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Levy County Road 347 reopens through
Fowlers Bluff to State Road 24;

Published Aug. 21, 2019 at 10:39 p.m.
     LEVY cOUNTY --
Levy County Emergency Management noted late Wednesday night (Aug. 21) that All of the County Roads are now open.
     There are still some local roads that are for local traffic only, and quite a few smaller roads that are still completely flooded.  The Palm Street bridge is closed. It is west of U.S. Highway 19 and south of Levy County Toad 40 in the Inglis area.

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SR 51 in Steinhatchee
is closed at 2nd Avenue 

By Troy Roberts
Communications Specialist
District Two, Northeast Florida
Florida Department of Transportation
Published Aug. 21, 2019 at 4:49 p.m.
As of 4:22 p.m. today (Aug. 21), a road depression on State Road 51 at 2nd Avenue in Steinhatchee has required the closure of the roadway.
    A detour is in active now.
    Southbound motorists will be detoured to Second Avenue, 14th Street, Third Avenue, and back to State Road 51.
     Northbound motorists will be detoured to Third Avenue, 14th Street, to Second Avenue, and back to State Road 51.
     Florida Department of Transportation crews are currently inspecting the roadway and will make the necessary repairs to reopen the road as soon as possible.


Williston football
teams practice;
serves people at fundraiser

Williston Florida
The JV and Varsity WMHS Football Teams’ players are seen here with some support students, and with Head WMHS Varsity Football Coach Ric Whittington at the right in this photo.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 21, 2019 at 2:09 p.m.
All Rights Reserved
The City of Williston was abuzz with activity Tuesday evening (Aug, 20) as the Junior Varsity and Varsity Williston Middle High School football teams practiced, and the Williston Red Devils Marching Band conducted a fundraiser.
     Head WMHS Varsity Football Coach Ric Whittington had both sets of the varsity and junior varsity players group together for a quick impromptu photo opportunity during practice early Tuesday evening.
     The players quickly, completely and unquestionably followed the commands of their coach, which may account for the varsity teams’ 28-18 victory over Lafayette County on Aug. 16. Following instructions, practice and working as one group are two important elements for success of sports teams.

Williston Florida
Red Devils Band Director James Brown is seen after enjoying his meal at BubbaQue’s Tuesday evening. Also, at this table but not pictured is Band Booster President Candice Hilldebrandt, owner  C Hill Photography in Williston.

     Meanwhile, later in that very evening in Williston, some of the 40 to 50 WMHS Red Devils Marching Band worked at BubbaQue’s in Williston during a fundraiser. Under the direction of Band Director James Brown, who is in his second year in that capacity, musical performers were food service support personnel.
     The musicians bused tables, cleaned tables and delivered drinks to customers at BubbaQue’s. For their work, the restaurant gave the band 15 percent from the checks paid when the customer mentioned the band.

Williston Florida
Alexis Jakobsen, 13, alto saxophone player, and Emily Yount, 13, clarinet player, stand outside BubbaQue’s in Williston on Tuesday evening urging people to dine there as part of a fundraiser for the WMHS Band.

Williston Florida
Olivia Nussel, 14, clarinetist, carries drinks to diners at BubbaQue’s in Williston on Tuesday evening as she works to help raise funds for the school band.

Williston Florida
Gunnar Maguire, 14, a trombone player in the WMHS Red Devils Marching Band carries a lot of glasses after busing a table at BubbaQue’s. Maguire was among the many band students helping to raise money for the young musicians this year.

Williston Florida
Beau Hilldebrandt, 14, a clarinetist who plays other instruments as well, is seen cleaning at table at BubbaQue’s. Beau, the son of Band Booster President Candice Hilldebrandt, was among the many student musicians helping the band. A couple of the many other students not photographed in action that night are Michael Stark, 15, trombone player, and Matthew Stark, 14, trumpet player. Their dad Nick Stark, a former band director and current Band Booster member, was present Tuesday night. Their family has a long lineage of players and leaders in the WHS Band history.


