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Sales tax holiday
set for May 29 - June 4
Graphic By Florida Department of Revenue
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 11, 2020 at 3:10 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Revenue recently announced that it has scheduled a Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday from May 29 through June 4, when qualifying items will be exempt from sales tax.
These sales tax exempt items include:
● A reusable ice pack selling for $10 or less.
● A portable self-powered light source selling for $20 or less.
● A portable self-powered radio, two-way radio, or weather-band radio selling for $50 or less.
● A tarpaulin or other flexible waterproof sheeting selling for $50 or less.
● An item normally sold as, or generally advertised as, a ground anchor system or tie-down kit selling for $50 or less.
● A gas or diesel fuel tank selling for $25 or less.
● A package of AA-cell, AAA-cell, C-cell, D-cell, 6-volt, or 9-volt batteries, excluding automobile and boat batteries, selling for $30 or less.
● A nonelectric food storage cooler selling for $30 or less.
● A portable generator used to provide light or communications or preserve food in the event of a power outage selling for $750 or less.
For more information about this event, please see the Tax Information Publication by clicking HERE.
Also, people who have questions about the Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday or other tax questions, are asked to please call the Florida Department of Revenue Taxpayer Services at 850-488-6800.
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2,252 Fla. deaths from COVID-19;
51,746 Positive Cases In Florida;
879 New Positive Fla. Cases In 24 Hours
2 New Positive Levy County Cases
2 New Positive Dixie County Cases
and 1 New Positive Gilchrist County Case
5 New Tri-County Area Cases
Levy County - 29 cases, 0 deaths
Dixie County - 43 cases, 1 death
Gilchrist County - 12 cases, 0 deaths
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 25, 2020 at 12:10 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE — As of approximately 12 p.m. on Monday (May 25), the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) said that 2,252 individuals’ deaths in Florida are being credited to resulting from symptoms caused by COVID-19 since January.
The FDOH reported were 51,746 cases of COVID-19 in Florida since the department began counting. That is an increase of 879 new cases within the past 24 hours in Florida. (Two new active cases in Levy County, two new active cases in Dixie County and one new active case in Gilchrist County reported in the past 24 hours.)
One indicator of the potentially fatal virus, is a numeric measure from the FDOH, which shows the following – according to the FDOH Dashboard. (Only FDOH reports from the Tallahassee office are the source below, due to conflicting numbers reported from other sources.):
Levy – 29 positive, 0 deaths
Dixie – 43 positive, 1 death
Gilchrist – 12 positive, 0 deaths
The FDOH Dashboard usually is updated once daily.
COVID-19 can be transmitted by people who show no symptoms.
The best method to reduce the odds of infection and the subsequent symptoms of serious illness and even death is to limit contact with other humans.
To find the most updated information and guidance on COVID-19, please visit the FDOH’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage by clicking HERE.
For information and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), please visit the CDC COVID-19 website by clicking HERE.
For answers to any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, please contact the FDOH’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-866-779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours per day. Inquiries also may be emailed to COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org.
Vacation rentals approved
to open in Levy County today;
Bar owner says why she wants to reopen
Graphic Provided By Levy County Commission Chairman Matt Brooks
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 20, 2020 at 4:10 p.m.
BRONSON – The Tuesday morning (May 19) meeting of the Levy County Board of County Commissioners was not able to be heard much for people calling in to listen via the teleconference version.
Nevertheless, follow-up research shows today there is some happy news, even if not every businessowner is back in business.
County Commission Chairman Matt Brooks in a Wednesday afternoon (May 20) telephone interview said the County Commission appreciates Gov. DeSantis approving the county’s plan to open up vacation rental properties that people own in various parts of Levy County.
“We sent our plan in on Friday (May 15),” Chairman Brooks said, “and it was approved on Wednesday (today, May 20). See, sometimes the government does move fast.”
