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FHP to host after-hours
career fair on Jan. 25
in Cross City

Published Jan. 16, 2018 at 9:57 a.m.
     CROSS CITY --
The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) is actively recruiting across the state.

 


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     The FHP is scheduled to host an after-hours career fair for individuals interested in pursuing a career with the FHP, on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018 at the Cross City FHP Station, 16106 S.E. U.S. Highway 19 in Cross City (across the street from Dixie County High School).
     This event is set to be from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on that Thursday.
     This career fair will assist candidates in understanding the pay and benefits from working for the FHP. The application process, as well as information about where open positions are currently available in North Central Florida are going to be shared as well.
     This includes open positions in Alachua, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Marion and Suwannee counties.
     The minimum qualifications to join the FHP are as follows:
     ● United States Citizen;
     ● High School graduate or equivalent;
     ● Minimum of 19 years old at time of application (no maximum age restriction);
     ● Valid driver license; and
     ● One of the following – one year of law enforcement experience (sworn or non-sworn); two years of public contact experience; two years of active continuous U.S. military service with an honorable discharge; completed 30 semester or 45-quarter hours of college credit from an accredited college or university.
     Florida Certified Law Enforcement Officers are encouraged to attend to learn about the accelerated programs available that shortens the hiring process.
     Interested applicants with additional questions may contact local FHP Recruiter -- Trooper Michael Cagle at 386-754-6284. Additional information can be found at https://beatrooper.com/.

 


2018 crop production
short course set for Jan. 30

By Anthony Drew, Extension Agent IV
UF/IFAS Extension of Levy County
Published Jan. 14, 2018 at 9:17 a.m.
     FANNING SPRINGS --
The UF/IFAS Extension offices of Levy County, Gilchrist County and Dixie County announce the 2018 Crop Production Short Course.

     The event is scheduled to take place at the Suwannee River Fair pavilion on Tuesday, Jan. 30, beginning at 9 a.m. The educational program will include:
     ● An update on the 2017 “peanut decline” issue… what we know, what we don’t know, what we’re still trying to determine and management suggestions to help avoid the problem in 2018. Anthony Drew, IFAS, University of Florida, Levy County.
     ● Dealing with the projected chlorothalonil shortages for 2018. Research data dealing with some older chemistries and their utilization in an effective disease management program. Dr. Albert Culbreath, Plant Pathologist, University of Georgia.
     ● The facts concerning the use of fumigants for management of Fusarium wilt in watermelons. Dr. Josh Freeman, University of Florida.
     Other information dealing with corn production, rotations and an update on the coming new requirements for compliance with the Worker’s Protection Standards will be offered. Holders of Private Restricted Use Pesticide licenses will earn core and row crop CEUs (continuing education unit) through attending the meeting. Lunch will be provided by Production Credit of North Florida.
     After lunch, there will be a combination training/testing for obtaining a Private Restricted Use Pesticide license.
     Anyone wishing to take advantage of this MUST contact either Sheila Langford at the Gilchrist County Extension Office (352-463-3174) or Sharon Hardison at the Levy County Extension Office (352-486-5131), because there are new application requirements that one MUST complete before you will be allowed to take the test.
     YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO TAKE THE TEST WITHOUT COMPLETING THE REQUIRED APPLICATION PRIOR TO THE MEETING.
     All other participants are asked to RSVP to either the Gilchrist County Extension Office or the Levy County Extension Office (numbers above) with your intent of attendance and number attending.




3-1 vote leads to
construction contract
for $2.5 million city hall


At the special meeting Friday (Jan. 12) are (from left) Councilman Kori Lamb, City Council President Charles Goodman, City Council and City Council Vice President Nancy Wininger. City Councilman Elihu Ross was absent from this meeting.
~
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 13, 2018 at 3:27 p.m.
     WILLISTON --
Despite having a case of influenza and potentially being contagious, Williston City Manager Scott Lippmann attended the Friday afternoon (Jan. 12) special meeting of the Williston City Council meeting, and it was at that meeting when two resolutions were adopted for a $3 million loan and a $13,000 electric generator.



City Manager Scott Lippmann explains to the city leaders that the least expensive method for the employees to have a place to serve the public during construction of the new City Hall is to rent a building  from the Levy County School Board by purchasing a generator for that county government group for a price between $10,000 and $13,000.


In this video, City Finance Director Stephen Bloom explains his idea of using the most flexible loan structure to not encumber the General Fund or other revenue sources too much. His plan for the loan structure shows an ability to revise the structure over the 30-year planned loan period.


