Dixie County, the following people are going to be reelected because they qualified: Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Dana D. Johnson (NPA); Property Appraiser Robert A. Lee (NPA); Tax Collector Michelle Fowler Cannon (NPA); Supervisor of Elections Starlet Cannon (Republican {Rep.}); and School Board Member - District 4 Timothy Wayne Alexander ((non-partisan race {NOP}).
     There is no incumbent running for Dixie County Superintendent of Schools.
     The candidates for Dixie County Superintendent of Schools are Jimmie L Green Jr. (NPA); Cheryl C. Pridgeon (NPA); and Mike Thomas (NPA);
     County Commissioner - District 1 Wade E. “Gene” Higginbotham (NPA) is seeking reelection and he is facing Micah Jon Davis (NPA).
     County Commissioner - District 3 Jody is seeking reelection and he is facing Mark Hatch (NPA)
There is no incumbent running for reelection to Dixie County Commissioner - District 5. Following are the candidates for that seat Benita Corbin (Rep.); David D. Osteen (NPA); Brandon Arren Ross (NPA); and James T. Valentine (NPA).
     In the Dixie County School Board Race – District 1, there is no incumbent running. The three qualified candidates will be on the Aug. 30 primary ballot. If one candidate earns 50 percent of the vote, plus one, then he or she will be the Dixie County School Board Member - District 1.
     If that does not happen, then the top two vote-getters in this race will face each other in the Nov. 8 general election.
     Following are the three qualified candidates running for Dixie County School Board Member - District 1 (They are all non-partisan {NOP}): Patrick Bell; Crystal M. Bush; Amanda Malone Medlin;
~~~
GILCHRIST COUNTY
     In Gilchrist County, the following constitutional officers were reelected because no one qualified to run against them: Sheriff Robert D. “Bobby” Schultz III (Rep.); Clerk of Circuit Court Todd Newton (Rep.); Property Appraiser Damon C. Leggett (Rep.); Supervisor of Elections Connie D. Sanchez (Rep.); Superintendent of Schools Robert G. Rankin (Rep.); County Commissioner - District 1 Sharon Akins Langford (Rep.); and County Commissioner - District 5 Kenrick D. Thomas (Rep.).
     Incumbent Gilchrist County Commissioner - District 3 Gray Todd (Rep.) is facing candidate Richard Frank Esseck (NPA) in the election on Nov. 8.
     Incumbent Gilchrist County Tax Collector Barbara J. Merritt (Dem.) will face candidate Donna Stacy (Rep.) in the election on Nov. 8.
     There is no incumbent Gilchrist County School Board Member – District 2 who is seeking reelection. That non-partisan race shows Susan P. Owens versus Don Thomas.
     Gilchrist County School Board Member – District 4 Julie C. Thomas is facing candidate Gina Louise Geiger in that non-partisan race.
~~~
LEVY COUNTY
     Levy County had the least contenders for office, because almost all of the incumbents faced no opposition.
     The incumbent constitutional officers that were reelected are Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Danny Shipp (Rep.); Property Appraiser Osborn “Oz” Barker (Rep.); Sheriff Robert “Bobby” McCallum Jr. (Rep); Tax Collector Linda Fugate (Rep.); Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones (Rep.); and School Board members District 2 - Chris Cowart; District 3 - Brad Etheridge; and District 4 - Paige Brookins.
          Sheriff McCallum provided a statement about his uncontested reelection.
     "I want to take this opportunity to thank the Citizens of Levy County for the tremendous show of confidence that they have extended to me as their Sheriff. I am honored to have served as your Sheriff the last three and a half years and look forward to serving the next term.
     "I want to specifically thank my God, my family, my supporters and the more than 150 dedicated men and women who serve as employees and volunteers at the Levy County Sheriff’s Office. The sworn and non-sworn members of LCSO are the ones who do the hard work to provide protection and service to the Citizens. They provide it 24 hours per day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. I am grateful for their dedication and service which is reflected in my re-election as Sheriff without opposition.
     "With the closing of the qualification period at noon today, another chapter has been written in the history of Levy County. According to those who are supposed to know, this is the first uncontested re-election of a Levy County Sheriff in modern history. I am both honored and humbled to be re-elected in that manner.
     "In closing, I pledge to continue to work to provide the best Law Enforcement, Detention, Communications, Civil and Court Services and 911 Mapping Services possible to all of the citizens of Levy County. As your Sheriff, my door will continue to be open to provide assistance and service to our citizens in any way possible."
     There is no incumbent Levy County Superintendent of Schools seeking reelection.
     The two candidates for that post are Jeffery “Jeff” Edison (Rep.) and Jerry Lawrence (Rep.).
     Incumbent Levy County Commissioner - District 1 John Meeks (Rep.) is facing candidate Berlon Weeks (Rep.) for that post.
     Incumbent Levy County Commissioner - District 3 Mike Joyner (Rep.) is facing candidate Chetley Breeden (Rep.) for that post.
     Incumbent Levy County Commissioner – District 5 Danny Stevens     (Rep.) is facing candidate Matt Brooks for that post.
     It is important to note that all three Levy County Commission races will be decided by all Levy County voters on Aug. 30 because all of the candidates are Republicans. So Democrats and any other voter will help decide those three winners on Aug. 30.
     If someone waits until Nov. 8 to vote for a Levy County Commission candidate, that voter will be disappointed.