In addition to the phone call, Chairman Brooks sent an email noting “It is with great pride I get to deliver the news of being OPEN FOR BUSINESS! In record time, the State Department of Business and Profession Regulation, under the leadership of Halsey Beshears and our Governor Ron DeSantis has now given the stamp of approval on our county vacation rentals. THANK YOU” THANK YOU!
“I want to especially thank my fellow County Commissioners for continuing the fight daily to open all businesses in our county,” Brooks added. “I am so proud to serve with these folks that have such a passion and drive to make our county the best it can be.
John Meeks, Mike Joyner, Lilly Rooks and Rock Meeks. Thank you so much for serving and supporting this great county and these efforts!
“Thank you to our Emergency Operation Center (Emergency Management) team, Levy Tourism Team and to the Vacation Rental Owners that have been making contacts and providing support as well,” Brooks added. “And thank you to our state representatives for getting on calls and having our back in this drive to reopen to recover!
“We are almost there folks!” Brooks noted “Let's keep it up! Be safe and have a great holiday weekend everybody! We must still abide by the CDC guidelines, practice social distancing and remain in groups no larger than 10.”
Beyond the success with vacation rentals being opened in Levy County now, the county does want all business owners who remain partially or completely closed, he added, to be able to resume their opportunity to get a revenue stream flowing through their enterprises now.
One industry that remains closed in Florida is bars.
There are not many bars in Levy County.
One bar owner in Levy County is Judi Yaeger, the owner of The Junction Tavern of Williston. Yaeger is well-known for her community support – including several years of service on the Levy County Fair Association Board of Directors.
Before the Tuesday meeting of the County Commission, Yaeger sent Chairman Brooks, who is also from Williston, an email to express her opinion about Gov. DeSantis’ keeping bars closed in Florida to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The chairman read the email during the meeting, and there were other people at the meeting who shared their dismay about owning bars and rental property that have seen zero income since mid-March.
Brooks said during the times when he visited The Junction Tavern, he saw it as being more like an AmVets’ post kind of bar. He saw retirees and veterans. The Junction Tavern, he said, is not like the nightclubs of South Florida that are attracting 300 patrons a night.
Brooks said he believes there are many regular patrons of The Junction Tavern who want to help that business owner to keep her establishment going.
In Yaeger’s letter she noted her appreciation to the County Commission for its continued efforts to reopen Levy County.
“A few weeks ago, I received your plans that was in Phases with guidelines,” she wrote. “I, for one, thought it was an answer to my prayers. Apparently, our Governor did not agree, and instead of allowing our Local Government to set a plan in action, he choice to make the choices for us, which I do not agree with. We have small numbers compared to other Counties, although he is making decisions based on the entire state!”
She went on to note that she has owned The Junction Tavern, which is a small beer and wine bar in the City of Williston for the past 21 years. She noted that she is a businesswoman trying to keep her business alive.
“I am very proud of my business,” Yaeger wrote in her email, “and it has taken a long time to earn the respect of many people in our amazing small town. I am a very active business owner and resident of Williston. I was Senior Vice President of The Levy County Fair for at least three years, received the Humanitarian Award twice from the City of Williston Police Department and conduct many, many fundraisers for individuals, and just this past year provided Christmas to 33 less fortunate children in our county.”
She noted her success in being able to help the community is thanks to the support of her customers and many others. She noted this as proof that it's not just about owning a bar.
“As of today,” Yaeger noted,” as you are all aware, bars were the first to be closed in the State of Florida on March 17. This has caused a huge hardship on myself as well as many other small businesses. Trying to keep the business afloat -- paying rent, electric, liability insurances and the list goes on besides trying to exist in my personal life.”
She added this is not to mention the unemployment issues for her employees.
“I am very aware of the seriousness of COVID-19, and I have the ability to have customers keep safe distance and take all sanitary measures to keep everyone safe. I am confused. And this is not to be taken in a negative way, because I am very happy for the small businesses who have continued to provide services to our community such as takeout food service, grocery stores, etc., but I don't understand why we (bar owners) aren't allowed that privilege.
