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State senator defends toll roads;
Oct. 14-18 in Gilchrist County
Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz (left) speaks with Gilchrist County Manager Bobby Crosby (center) and State Rep. Chuck Clemons Monday afternoon in Trenton.
By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 10, 2019 at 9:39 a.m.
GILCHRIST COUNTY -- State Sen. Robert “Rob” Bradley (R-Fleming Island, Dist. 5) defended the proposed new toll roads through North Florida in a somewhat-heated debate with a constituent Monday afternoon (Oct. 7).
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Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz (left) welcomes State Sen. Rob Bradley in the Gilchrist County Commission meeting room on Monday afternoon (Oct. 7).
State Rep. Chuck Clemons (left) and State Sen. Robert “Rob” Bradley pose for a photo opportunity moments before starting the Gilchrist County Legislative Delegation Hearing on Monday. Later that afternoon, the gentlemen went to Cross City for the Dixie County Legislative Delegation Hearing.
The verbal sparring match was part of the Gilchrist County Legislative Delegation hearing, which included State Rep. Charles Wesley "Chuck" Clemons Sr. (R-Newberry, Dist. 21), debating with the same man as Bradley. Clemons took issue with the man in regard to fracking.
Fracking is the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes, etc., so as to force open existing fissures as a method to extract oil or gas.
Also, at a point near the end of the hearing, Sen. Bradley expressed his opinion to a staff member of a tax-imposing state regional government entity. Bradley told Suwannee River Water Management Executive Director Hugh Thomas that it was the senator's opinion that the SRWMD should quit setting millage rates at the rollback rate, as it has for several years, and should increase the rate so that the SRWMD nets more tax dollars.
The rollback rate is the rate of ad valorem property tax millage that would generate the same amount of property tax revenues as approved for the prior year - Less allowances for new construction, additions, deletions annexations, and improvements increasing value by at least 100 percent and tangible personal property value in excess of 115 percent of the previous year’s value.
The rollback rate was established by the Truth in Millage (TRIM) law in the 1980s.
When the tax base value of property increases, the rolled back rate is less than the prior year’s rate. When the tax base decreases, the rolled back rate is more than the prior year’s rate.
Sen. Bradley explained that the Florida Legislature is being called upon to fund projects, and the SRWMD is among the entities empowered with levying taxes. By revising the millage rate so that the annual budget for the water management district stays the same, despite rising costs over the past several years, that may indicate the district is having to cut some level of service in its jurisdiction.
Beyond that, the Florida Legislature then cannot call upon the SRWMD to pay for certain projects that the state mandates into existence or for continuation.
The Suwannee River Water Management District is one of five regional water management districts in Florida, created by the Florida Legislature through passage of the Water Resources Act of 1972. The SRWMD is the smallest of the state's water management districts in terms of geographic area, population served, tax base and agency staff.
The SRWMD serves the people in all of Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor and Union counties – and parts of Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Jefferson, Levy and Putnam counties. The people of Levy County have repeated asked the Florida Legislature to put all of Levy County within the SRWMD.
Florida Senate District 5 includes all or part of 11 counties -- Levy, Dixie, Gilchrist, Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Lafayette, Suwannee, Union and part of Marion counties.
Florida House of Representatives District 21 includes all or part of three counties -- Dixie, Gilchrist and part of Alachua counties.
Rep. Clemons served as the chair of both the Gilchrist County Legislative Delegation and the Dixie County Legislative Delegation hearings on Monday. At the conclusion of the meetings, there was no action to choose the chair for next year’s set of legislative delegation meetings, because Sen. Bradley cannot be reelected due to term limits, and some person may run against Rep. Clemons for that duty in the Florida House of Representatives.
As usual, the hearing included many people saying they are thankful for the leaders in the state who represent Senate District 5 and House District 21.
Rep. Clemons, as the chair of the delegation, opened the hearing by expressing his wish that the federal government would have representatives and senators who pass a balanced budget, rather than just printing more money.
The Florida Legislature last year, Clemons said, passed the largest budget in Florida’s history. That was a $91.8 billion budget, he said.
Clemons told listeners that the state leaders applied a record amount of funding to things that needed more funding – “… like the environment, like the Springs Restoration Program.”
Clemons mentioned that with Sen. Bradley’s leadership on the Appropriations Committee, the Florida Legislature moved the budget from $50 million to $100 million in the Springs Restoration Program.
That budget was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Rep. Clemons said, and it started with the state budget year, which began July 1.
Clemons said he is honored to represent the people of Gilchrist County.
Sen. Bradley said the previous year was very good for the people of Florida. The focus on the environment and education reflects the values of the people in his Senate district.
The recent groundbreaking on a new middle-high school in Gilchrist County represents a $7 million part of the state’s budget in this fiscal year, he said.
Another issue, he continued, was dealt with by “the veto pen” during the administration of former Gov. Rick Scott. Now with Gov. DeSantis, Sen. Bradley said, the money that was put in the state budget for the Gilchrist County Jail “survived the veto pen” for this year’s budget.