Library program shows
successful launch in Williston


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Published on the Home Page of HardisonInk.com
on June 23, 2016 @ 3:57 p.m.
Information and Photos
By Jenny Rodgers,
Youth Services Coordinator – Levy County Public Libraries
     WILLISTON --
The Levy County Public Library System kicked off its summer reading program Monday (June 20) at the Williston Public Library.

      This year the reading program's overall theme is "On your mark, Get set - Read!"
     On Monday, more than 40 kids, library staff and Levy County Commissioner Danny Stevens enjoyed "On your Mark, Get set Bend Acrobats!" at the Williston library.
     Students from S-Connection Circus School of Gainesville gave the kids in attendance a glimpse of a circus show. The acrobats did a floor routine and a hula-hoop demonstration, and there was even a stilt-walker who juggled. The kids clapped and were amazed at the show. Many of the children said that they had never been to or seen a circus show.
     A special thanks to the Williston Police Department for stopping traffic for the active part of the program. The acrobats laid out a 30-foot inflatable tumble track for the kids to jump and do flips down. This time the children demonstrated their acrobatic skills to the acrobats. They were very impressive, showing off many flips and cart wheels.
     Then the kids went back in the library to enjoy a bowl of popcorn. The healthy snacks are provided by UF/IFAS Extension's Family Nutrition Program. Each child received a hula-hoop as their take-home goody from the library. They were able to sign up for library cards, and they started checking out books and videos right away.
     The summer library program lasts for six weeks, with each library branch (Bronson, Cedar Key, Chiefland, Williston and Yankeetown) having a different program each week. Every program includes a demonstration or presentation, an activity, a healthy snack, and a take-home goody bag.
     For more information, please contact Youth Services Coordinator Jenny Rodgers at 352-486-5552 or call your local library. To see an ad for the summer program in the Levy County public libraries please go the CALENDAR PAGE or click on this link http://hardisonink.com/hardison-ink-calendar.php#library.
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Extension director selection
delayed after cattlemen complain


Representing the cattlemen of Levy County and other commercial livestock ranchers on Tuesday morning (July 32), Brad Etheridge (left) says this aspect of agriculture has been underserved by UF/IFAS Extension for decades in Levy County. Presenting the salient points for how the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences' Extension made a selection for a person to be interviewed for consideration as the next Levy County Extension director and 4-H agent is UF/IFAS Extension District Director Dr. Eric H. Simonne.


Photos and Story
By Jeff M. Hardison © June 21, 2016 @ 10:57 p.m.
     BRONSON –
Growth in the livestock aspect of agriculture in Levy County, and the retirement of Albert Fuller from his post as the director of Levy County Extension and as the 4-H agent, fanned the flames of change Monday morning (June 21) in Levy County.