“We don't serve food, only open bottles and serve draft,” Yaeger wrote in her email. “To me, I see that as safe if not safer than some of these large businesses who even at 25 percent capacity exceed my (total) capacity of 49 (people).”
She noted her question to Gov. DeSantis is -- Why have bars been singled out from opening, compared to all other businesses that have been opened?
“In closing I would again like to thank you for hearing my story, but I feel like my rights as a tax-paying citizen and business owner are being violated,” she noted. “I only pray that this issue can be brought to the Governor's attention and we can move forward in opening Levy County.”
City manager resigns;
City clerk gets raise
This picture taken from a live YouTube broadcast of the Williston City Council meeting on Tuesday night (May 19) in City Hall. There were some coughing heard from the audience on the audio. Seen here (from left) are City Council members Marguerite Robinson and Justin Head, Mayor Jerry Robinson, City Council members Charles Goodman, Debra Jones and Elihu Ross, and on the far right City Clerk Latricia Wright.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 19, 2020 at 10:10
WILLISTON – Williston City Manager Scott Lippmann resigned from the city, and he will vacate his office at 4 p.m. on May 29 as the result of a 3-1 vote on Tuesday afternoon (May 19).
This screen shot shows 11 people who could not hear anything from the City Council via GoToMeeting. A financial report from City Finance Officer Stephen Bloom was very well transmitted through the GoTo Meeting program. No member of the City Council is seen on this program, and no City Council member could be heard.
Lippmann said he accepted another job.
For that vote, which happened later in the meeting, City Councilman Elihu Ross was absent because he left the building. City Council President Charles Goodman, who wanted to accept the resignation immediately, was outvoted by his colleagues.
Although Lippmann’s contract calls for him giving 30 days of notice, he requested to leave sooner if possible, to help time constraints of his future employer.
Attempting to hear what was happening at the Williston City Council meeting that night via GoToMeeting proved to be an exercise in futility. About 30 minutes into that failed attempt of hearing and watching the meeting, the best method was found on YouTube – where there was a live video with good audio of the meeting.
For that part of the meeting, among the actions leading to the departure of City Manager Lippmann on May 29, was a raise for City Clerk Latricia Wright from $42,000 to $50,000 a year.
City Councilwoman Debra Jones’ motion for that raise was seconded by Councilman Elihu Ross. Also voting in favor of the raise were City Council members Marguerite Robinson Justin Head and Charles Goodman.
The 5-0 vote for an $8,000 raise during the six-month review, resulted after discussion, which included that Wright is not certified yet as a city clerk. She was hired as an interim city clerk at a rate of $47,000 annually, but the City Council cut that pay rate back to $42,000.
In other matters, Mayor Jerry Robinson led the effort to clean up derelict properties in Williston, including via foreclosure on liens for code enforcement fines.
One piece of property, formerly housing Winn-Dixie seems destined for the city moving on it through legal action to expedite its ceasing to be among the landmark eyesores of Williston.
A report on the reopening of City Hall for traffic by the public showed Goodman was upset that it was not done yet. Goodman complained because Matt Brooks did not install plexiglass yet.
Goodman said the week-plus since that purchase was approved was unacceptable. He said Brooks is not the only supplier of the material needed to complete the project.
Lippmann told Goodman that City Hall is not open yet, and it will not reopen until the employees are safe.
On another contentious matter set to be on the June 2 agenda, the city will decide if it have a 4th of July celebration.
Lippmann said he is concerned, because right now it looks like Williston is the only place in North Central Florida with a plan for fireworks.
Williston Police Chief Dennis Strow said Ocala has cancelled its Fourth of July celebration for the first time in 50 years.
He reminded the city leaders that it takes 32 WPD and other law enforcement officers to have a safe parade.
The matter was put on Agenda for discussion at the June 2 meeting. Meanwhile Clerk Wright was told to not take vendor applications or money in the meantime.
State leader objects to removal
of FDOH employee who
to manipulate COVID-19 data;
State's transparency questioned
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 19, 2020 at 9:10 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE – Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nicole “Nikki” Fried today (Tuesday, May 19) sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis that was critical of what appears to her to be a lack of transparency.