The senator said Rep. Clemons is a great partner for him in Tallahassee to make sure the voice of the people of Gilchrist County is heard in the halls of the Florida Legislature.
GILCHRIST COUNTY COMMISSION CHAIRMAN TODD GRAY
Gilchrist County Commission Chairman Todd Gray speaks with the two state leaders.
Gilchrist County Commission Chairman Todd Gray thanked the two state leaders for their work, where they consider the matters of Gilchrist County, other counties in their respective districts and where they deal with matters that involve people in all 67 of Florida’s counties.
Gray thanked the leaders for helping the Payment In Lieu of Taxes to continue; for efforts related to rural economic development; Springs Protection; the Florida Department of Transportation’s Small County Outreach Program (SCOP) and the Small County Road Assistance Program (SCRAP); and for the money to complete the design of the future Gilchrist County Jail.
Gilchrist County Commission Chairman Gray, like his counterpart in Levy County (Chairman John Meeks) asked the two leaders to consider the priorities outlined by the Small Counties Coalition.
Just as in Levy County, Gray told the leaders that having affordable, reliable high-speed Internet service in rural Florida is critically needed for education, as well as for economic growth. Another problem faced by all small counties in Florida, he said, is the share of Medicare costs that must be shouldered by taxpayers.
Rep. Clemons asked Chairman Gray about whether he had done the mathematics to see about what the people would pay here if the state had chosen like most other states in regard to Medicare extension.
Gilchrist County Clerk Newton told Clemons that he had not done the hypothetical exercise to determine that number. Gray reminded the state leader that Gilchrist County is joining with all small Florida counties as they approach the state on this matter.
Gray said he would like to see the plan to widen State Road 26 east from Trenton come to fruition.
“This could be a big benefit for us in the way of economic development,” Gray said, “our access to healthcare, (improved transportation for) public safety and hurricane evacuation.”
Gray also told the state leaders that he hopes they share in Tallahassee that the people of Gilchrist County want to continue to enjoy the right of home rule – so that the county leaders can make choices without mandates from state leaders overriding them.
GILCHRIST COUNTY CLERK OF COURT
AND COMPTROLLER TODD NEWTON
Gilchrist County Clerk of Court and Comptroller Todd Newton speaks to the two state leaders. He shared insight about Gilchrist County taking a progressive step forward with help from the Florida Legislature to help people regain their driving privilege with some debt relief in Operation Greenlight.
Gilchrist County Clerk Todd Newton expressed his appreciation for the state leaders helping the county obtain funds it needed.
One event happening in many Florida counties, including Gilchrist County, will be a sort of amnesty to help people reinstate their driving privileges, Newton said.
The current fines and fees for many people is too high for them to overcome, and so the Florida Legislature has created this possible option.
In Gilchrist County, this will be a weeklong event Monday through Wednesday with regular business hours and Thursday and Friday with extended hours.
Operation Greenlight in Gilchrist County will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 14, 15 and 16, and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 17 and 18. That is when the Gilchrist County Clerk’s Office in the County Courthouse will be helping people restore their driver licenses with significantly reduced penalties and fees.
Newton said he believes this is an excellent program where the state is helping people restore their ability to legally operate a motor vehicle to get to work, take children to school or go wherever they want when they want. Public transportation in rural Florida is almost non-existent.
Clemons said he voted in favor of this Bill last year, which was adopted.
“That person who lives hand-to-mouth, every month, paycheck-to-paycheck,” Clemons said, “is trying the best that he or she can do to pay their bills…”
And the person is issued a speeding ticket, he continued. They are unable to pay the ticket, and then their license is suspended. Then they are caught while driving on a suspended license as they go to work. That is another fine, he said, which results not from driving but from their failure to pay the speeding ticket.
Sen. Bradley said he agrees with Clemons, however he added that a person who lost their license from failure to pay child support must pay child support before their license is restored.
The accrual of late fees and charges that grow over time from a person “getting behind the eight ball in their life,” Bradley said, where those fees are wholly related to the license issue, are the places where the clerks’ offices in Florida can provide relief to those drivers.
When a person is wanting to do the right thing and get their life back on track, Bradley said, is where the state leaders felt these windows of amnesty can be opened – hence, Operation Greenlight.
GILCHRIST COUNTY SHERIFF BOBBY SCHULTZ
Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz tells the state leaders what the sheriffs of Florida would like see done in the session this year.
Just as Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum said during the Legislative Delegation last month, Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz shared with the state leaders points that the Florida Sheriff’s Association (FSA) wants the Legislature to consider when it meets starting in January.
Schultz is the current vice president of the FSA, as well as being the sheriff of Gilchrist County.
The FSA is asking for the state’s help in dealing with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in regard to the use of drones (Unmanned Aerial Systems) in regard to law enforcement and investigations. The FAA is a federal agency that regulates air traffic over the United States.
