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Rep. Chuck Clemons and
Sen. Rob Bradley
listen to constituents
Rep. Chuck Clemons (left) and Sen. Rob Bradley listen to Cross City Mayor Tank Lee on Wednesday afternoon (Jan. 16) in Dixie County. Later that day, the two legislators were in Trenton to hear from the people of Gilchrist County.
Story, Photos and Video
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 17, 2019 at 2:38 p.m.
CROSS CITY -- State Rep. Charles Wesley "Chuck" Clemons Sr. (R-Newberry, Dist. 21) and State Sen. Robert “Rob” Bradley (R-Fleming Island, Dist. 5), joined by members of their staff, conducted annual legislative delegation meetings in Dixie County and Gilchrist County on Wednesday afternoon (Jan. 16).
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In this video, the state leaders share their closing remarks at the conclusion of the Legislative Delegation meeting in Dixie County. The men are glad to serve the people in their districts. The two men work well together, and they both seek input from the public to best represent the will of the people in this part of Florida.
Cross City Mayor Tank Lee speaks with the state leaders about how he appreciates what they have done to help the city and Dixie County.
Dixie County Education Foundation President Kathryn McInnis and Florida Gateway College Executive Director Mike McKee speak to the state leaders about matters relating to education, and to the college. Some FGC buildings need to be replaced.
Melanie Anderson of the Dixie County Tobacco Free Partnership shares information with the state leaders, especially in regard to electronic water-vapor devices that are used to ingest nicotine.
Dixie County Chamber of Commerce President Carol West tells the state leaders about progress in business and the economy in Dixie County.
Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition Executive Director Katrina VanAernam tells the Rep. Chuck Clemons and Sen. Rob Bradley about how the coalition is helping people understand more about the dangers from using drugs.
Rep. Chuck Clemons (left) and Sen. Rob Bradley speak with Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition Executive Director Katrina VanAernam as she speaks from her chair in the audience after they asked questions.
Third Judicial Circuit Public Defender Blair Payne tells the state leaders about revising laws in the state, as the Florida Public Defenders Association would like the legislators to do to best serve the people of Florida.
(from left) Dixie County Commissioner Wade E. “Gene” Higginbotham (District 1), Dixie County Commissioner Jamie Storey (District 4) are seen wearing sports coats as Dixie County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Scott Harden sports a GCSO windbreaker. During the program Wednesday afternoon, Third Judicial Circuit Public Defender Blair Payne joked about coming to the Legislative Delegation event if for nothing else than to see Dixie County Property Appraiser Robbie Lee and Commissioner Higginbotham wearing sports coats. The three gentlemen seen here were among those who visited with each other a bit after the meeting concluded.
Rep. Clemons’s serves in the Florida House of Representatives as he represents the people of all of Dixie County, Gilchrist County and part of Alachua County.
Sen. Bradley serves in the Florida Senate as he represents the people of Levy, Dixie, Gilchrist, Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Lafayette, Suwannee, Union and part of Marion counties.
The gentlemen were well received in both Cross City and Trenton as they listened to their constituents. While the two state leaders represent their respective districts, like their colleagues in the House and Senate, both men work for the wellbeing of all residents and visitors to the State of Florida.
The session for lawmakers convenes in Tallahassee on March 5.
Among the people sharing input with the state leaders during their meeting at the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners’ meeting room in the Dixie County Courthouse on Wednesday were Cross City Mayor Kenneth “Tank” Lee; Mike McKee of Florida Gateway College; President Kathryn McInnis of the Dixie County Education Foundation; President Carol West of the Dixie County Chamber of Commerce; Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition Executive Director Katrina VanAernam; Melanie Anderson of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Dixie County; Third Judicial Circuit Public Defender Blair Payne; and Charlie Fornaciari.
Cross City Mayor Kenneth “Tank” Lee shared information with the state leaders, including expanded connections to wastewater services in Cross City.
Sen. Bradley mentioned that the Florida Department of Transportation on U.S. Highway 19 has spent about $12 million of state funds on projects in Dixie County. The senator mentioned this helps people travel in the county better, especially in areas where the water is close to the highway.
Mayor Lee expressed his appreciation for the many manners in which the state government helps the municipality and Dixie County. Mayor Lee just started his 22nd year on the City Council as he heralds his 12th year as mayor of Cross City.
Florida Gateway College Executive Director Mike McKee told the state leaders that the FGC STEM Building has been condemned.
Science classes and laboratories formerly conducted there are now being held in “alternative places,” McKee said.
“We teach a lot of nurses,” he said. “We teach a lot of EMTs. We do a lot of anatomy and physiology. We have two cadavers on campus.”
The FGC leader said he is appreciative of the State of Florida, where Rep. Elizabeth Porter (R-Lake City) (elected Nov. 2, 2010 – elected Nov. 6, 2018 -- 11th District 2010–2012 and 10th district 2012–present) and Sen. Bradley succeeded in obtaining a $4 million appropriation for a future STEM building.
The college has been moved from first on the list for this type of project to fourth on the list, McKee said. The FGC executive director asked the state leaders to support funding for the STEM building, which is about $12 million.
Kathryn McInnis, a member of the FGC Board of Directors told Sen. Bradley that FGC President Dr. Lawrence Barrett enjoyed providing a tour of the campus to the senator, as they both rode in a golf cart to traverse the property.
The senator said his tour two days ago gave him a chance to appreciate how Florida Gateway College moved its chemistry lab as a result of the STEM building being condemned.
Sen. Bradley said he is acutely aware of the need to improve some of the infrastructure at the college.
Partnership Facilitator Melanie Anderson of the Tobacco Free Partnership (TFP) of Dixie County said the TFP tries to help reduce tobacco use by helping people not start using those products, and to assist those individuals who want to stop using tobacco products.
This includes assisting business interests to make it easier for their employees to quit tobacco.
Anderson said the support demonstrated by the members of the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners is excellent in regard to the TFP. One aspect of the TFP is Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT), she said.
SWAT members can tell about where tobacco use occurs; how the products are bought; as well as the age when students start using it (currently, middle school).
“Vaping” is the latest trend for tobacco use, Anderson said, and the schools are being “bombarded daily” with electronic cigarette use.
“They are taught the lie of it being safe,” she said.
Anderson mentioned that the Florida voters approved Amendment 9 to add electronic cigarettes to the Clean Indoor Air Act, “… which means anywhere you are not allowed to smoke, you are not allowed to vape (which is the verb for the act of intaking water vapor laced with flavors and nicotine).”