Commissioner Fried who is a member of the Florida Cabinet, noted as she has before, that she was “independently elected by the people of the great state of Florida.”
Her letter indicates COVID-19 information from the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) may be underreporting the number of people infected, hospitalized and dead from COVID-19 in Florida.
Following is most of her letter in that matter, where she is calling for answers to be given at the May 28 Cabinet meeting.
“It has come to my attention that Dr. Rebekah Jones, the state employee responsible for the DOH’s COVID-19 dashboard, was not only involuntarily removed from her position after expressing concerns about an order she received to manipulate COVID-19 data, but was fired yesterday by the agency you oversee.
“These actions undermine public trust in our government, are extraordinarily dangerous to public health, and are absolutely inconsistent with the transparency and accuracy that Floridians expect and deserve during this pandemic.
“I therefore request that Surgeon General Rivkees, Dr. Carina Blackmore, Director of the Division of Disease Control and Health Prevention, and other parties responsible for these decisions appear before the Cabinet at our next meeting on May 28, 2020 to provide more information and answer questions on this matter. I have instructed my Director of Cabinet Affairs to request that this be placed on the agenda for said Cabinet meeting.
“Our state government’s response to COVID-19 must not only be unified, but also transparent and exercised in good faith. Anything less is a disservice to the 21 million citizens we represent, Fried wrote.
JNC selects top 6 candidates for
circuit court judge appointment
By JNC Chair Norm D. Fugate
Published May 18, 2020 at 10:10 p.m.
GAINESVILLE -- The Eighth Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) has selected the top six applicants for recommendation to fill the vacant Circuit Judge seat created by the retirement of Judge James Nilon.
The interviews on Monday (May 18), resulted in the following six applicants selected: Glenn Earl Bryant; Jodie H. Cason; Katherine L. Floyd; Julie C. Johnson; Monice Perez McMillen; and George Wright.
The members of the JNC Commission are Norm D. Fugate, Chair; Brande S. Smith, Vice Chair; Ronald Bendekovic; Adam Boukari; Candice Brower; Brian Kramer; Kirsten L. Rowe; Brent Siegel; and Robert Woody.
The JNC will forward nominees, listed in alphabetical order, to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is responsible to choose the person to fill the vacancy.
The Eighth Judicial Circuit includes Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union counties.
Murder suspect returned
to Gilchrist County Jail
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 18, 2020 at 5:10 p.m.
TRENTON -- A man suspected of killing an uncle and his nephew in Bell on Nov. 5, 2015, has been returned to the Gilchrist County Jail, according to records.
Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney William Cervone announced on April 28, 2017 that a man suspected of a double homicide was indicted by the Grand Jury, according to a media release from Cervone's office three years ago.
Back in 2017, the Gilchrist County Spring Term Grand Jury returned a true bill indicting Phillip David Wheeler, now 40.
Pursuant to a joint investigation conducted by the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Wheeler was indicted for first degree murder for the unlawful shooting death of Kevin Lawrence Staley, and first degree murder for the unlawful shooting death of Kevin Justice Staley, and for armed burglary that happened on Nov. 5, 2015.
Those crimes happened in Bell (Gilchrist County), according to records.
The finding of a true bill means that the defendant will now be arraigned and will face trial at a later date, Cervone said three years ago. Gilchrist County Court Judge Sheree H. Lancaster ordered that Wheeler remain in custody -- held with no bond back then.
Since that time, Wheeler was in the Florida Department of Corrections as an inmate serving time after conviction for other crime.
All 20 circuits in Florida are facing challenges with conducting trials due to a need to not spread COVID-19. Wheeler faces a maximum penalty of death by execution if he is convicted of premeditated first-degree murder, and if the State Attorney’s Office chooses to seek that penalty.
Seating 12 jurors and two alternate jurors for a capital trial presents a challenge, because of the number of people who must be called to find those qualified jurors for that trial. It is a logistical challenge to keep all potential jurors, as well as judicial and law enforcement staff members, and the general public, safe from exposure to COVID-19 in any courtroom.