The FSA is seeking exemptions from the FAA laws preventing the use of drones in certain air spaces, and the requirements for licensure to legally operate them.
Sheriff Shultz said the GCSO and other counties’ sheriffs’ offices could use drones to save lives and property.
Another FSA request of the Legislature is more clarity in the understanding that the Sheriff’s Office is in charge of court security – rather than any other entity being in charge of court security in every Florida county.
A third FSA issue is that verbal threats to harm a person cannot be enforced as a crime, whereas written threats can cause a person to be taken into custody. Sheriff Schultz said he loves the United States Constitution and the rights protected by it, including the freedom to express oneself; however, when a person says they are going to harm or kill another person, law enforcement officers’ find themselves as being unable to act – in contrast with when a person writes that he or she is going to harm or kill a person.
When there is a threat of a mass shooting and it is written, he said, that is a second-degree felony. When there is a threat of a mass shooting and it is verbal, he said, that is not a crime that is enforceable in Florida, yet.
The sheriff then made a local request on behalf of the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office and the Gilchrist County Public School District.
Sheriff Schultz said the county has spent money that was allegedly going to be reimbursed in regard to security in the schools after the shooting deaths of people on Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Some has been reimbursed, but some money is 180 days (six months) past due, he said.
Sen. Bradley said this is a real problem, and he thanked the sheriff for bringing it to the attention of the state. He promised to follow-up on why this has taken so long.
GILCHRIST COUNTY TAX COLLECTOR MICHAEL McELROY
Recently appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Gilchrist County Tax Collector Michael McElroy made an appearance at the hearing on Monday afternoon in Trenton.
Gilchrist County Tax Collector Michael McElroy attended his first Legislative Delegation in his new job, after the July 26 appointment to the post by Gov. DeSantis.
Former Tax Collector Barbara Merritt resigned about six months ago.
McElroy started at the Tax Collector’s Office on Aug. 5. His last day at Ameris Bank, where he had been the Branch Manager for the past 16 years, was Aug 2.
His wife Christie McElroy is the principal at Ruth Rains Middle School in Cross City, and she is an elected Gilchrist County School Board member.
Tax Collector McElroy thanked the two men for visiting. Having been in office for some 70-odd days, he had no requests.
GILCHRIST COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS ROB RANKIN
Gilchrist County Superintendent of Schools Rob Rankin expresses his gratitude for the state’s help in funding the start of a future middle-high school in the county.
Gilchrist County Superintendent of Schools Rob Rankin thanked the state leaders for the future school that will serve children in grades 6 through 12. He reminded them that another $7 million is needed for that school to be completed.
Superintendent Rankin also thanked the state leaders for their effort to increase teacher salaries. He mentioned this school year, there were 3,000 vacancies across the state for certified teachers.
GILCHRIST COUNTY COURT JUDGE SHEREE LANCASTER
Gilchrist County Court Judge Sheree Lancaster
Gilchrist County Court Judge Sheree Lancaster visited briefly to tell the leaders she appreciates their work in Tallahassee.
She reminded them of the request from county courts all over the state to increase staff salaries, so the government employers would be more competitive with employers in the private business world.
FANNING SPRINGS MAYOR TRIP LANCASTER
Fanning Springs Mayor ‘Trip’ Lancaster
Fanning Springs Mayor Howell E. “Trip” Lancaster III shared with Rep. Clemons, as he had with Rep. Charlie Stone (R-Ocala, Dist. 22) that Fanning Springs is in both Gilchrist County and Levy County.
Florida House Dist. 22 is all of Levy County and part of southwest Marion County.
Mayor Lancaster spoke about the progress in the city, especially in regard to wastewater treatment changing from septic tanks to a centralized system. The reduction in nitrogen to the surrounding springs has brought back eel grass, he said Lynetta Griner has reported.
Lancaster was also thankful for a Community Development Block Grant for Economic Development, which helped close the deal on construction of a new Best Western Hotel in the City of Fanning Springs. He said a groundbreaking ceremony is to be rescheduled to celebrate this new business, which will provide as many as 40 new jobs.
The first planned groundbreaking for the hotel was cancelled due to weather.
JOSHUA AKIN – TOBACCO FREE PARTNERSHIP
Joshua Akin of the Gilchrist County Tobacco Free Partnership said he hopes the state legislature will help the partnership in its efforts.
Vaping or the use of e-cigarettes, Akin said, is a health hazard. Candy-flavored e-cigarettes show the tobacco industry is up to its tricks of enticing children to use nicotine, and to become addicted to it.
He mentioned that Gilchrist County has taken a positive step in this regard – prohibiting the use of tobacco products or e-cigarettes at Otter Springs Park and Campground.
PRESIDENT MICHAEL ROTH – OUR SANTA FE RIVER
President Michael Roth of the non-profit organization Our Santa Fe River shared his opinion in regard to the past year of environmental matters in the Florida Legislature.