     Fuller was county extension director and 4-H agent for 38-plus years.
     The Levy County Board of County Commissioners in cooperation with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension (UF/IFAS Extension) had advertised for a director of Levy County Extension and 4-H agent to replace Fuller.
     In the six months since Fuller left, five candidates applied. UF/IFAS Extension found one of those five was qualified. That six months of advertising, screening, interviewing and research was all for naught, though, because one man showed up to complain to the County Commission that livestock interests have been underserved for about four decades now.
     Despite a valiant effort by Dr. Eric H. Simonne, a professor and district extension director of UF/IFAS Extension, for the commissioners to at least interview the sole qualified candidate – that interview that had been scheduled for Thursday (June 23) was nixed.
     The interview was killed just two days before it was to happen.
     Now the County Commission will advertise through UF/IFAS Extension for a county extension director who has a focus on livestock. Dr. Simmone estimated this next round of screening will take at least four or five more months.
     In the meantime, the Levy County Extension office is without a full-time director, although an interim director has been serving one day a week for six months.

Levy County Commissioner Mike Joyner said he is a cattle owner, and he sees the need for a stronger level of service from UF/IFAS Extension to livestock ranchers in Levy County.

     The 4-H year begins in August, and Dr. Simonne said he had hoped to start the year off with a new 4-H agent and extension director in Levy County.
     Citrus County Extension Director B.J. Jarvis has been coming to Bronson one day a week for the past six months to serve as the Levy County Extension interim director.
     As for the 4-H agent aspect of Fuller’s job, Brian Estevez, an extension agent who has served as the 4-H/Youth Development Agent for UF/IFAS Suwannee County Extension since 2008, has dedicated one day a week as the 4-H agent in Levy County.
     However, Levy County Extension lost a separate agent recently.
     Another person who retired from Levy County UF/IFAS Extension is Muriel Turner, who was an extension agent that specialized in Family and Consumer Sciences.
     The Levy County Extension office had another employee leave recently.
     Former Levy County Extension Office Manager Lacy Harris, a former Levy County employee, was arrested a few months ago for fraudulent use of the county’s credit card. She is out on bond and is awaiting trial.
     Cattlemen of Levy County, represented by Brad Etheridge, sought more service from Levy County Extension than they have seen.
     Etheridge said that his request for a director based in livestock rather than in 4-H will actually benefit 4-H, because the director will not be torn between the daily operations of the office and all that he or she must do to be the 4-H agent.
      Anthony Drew, a renowned Levy County Agriculture Extension agent who specializes in row crops, does not have livestock as his area of expertise. Besides, Drew plans to leave UF/IFAS Extension in three or four years, County Coordinator Freddie Moody said.
     Brenda Heberling is the 4-H program assistant, employed by Levy County. Heberling would assist the next 4-H agent.
     Barbara Edmonds, a Levy County employee, is the program assistant for homeowner horticulture. She helps Drew. She is the coordinator of volunteer Master Gardeners in Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties.
     Here is how the meeting went Tuesday.
     Etheridge apologized for coming in literally at the last possible minute for change away from the direction the county and UF/IFAS Extension had been going for six months.
     He said the livestock industry – cattle, swine, goats, sheep, chickens and horses – are underserved by UF/IFAS Extension in Levy County. He wants the next Levy County Extension director to be more of a liaison between UF/IFAS and the livestock producers of the county.
     Etheridge said the idea of the director being involved with livestock rather than 4-H relates to the salary difference between a director and an extension agent. By having the higher paid person in livestock, Etheridge indicated this would reflect a stronger impact on quality of the employee.
     Etheridge recommends hiring a separate 4-H director, who focuses only on 4-H.
     Commission Chairman John Meeks said agriculture is among the few industries in the county. Meeks said there has been an increase in cattle ranches in the past 25 years in Levy County.
     “We only had one qualified candidate for this extension position,” Meeks said. “And to me, that’s not a very deep pool to select from.”
     Chairman Meeks said he sees it as advantageous to the Levy County youth to have a person only involved with 4-H and not being the extension director.
     County Coordinator Moody said the five applicants were reduced to one person who was qualified. Moody said the payment for all extension services is 60 percent from UF/IFAS and 40 percent from the County Commission’s budget.
     Dr. Simonne said the person to fill this UF faculty position is not chosen out of thin air. There are expectations from the university which must be met by a candidate to be qualified, he said.
     “Is this person going to be successful from an academic standpoint?” he said the university reviewers first consider as they screen applicants.
     The campus interviews included involvement of Interim Levy County Extension Director Jarvis and Interim Levy County 4-H Agent Estevez, Simonne said.
     Simonne reminded listeners that the extension office is a joint venture of UF/IFAS and the Levy County Board of County Commissioners. This is a grassroots organization with a first purpose of serving the local needs.
     The issue that was brought to be on the table of a need for a livestock agent is welcomed, Dr. Simonne said.
     The university has determined that one person can do the job of extension director and 4-H agent, Simonne said. UF/IFAS Extension can discuss with the County Commission and livestock representatives how to add a livestock agent to the mix, he said.
     Chairman Meeks countered that statement by saying through advertising for a person as director with a focus on livestock, Levy County can take care of this need now rather than waiting for change farther down the road of time.
     County Commissioner Mike Joyner started the motion toward not interviewing the one candidate and re-advertising with livestock being the focus rather than 4-H.
      Simonne said the County Commission should interview the person on Thursday, but the commission chose against listening to his recommendation.
     Simonne said the county can choose to add a livestock agent, as well as replace the extension director and the 4-H agent.
     In the end, a motion by County Commissioner Danny Stevens to re-advertise for an extension director with a focus on livestock was seconded and passed unanimously.