     This special meeting was called because City Council President Charles Goodman and others felt uncomfortable adopting the resolutions that had been prepared for approval at the regular Tuesday night meeting (Jan. 9).
     With predicated costs of construction materials believed to continue an upward escalation that has been noticed from the past few years, the Williston City Council chose against delaying the start of construction on the $2.5 million (plus) Williston City Hall any more than absolutely necessary.
     The current City Hall is now scheduled for complete vacation of staff by Jan. 28, and the city functions will be done at the former Williston High School’s Multipurpose Building (the old band building, next to Noble Avenue {U.S. Alt. 27}).
     Present for the special meeting, in addition to City Manager Lippmann and City Council President Charles Goodman were City Finance Director Stephen Bloom, City Clerk Fran Taylor, and City Council members Nancy Wininger, Kori Lamb and Marguerite Robinson.
     Absent from this meeting were Mayor R. Gerald Hethcoat, City Councilman Elihu Ross and City Attorney Frederick L. Koberlein Jr.
     The first matter approved was the purchase of an emergency electric generator to power a lift station that pumps sewage from the new Williston Middle High School campus. The price range for the as-yet unpurchased generator is between $10,000 and $13,000, Lippmann said.
     The cost includes installation, a transfer switch, etc., for the 45-kilowatt (more or less) generator. Lippmann mentioned for the edification of listeners that the new WMHS campus already has a full-campus generator, which was used during a recent hurricane event where the school was used as a shelter.
     This expense, even at $13,000, Lippmann explained to Goodman and others, is less than the cost of renting temporary buildings for city staff to perform their duties during the year or so of anticipated construction time.
     While the Levy County School Board is accepting this benefit, it is helping the city by lending use of that structure during that time. The old WHS campus is on the market, but a buyer would have to wait for the city government to move out before it could use that one building.
     In previous conversations by the Williston City Council, it has been mentioned a couple of times that the roof on the cafeteria leaks too much for it to be considered by the city for use.
     The approval of the generator purchase, too, was conditioned on the subsequent approval of the city signing a contract with Oelrich Construction to build the structure at an estimated cost currently at $2.5 million (plus).
     On a motion by Vice President Wininger, Seconded by Councilwoman Robinson, the four City Council members present approved the purchase of the generator by a 4-0 vote.
     As for the resolution to contract with Oelrich Construction to build the future City Hall, that motion was a Wininger-Robinson action. President Goodman joined the two motion makers in voting “Yes.”
     Councilman Lamb said he voted “No” because although he wants the City Hall construction to begin, after listening to Finance Director Bloom say the loan for the project is not final, Lamb was not comfortable enough in approving the start of construction.
     Bloom provided the four City Council members with a verbal review of his plan for financing the project, before the motion was made to adopt the resolution for Oelrich Construction to begin building City Hall.
     Bloom’s plan shows the city leaders over the next 30 years will enjoy maximum flexibility within financing the project. For instance, there will be no penalty for early payments on the principal part of the loan.
     By using his method, the other part of this loan proposal shows it is made to not interfere with funding for future projects or other capital expenditure needs that may occur in the next three decades.
     More specifically, Bloom structured a method to where the loan repayment was split between the General Fund, the Utilities Fund, the Airport Fund and the CRA Fund.
     The current percentages for those will be 50 percent from the General Fund; 40 percent from the Utilities Fund and 5 percent each from the other two funds.
     Given that City Hall will serve to meet needs from operating Williston Municipal Airport and the Community Redevelopment Agency’s projects, using those funds is justified.
     Bloom said the $2.528 million projected cost of the project is what he used in his calculations. He sees 100 percent of the loan coming from a bank.
     The loan is being sought from several banks including some local institutions like Drummond Community Bank and Ameris Bank.
     The potential to use funding from reserves exists as well. In fact, even if a bank did not loan the city any money, there is enough money in the city’s various reserve funds to pay for the new city hall.
     In spite of Bloom assuring the four City Council members present that he sees a very strong likelihood of a bank loaning the city the money, City Councilman Lamb voted against signing the contract with Oelrich Construction to start the program – because the financing has not been secured yet.


 

Free financial counseling
available for engaged couples

By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 10, 2018 at 7:37 p.m.
     CHIEFLAND --
Financial Advisor Sheila Smith of Edward Jones said she wants to help couples who are engaged to be married.

     During a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 9), Smith said she believes money issues are one of the top three causes of strife between married couples and it can even lead to divorce.
     As a free service to help people, Smith said she will counsel couples together. She will help them understand budgeting, debt, credit and possible pitfalls as well as rewards from proper fiscal responsibility.
     By both members coming into their marriage with and understanding of their goals and reasonable methods to achieve those goals, this will help their relationship.
     One member of a couple might see a flat tire as an emergency requiring an expenditure, Smith said, while another member of a couple might see a particular pair of shoes as an emergency requiring them to go into debt.
     Smith would like both members of the couple to agree to meet for at least three, one-hour sessions to help them understand budgeting. This is a free service Smith is offering to any couple that has committed to marriage.
     Couples who are interested in scheduling sessions are asked to call 352-493-4948.




How can you improve your
financial fitness this year?