As a result of health hazards and the subsequent ruling by the Florida Supreme Court there is a suspension of jury trials in Florida until July 2 currently, and even that date may be extended further into the future, according to records.
Many court proceedings and action are able to be accomplished despite the limits needed for safety. Video conferencing, email and other methods are being used now.
Dixie County and Gilchrist County COVID-19 testing available via drive-through
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 18, 2020 at 2:10 p.m.
TRI-COUNTY AREA – Now that Levy County has wrapped up its four days of free COVID-19 drive-through testing by the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) today (Monday, May 18 from 9 a.m. to noon) in Yankeetown, Dixie County is ready to start tomorrow (May 19) and Wednesday, according to information provided by FDOH Tri-County Unit Administrator Barbara Locke.
The test times and places in Dixie County are listed below:
Tuesday, May 19
3-6 p.m. -- Old Town United Methodist Church (on the east side of U.S. Highway 19, just north of the traffic light)
Wednesday, May 20
9 a.m.-12 p.m. – The former Dixie County High School in Cross City (on the east side of U.S. Highway 19, just north of McDonald’s)
Next Tuesday and Wednesday (May 26 and 27), Gilchrist County is the scene for the FDOH’s free, drive-through testing.
The test times and places in Gilchrist County are listed below:
Tuesday, May 26
9 a.m.-12 p.m. – Trenton High School bus loop
Wednesday, May 27
3-6 p.m. – Bell High School Football Field Parking Lot
Here are details and instructions for all three counties’ drive-through testing:
● Testing will be free of charge. No appointment is required, and the testing is available to all residents 18 years or older.
● Parents or guardians with children under 18 should contact their pediatrician or the Florida Department of Health in Levy County for information about testing.
● This IS NOT an antibody or rapid test.
● Instructions for how you will receive your results will be provided at the testing sites.
● You will be requested to stay in your vehicle during the testing process.
● Please refrain from eating or drinking for approximately one hour before the test. If you must drink something, please only drink water.
● No ID is required, but you will be required to provide your name, address, contact phone number, and brief medical history.
● Signs will be posted to direct residents to the proper area.
● Wait times will vary.
● Testing dates are subject to change due to inclement weather
People who have questions about these tests are invited to contact the Florida Department of Health in Levy County at 352-486-5300.
Levy County starts
Robin Webber (left) and Jeannie Norris of the Florida Department of Health, Levy County Unit, take information and test samples on Thursday morning (May 14) in the drive-through at Chiefland Elementary School.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 14, 2020 at 2:10 p.m.
Updated May 15, 2020 at 8:10 p.m.
CHIEFLAND – The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) in Levy County started its four-day session of free drive-through testing for COVID-19 on Thursday (May 14); and Dixie and Gilchrist counties are slated to have the same opportunity available too.
Levy County Emergency Management Department Director John MacDonald starts his morning at the COVID-19 Drive-Through Test Site in Chiefland.
Bernadette Allen (left) of the FDOH Levy County Unit and Sandra Clyatt Meekins of the FDOH Dixie County Unit prepare to start their day of working as part of the whole team at the event. Other FDOH members participating that day included (but not pictured) FDOH Levy Unit Director of Nursing Elizabeth Powers, Preparedness Planner Mark Johnson, and FDOH Levy Unit staff members Tammy Lanier, Emily Lock and Kyle Roberts.
Roger Noriega of the FDOH Levy County Unit prepares to welcome people arriving at the drive-through test site. He is under a tent provided by Levy County Emergency Management.
(from left) Levy County Emergency Management Planner II Leatha Keene, County Commission Chairman Matt Brooks and Levy County Emergency Management Assistant Director David Peaton are seen at the event Thursday morning.
Some of the people arriving for free testing are attended to as they remain in vehicles.
Here is a top-down view of one of the tents at the testing site.