Blue Springs opens again

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This is a view of the springs in late April. The water is seen here coming up through the sand on the bottom of the spring.
Video by Jeff M. Hardison, all rights reserved


Published June 20, 2016 @ 11:17 a.m.
on the Home Page of HardisonInk.com
     LEVY COUNTY --
Blue Springs Park in Levy County, 4550 N.E. 94th Terrace (Levy County Road 339-A), near Bronson., was closed recently due to too much water flow making the water unsafe for swimming.

     However, the springs are open now! This is an excellent place for people to swim for the lowest price in the area.
     The normal hours are 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., seven days a week
     There are tubes for rent and there is a volleyball net available for use too.
     The cost for almost anyone to enter is $2. There is a 50 percent discount for people 65 years and older, or for people who are 100 percent disabled. There is a 50 percent discount for active military or retired military.
     Children 5 years and younger are admitted for free.
     A family season pass costs $35 and will allow up to six people to enter this park -- and Henry Beck Park -- for the entire time those parks are open during the season.
     An individual season pass costs $20 and provides the same option to visit Blue Springs or Henry Beck Park for one individual rather than a family.


Candidates want change;
Hospital to co-sponsor debates

Dr. Devaiah Pagidipati and his wife Dr. Rudrama Pagidipati, who is also a medical doctor, pause for a moment an office at Regional General Hospital in Williston after the presentations by Berlon Weeks and Matt Brooks.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © June 18, 2016 @ 10:37 p.m.
* Updated (June 19, 2016 @ 8:47 a.m. - bottom of story)

     PUBLISHER’S NOTE: The qualifying period for election to office in Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties is next week. Two candidates for two different seats on the Levy County Board of County Commissioners on Friday (June 17) accepted an invitation to speak to employees at Regional General Hospital. The following story includes statements by Berlon Weeks and Matt. Dr. Devaiah Pagidipati announced his intention to co-sponsor forums for candidates to discuss and debate about the future of health care, education and recreational entertainment in Levy County.

     WILLISTON --
Two candidates for Levy County Commission said in no uncertain terms that they are tired of the status quo. They want change.
     In other news from the Friday afternoon (June 17) luncheon gathering of employees at Regional General Hospital (RGH) in Williston, Dr. Devaiah Pagidipati announced RGH is willing to co-sponsor debates of Levy County candidates in Cedar Key, Chiefland and Williston.