While $100 million for Springs Protection is a lot of money, Roth said this is not exactly a paradigm -- a typical example or pattern of something or a model.
Roth said restoration of springs this year is great. How about next year? He said seeking to resolve the problem that causes spring water degradation in quality is important.
He applauded the success in the City of Fanning Springs, however he added that for some reason the Florida Legislature is not addressing the impact of agricultural interests on nitrogen being added to the water of springs in this part of Florida.
Roth then began his statement about fracking, in which he said the state failed to pass legislation to prevent that.
Rep. Clemons said Roth came to Tallahassee and lobbied against the very bill to stop fracking from happening in Florida.
Clemons said that bill would have prevented two of the three methods used for fracking.
Roth said that bill would still allow matrix acidizing, which involves the use of limestone dissolving acids to tap into oil and gas reserves well below the earth’s surface, a risky business according to environmental groups.
The bill would have prohibited traditional hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves injecting a large amount of pressurized water and chemicals to break up deep-rock formations to tap into the natural gas or petroleum.
Roth said that by allowing matrix acidizing, “It would have taken all of the teeth out of the bill.”
Roth went on to criticize the Clean Waterways Act.
“So, really,” Roth said, “I hear everybody saying it was a great year for the environment, and yet, environmentalists don’t seem to perceive it that way.”
He sees environmentalist losing on fracking issues, on the Clean Waterways Act, and he added, now there is a move for adding toll roads.
Wealthy people in Taylor County and roadbuilders are in favor of the toll road construction projects, Roth said.
“There seems to be no recognition of the rural lifestyle as being a valid lifestyle,” Roth said. “I just don’t understand that.”
He said people have a choice, currently, to live in a rural or an urban environment.
“Now,” he said, “all of the urban people who know better (than the rural people) that they can ‘fix our problem.’ We don’t have a problem. We will have a problem, though, if we have roads being built through disturb the aquifer recharge areas, disturb wildlife…”
Growth containment, Roth said, “is poison” because no one wants to talk about it. He said the 800 people a day moving to Florida can be reduced in number.
Policies can be created, Roth said, to discourage people from moving into Florida.
Sen. Bradley asked Roth for a method to reduce the population influx into the state.
Roth said a state person income tax would have an impact. Rep. Clemons reminded Roth that the Florida Constitution prohibits personal income tax at the state level.
Sen. Bradley became bothered by Roth’s idea.
“I get it,” Sen. Bradley said. “You’re a liberal Democrat who wants us to raise taxes. We have got a Republican majority in the Senate and the House. We have a Republican governor.
“And we decided Florida is not going to be like New Jersey, New York, California or Oregon, where the 20th Century is going to be lost like those places in Illinois, because they can’t pay for what they promised.”
Bradley said people are fleeing those states and going to Florida because people who support anti-fracking are ruining those states. Those states are spiraling in debt, Bradley said.
Like the leaders in Washington, D.C., leaders in those states are spending more than they bring in. And all they can do it print money and borrow money, Bradley said.
Bradley told Roth to talk to a teacher or police officer in California about their happiness with the decisions their state leaders have made. Those leaders in some states other than Florida made such poor decisions, teachers and police officers may lose their state pension, Bradley told Roth.
Bradley said he sees Roth wants more taxes and to “bring northern governing principles to Florida.”
“We can’t build a wall around Florida,” Sen. Bradley said. “We’re going to get 800 people a day, whether we like it or not. We can either plan for it, or put our head in the sand and ignore it.”
Bradley said Roth can vote for the Democrats, because he is never going to support Republicans.
“We care about the environment,” Bradley said.
“I don’t see that,” Roth said.
The dialogue digressed after Roth expressed his opinion that the toll roads are going to benefit wealthy people, like Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton, Dist. 21).
Roth is not the first to launch such a salvo.
Sierra Club Florida Director Frank Jackalone said during a news conference on April 22 in St. Petersburg that his group will declare war on lawmakers who sponsor the bill (SB 7068), which is a priority of Senate President Galvano.
Bradley took offense that Roth may have intimated that Bradley’s good friend Sen. Galvano was somehow corrupt.
“By the way,” Bradley said, “there were only two ‘No’ votes in the entire Senate (on the toll road bill). So, it there was bipartisan support for these ‘corrupt’ roads.
“You’re saying the reason we did it was for kickback?” Bradley asked Roth.
The senator then explained, again, the reason for these toll roads is to help manage growth issues by improving the infrastructure, especially in regard to major roadways.
Rep. Clemons shared his perspective on people on two different sides of an issue in America.
He said he did sponsor a bill that would ban fracking in Florida, although he is not against fracking.
There are 130 million people who come to Florida each year, he said, and the state has a very fragile environment. If people stop coming to visit the state’s rivers and beaches, the state will be in financial trouble, Clemons said.