The Dixie County Commission, she added, was ahead of state in one aspect of the law by addressing the age limit in 2014 – making it 18 years old.
Dixie County, she added, included a requirement to keep electronic cigarette vials behind the counter.
This prevents children from simply picking up flavored nicotine containers from the countertop at stores. Anderson said she would like to see the state lawmakers require electronic cigarette products to be placed behind the counter, rather than up by the candy.
Parents and grandparents don’t understand the danger. They think the candy-flavored water vapor is safe – when it is not, Anderson said. The use rate of this form of nicotine intake has tripled since 2012, she said.
Since adults who vape have developed an addiction for nicotine, as their electronic cigarette devices recharge, they are using cigarettes, Anderson said. Vaping has led to a dual-use product for tobacco, she said.
Anderson said the youth in Dixie County today don’t want to be labeled with another moniker. They don’t want to be known as being from Dixie County, “where everybody dips.” So, the effort to reduce the use of chewing tobacco and dip is seeing success in Dixie County, she said.
With the new school being away from stores now, Anderson said she hopes that as business interests develop in that area, they will not be targeting school children as future tobacco product consumers.
Dixie County Chamber of Commerce President Carol West said the business interests here face the same challenges of other enterprises in rural Florida.
The North Florida Economic Development Partnership, she added, has helped Dixie County make inroads with business.
This year, she continued, the Chamber plans to look at best methods to assist in the development of a more skilled workforce.
The Chamber plans to continue helping to support existing businesses, she continued, to expand and grow. The recent start of Cross City Lumber has been helpful to the local economy, she said.
The purchase by Conifex Timber Inc., a publicly-traded lumber and sustainable forestry company operating in British Columbia, Canada, of the former Suwannee Lumber Co. was beneficial, she said.
West and others spoke about the contribution $200,000 this year by investors to four non-profit groups. (That story is still on the Home Page and is scheduled for placement in the archives of HardisonInk.com.).
The Chambers flags and crosses project is self-sustaining, she said, and the Chamber gives four $1,000 scholarships from this as a result.
To see a 2016 story about that project, click HERE.
Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition Executive Director Katrina VanAernam said the 8-year-old organization has a goal of adding value to the community.
In 2017, she said, Dixie County was the top county in the state for opioid-related deaths on a per-capita scale. The coalition is one of the four organizations that was given a grant of $50,000 to help it.
One of the things the coalition is participating in is Prevention Advocacy Day in Tallahassee, which is Jan. 23. Last year, there were about 10 participants on the team with her, VanAernam said. This year, there is an anticipation of 60 people from 23 different groups, she said.
The Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition budget was $186,000 last year, and this year with the $50,000 donation and some subcontracted work with Meridian HealthCare, the budget for the group is $251,000.
VanAernam said when the effort started years ago, there was no money. The effort to help people improve the quality of life in the community by reducing drug abuse has shown success.
Third Judicial Circuit Public Defender Blair Payne gave a brief sketch of what the Florida Public Defenders legislative priorities are this year.
The Third Judicial Circuit includes Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor counties
Payne is a native of Hamilton County where his family has resided for six generations. He graduated from Hamilton County High School. He earned an Associate of Arts degree from North Florida Junior College and a degree in Criminal Justice from Valdosta State College.
Public Defender Payne said judges’ hands are tied when it comes to sentencing from a set of points that the convicted person will have as the result of certain factors. There are mitigators, though, that allow a judge to sentence a convict to less time.
To those possible things to consider, Payne and the majority of public defenders in Florida would like the state lawmakers to add drug treatment as a method for judges to be able to impose fewer years in prison.
This would be “a very, very small change” in the state’s Criminal Punishment Code.
“Drugs are a problem,” Payne said, “and people are going to prison, where they could benefit more by getting treatment.”
Another revision in state law that public defenders would like the Florida Legislation to change is $300 as the threshold for grand theft – a felony. This has been the dollar amount since 1986, Payne said.
The Florida Public Defenders Association askes the state lawmakers to revise that amount to be $1,500 before the value of what the thief stole is considered to be at a felonious level. Payne said going from $300 to $1,500 is a big increase, but from 1986 to 2019 is “a long time” (33 years), according to the mathematics he learned in high school at Jasper.
Texas is at $2,500 as the point for grand theft, Payne said. South Carolina is at $2,000, he added.
Another law revision the public defenders would like to see, Payne said, is driver license suspension reform.
“We’re not talking about suspensions for driving-related offenses,” he explained. “What we would like to see is suspensions from non-driver-related offenses to go away.”
When a person enters court for any criminal action, they will owe at least $600 to $800, he said, in fines, fees and court costs.
If those court-ordered debts are not met by the offender, then the person’s driver license is suspended. In areas with mass transit, the person can find a way to work, the grocery store, etc.
In Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor counties, and other parts of rural Florida, a driver license is needed for most people to get around.
When a person loses his or her driving privilege, Payne said, the issue causes problems to grow like a snowball rolling down a snowy hill. It gets bigger and bigger.
The person falls behind on child support payments, the have utilities shut off from non-payment, the bank forecloses or the landlord evicts them for not paying those bills, he said.
Another request of public defenders, Payne said, is to reduce the number of children being tried as adults and sentenced into adult prisons. This can happen by legislators revising Florida laws.
By placing children on probation rather than in prison, Payne said, not only is it the humane thing to do, but a study shows it increases the chances for a reduction in recidivism.
The final request from the public defenders of Florida, Third Judicial Circuit Public Defender Payne said, is to require tape recordings being made when law enforcement officers interview suspects. This will reduce uncertainty about who said exactly what to whom, including the tone of voice.
The public defender also thanked the state leaders for the increase in pay for assistant state attorneys, and assistant public defenders in Florida.
Among the members of the general public heard by the two legislators was Charlie Fornaciari
He shared with the leaders that he was given a diploma from high school, rather than earning one – because he was lazy.
Thanks to an apprenticeship, he became a tool and die worker in the aerospace industry. And thanks to the natural talent he had, he was able to become among the workers who build parts for the Apollo space program.
The parts he built had to be within a tolerance level of 150-millionths of one-inch. Those parts were on a manned spaceship that went around the moon, he said.
Today, he lives in a condominium off of the Indian River in Brevard County, where he can look across he river and see the Vehicle Assembly Building at the National Aeronautic and Space Administration complex at Cape Kennedy.
Therefore, he said, he hopes the state leaders recognize the value of learning trades as well as the more academic nature of schooling in Florida.