Published Jan. 8, 2018 at 12:07 a.m.
     If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get healthier, you may already be taking the necessary steps, such as improving your diet and increasing your exercise.
     Of course, physical fitness is important to your well-being – but, at the same time, don’t forget about your financial fitness. Specifically, what can you do to ensure your investment situation is in good shape?
     Here are a few “healthy living” suggestions that may also apply to your investment portfolio:
     Build endurance –  Just as exercise can help build your endurance for the demands of a long life, a vigorous investment strategy can help you work toward your long-term goals, such as a comfortable retirement. In practical terms, this means you will need to own some investments with the potential to provide long-term growth. These are the investments that, ideally, you can hold on to for decades and eventually reap the benefits of capital appreciation. Of course, growth-oriented investments, such as most types of stocks, will rise and fall in value over the short term, and there’s no guarantee of profits, or even preserving principal. But if you choose wisely, and you’ve got the patience and discipline to hold on to your investments through the market’s ups and downs, you may well be rewarded. 
     Maintain an ideal “weight” – You can help yourself stay healthy by maintaining your ideal weight. This can be challenging – as you know from the recently finished holiday season, it’s easy to put on a few extra pounds. And, just as inadvertently, your portfolio can tack on some unneeded weight, too, in the form of redundant investments. Over time, you may have picked up too many similar investment vehicles, resulting in an overconcentration, or “flabbiness,” that can work against you, especially when a market downturn affects the asset class in which you’re overloaded. So, you might be better off liquidating some of your duplicate, or near-duplicate, investments, and using the proceeds to help broaden your investment mix. 
     Get proper rest – Many studies have shown that we need adequate rest to stay alert and healthy. In your life, you’ve probably already found that if you over-tax your body, you pay a price in your overall well-being. If you look at your investment portfolio as a living entity – which, in a way, it is, as it certainly provides life to your goals and aspirations – then you can see that it, too, can be weakened by stress. And one of the main stress factors is excessive trading. If you’re constantly buying and selling investments in an attempt to boost your returns, you may rack up hefty fees, commissions and taxes – and still not really get the results you wanted. Plus, if you’re frequently moving in and out of different investments, you’ll find it hard to follow a unified, long-term strategy. So, confine your trading to those moves that are really essential – and give your portfolio a rest.
     To enjoy your life fully, you’ll want to take care of your physical and financial health – and, as it turns out, you can make similar types of moves to help yourself in both areas.
     PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This article was written by Edward Jones for use by a local Edward Jones Financial Advisor – Sheila K. Smith, 220 N. Main St., Suite 2, Chiefland. Phone 352-493-4948.
 

Jobs outlook: Healthcare
captures 8 of region’s Top 10
fastest-growing occupations

By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Communications Manager
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published Jan. 2, 2018 at 3:27 p.m.
     OCALA --
Eight of the 10 fastest-growing occupations through 2025 for the CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion region are in the healthcare industry.

     All but one of the Top 10 requires formal postsecondary education or training, ranging from non-degree awards to master’s, doctoral or professional degrees. 
     According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunities’ annual release of occupation projections, the region’s fastest-growing position is nurse practitioner, with a growth rate of 39 percent and median hourly wage of $45.16. 
     Adrienne Johnston, chief of DEO’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, said that “estimating employment projections over the next eight years is necessary for our state to provide the training and resources needed to ensure Florida’s workforce is prepared to fulfill our occupational demands. 
     Nurse practitioners require a master’s, doctoral or professional degree along with psychiatrists, ranked seventh on the Top 10 list at 31 percent projected growth rate; marriage and family therapists, ranked eighth at 27.27 percent; and physical therapists, ranked ninth at 27.25 percent.
     Fence erectors, which tied with forensic science technicians for the 10th fastest-growing occupation in the region, is the only occupation on the list that does not require a formal educational credential.
     Hourly wages for the fastest-growing occupations range from $12.80 an hour for physical therapist aides – the fourth fastest-growing occupation at 34 percent – to $98.14 an hour for psychiatrists. The average median wage is $34.37 an hour.
     In addition to the fastest-growing occupations, DEO’s projections included the occupations gaining the most new jobs, led by Retail salespersons, adding 788 positions region wide, followed by fast food workers (food preparation and serving) with 745 new jobs, Registered Nurses adding 557, customer service representatives with 479, and nursing assistants with 424.
     Rounding out the top 10 are secretaries other than legal, medical and executive (+406); construction workers (+387); receptionists and information clerks (+353); landscaping and grounds keeping (+351); and general office clerks (+316) 
     Three positions do not require a credential, three require a high school diploma, three require a postsecondary non-degree award and one requires an Associate’s degree. The median hourly wages range from $9.38 an hour for fast food workers to $29.12 an hour for RNs. The average median wage is $13.66 an hour.
     Rusty Skinner, CareerSource CLM’s chief executive officer, said that one takeaway from the latest projections is that for both the fastest-growing occupations and those gaining the most new jobs, compensation is commensurate with training or education.
     “It’s a drum we’ve been beating for years; it’s clear you don’t need a four-year, liberal arts degree to succeed, but it’s also clear that greater career opportunity and better wages go hand-in-hand with the right kind of postsecondary training needed for the position,” he said.
     Here’s how the average median wages stack up at each education level among the Top 10 fastest-growing occupations and those gaining the most new jobs:
     ● No formal education:  $11.76 among the fastest-growing and $10.32 among the top 10 gaining the most new jobs
     ● High school: $14.63 and $12.78 respectively
     ● Postsecondary non-degree awards: $19.75 and $14.18
     ● Associate’s degree: $23.58 and $28.25
     ● Bachelor’s degree $34.16 and $28.99
     ● Master’s, doctoral or professional degree: $36.74 and $47.30
     Skinner said that DEO’s occupation projections also help CareerSource CLM and its affiliate Talent Center at the College of Central Florida hone in on the  workforce needs of in-demand industries by assisting businesses recruit and hire candidates and train and retain staff. At the same time, training assistance is available for candidates interested in targeted occupations.
     “Right now, the economic drivers for our communities are healthcare, transportation and logistics, IT, manufacturing and construction,” he said. “We have myriad programs that help businesses meet their needs, including On-the-Job Training grants, paid adult internships, work experience trainee programs, and custom business training opportunities.”
     The new projections were calculated using the “separation method” which differentiates between those leaving the labor force entirely and those who are permanently leaving an occupation to enter a new field.
     DEO’s Johnston said that the old method of projecting openings undercounted the total jobs in an occupation because it was based exclusively on those exiting the labor force.
     Johnston noted that the old method also required 10 years of data to produce estimates. 
     “It was indirect at best … and slow in responding to changes,” she said, adding that the new method used for the 2017-2025 outlook is regression-based and “statistically more robust because it incorporates demographic variables and other employment projections data.”
     The Top 10 fastest-growing occupations overall currently employ 1,609 positions and are projected to add 1,486 job openings by 2025. However, due to the churn of the labor market and other variables captured by the new methodology, DEO projects 2,118 employed in the fastest-growing occupations in eight years. That results in a 32-percent average growth rate for the Top 10 fastest-growing occupations.
     The Top 10 occupations gaining the most new jobs is projected to add more than 7,000 positions for a total of 41,346 job openings in eight years. Again, due to variables of the labor market, employment is projected at 39,144 positions by 2025, up from 34,338 (+14 percent average growth rate).