“And so, the process of government moves slowly,” Clemons said. “The process of the government is about working together to find workable solutions to the challenges that we are facing.
“And so, when the bill surfaced last year that would basically move us in the direction of removing the opportunities to frack in Florida – and there’s three pillars to that fracking process – and through that mediation and negotiation, two of those three would have been delivered and voted upon by the House and the Senate, and would move forward, and the various groups showed up to the committees, and actually lobbied against making progress against fracking in Florida. That was a total antipathy from what I thought
“In the governmental process, incremental increase,” Clemons continued, “is a victory. So, if we can move something toward the goalpost where we want to be, every yard that we gain is a plus.”
Clemons said he intends to make progress toward the goals this year, and if reelected will continue to seek to reach the goals.
“Is it (the governmental process) perfect?” he asked. “Absolutely not. But I don’t want perfection to ever stand in the way of progress that we make in our governmental bodies.”
MELINA RAYNA SVANHILD FARLEY-BARRATT – ACTIVIST
Melina Rayna Svanhild Farley-Barratt is a self-proclaimed activist who asked Sen. Bradley and Rep. Clemons to endorse the ratification by Florida of the Equal Rights Amendment.
This activist is in support of legislation approving the Equal Rights Amendment.
Thirty-seven of the 50 United States have adopted legislation approving the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment). Only one more state needs to ratify it to make the ERA part of the United States Constitution.
During the Second Session of the Ninety-second Congress of the United States of America, by a constitutional majority of two-thirds, both houses approved the Equal Rights Amendment.”
On March 22, 1972, this proposed amendment to the United States Constitution was sent to the states for ratification.
Article V of the United States Constitution authorizes the Legislature of Florida to ratify proposed amendments to the Constitution of the United States.
As noted, 37 of the necessary 38 states have ratified the Equal Rights Amendment.
Farley-Barratt asked the two leaders to support the bills in the Florida Legislature to ratify the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
“There are some who say we don’t need it (the ERA) because it is symbolic,” Farley-Barratt said. “I would say it is not. But, even if it was, that would be a reason to ratify it, not a reason to avoid it, because symbology is something that is really important to our culture.
“For instance, our flag, The Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem, even the prayer that you opened this meeting with,” Farley-Barratt continued. “They are all symbolic, because they are all important to the people.”
The failure to ratify the ERA, Farley-Barratt concluded, is symbolic of the nation’s opinion of women.
SRWMD EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR HUGH THOMAS
SRWMD Executive Director Hugh Thomas
SRWMD Executive Director Hugh Thomas thanked the state leaders for conducting the hearing in Gilchrist County.
He said the water management district appreciates the state supporting programs the district conducts.
“As a resident of Gilchrist County,” Thomas said, “I appreciate y’all coming out and taking your time here.”
Thomas, a lifelong Gilchrist County resident, said the natural resources in the county are important to him and several generations of his relatives who live in the area.
After Thomas again expressed his gratitude, Sen. Bradley asked about the district’s budget year, which began Oct. 1. He asked about the rollback rate, which the district has gone to for taxing the counties it covers each year for several years.
“I think that as we go forward in time,” Sen. Bradley said, “I think you out to get out of the habit of doing that. I’m looking at what the needs are, because as we continue to go forward, there’s a lot of demands on Tallahassee (the state government) whether it’s springs’ funding or whatever it may be, and we need to be sharing more in the costs from some of these projects.
“If your (SRWMD) budget is the same as it was seven, or eight or nine years ago,” Bradley said, “because you are not raising the millage, for keeping up with the cost of living could be problematic. So, I encourage you guys and gals in the district to keep an open mind about these things.”
Bradley said that as he became more involved with the state budget, he saw there was more and more demand on the state to fund necessary projects.
“And people pay millage to the (Suwannee River Water Management) District to participate in that,” Bradley said. “So, I think there should be more cost-sharing than perhaps there is right now."
Rural Electric News
CFEC President Barbara Townsend speaks to the members of the rural electric cooperative on Saturday (Oct. 6). See the whole story and more photos on the BUSINESS PAGE.
Photo by Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 8, 2019 at 9:09 a.m.
Respite care center to open soon
Haven Vice President of Operations Chris Russell (left) and Haven Tri-County Area Patient Care Manager Alison Geiger-Gilliam pause for a photo opportunity in one of the halls of the care center. Notice the art in the background is the famed ‘Honeymoon Cottage’ that used to exist just off the shore from Cedar Key.
Story, Photos and Video
By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 4, 2019 at 4:39 p.m.
CHIEFLAND -- Two years after Haven Hospice closed its 16-bed acute care center, Haven is opening an eight-bed respite care center, according to information released at an open house late Thursday afternoon (Oct. 3).
The Levy County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard, under the leadership of Sgt. C. Rogers (holding the folded American flag) and including Honor Guard members D. Griffeth, R. Sullivan, J. VanDuren, M. Weeks and M. Wilkinson, prepare to present the colors
The Honor Guard marches toward the flag pole at the Haven Care Center in Chiefland.