CANDIDATES MAKE STATEMENTS
     Berlon Weeks, a candidate for Levy County Commission District 1, and Matt Brooks, a candidate for Levy County Commission District 5, both told the RGH employees gathered in a conference room Friday that they want to see change from the manner in which the incumbent County Commission members are performing their jobs.
BERLON WEEKS
     Weeks was the first candidate to speak to the employees.
     He went through his background, which includes that he is a veteran of the United States Army; he is a former Bronson Town Council member; He managed Weeks Chevron from 1997 to 2007; He has owned Weeks Bail Bonds since 2000.
     He mentioned some of the accomplishments by the Town Council during his tenure. Among those points was the successful proving to FEMA and others about property the federal government had labeled as flood-prone, when it was not.
     This is a significant saving to business interests that do not need to by needless flood insurance, Weeks said. This candidate is in favor of increasing business activity in Levy County so that more people can make a living here.
     Another Bronson Town Council major project, in which Weeks was instrumental was the installation of sewer service for the commercial corridor in Bronson.
     Weeks stressed that he is running for the County Commission against incumbent County Commissioner John Meeks, because Weeks sees the creation of the Levy County Department of Public Safety Department (LCDPS) as a significant error.
     When the county created the LCDPS, Weeks said, he was the Bronson Town Council member who served as liaison between Bronson Volunteer Fire Department and Town Council.
     The tax base to support LCDPS, Weeks said he felt, did not exist.
     With the advent of LCDPS, there was the creation of career firefighters in Levy County government, he said.    
     The Mizell Hodges report in 2005 told the county that the tax base did not exist to afford career firefighters, Weeks said.
     “And then six years later,” he said, “they went ahead and did it anyway.”
     The subsequent special tax assessment has cost the property owners of Levy County $7 million so far that was collected and spent by the LCDPS since its inception.
     Weeks said the four small county volunteer fire departments that previously cost the county about $100,000 were absorbed into the LCDPS, which had a budget of $1.8 million in the most recently past fiscal year.
     Weeks feels that the LCDPS is not useful enough for the money spent on it. He remembers being told that the Town of Bronson had to cut its request for funds from the county for the fire protection it provided for county residents outside the town limits.
     If the county would provide the municipalities’ volunteer fire departments with more money, Weeks said, then they could provide better service for the areas of the county around the cities – rather than depending on a countywide fire department.
     The volunteers in the cities’ departments serve out of a love for their community rather than being driven by money, he said.
     Another point Weeks made was that the County Commission is using outdated information as it revises the comprehensive land management and growth development plan.
     All the references used in the “Comp Plan,” he said, is about 30 years old. The county’s leaders update the comp plan each seven years, he added, using the same old data.
     “You can’t build a business planning from the past,” he said. “You have to look at the future and where you want to be.”
     Growth is going to come to Levy County, he said. It is how leaders work with that growth in the future – providing the elements that the people want.
     “And you have to do that through planning,” Weeks said. “We don’t seem to be up to snuff with the way the future of this county can be.”
     Weeks said Levy County currently has “an economy based on poverty.” This is reflected by business owners seeing a flurry of activity at the beginning of each month, and then as those revenue recipients run out of money, that business declines each month.
     “So we have to find a way to bring these jobs in,” Weeks said, “$10, $15, $20 an hour jobs -- whether it’s manufacturing auto parts, solar panels, mattresses, mobile homes – something. We have to get something into this county to get people working.”
     Another issue Weeks brought up is his belief that the landfill fees paid by every property owner, as well as the ad valorem fees should be enough for people to bring their garbage to the transfer station for free.
MATT BROOKS
     Brooks said he has been through the hospital a number of times. He greatly appreciates everyone’s work in making it a good health care system that is viable for the area.
     When the hospital staff went to a County Commission meeting, Brooks happened to be there. He felt it was a very good showing by the employees that they are passionately driven to provide excellent care and to keep jobs going.
     The crux of the matter, he said, is the attitude of the county’s leaders.
     County Commissioner Danny Stevens, whom Brooks is seeking to beat in the election, said owners have tried to save the hospital time, after time, after time again, Brooks said.
     He quoted Stevens as saying “They’re not seeing the writing on the wall,” indicating to Brooks that Stevens sees keeping the hospital running as a hopeless task.
     “To me,” Brooks said of Stevens’ comment, “that is the biggest negative I could ever hear coming from someone who represents the people – coming from someone that represents this district (of the county); this business here, this entity that supports our community with so many jobs here.”