North Florida Pasture
Management School scheduled

Two days for $50, lunch & more included
Information by UF/IFAS Levy County Extension
Published Dec. 31, 2017 at 8:37 a.m.
     BRONSON --
Anyone interested in pasture management is invited to the North Florida Pasture Management School at the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Bronson.
     The school will be held 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 18, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Jan. 19.
     The cost for the two-day school is $50, which includes lunch for both days, as well as break refreshments, notebooks and learning materials.
Topics Include
     ● Forage Diseases
     ● Soils
     ● Fertilization
     ● Climate effects
     ● Varieties of pastures
     ● Measuring forage quantity and quality
     ● Poisonous pasture plants
     ● Weed management
     ● Pasture insect control
     Field trips will be taken to see real world application.
     Four Pesticide CEU's have been requested.
     This program is sponsored by North Florida Livestock Agents Group and Dow AgroSciences.
     Registration and payment can be made on Eventbrite at by clicking HERE.
     Anyone who would like to learn more about the speakers or who has questions is asked to call Levy County Extension Director Ed Jennings at the UF/IFAS Levy County Extension Office at 352-486-5131.
 

Duke Energy Florida seeks
rate hike for storm cost recovery
for Hurricane Irma;

Residential customers would see a $5.20
monthly increase per 1,000 kWh
of electricity, assuming 3-year period

Published Dec. 28, 2017 at 5:27 p.m.
     ST. PETERSBURG --
Duke Energy Florida today filed a petition with the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) to recover from customers an estimated $381 million in costs associated with the company's response to September's Hurricane Irma in Florida.

     In addition, the company is seeking to recover $132 million to replenish its storm reserve fund for use in responding to future storms. The company depleted the remaining $62 million in the reserve fund as part of its Hurricane Irma storm response.
     Based on updated estimates, residential customers will see an increase of $5.20 per 1,000 kWh of electricity on a typical monthly bill, assuming a three-year recovery period.
     Commercial and industrial customers will see an increase of approximately 2.5 to 6.6 percent, though bills will vary depending on a number of factors.
     Spreading the recovery over a three-year period will help reduce the monthly impact to customers.
     Under the current settlement agreement, the company is authorized to begin recovering both the storm impact and reserve replenishment 60 days after filing a petition with the FPSC.
     The FPSC will review the proposed initial storm cost recovery surcharge within 60 days.
     The charge will become effective with the first billing cycle for March 2018 and will continue through February 2021. The FPSC will then schedule a hearing process to review the final actual costs and adjust the billing rate if necessary. This will occur later in 2018.
     "This past hurricane season impacted Florida significantly, from damaging homes and infrastructure to affecting agriculture and tourism. Duke Energy Florida understands the impact this filing has on both our residential and business customers," Duke Energy Florida State President Harry Sideris said. "We will continue making smart investments to significantly enhance service reliability throughout the year, including during storm season."
     Irma was a historic hurricane which caused widespread, devastating damage across the Southeast region. However, utilities united and battled back with an unprecedented response.
     Duke Energy crews and contractors traveled to Florida from as far as Canada to get 1.3 million customers restored as quickly and safely as possible.
     In Florida, more than 12,000 line and field workers replaced approximately 1,800 distribution poles, 140 transmission poles and 1,100 transformers.
     Duke Energy restored power to more than 75 percent of customers in just three days and 99 percent within eight days.
Duke Energy Florida
     Duke Energy Florida owns and operates a diverse generation mix, including renewables, providing about 8,800 megawatts of owned electric capacity to approximately 1.8 million customers in a 13,000-square-mile service area.
     With its Florida regional headquarters located in St. Petersburg, Duke Energy is one of the largest electric power holding companies in the United States.
     Its Electric Utilities and Infrastructure business unit serves approximately 7.5 million customers located in six states in the Southeast and Midwest. The company's Gas Utilities and Infrastructure business unit distributes natural gas to approximately 1.6 million customers in the Carolinas, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Its Commercial Renewables business unit operates a growing renewable energy portfolio across the United States.
     Duke Energy is a Fortune 125 investor-owned utility company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available at duke-energy.com.