Fornaciari was among the people who were very involved with the Dixie County Artificial Reef Development Agency.
From 2010 through 2015, with the support of the Dixie County Commission and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fornaciari obtained funding for 18 new artificial reefs containing in excess of 1,175 tons of limestone and concrete.
Those 18 artificial reefs were built at the Horseshoe Beach site, which is about 6.23 nautical miles from Horseshoe Beach with a heading of 239 degrees (rather south, southwest more or less).
One reef off of Dixie County is at North Latitude 2917.400 degrees and West Longitude 8315.520 degrees. Another is at Latitude 2919.434 and Longitude 8326.472.
The names listed on the plaques along the bottom of a monument dedicated in 2016 to the reef-builders are Mike McCaskill Family, Steve Langford, DCSO Capt. Chad Allen Reed Sr., David J. Osteen Family and Charlie Fornaciari.
These are the people who were among the first key participants to the reef program.
Also speaking to the legislators in Dixie County on Wednesday was Tim Alexander, county manager and member of the Dixie County School Board.
City accepts hospital's
utility bill payment plan
(from left) Regional General Hospital Sr. Vice President of Operations Raj Ravi, MBA; Mike Murtha, president of the National Alliance of Rural Hospitals; and RGH Nurse Practitioner Robina Belanger listen to the City Council.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 15, 2019 at 11:39 p.m.
WILLISTON – On a motion by Williston City Councilman Charles Goodman, seconded by City Councilman Justin Head, the Williston City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 15) to accept a repayment offer for about $58,500 owed on past-due utility bills on four accounts of Regional General Hospital of Williston.
Mike Murtha, president of the National Alliance of Rural Hospitals, assure the Williston City Council that the hospital will keep its promise to pay this outstanding utility bill, and then to remain current on payments due the city.
City Councilman Elihu Ross cast the lone dissenting vote, indicating that he would just as soon turn off electric and other utility service to the hospital for it being very late on payment of bills.
City Manager Scott Lippmann accepted partial payment of two $5,000 payments to take $10,000 off of the previous $75,000 believed to have been owed.
On Tuesday, Lippmann said there had been a previous miscalculation and the hospital, with its $10,000 paid already in January, owes about $58,500.
Hospital owner Jorge Perez was unable to attend due to a health issue, however if needed he could have been reached quickly by telephone.
Speaking on behalf of the hospital was RGH Sr. Vice President of Operations Raj Ravi, MBA, and Mike Murtha, president of the National Alliance of Rural Hospitals. Murtha is a lobbyist in Tallahassee.
RGH is a member of the NARH, and as such Murtha and Perez know each other well enough for Murtha to speak on behalf of the hospital’s owner.
Perez made the following repayment offer. Three Fridays in January – Jan. 11, 18 and 25 would net the city a $5,000 check from RGH.
In February, the first three Fridays would bring in $5,000 more for the city Feb. 1 – $5,000; Feb. – $5,000; and Feb. 15 - $5,000.
Then, Perez promised to pay $15,000 on Feb. 22.
On March 1 and March 8, Perez also promised to pay $15,000 on each of those Fridays. Those payments in January, February and March would equal $75,000.
After that March 8 payment, Perez noted RGH would pay the city $15,000 every Friday until it brings its utility bills to the point of zero owed.
“I am fully aware of the sacrifices each of you make to serve this community,” Perez noted in his written offer, “and the hard decisions that the community depends upon you to make. I thank you for taking the time to weigh this critical decision and I pledge to you that should you grant us this payment schedule, we will live up to this commitment and work hard every day to deliver the highest quality healthcare to the citizens of our community.
Thank you for your Leadership.”
Councilman Goodman started questioning Lippmann soon after City Council President Nancy Wininger opened the special meeting, called specifically to deal with the debt.
Goodman asked the city manager what part of the command of City Council to not accept partial payment was overridden. Lippmann said he had spoken with the city council president, and rather than shut down the hospital’s utility service, he felt the payments by RGH should let it remain active until after the special meeting, which was called after at least three of the City Council members agreed to hold it to readdress the question.
As he opened his statements to the City Council, the city manager mentioned that between August and January, RGH had not paid its utility bills. Of the four accounts, Lippmann said the big one averages between $6,200 and $7,400 a month.
Before making his motion to accept the repayment offer, Councilman Head provided his mathematics, which showed the plan will work to resolve the bad debt in March and make the city whole in regard to this utility account.
The motion by Head, seconded by Goodman, included the caveat, however, that if one single repayment schedule is not met on time, then the city will stop all utility service to RGH on the very next business day.
City Council instructed the city manager to put this part of the agreement in writing and to assure that Perez received a copy.
One man complained from the audience that he knew of a woman who had two daughters and had her utilities shut off when she failed to pay her bill. The man, who has complained about matters to the municipal leaders before, was asked to confer with City Manager Lippmann during regular business hours.
The City Council conceded that it is giving RGH leeway; however, it is the only hospital in Levy County and Perez has invested millions of his own dollars in making the rural hospital continue to be in service.
In March, the RGH Emergency Room will be reopened. In the meantime, every other service it offers remains in effect.
Nurse Practitioner Robina Belanger told the City Council that she served in the RGH ER as well as in the emergency rooms of hospitals owned by Perez in Lauderdale, Oklahoma and Arkansas. The ER at RGH when it reopens will again provide emergency room services.
When asked if she had treated acute heart attack patients and acute stroke patients at the RGH ER, she explained that patients with stroke issues are transported by ambulance to North Florida Regional Medical Center or to Shands, because the medicine to help reduce brain loss is not available in the RGH ER.
Acute heart attack patients receive the same aspirin and blood-thinning medicine at RGH before being sent to one of the other two hospital, where they will be treated with procedures not available yet at RGH.
Both sets of those types of patients would be stabilized as best as possible in the RGH ER before being taken to another hospital, she said.
The single issue that gave the City Council reason to talk at length for about an hour and a half was the lack of communication from Perez to the City Council about payment of the utility bill, prior to the City Council voting 5-0 to shut-down those services.
Given the acceptance of the repayment offer, the city and the hospital appear to have resolved this issue.
Murtha said that if the city had shut down utility service, some other person may buy the then-closed hospital; but Murtha said he sincerely doubts the next owner would have the heart or the same level of commitment to serve the patients of Williston like Perez has shown.
registers at CEE event
The arms of Drollene Brown, co-founder of CEE, extend across the registration table to congratulate newly registered voter Dorlinda Gilham.
Story By Drollene P. Brown
Photos by Sue Vogt
Published Jan. 14, 2019 at 8:38 a.m.