In this video the Levy County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard is seen in action presenting the colors and leading the audience in saying The Pledge of Allegiance.
Haven President Kathy Fernandez speaks about respite care.
Haven Chief Financial Officer Randy Stewart (seated) listens to the opening of the program.
Haven Director of Access Patrick Allen thanks the many people who have helped, and continue to help, Haven in its mission.
Haven Volunteer Coordinator Vondla Sullivan (left) is seen standing with her friend and a volunteer Amy Bastow. Sullivan is well-known for her many years of service to Haven Hospice and then to the renamed Haven. Bastow is retired from the Haven Hospice staff.
The event Thursday (Oct. 3) was phenomenal news for the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties, which is part of the 18-county service area of Haven (which changed its name from Haven Hospice to Haven).
The Haven service area includes Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Nassau, Putnam, Suwannee, St. Johns, Union and Volusia counties.
The patient care manager in Chiefland will be Alison Geiger-Gilliam, who has been with Haven since 2007, serving first as a staff nurse and then as patient care manager. In 2010-2011, the duty of being the manager not only of the care center but of "home team" caregivers was added to her responsibilities. The "home team" is where those services are provided at the home of the patient.
When the patient acute care center closed in October of 2017, Geiger-Gilliam continued in her managerial role for "home team" care. Now she is again the patient care manager at the care center as well as for "home team" staff and volunteers.
The reopening of the care center with eight beds is anticipated to happen in the middle of this month, she said.
The open house of the Haven Tri-Counties Hospice (and Respite) Care Center began with a welcome by Sinoma Brown, a member of the Haven Tri-Counties Community Advisory Board.
In addition to Brown, the other members of the Haven Board of Advisors for the Tri-County Area are Logan Andrews, Marianne Bennink, Connie Conley, Terrye Dubberly, Denny George, D. Ray Harrison, Gilchrist County Court Judge Sheree Lancaster, Ben Lott, Holly McGlashan, Robert Mount Jr., D.D.S., Scott Pendarvis, Gerry Petrone, Gary Rexroat, Anita Riels, Julie Rose, Larry Smith, Julie Thomas, Lynetta Usher Griner and Bob Williams.
The Levy County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard, under the leadership of Sgt. C. Rogers and including Honor Guard members D. Griffeth, R. Sullivan, J. VanDuren, M. Weeks and M. Wilkinson, presented the colors. The American flag was raised and everyone said The Pledge of Allegiance.
Brown reminded listeners that while the acute care center has been closed for two years, Haven has provided service to people in their homes in the Tri-County Area during that time and that is something everyone can take pride in.
After the welcome, Brown introduced Haven Chaplain Janice Clark who opened the event with the invocation.
Pastor Clark thanked God for the renewal and new beginning for the care center. She prayed that patients, families and friends will fell the care, compassion and comfort for each and every day “… for every day is a gift.”
Clark prayed that those who enter the care center will know this is a sacred place in the hands of God. She asked God to give staff members the sensitivity and love to support everyone who interacts and seeks support from Haven.
Warmth, hospitality and a strong sense of belonging is what Clark prayed people will experience when they enter the care center.
Haven President Kathy Fernandez told visitors about the care center.
Before speaking about the facility, she mentioned that she was glad to see Haven Chief Financial Officer Randy Stewart for attending the open house.
President Fernandez expressed her gratitude as well to the many advisory board members who were present and to the many special donors who were there as well.
Fernandez spoke about the history of Haven Hospice, or Haven, from its opening of the 16-bed facility and administrative offices in 2003.
In 2012, the Haven Attic Store in Chiefland was opened, she said. In January of 2015, Haven broke ground on the 5,000 square-foot free-standing Community Building, which has continued to be used by groups such as the Suwannee Valley Rotary Club, the Chiefland Chamber of Commerce and Haven, for meetings, luncheons, memorial services and awards ceremonies.
President Fernandez said Haven is now thrilled to announce the opening of respite care center, after the acute care center closed temporarily two years ago.
“Respite is a service that is for the caregiver,” Fernandez said.
She knows the toll that being a caregiver for a terminally ill person can take. Both of Fernandez’s parents passed away in her hospice care over the last 15 years, she said.
Anger, frustration, exhaustion, sorrow and loneliness are among the many feelings a caregiver may naturally feel, she continued, when they are called upon to constantly help a loved one who has those needs.
“The emotional and physical stress from caregiving is normal and common,” she said. “It feels like you are going through it by yourself.”
“Caregiver burnout” results from the prolonged and overwhelming stress of caregiving, Fernandez said.
The Hospice Medicare Benefit recognizes the need for respite, she said, and it provides an avenue to help support caregivers. Respite is a core service that Hospice Medicare Benefit reimburses, she said, as a result of it recognizing the need for care of the total patient population.