Region’s November
jobless rate edges up slightly;

Ocala metro posts state’s
2nd fastest growth rate in
education and health services


By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC,
Communications Manager, CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published Dec. 22, 2017 at 2:37 p.m.
     OCALA –
The unemployment rate for November in the CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion region edged up 0.4 percentage point over the month to 4.6 percent, after two months of holding steady.

     The rate was 1.3 percentage points lower than the region’s rate of a year ago.
     According to today’s release of the preliminary jobs report by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the region’s labor force grew over the year by 185 to 198,788 and there were 9,151 unemployed, an increase of 788 over the month but a drop of 2,602 compared to the previous year.
     Levy County continued to hold the lowest unemployment rate in the region at 4.0 percent, followed by Marion County at 4.4 percent and Citrus County at 5.3 percent. The state’s not seasonally adjusted rate rose slightly to 3.8 percent and the national rate held at 3.9 percent.
     In November, nonfarm employment in the Ocala metropolitan statistical area was 104,900, an increase of 1,300 jobs (1.3 percent) over the year.
     Kathleen Woodring, CareerSource CLM’s executive vice president, said, “At first glance, we may be tempted to say there’s not much good news in Santa’s bag with this report. But maybe we need a visit from the Ghost of Christmas (Jobs Reports) Past to put this in perspective.”
     Woodring noted that, each November’s report for the last five years shows a similar pattern – slight increases in the unemployment rate over the month coupled with drops in both the number of unemployed and the size of the labor force.
     “It’s true, at this time of year, we might expect seasonal hires to have a greater impact, but the best measure of how we’re doing is to see where we were in November 2016 when the unemployment rate was 5.9 percent,” she said, noting that over the year, the number of those with jobs in the region has increased by 2,787,  the number of unemployed has dropped by 2,602 and the labor force has expanded by 185.
     Levy County continued to hold the lowest unemployment rate at 3.6 percent, 0.1 percentage point lower than the previous month; followed by Marion County at 4.0 percent, also down 0.1 percent. Citrus County’s rate held at 4.9 percent.
     DEO’s preliminary data shows marginal increases in the number of unemployed combined with a larger drop in the number of those with jobs which led to contraction of the labor force across the board.
     Last month, Citrus County's labor force shrank by 52 – a much smaller drop than the 1,106 reported in October – to 46,937, the number of employed decreased by 254 to 44,441 and the number of those without jobs rose by 207 to 2,496. That is 690 fewer unemployed and nearly 100 more than in November 2016 when the jobless rate was 6.7 percent.
     Levy County's labor force decreased by 141 to 16,794, the number of employed dropped by 197 to 16,128 and the number of unemployed increased by 56 to 666. That’s 275 fewer unemployed than a year ago when the jobless rate was 5.2 percent. That is 194 fewer unemployed than the previous year when the rate was 5.1 percent.
     Marion County saw its labor force fall by 288 to 135,057, the number of employed decreased by 813 to 129,068 and the number of jobless rose by 525 to 5,989. Compared to November 2016 when the jobless rate was 5.8 percent, the labor force has expanded by 720, the number of employed increased by 2,458 and the number of unemployed dropped by 1,738.
     Among the counties, Citrus County held the third highest unemployment rate; Marion County continued to hold the 13th highest, tied again with Dixie and Holmes counties; and Levy County tied with four other counties for the 25th highest rate. 
     The Homosassa Springs metropolitan statistical area (Citrus County) continued to hold the  highest unemployment rate among Florida’s metros, followed by The Villages MSA, while the Ocala MSA held at the sixth highest. 
     The Ocala MSA had the second fastest annual job growth rate, compared to all the metro areas in the state, in education and health services which gained 1,000 jobs over the year for a growth rate of 5.4 percent.
     Other industries gaining jobs over the year were mining, logging and construction (+300 jobs); manufacturing (+300 jobs); professional and business services (+100 jobs); and “other” services (+100 jobs).
     Trade, transportation and utilities lost 400 jobs over the year, and the information industry lost 100 jobs.
     Financial activities, leisure and hospitality, and government industries were unchanged.
     In November, nonagricultural employment in the Homosassa Springs MSA was 33,400, a decrease of 100 jobs (-0.3 percent) over the year.
     The region’s employment summary for December is scheduled to be released on Jan. 19.


Marion County Fire Rescue
Paid Training Academy
ignites career opportunities;

Recruiting event set for Jan. 10 in Ocala,
classes begin in March  

By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC,
Communications Manager, CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published Dec. 21, 2017 at 10:37 p.m.
     OCALA –
Marion County Fire Rescue and the Marion County Board of County Commissioners are reigniting the Non-Certified Fire Academy, to fill 45 Firefighter, Paramedic and Emergency Medical Technician positions.

   In collaboration with CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion, Marion Technical College and the Florida State Fire College, the program includes 22-weeks of paid training and guaranteed employment with MCFR upon certification. It is geared primarily for those with roots in Marion County but is open to candidates from Citrus and Levy counties as well.