WILLISTON -- Citizens for an Engaged Electorate (CEE) held a voter registration event in Williston on Saturday (Jan. 12).
Barbara Byram, co-founder of CEE, shows newly-registered voter Dorlinda Gilham an example of the material she soon will receive in the mail from Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones. In the background are CEE members Deborah Goad and Nikki Rae Sun.
As CEE members arrived to setup their voter registration outpost at the new community center at 50 N. Main St., there showed up a woman they’d never met. The new community center is part of the brand-new Williston City Hall.
Introducing herself as Dorlinda, she proceeded to help move the tables and chairs, layout literature, and setup refreshments. Finally, the members found out the newcomer actually had not come to help. Instead, she had come to register to vote. She was a Levy County resident returning to the active rolls as a registered voter.
This story really began for CEE in early 2014, when members voted unanimously to join the Second Chances campaign to restore voting rights to convicted felons.
In April of 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida sent a lawyer to Williston to train CEE members on proper methods for collecting petition signatures on the ballot initiative.
Immediately getting to work, they collected a good number of signatures. Unfortunately, the initiative did not receive enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in 2016.
The Second Chances campaign did not give up, and neither did the CEE. Because petition signatures expire two years after the date of signature, the project had to start over.
Anyone who had signed before, had to do it again. Thanks to a groundswell of support from small groups across the state, enough signatures were collected for the initiative to get on the 2018 ballot as Amendment 4.
The amendment to the Florida Constitution passed during the general election of November of 2018 with 64 percent of the state voter making it law, which went into effect on Jan. 8.
The amendment made it automatic that felons (other than murderers or sex offenders) who had served their time and paid all fees and fines were eligible to register to vote.
Florida supervisors of elections have stated that they will accept all registrations, regardless of what may be brewing in the Florida Legislature to circumvent the vote of the people.
Anyone who registers now need not worry about having their voting rights taken away.
Passage of the amendment and advertising of the Williston event brought Dorlinda Gilham to the doors of the community center on Saturday.
After CEE Co-Founder Drollene Brown accepted the application and checked it to ensure it was properly filled out, Dorlinda broke down and cried tears joy and gratitude. She received hugs from everyone present and proudly showed off her application.
“I have waited seven years for this,” she said. Hers weren’t the only tears shed that morning.
Welcome back to the rolls of registered voters in Florida, Dorlinda!
Notice of investigation and
related to cattle deaths
Cattle food sold in Chiefland
among the TSC sites listed
Published Jan. 11, 2018 at 7:08 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services this week received multiple reports related to acute deaths in cattle, according to a press release sent via email at 5:14 p.m. on Jan. 11 from Florida Department of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried's Communications Office.
These deaths are being investigated by both the Division of Agricultural Environmental Services and the Division of Animal Industry. Local law enforcement agencies and veterinarians have also been involved in the ongoing investigation.
While the specific cause has not yet been determined, these deaths may be related to feed. The product in question is Producer’s Pride 20% All Natural Cattle Cube, lot number 8DEC22MUL2, manufactured by Purina Animal Nutrition, and distributed to 4o Tractor Supply Company stores in Florida and Georgia at the following locations: Chiefland, Newberry, Gainesville, Starke, Fort Pierce, Saint Cloud, Lake Wales, Sebring, Okeechobee, Eustis, Haines City, Bradenton, Palatka, Wauchula, Zephyrhills, Deland, Lake City, Orlando, Arcadia, Dunnellon, Fort Myers, Saint Augustine, Live Oak, Jacksonville, Homosassa, Macclenny, Bartow, Perry, Groveland, Cocoa, Osteen, North Fort Myers, Loxahatchee, Crawfordville, Palm Coast, Hudson, Sarasota, Port Charlotte, Riverview, and Kingsland, Ga.
Tractor Supply Co. has voluntarily removed the product in question from their shelves in all 40 stores. In addition, Purina Animal Nutrition has initiated a voluntary market withdrawal of the affected product. Consumers may discard the product or return it to their retail purchase location for exchange or refund.
There are no expected impacts to human health at this time.
The Department has collected product and cattle samples from across the state, and is in the process of conducting laboratory tests. In addition, the Department has conducted on-site verifications at Tractor Supply Company locations, outreach to Purina Animal Nutrition to facilitate the voluntary withdrawal of the affected product, as well as outreach to the agricultural community.
For Veterinarians and Cattle Producers:
Veterinarians or producers who are aware of sudden unexplained deaths in cattle should contact the State Veterinarian’s Office at 850-410-0900 (after hours for emergencies please contact 800-342-5869) or RAD@FreshFromFlorida.com.
For feed-related complaints or concerns, please contact the Bureau of Inspection and Incident Response, Division of Agricultural Environmental Services, at 850-617-7996 or AESCares@FreshFromFlorida.com.
to throw the switch and
turn off electricity to
Regional Gen. Hospital
LIGHTS ARE ON
HOSPITAL STAYS OPEN
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 10, 2019 at 3:08 p.m.
* Updated Jan. 11, 2019 at 4:08 p.m.
WILLISTON – Regional General Hospital is about to lose electric service from the City of Williston as a result of a 5-0 Williston City Council vote on Tuesday evening (Jan. 8).
WILLISTON -- Although the Williston City Council had ordered the power to be cutoff at Regional General Hospital today (Friday, Jan. 11), a last minute reprieve has been granted.
The hospital paid part of an old electric bill, and the hospital and the city continue to work together to get over the issue of past due payments for the municipal electric service.
In a telephone interview this afternoon (Thursday, Jan. 10), City Councilman Charles Goodman explained this was not a kneejerk vote.
The hospital has accumulated an electric bill that now stands at $75,000, Goodman said. The city has faced this issue before, he added, and City Manager Scott Lippmann has worked with RGH in an attempt to create a method for the hospital to pay its bill to the city.
It has reached a point now, however Goodman said, where Geroge Perez, the owner of RGH, is not even answering phone calls. Perez did not show up to a scheduled meeting with Lippmann, too, Goodman said.
This bad debt, which has continued to build to this point, Goodman said, has reached the tipping point or the breaking point. The city will no longer extend electric service to the hospital until the bill is paid.
The 5-0 vote on Tuesday calls for the city to turn off electric power by Friday.
Williston City Attorney Frederick L. Koberlein Jr. was instructed by the City Council to determine if the city is facing any liability for turning off power to the hospital. Given that the attorney finds the city to be within its rights as the electric service provider, it will be lights out for RGH on Friday, unless the bill is paid.