This new respite care center option will include pets, loved ones, children and laughter, she said.
Meanwhile, the caregiver can enjoy some rest as they know their loved one is in a care center that is dedicated to helping caregivers relax, as they let go of their duty for a time while their loved one is cared for by others.
This lets caregivers become rejuvenated to then continue with giving the care needed for their loved ones, she said.
The care center will care for hospice patients. The idea of it being helpful for caregivers is from its opening for respite care.
There are multiple levels of hospice care, and respite care is designed for patients who live in their own homes with a caregiver (usually a family member).
Having respite care available in the care center means that the hospice patient can stay in the care center for up to five days, being cared for by that specialized staff, while the caregiver is able to get the rest they need.
Since caregivers often have feelings of anxiety, sleeplessness and exhaustion, taking a short break can make a big difference in their ability to continue to care for their loved one, who is a hospice patient.
“I hope this affirms for all of you that Haven is here to stay,” President Fernandez said. “We’re going to continue to serve patients and families in this community; and continue to add services back to the community for our loved ones and our caregivers.”
The physicians, nurses and aides will continue to provide the high level of care – just as before the temporary closure, she said.
“We’ve never left the community,” she added, “but it might have felt that way. I believe that eventually everything good returns.”
She then introduced Patrick Allen, Haven director of Patient Access. Allen now is the person in charge of access to Haven across the whole 18-county region.
Historically, Allen in March of 2017 replaced Anita Howard as the top administrator in Chiefland. Howard then became the administrator at Haven Hospice in Lake City. Howard was the person who replaced DeAnna Beverly as the top administrator in Chiefland.
Beverly became the vice president of clinical operations of Haven back then.
During his speech Thursday, Allen said he is thankful to everyone who came to the event. He said the care center is open, thanks to people like those in attendance, who continue to support Haven – year after year.
Allen acknowledged the LCSO Honor Guard for its part that day, and he said he is grateful to Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum for making that happen.
He said he is thankful as well for the work of all of the Community Advisory Board members -- Andrews, Bennink, Brown, Conley, Dubberly, George, Harrison, Lancaster, Lott, McGlashan, Mount, Pendarvis, Petrone, Rexroat, Riels, Rose, Smith, Thomas, Usher Griner and Williams for their valuable contributions of feedback from the community to improve Haven.
Director Allen said he is thankful, too, for President Fernandez to have the vision and the understanding of the importance of the care center to the Tri-County Area.
Paige Brookins of The Gathering Table was thanked by Allen for her catering of the day, and Allen noted, for the food she will provide when the care center reopens.
Haven Volunteer Coordinator Vondla Sullivan is leading a drive for volunteers right now, Allen said, “… and she does a wonderful job of pairing a person’s skill set for a job we have here at Haven.”
C Street Bridge replacement
to begin this November
in Cedar Key;
October open house scheduled for
residents with questions about project
By Troy Roberts
District Two, Northeast Florida
Florida Department of Transportation
Published Sept. 30, 2019 at 9:09 p.m.
CEDAR KEY – Replacement of the C Street Bridge in Cedar Key is scheduled to begin in early November, and residents are invited to an upcoming Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) open house to have their questions answered.
The $6.7 million project is scheduled to begin November 7 and will include the demolition and replacement of the current C Street Bridge. The project is expected to be completed in late 2020, weather and unforeseen circumstances permitting. The new bridge will be raised three feet and consist of a 17-foot, one-way travel lane, dual 8-foot parking lanes, and dual 6-foot sidewalks.
During construction, a temporary bridge will be constructed to maintain access to the shops and restaurants on Dock Street.
Anderson Columbia Co. Inc. of Lake City has been hired to complete the work for FDOT.
FDOT has scheduled a construction open house to take place from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 10 at the Cedar Key Community Center, 809 Sixth St., Cedar Key.
During the open house, staff with FDOT and its contractors will be on hand to answer any questions that residents may have, and flyers and handouts will be available.
Veterans help veterans;
Poker run is a winner
Jim ‘Rooster’ Hess, top organizer of the poker run, stands beside his motorcycle before the start of the ride.
Story, Photos and Video
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 28, 2019 at
CHIEFLAND – The weather today (Saturday, Sept. 28) was great for a nice motorcycle ride in the country, and the people who have protected this country helped other military veterans while enjoying a motorcycle ride today.
This is a video of the launch of the poker run from AmVets Post 42 – Chiefland – this morning (Saturday, Sept. 28).
Riders in the Vets Helping Vets Poker Run launch from AmVets Post 42 as planned at 11 a.m. on Saturday (Sept. 28).
Eight bottles of various forms of liquor – whiskey, rum, vodka, etc. – stand on a table with empty jars in front of them. Participants in this raffle decided which bottle they wanted to try to win and placed their ticket in that jar in front of the bottle they wanted to win. A drawing determined the winning tickets. Jim Hess, event organizer, said all of the prizes – the art, the clothing, the beverages, gift cards from businesses and everything else – was donated to help fund the VFW Veterans Village at Fort McCoy.