     A recruiting event will take place Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the College of Central Florida’s Webber Conference Center, 3001 SW College Road, in Ocala. Informational sessions will be held every 30 minutes.
     MCFR is a department of the Marion County Board of County Commissioners and is the second largest fire rescue department north of Orlando with more than 500 employees and volunteers housed in 31 fire stations. The department's full-time state certified firefighter/paramedics, firefighter/EMTs, EMTs and paramedics serve more than 300,000 citizens, cover 1,600 square miles (which is larger than the state of Rhode Island) and respond to an average of 210 emergencies a day.
     MCFR Fire Chief James Banta, who is leading the program, said that by earning a paycheck while completing requirements, the program affords those interested in first-responder careers the opportunity to “follow their dream.”
     Banta said the department experienced a high retention rate with its original graduates, adding that the academy results in “well-trained future firefighters who see Marion County and our surrounding communities as their home and want to give back to their fellow citizens.”
     In addition to Florida Firefighter 1 and 2 and EMT certifications, training includes the Emergency Vehicle Operators Course (EVOC) and Paramedic certification. All costs of training are covered.
     Eligible trainee candidates must be US citizens at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, speak and read English and have a valid Florida driver’s license. MCFR conducts drug and criminal background checks. Also, applicants must have abstained from tobacco use for at least 12 prior months and may not use tobacco products during employment with the department.
     Complete eligibility and program details can be found by clicking HERE. For more information about the program, call 352-291-8020.
     Information about the Jan. 10 recruiting event can be found on CareerSource CLM’s calendar of events or by calling 800-434-JOBS, ext. 1115.


RV park gets green lights

Jose Martin Morales (at right) speaks to the County Commission. County Commission Vice Chairman Mike Joyner is at the left and County Clerk Danny Shipp is in the middle of this photo.

Story and Photo
By Jeff M. Hardison © Dec. 20, 2017 at 9:47 a.m.
     BRONSON --
In three sets of unanimous approvals, the Levy County Commission on Tuesday morning (Dec. 19) helped Jose Martin Morales move forward on a project to develop a total of 178 acres east of Williston into an RV park.

     Levy County Planning Director Shenley Neely guided the County Commission through the required process on Tuesday.
     There will be 683 units at buildout, and there are many amenities planned for the resort as well. Unlike a developer seeking to create an RV resort in the city limits of Chiefland, Morales is not asking to change any rules limiting a stay to more than 180 days. Likewise, in the plan for this RV resort, there is no request for "park models" or permanent RVs.
     The first request that scored a 5-0 vote of approval, on a motion by County Commissioner Mike Joyner, seconded by Commissioner Lilly Rooks and with Chairman John Meeks, and Commissioners Matt Brooks and Rock Meeks also voted in favor of it, was an amendment to the Levy County Comprehensive Plan to change 62 acres from Urban Low Density to Commercial.
     A request for a required rezoning was unanimously approved on a motion by Commissioner Brooks, seconded by Commissioner Rock Meeks.
     Once the rezoning was completed, a special exception needed to be approved on 178 acres to allow the RV park. That 5-0 vote resulted on a Rooks-Joyner motion.
     Among the many conditions for approval, a requirement for the City of Williston to provide water and sewer service was noted. Williston City Manager Scott Lippmann, at the direction of the Williston City Council, had provided Levy County with a letter affirming the city's intention to provide that utility service to this RV park, even though it is outside of the city. While it is beyond the city's limits, it is still within the Williston Municipal Service Area.
     Commission Vice Chairman Joyner told Morales that on behalf of the Board of County Commissioners he appreciates the developer choosing Levy County.

     Morales said he is thankful to the County Commission for its assistance in the progression on the project, and that he looks forward to bringing the RV park and resort to fruition.


Holly McGlashan named
CF Levy Campus provost


Holly McGlashan is seen here opening the recent GED graduation ceremony at the College of Central Florida Jack Wilkinson Levy Campus.

Photo by Jeff M. Hardison © Dec. 19, 2017 at 2:37 p.m.

For a printable copy of the CF GED graduation story and photos, please click HERE.

Published Dec. 19, 2017 at 2:17 p.m.
     OCALA --
Holly McGlashan has been named provost of the College of Central Florida Jack Wilkinson Levy Campus effective Jan. 16.

    “We are pleased to share that Holly McGlashan will continue to serve Levy County as the new provost of the Levy Campus,” said Dr. Vernon Lawter, vice president of Regional Campuses. “Holly has worked directly with students and the community for many years and helped transition CF from the Levy Center to our new Levy Campus. She is well qualified for this position. It’s also satisfying when we are able to promote from within our ranks at the college.”
     McGlashan has served CF since 2010, most recently as campus manager at the Jack Wilkinson Levy Campus. She has served as the director of Adult Education since 2012. Prior to her position as campus manager, she was manager of Instructional Services at the Levy Campus. She continues to teach credit and noncredit courses. Previous experience includes a career as a behavioral therapist and case manager in Lake City and Gainesville. 
     She has a Bachelor of Science in Sociology from Florida Southern College, a Master of Science in Sociology with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy from Valdosta State University, and is currently a doctoral candidate in Higher Education Administration at the University of Florida.
     McGlashan is a member of the Suwannee Valley Rotary Club, Chiefland Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the Haven Hospice Community Advisory Board.
     McGlashan's predecessor and colleague is Dr. Rayanne Giddis.
     Dr. Giddis served as the provost for Jack Wilkinson Levy Center College of Central Florida, and as the Levy Center provost before that from March of 2016 until Jan. 16. Giddis was the Dean of CF Academic Foundations from November of 2009 until Feb. 2016.
     Giddis was the director of the CF Levy Center from May of 1998 until November of 2009 as well.
     Prior to that, she was a graduate research assistant at the University of Florida from March of 1996 until April of 1998. Giddis earned her doctorate in higher education from UF from 1996 to 2003.
     To learn about the CF Levy Campus, visit www.CF.edu/Levy.