     Brooks told the employees “This is where the rubber meets the road. You care about your jobs, your families, what your future is going to be like. To me, that’s important.
     “I want to represent you all with a positive mentality of ‘Hey! Let’s figure out what we can do to keep this entity here,’” Brooks continued. “Let’s figure out what we can do to attract other businesses here, and to attract other families here.”
     Brooks said that by everyone working to help this major component of the county, it will help all people in the area. He is against remaining stuck in a pattern of accepting failure and settling for whatever happens from doing nothing.
     “I’ve heard this for my whole life,” Brooks said. “That’s just the way it’s always been. That’s the way it’s going to be. Well, I think that’s a load of bull. I think you need representatives for the people of this county who actually go out and see what other counties are doing.”
     Brooks said that as a City Council member of Williston, he went to basic training and advanced training for elected officials.
     “That training is important,” he said. “It’s paid for by your city. It’s paid for by your county. If you’re not taking advantage of that, then it is a complete disservice to your county and the people you represent.”
     Brooks said that to be an effective leader in the county’s government, commissioners need to go out and see what is working and what needs to be improved. They need to look beyond the four corners of Levy County to other places that are succeeding. And the county commissioners need to visit with the people of the county at gatherings beyond the county commission meetings to see what the people want.
     Brooks said he heard Dr. Pagidipati and RGH Compliance Officer J.T. Lander when they told the county that health care, education and recreational opportunities are critical to the growth of the county.
     With Williston gaining the new Williston Middle High School in the fall, Brooks sees that as a major positive accomplishment for the area. The new WMHS is a state-of-the-art education center.
     “We have a nice hospital here,” Brooks continued, “that ‘Dr. P’ and everybody is lifting up and providing jobs, and providing the best healthcare that is possible. You’ve got great testing equipment. You are upgrading technology.”
     Brooks sees hospital leaders conducting business to help drive it in a stronger positive direction for growth in the future, as well as the immediate high caliber of care for patients.
     “To me,” Brooks said, “the county is no different. You’ve got to find creative solutions. You can’t just sit back with the same mentality for 16 years and say ‘Well. They’ve been trying forever and this is just how it’s going to be.’”
     Brooks said the voters of Levy County should not settle for things running as they have. He said people can’t elect the same people and expect different results.
     Like Weeks, Brooks has been in Levy County for his whole life.
     Brooks graduated from Williston High School. He graduated from the University of North Florida with a Bachelor’s degree in marketing and public relations.
     Also, like Weeks, Brooks is a veteran of the United States Army, where Brooks served for six years.
     He owns B4 Signs & Advertising and has a wife, and they have four children.
     Brooks said he takes pride in all of his endeavors so that he can best serve his customers, the city and the county.
     “I think that’s what we owe to the citizens of Levy County,” Brooks said, “to be better stewards of our tax dollars and just to take a different approach.
     “I think its’s time,” he continued. “We need some fresh voices in Levy County, and I would appreciate everybody’s vote come Aug. 30.”
     Brooks said he thinks it is vital for the people of Levy County to know how important it is to have the hospital here, and to support it.
     RGH Vice President of Operations Raj Ravi said RGH provides 150 jobs to people. He said Dr. Pagidipati has spent $5 million over the past two years to take care of indigent patients, who do not have insurance or money.
     Ravi said the County Commission does not understand this.
     Brooks said some people lack a business mentality.
     Business owners, who have to make something happen, or they and their family do not eat, or their employees’ families don’t eat, -- they operate under a different degree of stress than a person who goes to work for a government entity, or they go to work for a large corporation, Brooks said.
     Weeks said he did not understand why the County Commission did not invite an RGH representative to help screen for the next public safety director, because RGH is the only hospital in Levy County.
     Instead, the County Commission is using employees and it invited the independent contractor who is currently the director of Levy County EMS medicine for input.
PREVIOUS POSITION
     The medical director for LCDPS has state previously that he does not endorse ambulances going to Gainesville rather than Williston as a matter of course. He said there are standards and protocol which is followed.
     Dr. Jason Jones is the LCDPS medical director.
     Dr. Pagidipati has said he believes there could be more emergency patients served at the Emergency Room at RGH, but for some reason the Levy County ambulances are making 600 trips to Gainesville a month and they are making only 15 trips to RGH in Williston a month.
     The odds of that high a percentage of patients being required to go to the hospital that is much farther away seems to indicate a the direction of transporting patients is skewed in favor of Gainesville over Williston.