Lopez sent an open letter to all leaders in Williston as well as to leaders in Levy County.
In his letter, the hospital owner explains that he has subsidized the millions of dollars not paid by a certain number of patients.
Following is the letter from RGH owner Perez:
An Open Letter to
Williston Public Officials
from Regional General Hospital
Members of the City Council and the County Commission –
Yesterday, of the patients who were cared for at Regional General Hospital of Williston, 5 had no means of paying for services. In the last year, we have delivered millions of dollars in uncompensated care to patients and their families; we don’t turn them away or threaten to cut them off, and the overwhelming majority of them are your constituents.
Who is it that fronts the money to deliver that care? That would be my family and me, and then, at the end of the year, we submit our cost reports to the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services in order to recoup a portion of that loss. While we are currently waiting for this exercise to be complete, December is always a tough month for all rural hospitals who are already running on razor-thin margins. These reimbursements will be more than enough to satisfy our obligations.
I would like to think that the amount I have invested in this hospital and this community is evidence of my commitment; up to this point, I have been willing to go it alone. However, it hasn’t been a secret that we have recently had to request extensions on various obligations while we await the start of this new year. Those extensions have been aimed squarely at satisfying our most critical expenditure – making payroll.
Some of you have appreciated our efforts and have been willing to work with us, most notably, Scott Lippman; others have been nothing short of bureaucratic and have viewed shutting down operations at the community’s hospital as mere collateral damage in their quest to secure payment. A rural hospital is not “just another retail establishment”; other retail establishments don’t provide millions of dollars of uncompensated critical services to the citizens of Williston every year.
It is a dangerous game to play because the satisfaction of flexing one’s authority can have a negative reverberation whose return shockwaves can cost the community many, many times more than the sum total of any past due bill. There are countless rural hospitals that have shut down, and I would venture to guess that all of those communities would be willing to grant an extension if it would somehow get their hospital back.
RGH is not an anomaly or an outlier; rural hospitals across the country are in peril, and usually, when they close, it usually blindsides the community because the owners walked away when things got uncomfortable. We are different; we are fighters, and contrary to what many have chosen to believe, we are this community’s biggest champion. Closing the hospital has never been an option, and we will continue to make the sacrifices necessary to get through this period of difficulty, and we are highly optimistic that we are poised to turn the corner towards sustainability.
The struggles we have faced, many which preceded us, have been well-publicized because we have committed ourselves to stick it out. Perhaps had we closed up shop in the dead of night, we too could have been held harmless from all the rumors and innuendo that have been hurled at us.
The assertion that the current distress felt by RGH results from of our having realized some financial windfall by draining all of its revenue is just short of insulting. From the time we assumed operations, every bit of revenue generated has been placed back into the facility. I have personally invested more money when there were shortfalls, and I have long-since come to terms with the fact that I don’t foresee recouping even a fraction of that money, and yet we are faced with having to defend ourselves against such scurrilous rumors and innuendo.
Again, there is not, nor has there ever been, any plans to close the hospital. We have a plan in place and are working towards its implementation. In order to survive, it can’t be “business as usual,” and change will always be met with resistance; nonetheless, kowtowing to detractors who demand that we cling to the “status quo” is a recipe for certain failure.
Please be aware, that at the very best, any other entity who took it upon themselves to rescue RGH would be faced with these same difficulties. I also know that this period has been a hardship on the staff, but I am firmly committed to keeping the doors to their hospital open so that they can continue to serve this community.
To reiterate, we are awaiting reimbursement from CMS for the millions of dollars of uncompensated care we have delivered to your constituents; at that time, we will be on firm footing. I am asking that everyone in this community, particularly its public officials, work with us to see us through this challenging period and onward to success.
As it stands at 3:08 p.m. on Thursday, the city is moving forward with its plan to turn off the electric service to the hospital.
Dixie County groups $200,000;
Promise $800,000 more
Beverly and Ed Pivacek own The Putnam Lodge and they hosted the event on Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 8) in the Shamrock area of Cross City.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 8, 2019 at 10:08 p.m.
CROSS CITY -- Four charitable organizations in Dixie County each accepted $50,000 Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 8) as an investment firm started a five-year plan of donations that will total $1 million in five years.
Representing Blue Wolf Suwannee Lumber Co. Holdings (from left) are Michael ‘Mike’ Ranson, Charles ‘Charlie’ Miller, Frank ‘Bump’ Faircloth and Robert ‘Bob’ McKagen.
Beverly and Ed Pivacek, owners of the Putnam Lodge, 15487 U.S. Highway 19, in Cross City hosted the two-hour lunchtime event and provided a buffet style prime rib luncheon.
In addition to prime rib, diners enjoyed a fresh garden salad, garlic parsley mashed potatoes, demi-glazed gravy, a green bean medley, fig glazed boneless chicken thigh, garlic bread, and various choices for dessert.
Blue Wolf Suwannee Lumber Co. Holdings, an investment firm with ties to the timber industry in Dixie County, announced that it is making a $1 million donation to be split between the Dixie Education Foundation, the Dixie County School District’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, Dixie County Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and the Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition.
The donation is being made from the proceeds of the sale of the Suwannee Lumber Mill and is evidence of Blue Wolf’s commitment to responsible social business practices and a way to recognize the health of business operations depend heavily on the health of the communities in which they operate.
The donation will be distributed over five years with the hope of expanding educational opportunities, supporting the physical and spiritual health of youth, mitigating the impact of the drug abuse and developing a skilled and stable future workforce.
Frank ‘Bump’ Faircloth of Suwannee Lumber Co. speaks to the crowd as the program begins.
Representing Blue Wolf were Frank “Bump” Faircloth, Mike Ranson, Charlie Miller and Bob McKagen.
Faircloth said he considers the ability to be able to get together with everyone and enjoy the fellowship and joy of this occasion to be a blessing, as he knows the benefit to the community from this investment will be strong.
All of the action Tuesday came after the July 10, 2018, sale by Blue Wolf Capital Partners (Blue Wolf), of the sale of Suwannee Lumber Co. and Caddo River Forest Products to Conifex Timber Inc., a publicly-traded lumber and sustainable forestry company operating in British Columbia, Canada.
In 2013, Blue Wolf purchased Suwannee Lumber Co. and helped it to become a thriving interest again. Suwannee Lumber Co. began in 1954 and has been a cornerstone of the business community in Dixie County since then.