CF closed for winter break
     OCALA -- All College of Central Florida campuses and centers will be closed for winter break starting tomorrow (Wednesday, Dec. 20) through Monday, Jan. 1.
     Some CF services will have limited hours during the break.
     CF Post Office and Print Shop at the Ocala Campus will be open Dec. 20-22 and 26-29 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
     The Ocala Campus Bookstore will be open Dec. 20-22 and 27-29, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
     The Citrus Campus Bookstore will be open Dec. 27-29, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
     The college will re-open Tuesday, Jan. 2. Spring 2017 classes begin Monday, Jan. 8.
     For more information, call the Ocala Campus at 352-873-5800, Citrus Campus at 352-746-6721, or Levy Campus at 352-658-4077.


Phoenix Rising now recruiting
candidates for
next YouthBuild project

Published Dec. 16, 2017 at 7:37 a.m.
     OCALA –
Phoenix Rising YouthBuild will begin its seventh YouthBuild project in January and is currently recruiting deserving young adults to take part in the award-winning program.

     Phoenix Rising helps revitalize economically-challenged areas of Marion County while making a positive difference in the lives of young adults, age 18-24. The ideal candidate is in need of a high school diploma or GED and is willing to work.
     Through Phoenix Rising, income-eligible participants receive hands-on and classroom training designed to develop workforce skills that lead to employment. A key feature of the program involves construction of Habitat for Humanity homes for deserving families in West Ocala. Additionally, participants may earn their high school diploma or GED as well as industry-recognized certifications while receiving weekly participation payments.
     Spearheaded in 2010 by then Ocala Police Chief Sam Williams and the Ocala Police Department, Phoenix Rising partners include Habitat for Humanity of Marion County, the City of Ocala, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Marion County Board of County Commissioners, Neighborhood Housing and Development Corporation, Florida State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP), Equal Housing Opportunity and CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion and its youth services provide, Eckerd Connects Workforce Development. 
     Brian Conard, Eckerd area manager, said that participants need to be vetted by the first week in January. Classroom work begins Jan. 26, and construction on the Habitat home is set for Feb. 5.
     Major funding for the program comes from an $806,000 grant from the US Department of Labor obtained by CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion.
     Phoenix Rising YouthBuild has become a national model of what communities can build when public/private partners work together. It has earned recognition from the Florida League of Cities, National League of Cities, Harvard's School of Business, and last spring received Habitat for Humanity International's highest honor, the Clarence E. Jordan Award for creativity and innovation in building homes and communities.
     For more information, call 352-291-9550, ext. 2293.


Investing program
sandwiched in holiday party


Financial Advisor Sheila Smith (left) and Administrative Assistant Janet Minor pause for a photo opportunity after the informational program Thursday night (Dec. 14).

Story and Photo
By Jeff M. Hardison © Dec. 16, 2017 at 6:57 a.m.
     CHIEFLAND --
Sheila Smith, a financial advisor with Edward Jones at the Chiefland office of this institution, hosted an investing informational program that was sandwiched in a holiday party format Thursday evening.

     Her husband Chris Jones helped as did Administrative Assistant Janet Minor.
     Held at a restaurant in Chiefland, the event included about 40 guests who enjoyed a chicken, beef or eggplant main entrée, as well as salad, various desserts and drink. The area of the restaurant said aside for the program was festively decorated for the Christmas holiday period. There were door prizes randomly awarded to people who had placed their names in a drawing for the prizes, and some of those prizes included gift bags, and the attractive centerpieces from the tables.
     Sheila’s and Chris’ son Jake Smith, one of six of the Smith couple’s children, heralded this as his first paid gig as a musician. Jake Smith, a Bell High School student is the lead guitar player and lead male vocalist with the band named Musical Slaughter.
     Joining Jake Smith from that band as this duo opened the festive event with music was Musical Slaughter drummer, bass guitar player and backup male vocalist Robert Mummaw – who sang and played on his drum set.
     The two young gentlemen performed Christmas music before the presentation of information about investing in mutual funds was provided.
     The whole band could not fit in the dining area, but other members of Musical Slaughter are lead female vocalist Morrigan Pinkston, and on keyboard -- Ty D'mont. All of the students are in the Bell High School Band.
     Some members of the Turning Point Church of Chiefland mentioned before the start of the investment informational program that they have seen these two young men perform at their church as well.
     As for the investment information, Financial Advisor Sheila Smith introduced her guest speaker Tom O’Neal of American Funds from Capital Group, who provided an insightful program titled “Disciplined investing in a changing world.”
     O’Neal of Ponte Vedra has in excess of 25 years in the profession of investment advising. He and his wife have five children.
     He told the audience how investing by Americans has resulted in corporations having capital to keep those business interests growing and progressing. As part of the program, he spoke about products and services that result from investors providing compaies with capital for growth.
     O’Neal showed that figures of past results in investment are not predictive of the future, as well as how investing money with a diversified portfolio can be a good general rule to consider. Using facts and truth rather than emotional reaction is also a good rule of thumb while investing, he said.
     One investment firm that started in 1931 has grown into a company that has $1.7 trillion under its management, and as one result from this large and diversified set of investments under its management that company has relatively lower fees.
     That company conducts extensive research and has shown consistently superior long-term results for investors.
     The informational program was very insightful for potential investors. Sheila Smith was a gracious host for the two score or so people invited to this program.
     During the question and answer period, O’Neal was able to provide general information to people about investing and to remind them that Financial Advisor Sheila Smith at the Edward Jones office in Chiefland is an excellent person to schedule an appointment with for more specific counseling on particular investment questions, because every person will have different goals for the money they can put into investing.