     Dr. Jones has said the LCDPS Paramedics must take patients where the patients want to go, as long as those individuals are awake and coherent.
     However, in cases where the patient is suffering from a stroke for instance, those patients must be taken to emergency rooms at hospitals in Gainesville or Ocala that are equipped to deal patients who are critically ill, he said.
     Dr. Pagidipati has said the ambulances need to go to RGH first, where the more critical patients can be better stabilized than in a moving ambulance. RGH is improving to have emergency physicians in the Emergency Room there 24-hours-a-day.
     The RGH ER is currently open 24-hours-a-day, but physicians are there 50 percent of the time and nurse practitioners are there the other 50 percent of the time, Dr. Pagidipati said.
     Dr. Jones is an assistant professor at the University of Florida in the Department of Emergency Medicine. He performed his residency training in Emergency Medicine at U.F., and additional subspecialty fellowship training in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) at U.F. under Dr. Christine Van Dillen. His medical school education was at the University of Texas and he earned a bachelor's degree in Public Policy from Duke University in Durham, N.C.
     In 2014, Dr. Jones assumed the position of LCDPS medical director from Dr. Van Dillen.
     The LCDPS Determination of Hospital Destination Protocol was in place before Dr. Jones became the medical director, and it has been mandatory knowledge provided in writing to every Paramedic and EMT at Levy DPS, and has been in the public domain at all times at http://levydps.com/files.html, Dr. Jones has noted.
    It has not changed once during his tenure.
    It states that ambulances are to take any patient to the ER of the patient's choice, unless excluded by the following parameters:
     • No paramedic is to influence the patient's choice of hospital or assume that a given hospital cannot offer its usual range of services, thereby preferentially re-routing patients to select facilities. However, paramedics may educate patients requesting information regarding their specific type and acuteness of emergency consistent with recognized local practice.
     • If the patient expresses no choice, and if no other appropriate party is available or has reason to act on behalf of the patient, transport the patient to the closest appropriate emergency room.
     • If the patient is unable to make such a judgment (minors, etc.), transport the patient to the emergency room of choice of an appropriate party acting on behalf of the patient (parent, guardian).
     Exceptions exist for alert patients (stroke, STEMI [heart attack], etc.), such as patients meeting Florida Trauma Alert criteria. Patients with pediatric and obstetric emergencies are preferentially routed to hospitals with pediatric and obstetric certifications.
     Patients who are unconscious, critically ill, or potentially critically ill and at risk of serious harm may be transported to facilities offering advanced capabilities at the paramedic's discretion. These exceptions exist to protect patients most likely to need emergent specialized, advanced, or life-saving therapy.
     In the meantime, however, there does not appear to be much change in the number of patients taken by Levy County ambulance to the hospital in Levy County.
     Dr. Pagidipati said that the hospital during the past two years has served about 7,000 patients a year. If the hospital did close, those 7,000 patients would have to go elsewhere.
     If they went by ambulance, Dr. Pagidipati said, that would require an increase in the Levy County ambulance fleet and it would result in an increase in the special assessment levied on property owners to pay for the new ambulances.
     Brooks said the current County Commission members react to things, rather than being proactive. So the hospital not seeing traffic that it should is “a stick of dynamite with a long fuse, and they’re waiting for it to blow up.”
     Weeks said the Levy County Department of Public Safety is “a stick of dynamite.”
     Dr. Pagidipati said the two medical directors advising the Levy County Commission about Emergency Medical Services are from Alachua County – one is from Shands and one is from North Florida Regional Medical Center.
     They are taking every patient from Levy County to Alachua County, he said, because that is a benefit to their employing hospitals.
     Jorge Perez, the new investor who is helping RGH increase the emergency physician presence in the Emergency Room and who is helping build an urgent care center in Chiefland, said he noticed there is no hotel in Williston.
     He sees U.S. Alt 27 and U.S. 121 and U.S. 41 as major transportation arteries that should help the town grow. Perez endorses the idea of increasing the hotel room count in the area and increasing the franchise fast-food outlets to attract more tourists to the attractions in the area.
     The cycle of growth will be fanned then, Perez said, which will lead to more residents having jobs to work in the tourist industry.
     “But if you’re doing the same thing for 50 years,” Perez said, “then nothing changes.”
     Perez said the area needs a whole new fresh look to appeal to people. He used the recently renovated pavilion in downtown Williston as an example of a new look, but then he mentioned the blight and slum of vacant buildings that are collapsing right across the street.
     There is strong potential for growth here, he said, but the cycle of progress leading to that must have a starting point. The hospital in Williston and the future medical center in Chiefland are obviously strong economic engines for future growth.