Faircloth said Ranson and Miller spurred him along, and gave him ideas about how to help Dixie County. McKagen, a previous CEO of Suwannee Lumber Co., and Mark West, CEO of the mulch and soil company, were among the people recognized by Faircloth.
Faircloth mentioned that Blue Wolf continues to have an interest in the mulch and soil company. So, he added, the investment firm still has a presence in Dixie County, even though it sold the lumber mill.
Over 25 years ago, Faircloth said, he felt the company should do something to help the youth in Dixie County. And it did. It made contributions for years, including to the Dixie Education Foundation, the FCA, and to the Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition, Faircloth said, with donations to AVID coming later.
The group of leaders in these four organizations, Faircloth said, is second to none, and he is very confident that they will use these funds to help the young people in Dixie County.
The five-year $1 million gift proposal is hoped to spur other business interests in small counties to see the investment into the hearts, minds and soul of young people will pay dividends far beyond just the monetary gains of a community whose children have been helped, by those children growing into adults who understand the value of being part of a positive environment.
Before inviting the representatives of the four groups to make their presentations about their organization, Faircloth spoke about the interconnectivity with Suwannee Lumber.
Faircloth was an excellent emcee for the event, and the stories he shared were colorful and funny.
(from left) DCHS Principal Paul Bennett, DCHS AVID students Idalis Vasquez and William Gonzalez, DCHS AVID Coordinator Marci-Michael Smith and AVID elective teacher Noah Raulerson.
The first person to speak about their group accepting and using the donations was Dixie County High School Principal Paul Bennett.
Principal Bennett said his mentor in this regard is Diana Locke, Bennett’s predecessor, when she was the principal at the old DCHS campus.
Bennett and Locke worked together to think of manners in which to help the DCHS AVID program with this donated funding.
Bennett said AVID helps students gain confidence for public speaking, as well as to provide organizational skills and other lessons to help students succeed after high school.
DCHS AVID students Idalis Vasquez and William Gonzalez each spoke about their experiences. They are both seniors at DCHS.
AVID is an acronym for Advancement Via Individual Determination, as Vasquez said in her speech.
Being an AVID student, Vasquez said, has helped her to become more outgoing and able to new experiences. Vasquez has seen positive change in herself as a result of these classes, she said, and she has noticed a similarly good impact on other students as well.
She thanked the investors for their gift, which promises to help many other students just as it has helped her.
Gonzalez said DCHS adopted the AVID program when he was a freshman. He was accepted as an AVID student during his sophomore year.
He shared with the crowd that there was a moment when he questioned why he would put more upon himself than the minimum mandatory in core classes, but having made the choice to apply himself through the AVID learning tools, the young man said he is happy to have made what he sees as the correct choice.
Bennett introduced DCHS AVID Coordinator Marci-Michael Smith and AVID elective teacher Noah Raulerson.
AVID Coordinator Smith said only 19 percent of college freshmen will complete a four-year college with a degree; however, 85 percent of the AVID students who start college complete the four-year course of study.
Among other things, the AVID program leaders plan to purchase educational supplies and test prep materials, fund student trips to technical schools and colleges, renew program accreditation, promote the program’s benefits so as to enroll more students, recognize student successes and offer scholarships.
AVID aims to change lives by helping schools shift to a more equitable, student-centered approach and close the opportunity gap. Through this program, schools can prepare students of all income levels for college, careers, and life. Regardless of their life circumstances, AVID students learn to overcome obstacles and achieve success. They graduate and attend college at higher rates, but more importantly, they can think critically, collaborate, and set high expectations to confidently conquer the challenges that await them.
AVID teacher Raulerson said he thoroughly enjoys helping students through this program, which includes etiquette and manners lessons.
AVID Coordinator Smith said there are 75 AVID-elect students currently. Next year, Smith projected, there will be 125 AVID-elect students thanks to this donation.
Beyond the AVID-elect students, Smith said, this program benefits every student at DCHS, because teachers are trained through professional development connected with the program.
Faircloth said that former DCHS Principal Locke would send students to potentially work at Suwannee Lumber Co. He added that he believes she sent the best students to the company, because many of them continue to work there or elsewhere in the timber industry.
Joe Mack Locke speaks on behalf of the Dixie County Chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Joe Mack Locke is the DCHS FCA advisor. Also, at the event on Tuesday was Steve Mchargue, area director of the North Florida FCA Eastern Zone, which includes seven counties.
Mchargue lives in Lee (Madison County).
Locke also is a youth pastor at Old Town Church of God. He is also the nephew of former Principal Locke. As he went off script, he told about the interrelationships of several people in the room that day, and so it is as Faircloth jokingly mentioned, it is better not to be too critical of anyone in Dixie County, because everyone is related.
Locke met Mchargue when DCHS’s FCA advisor moved away and the Fields of Faith program needed an adult leader from the school. The student-run message about Jesus and Christianity. It happened on the football field, and it went well.
That event on a Wednesday night in October drew about 400 people, Locke said.
Locke said this gift from Blue Wolf Suwannee Lumber is confirmation of him to be called as the FCA representative in Dixie County, because there are many other things that are pulling for his attention, including his study to earn a master’s degree, and his two children, one of whom is a senior at DCHS this year.
Locke spoke then about the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and how it helps athletes learn about Jesus, which in turn is believed to help others.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletics plans to use the funds in support of its mission to “touch millions of lives… one heart at a time" by bringing life coaches for school-based and community sports programs, exposing local youth to the encouragement of inspiring Christian guest speakers, attending sports camps, further developing the Diamonds of Devotion (Baseball) and Courts of Praise (Basketball) events and enhancing the annual Fields of Faith (Football) event.
Locke said the Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition is trying to keep the children safe. The Dixie Education Foundation is giving the youths a future, he continued. The AVID program helps train students while they are in high school. The FCA, he concluded, goes after the hearts of the children – “We’re trying to save their souls.”
The FCA uses a mixture of coaches, camps and commentators, Locke said. Coaching provides local support, while camps provide new experiences and friends. They expose the campers to new things.
Locke said one student going to band camp outside of Dixie County saw a lighted building one night as they passed by in the bus travelling through Duval County. He asked what it was. He was told it is a mall, Locke said, because that freshman had never been out of Dixie County to see such a thing.
“Camps provide that outside world,” Locke said. “Commentators bring the outside world to Dixie. That’s what we’re planning to do.”
Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition
Katrina VanAernam and several supporters of the Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition stand with the novelty-sized check presented to that group by BWSLC, Holdings.
Kyle Roberts of the Dixie County unit of the Florida Department of Health is introduced by Katrina VanAernam. The Health Department is one of the many resources called upon by the DCADC.
Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition Executive Director Katrina VanAernam spoke about this group as well as the Overcomes program.
In 2011, the Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition came together as a community, she said.
The Community Coalition Alliance (CCA) helped from the start of the DCADC. At the event Tuesday, CCA Executive Director Kathleen Roberts joined VanAernam and other others as people were told about the DCADC.
The CCA provided training and resources at a professional level, VanAernam said.
VanAernam said that when Faircloth called her, she thought about the Recovery-Oriented System of Care (ROSC) which is a communitywide network of services developed to support the long-term recovery of individuals and families impacted by severe substance use.
As part of this process, the DCADC will engage in a community workgroup, working to bring a trained Recovery Peer Specialist to the area and supporting the recovery work already being done in the community by local organizations like Overcomers and AA.
The Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote and develop a positive and safe environment for the Dixie County youth, as well as young adults and adults, by educating on the dangers of alcohol and other drugs and by uniting people and services to assist in the prevention effort.
The Coalition has been serving Dixie since 2011 by implementing evidence-based prevention programs and campaigns in the community. Some of the programs include Friday Night Done Right drug and alcohol-free youth events, Know the Law classes taught in the schools, Environmental Scans, Responsible Vendor Trainings and Compliance Checks.
Other activities include tracking local drug use trends, connecting people to services and providing information outreach.
Dixie Education Foundation
President Kathryn McInnis of the Dixie Education Foundation Inc. shares with the audience the success the Foundation has had in helping Dixie County students learn more beyond high school.
Carol West (left) joins President Kathryn McInnis of the Dixie Education Foundation Inc. to speak about the Foundation’s funding.
President Kathryn McInis of the Dixie Education Foundation Inc. spoke about the success this foundation has had over the past several years.
This retired educator of the Dixie County School District, introduced Foundation Treasurer Christina Barber and Foundation Finance Director Carol West.
The Foundation completed its 20th year with more than $1.8 million presented in scholarships to Dixie County students to attend colleges and trade schools (career technical programs), she said
ing their funds, the Dixie Education Foundation plans to better assist Dixie County High School graduates seeking career and technical certifications.
A majority of DCHS students do not seek or complete a college degree and would benefit from additional training before entering the workforce.
The Foundation plans include hiring a coordinator, gathering mentors, assisting with test prep, technical school and college site visits, publicity and promotion of programs, helping students investigate other schools and tools that will benefit them as they explore career options and working with District staff.
The Dixie Education Foundation is a non-profit, community-based organization whose purposes are exclusively educational and charitable, formed to secure and distribute contributions from individuals, corporations, governmental entities and foundations to provide assistance which will benefit Dixie County students. The primary focus is to assist with scholarships and to support other activities beneficial to Dixie County education and expand the educational opportunities of the youth.
Among the many esteemed visitors at this event, were Jeff Hendry and Diane Scholz from the North Florida Economic Development Partnership (NFEDP). They were guests of Carol West.
The NFEDP inclues a 15-county region that covers in excess of 9,100 square miles. The counties comprising the region include Baker, Bradford, Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, Putnam, Suwannee, Taylor, and Union counties.
The NFEDP is a public/private, 501c(6) entity dedicated to facilitating economic development activity and high quality job growth, and securing capital investment in North Central Florida.
It is supported by local government and private sector/corporate partners, state and federal grants, and contracts for services.
After the buffet banquet, and presentation by each of the four recipient organizations, checks were presented – both the actual kind and the large novelty checks for photo opportunities. There were several people taking pictures with cell phones and other devices, including cameras.
Five candidates seek two seats
on Bronson Town Council
Bronson Vice Mayor Beatrice Roberts, serving as acting mayor due to the Dec. 31 resignation of Mayor Bruce Greenlee, leads the meeting Monday night (Jan. 7).
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 8, 2019 at 9:18 a.m.
BRONSON -- After the recent resignations by former Bronson Mayor Bruce Greenlee and Town Councilwoman Katie Parks from their offices, the three remaining Bronson Town Council members -- Vice Mayor Beatrice Roberts, Town Councilman Jason Hunt and Town Councilman Robert Partin -- are currently scheduled to select the two replacements on Jan. 21.
Lacking a mayor, Vice Mayor Roberts is assigned those duties, which she exercised at the Jan. 7 meeting. Therefore, not only is she vice but she is acting mayor.
At the meeting just prior to the most recent bi-monthly Town Council meeting before, Mayor Greenlee said he was resigning effective Dec. 31 because he felt he had accomplished enough for the town and now he was going to focus on himself.
Councilwoman Parks had been questioned heatedly that night by Councilman Hunt as to whether she actually lived in the town. Parks said she was planning on getting married at the start of the year, so rather than go through a hearing to determine if she lived in the town’s limits, she chose to resign.
The deadline for submission of possible candidates for the two Town Council seats is Thursday (Jan. 10); therefore, any number of qualified candidates still could apply to be chosen. If there are more candidates added, then each of them will be given an opportunity to tell the existing three-member Council why he or she believes they should be appointed by the majority of those Council members.
One situation that would cause a delay in choosing the next two Council members would be if one of the three current members failed to appear at the Jan. 21 meeting, which is slated to begin at 7 p.m. in the Dogan Cobb Municipal Building, 660 E. Hathaway Ave. (U.S. Alt. 27).
The term for Seat 2 on Bronson Town Council, which was formerly held by Councilwoman Parks, expires on Sept. 30 of this year. The candidate appointed by Town Council may seek reelection to the post then, if he or she desires to do so.
Current candidates for Seat 2 are James Beck, Aaron Edmondson and David White.
The term for Seat 5 on Bronson Town Council, which was formerly held by Mayor Greenlee, expires in Sept. 30, 2021. The candidate appointed by Town Council may seek reelection to the post then, if he or she desires to do so.
The person appointed to replace Greenlee does not become the mayor. After there are five Bronson Town Council members again, then that set of five will choose the mayor and vice mayor.
Current candidates for Seat 5 are Mary Tracy and Tony Berlon Weeks Jr.
Following is some information about the five candidates.
Current Seat Two Candidates
James Beck owns the A&A Restaurant, which has been in business for 25 years in the town.
Beck said in his letter of intent that he wants to represent the community and the citizens of Bronson. He was involved with the construction of the park, now named James H. Cobb Park. He served on the sewer committee for about three years.
While on that committee, he was part of the group who successfully applied for the time sensitive second phase of the project.
Beck said he and his family know the community well, both its strengths and its challenges.