2018 Agricultural Land
Conservation Easement signup;

Application deadline is Feb. 16
By Renee Bodine, NRCS
Public Affairs Florida
Published Dec. 14, 2017 at 8:07 a.m.
     GAINESVILLE --
Applications to fund agricultural easements in Florida are being accepted until Feb. 16.

     The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides financial and technical assistance to conserve working lands and wetlands through two programs: Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) and Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE).
     Although applications are accepted on a continuous basis, funding selections are typically made once a year.
     Agricultural landowners and Indian tribes can apply for a Wetland Reserve Easement to restore wetlands, protect wildlife habitat and recharge groundwater on their property. Eligible landowners can enroll in a permanent or 30-year easement.
     NRCS provides financial assistance to conservation partners for purchasing an Agricultural Land Easement that protects the agricultural use of cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland and nonindustrial private forestland.
     Applications are available online by clicking HERE.
     For wetland easements, contact Crenel Francis, 352-338-9508 for questions and submissions. Contact Nina Bhattacharyya, 352-338-9554 for questions and submissions about agricultural land easements.


Duke Energy Florida expands
solar in the Sunshine State
with completion of facility
in Suwannee County


Providing customers with carbon-free energy from nearly 9-megawatt solar power plant on 70 acres in Suwannee County, the investor-owned utility company plans to develop up to 700 megawatts of solar by 2021.

Information and Photo Provided
By Duke Energy Florida
Published Dec. 12, 2017 at 11:47 a.m.
      ST. PETERSBURG --
Duke Energy Florida customers are now benefiting from an additional 8.8 megawatts (MW) of solar, a carbon-free renewable resource in the Sunshine State.

      The company's newest solar power plant contains nearly 44,000 solar panels on 70 acres in Suwannee County.
Elected officials and community leaders will join Duke Energy at a commemorative ribbon cutting and solar panel signing ceremony on Dec. 14 at 10 a.m. to celebrate the opening. The facility is located at 4020 River Road, Live Oak, Fla., just east of the existing Suwannee power plant.
      "We are proud of our newest solar power plant and excited about our future solar development in Florida," said Harry Sideris, Duke Energy Florida state president. "In the next four years, we will be adding up to 700 MW of new solar generation as part of our ongoing strategy to offer cleaner, smarter energy solutions that customers value in the Sunshine State."
      Duke Energy Florida's Suwannee Solar Facility began operating in November. Solar projects enable the company to efficiently bring the greatest amount of renewable energy online for customers in the most economical way.
      The company retired three natural gas units at the Suwannee power plant December of 2016. Originally the units, built in the early 1950s, were oil-fired. The steam units were converted to run on natural gas and generated 129 MW. Three other 1980s era clean-burning, natural gas units, capable of generating 155 MW, remain in operation on the plant site as part of the system that supplies extra energy when demand from customers is the greatest.
~
Plans to build additional solar
      A settlement agreement approved by the Florida Public Service Commission will allow the company to add up to 700 (MW) of cost-effective solar over the next four years, accelerating the company's previous 10-year solar installation plan. The company plans to begin construction of its sixth Florida solar power plant to be located in Hamilton County in 2018. The plant will have approximately 300,000 solar panels and will be built on nearly 550 acres of land in Jasper.
      The 74.9-MW Hamilton Solar Plant will produce clean, emissions-free energy, which will be enough to power more than 20,000 homes at peak production.
~
Duke Energy Florida
     Duke Energy Florida owns and operates a diverse generation mix, including renewables, providing about 8,800 MW of owned electric capacity to approximately 1.8 million customers in a 13,000-square-mile service area.
     With its Florida regional headquarters located in St. Petersburg, Duke Energy is one of the largest electric power holding companies in the United States. Its Electric Utilities and Infrastructure business unit serves approximately 7.5 million customers located in six states in the Southeast and Midwest.
     The company's Gas Utilities and Infrastructure business unit distributes natural gas to approximately 1.6 million customers in the Carolinas, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Its Commercial Renewables business unit operates a growing renewable energy portfolio across the United States.
      Duke Energy is a Fortune 125 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available at duke-energy.com.

--UPDATED--
TUESDAY   Jan. 16   9:57 a.m.
Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties



 
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