Dr. Devaiah Pagidipati shares with employees why he believes Berlon Weeks and Matt Brooks are good candidates for Levy County Commission,


THE FUTURE DEBATES
     After Weeks and Brooks spoke to the employees of RGH, Dr. Pagidipati invited HardisonInk.com to the office.
     Dr. Pagidipati said he wants to co-sponsor debates between candidates running for any office in Levy County.
     He would like to have one at the Williston Crossings RV Resort’s Conference Room; one at the Cedar Key Community Building; and one in Chiefland at the Haven Hospice Community Building.
     He put Vice President of Operations Ravi in charge of securing the locations, finding moderators (and timekeepers) for the debates, and to schedule with the candidates to appear.
     Four years ago, there were debates in various parts of Levy County. Not every candidate showed up for every debate. Some voters have made up their minds already.
     However, this option for the people to hear candidates speak with one another about topics that affect the lives of current and future residents and visitors of and to Levy County is an excellent civic and community service.
     * Updated (June 19, 2016 @ 8:47 a.m.) – Avid readers of HardisonInk.com know the requests from RGH to the County Commission to seek to have more patients taken to Williston rather than Gainesville has been ongoing. Here is a link to one of many archived stories about that https://hardisoninkarchive.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/2-2-16-hardisonink-com-doctor-questions-protocol.pdf.
     Avid readers also know that County Commissioner Mike Joyner and County Commissioner Lilly Rooks have both endorsed the care they have seen provided to patients, and experienced themselves, at the renovated hospital.
     The residents and visitors to Chiefland have been seeking a hospital with an emergency room for more than 10 years.
     Finding truthful answers about the question of whether people are being taken to Gainesville to feed that city’s healthcare industry, when they could be treated in Williston, is not a simple task.
     The hospital owner and the medical professionals employed at RGH see what appears to be unfair treatment. County commissioners are told by the doctors they hired as the independent contractors to advise them about EMS that the county-operated ambulance service is working within the limits set by law.
     Questions about which candidates voters should choose for elected offices are to be answered by the voters at the polls via votes. Having debates between candidates is one method to let the public see and hear from the individuals running for office.
     While all of these updated notes are obvious, they are being added because some people only read one article and do not look back at archived stories. At HardisonInk.com, we strive to be as fair in all coverage as is humanly possible.

 



 


Seventy-Fourth Jingle Singer;
Three More Lined Up


The newest singer to perform the HardisonInk.com jingle is Derrick Wise of Wise Accounting and Tax Services, a 1996 graduate of Williston High School. Here he sings the jingle in Williston on May 24, 2016. Each performer or set of performers brings their own special something to the 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 to sing it. (Thanks people!) There are three more videos completed and scheduled for playing as video singers. They will go in this order – Matt Brooks, Chase Fowler and Steve Bloom.

Published June 20, 2016 @ 8:17 a.m.
Video by Jeff M. Hardison © 2016 All Rights Reserved

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