The layout of most of the testing area Thursday morning during a slack time shows plenty of space between stations where samples were collected. Each person was able to complete their short information forms and be tested within minutes after being seen by FDOH medical staff.
The first tests were administered at Chiefland Elementary School, in the drive-through bus pickup site next to the school on Northwest 10th Avenue.
Just as will be the procedure in the following drive-through tests, people who show no symptoms of COVID-19 will be administered the oral version of the test.
People who have COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, cough, muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea – will be administered the nasal version of the test.
The United States Department of Health reminds all people that they should seek immediate medical attention if they develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 — like trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, or bluish lips or face.
As for the test at the elementary school in Chiefland, it went smoothly as members of the FDOH were assisted in their mission by the entire staff of the Levy County Emergency Management Department – Director John MacDonald, Assistant Director David Peaton and Planner II Leatha Keene.
County Commission Chairman Matt Brooks was onsite as well to observe the procedure.
FDOH Tri-County Units Administrator Barbara Locke remained at the office to hold the fort down in Bronson. Meanwhile, FDOH Levy Unit Director of Nursing Elizabeth Powers led the team in Chiefland on Thursday (May 14).
Third satellite garbage
to open in Levy County
These photos show the future site of the third satellite solid waste transfer station in Levy County.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 13, 2020 at 3:10 p.m.
BRONSON – The third satellite solid waste transfer station is scheduled to open soon, Levy County Solid Waste Operations Administrative Director Rod Hastings said on Wednesday morning (May 13).
The itinerary shows it opening on the day after Memorial Day. If containers arrive from where they are now in Miami, then this site will open on May 26, Hastings said.
All three sites have the same three days of operating hours: Tuesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Hastings said.
Dade County is one of three Southeast Florida counties that have been the hardest hit by COVID-19, and therefore Gov. Ron DeSantis has not opened those areas for business and socialization as much as the rest of the state yet. This is why the site is not ready to open yet, Hastings said. Containers are scheduled to be delivered to Levy County soon.
The address for the third satellite solid waste transfer site is 10771 N.W. 107th Terrace, Chiefland. Like many Chiefland addresses, it is far out of the city limits. The common name for this satellite solid waste transfer station is the Manatee Location.
The first satellite Levy County Solid Waste Transfer Station to open is located at 3691 S.W. Levy County Road 347, Chiefland. The common name for this satellite station is the Eight Mile location. It is on CR 347 between the community of Fowler’s Bluff and the Levy County park and boat ramp named Shell Mound. To see a story and photo about that solid waste transfer station, click HERE. This is a print-friendly version
The second satellite Levy County Solid Waste Transfer Station is at 18771 S.E. Butler Road, Inglis. Like the other two sites, this is in the unincorporated area of Levy County rather than in a city. The common name for this satellite station is the Butler Road location.
To see the story and photo about the opening of the second satellite state, click HERE. This is a print-friendly version.
Levy County Commission Chairman Matt Brooks is the county commissioner who serves as the liaison for the Solid Waste Department. Levy County Solid Waste Operations Administrative Director Hastings is joined by Solid Waste Operations Director Benny Jerrels as a leader in that county department.
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123rd Set Of Jingle Performers
The newest set of performers of the HardisonInk.com jingle seen here is a replay. Dotti Leichner (left) and Krista Campbell (playing an autographed guitar) sing the jingle. This is one of Krista's two original versions, which is much more complex than the standard jingle. In this one, Krista and Dotti sang in the Dixie Music Center (DMC) on Sept. 7, 2018. The DMC closed when Bob and Dotti Leichner retired from their retail business. Dotti, Bob and Krista still perform. Dotti is active in the fine arts as well as the performing arts. Everyone is invited to sing the HardisonInk.com jingle. If you see Jeff Hardison and you want to sing the jingle, just let him know or send an email to email@example.com. He asks people to sing the jingle, and some of them agree to sing it. (Thanks people!)
Published May 11, 2020 @ 4:10 p.m.
© Video by Jeff M. Hardison, All Rights Reserved