This is one of the tables full of prizes that were awarded to lucky ticket holders as part of the Vets Helping Vets Poker Run event.
This brand-new painting was up for auction on Saturday.
Jim Hess holds two pieces of art as he stands behind an afghan. All three of these items and many more things were donated as part of the fundraiser. The note on the afghan stated that it was ‘Made with lots of love for our veterans.’
Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association 20-6 and AmVets Post 42 of Chiefland hosted the Vets Helping Vets Poker Run.
Proceeds from this poker run, auction, raffles and donations are going to help the VFW Veterans Village at Fort McCoy.
The VFW Veterans Village provides a true home-like atmosphere to veterans, spouses, widows, auxiliary members, and honorably discharged personnel.
Its guiding principle is to provide affordable, independent living accommodations to veterans and their families that have defended the United States of America.
Jim “Rooster” Hess of both the Combat Veterans Association and AmVets Post 42 headed the poker run project on Saturday. It took six months to organize completely. As recently as last night (Friday, Sept. 27), though, there were finishing touches put on one of the paintings that was auctioned at the post during the full day of fun.
This fundraiser, Hess mentioned, might be among the assistance needed by the VFW Veterans Village at Fort McCoy to help it buy a bus or van for transporting veterans from their Marion County residences to the Veterans Administration hospital in Gainesville.
Hess said he was joined in his efforts to make the poker run a success by countless others in the Chiefland AmVets post, other AmVets posts and all of the auxiliaries, and the VFW and American Legion posts in Chiefland and Bronson respectively.
This particular poker run, auction and meal event is a sanctioned Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association event, Hess said. Therefore, all of the members who must attend at least one sanctioned event a year met that duty as well.
There was a safety meeting before the poker run, where Hess reminded everyone to obey traffic laws, stay close to each other but not too close, and to be vigilant with their safety.
Kary Colson, chaplain of AmVets Post 42, who is also a leader in VFW Post 5625, said the prayer for God to bless the riders and keep them safe.
As planned, it was “kickstands up” at 11 a.m. at AmVets Post 42, which is located on the west side of U.S. Highway 19 north of Chiefland (14472 N.W. Highway 19, Chiefland).
The first stop was AmVets Post 447 on U.S. 19 in the City of Fanning Springs (17313 N.W. U.S. 19, Fanning Springs). The second stop was American Legion Post 236 just outside of Bronson (9550 U.S. Alt. 27), Bronson. The third stop was AmVets Post 88 just outside of Bronson (10050 N.E. State Road 24, Archer); the fourth stop is VFW Post 5625, just off of U.S. 19 north of Chiefland (6850 N.W. 137th St., Chiefland).
The last bike in was at 3 p.m. There was music by D.J. Stacey at AmVets Post 42, the starting and ending point for this poker run.
A poker run, by the way, is where the riders pick up one card from each place and the highest poker hand wins a pot. While there is stop one, two, three, etc., the riders can take other routes to get their five cards.
One part of the fun, though, can be riding as a group. During the launch, the Levy County Sheriff’s Office Citizens On Patrol helped the riders all leave in one group.
Meanwhile, back at the post later, there was the auction of paintings, and an afghan. Several local business interests donated gift cards and other items, too, which were won by people who bought tickets that were called.
Other tickets that were bought were put in empty glasses in front of various bottles of alcohol that people won by random drawing of the tickets in those glasses.
Some participants were able to just buy their five cards and not ride, due to them having other things that needed to be done Saturday.
More than 20 motorcycles and more than 50 people participated. As noted, some motorcyclists started their poker run at locations other than AmVets Post 42.
While every participant won by having a meal included in their fun for the day, which cost was part of the registration for the poker run, and many people won raffle prizes or they won as the top bidder in auctions, the final winner from this project was the VFW Veterans Village at Fort McCoy – thanks to all of the veterans and others who helped make this poker run a winner.
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New Jingle Singers
Teresa Cruz and Stephanie Wilson
Teresa Cruz (left) and Stephanie Wilson are captured in this still shot before singing the HardisonInk.com Jingle on Friday afternoon, Oct. 11, 2019, at Duncan’s On The Gulf in Cedar Key.
Photo By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 12, 2019 at 5:09 p.m.
118th Jingle Singers
Teresa Cruz (left) and Stephanie Wilson sing the HardisonInk.com Jingle on Friday afternoon, Oct. 11, 2019, at Duncan’s On The Gulf in Cedar Key. If you want to sing the jingle, just let Jeff M. Hardison know or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. He asks people to sing (or perform) it, too, and some of them agree to sing it or to perform the jingle. (Thanks people!)
Published Oct. 12, 2019, at 5:09 p.m.
© Video by Jeff M. Hardison, All Rights Reserved