During his verbal part of his presentation, Beck said he believes leadership and teamwork are import to have a successful Town Council that works together to make the town better.
Beck said the Town Council should want to promote Bronson so that everyone becomes involved and benefits from that involvement. As a Bronson business owner for 25 years, he has seen and appreciates customers.
Aaron Edmondson said he was born and raised in the Town of Bronson.
He served previously on the Town Council for 16 years, but did not seek reelection because his job demanded too much of him at that time. Now, he is “semi-retired” and works only two days a week.
He noted that while on Council, he was among the people who helped end corruption in the municipality’s government.
Edmondson noted he was a member of the council when the park enjoyed upgrades, when the Dollar Market built its store here and when the sewer collection system was expanded adjacent to U.S. Alt. 27 for business interests.
In the resume submitted as part of his application for candidacy, David White shows that he is currently working for All Florida Property Group as an asset manager, where he has served since 2017. From 2012 to 2015, he listed a job as being a non-certified teacher for credit retrieval with the Levy County School Board. There is no employment listed in 2016. His other jobs include working for a construction company for a year and serving as a correctional officer with the state for two years.
For community involvement, he lists serving with the Bronson Youth League from 2001 to 2010. The town government took over youth sports after the BYL repeatedly would come to Town Council with issues.
White also lists being an assistant coach for middle and high school football, basketball and baseball over a 10-year span.
During the verbal part of his presentation, he told the three current Town Council members that he has been in the construction industry for 15 to 20 years, “mostly in the water and wastewater industry.”
White said he loves the town, went to school in Bronson and endorses “steady but small growth.”
When asked by Vice Mayor Roberts what White would do to help growth, he simply stated that he noticed BubbaQue’s left and that he regretted the town’s inability to keep a chain restaurant. However, he failed to mention the Subway franchise or the Hungry Howie’s franchise that are in town.
White complained that when he shops at the Dollar Market, he sees the shelves are empty.
He also gave no answer as to how to help the town’s economy grow. He said the government may need to get “nosier” and ask business owners what is needed from the local government.
White spoke about vacant property not being rented by business interests. Vice Mayor Roberts said she believes they remain vacant due to high rent being charged.
Current Seat Five Candidates
Mary Tracy and her husband Chris moved to Bronson from Naples about 15 years ago.
She was critical of Naples for having too much traffic. Tracy said she likes the Christmas lights on the poles, which were still up that very night.
Tracy retired from being a school teacher after 40 years, with her final three years being at Williston Middle School. She worked at the Bronson branch of the United States Postal Service for five years, before retiring entirely.
Tracy said her strengths to be considered as reasons to appoint her to this position are – listening, thinking and communication.
Tracy said she was speaking with Bronson Town Clerk Shirley Miller this morning and learned some town ordinances needed to be clarified with rewording.
Tracy conceded that unlike some candidates, she is not originally from Bronson, but in the 15 years she has been here she has experienced enough of Bronson to feel the pulse of the community.
She recognizes the positive aspects of the town as well as some things that need improvement, she said.
This candidate said she has no conflict of interest of any sort, including business interests or personal interests. Tracy said she brings no rancor (bitterness or resentfulness, especially when long-standing) or negativity to the council.
Being fully retired, Tracy said she can immediately begin working very hard to serve the people of Bronson, just as she has served the public throughout her professional career as a teacher and a postal clerk.
Tony Berlon Weeks Jr.
Berlon Weeks, a lifelong resident of Bronson, served seven years on the Town Council before, from October of 2007 to March of 2014.
He owns Weeks Bail Bonds since March of 2000 to the present day. He started his apprenticeship there in 1997 before taking ownership three years later.
Weeks was the Town Council member in charge of water and sewer services during the first three years of his initial term on Town Council.
Weeks is continuing his education. He started in August of 2017 at Santa Fe College where he is learning about network infrastructure and cyber-security. He has a 4.0 grade point average and received his Comptia A+ certificate in October of 2018.
During the verbal part of his presentation, Weeks said he earned certifications from both the Basic Institute for Elected Municipal Officials and the Advanced Institute for Elected Municipal Officials of the Florida League of Cities.
He lobbied for the Florida League of Cities on behalf of Bronson in both Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.
Weeks successfully helped Bronson prove via Lidar the proper flood levels when other agencies were noting flood plains that were not correct in Bronson. He lobbied in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., to revise what the National Flood Insurance Program was showing, which stopped the Federal Emergency Management Agency and NFIP from adding unnecessary flood insurance requirements on property owners in Bronson.
Also, on the Florida League of Cities, Weeks served on the Taxation and Finance Committee as a voting member for two years.
“I’ve always had a love for this community,” Weeks said, “and I believe its potential is still unknown.”
Weeks said he agrees that bringing business into the town is a good idea, he stresses that it may be even more important to bring employers to the area.
Finding manufacturing interests or other employers who can pay qualified workers $12 to $15 an hour is a key to success in improving the local economy, he said.
The problem with Dollar General allegedly lacking enough products on its shelves, he said, is that the people of Bronson do not have money to spend there.
By creating better-paying jobs in Bronson, then people will not have to commute to Gainesville, Ocala and Crystal River to earn a living, he said.
Weeks said that when he was on Town Council, the leaders updated the Comprehensive Land Use Plan. Land development regulations were brought up to date then, too, he said.
The town’s ledger was improved for accounting, he said. By the Town Council focusing on tasks that needed to be accomplished, and working through those missions, Weeks said the Town Council helped improve Bronson – including the sewer collection system along the business corridor.
Weeks conceded there were moments when he may have been too quick to speak in his first terms in office, and may have instigated some conflict. Now, he is older and wiser, he said.
Weeks said he would love an opportunity to again help the community move forward.
Weeks said he wants to work as a member of Town Council to make Bronson “a better than great place to be; not just a great place to be.”
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107th Jingle Singer
Lory Larochelle, 20, sang the HardisonInk.com jingle on Dec. 10 in a hospital room on the seventh floor of North Florida Regional Medical Center. Jeff M. Hardison was being released from the hospital after surgery on his wrist, and a two-night stay. She had come to the room as a volunteer who helps patients. She asked if the patient wanted to try a word puzzle or to try a Sudoku math puzzle. Instead, she wound up singing the jingle. If you want to sing the jingle, just let him know or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. He asks people to sing it, too, and some of them agree to sing it. (Thanks people!)
Published Dec 12, 2018 at 9:48 a.m.
© Video by Jeff M. Hardison, All Rights Reserved