Traffic Advisory:
State Road 24
from Bronson to Otter Creek is reopened.

Published Aug. 21, 2019 at 9:39 a.m.


Dixie County recovering
from flood issues;

Hwy. 349 reopened
Published Aug. 20, 2019 at 10:39 a.m.
     CROSS CITY --
Dixie County Emergency Services Lt. Mandy Lemmermen, Public Information Officer, noted in a 10 a.m. email morning update that the county continues recovering from issues caused by heavy rainfall.
     "We have opened up South 349 Highway to all normal traffic at this time," Lt. Lemmermen noted. "We still have our general population shelter open for those affected by the flood (as noted in a story below this one on this page). It is not pet friendly. Our information line at the Emergency Operations Center is still active at 352-498-1464, to answer any questions or concerns."


SR 24 partly reopens in Levy County
Published Aug. 19, 2019 at 9:39 a.m. 
     TRAFFIC ADVISORY: As of 9 a.m. today (Tuesday, Aug. 20) State Road 24 from Otter Creek to Cedar Key is now OPEN. State Road 24 from Bronson to US Hwy 19 is still CLOSED, according to Levy County Emergency Mangement.

Tri-County Area
High School
Varsity Football Scores



Dixie Co. Emergency Services
opens shelter for flood victims

By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 19, 2019 ay 3:19 p.m.
     CROSS CITY --
At this time, Dixie County Emergency Services has opened a general population shelter located at the OLD high school gym, DCES Lt. Mandy Lemmermen noted at 2:28 p.m. on Monday (Aug. 18).

    This shelter is for people who are affected by water being in their homes, she said, to the point where they live there.
     The American Red Cross is manning the shelter at the OLD high school. This shelter is NOT pet friendly, Lt. Lemmermen said.
     All school in Dixie County are open and are scheduled to be open tomorrow (Tuesday, Aug. 20), Lt. Lemmermen, the public information officer for DCES
, added.


Monday Morning Flood Update
From Levy County Emergency Management
Published Aug. 19, 2019 at 10:09 a.m.
     BRONSON --
Rain will significantly drop off today and there may be some visible sunlight hitting the ground.
     Significant flooding is still happening throughout Levy County and several roads are still flooded. Go to for a list of closed roadways throughout the county.
     Please report damages to your home or business to 352-486-5155 or online at
     If you are stuck in your home and have no way of getting out, please call us at 352-486-5155 or 352-486-5111. If you experience an emergency, please call 9-1-1.
     Cedar Key School is closed today, but the rest of the county schools are open. Levy County School District does have a modified school bus route schedule in place.
     This information can be found on their website at
Information about the dangers of flooded wells and how to handle the situation has been provided by the Levy County Department of Health. That information can be found on our website at
     If you have any other questions, please call Levy County Emergency Management at 352-486-5155.


More roads close;
Motorists ignore signs;
Cedar Key School is closed tomorrow

Levy County
These are some of the signs that Levy County Road 347 is closed going west from Fowlers Bluff

Story, Photos and Video
By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 18, 2019 at 6:09 p.m.
Updated Aug. 18, 2019 at 6:49p.m.
All Rights Reserved
-- A riding review of roads closed in Levy County showed at 3 p.m. Sunday (Aug. 18) that Levy County Road 347 at Fowler's Bluff was closed going toward Cedar Key.
     Some Levy County school bus routes are abbreviated, Levy County Emergency Management Assistant Director David Peaton noted in an email at 4:35 p.m.
     Due to significant rainfall and localized flooding in the Cedar Key and Yankeetown areas, Peaton said, a few buses will be running a slightly abbreviated route on Monday and Tuesday (Aug. 19 and 20).
     Cedar Key School is closed tomorrow (Aug. 19).
     Drivers will contact parents in flooded areas who may need to deliver their students to the nearest main road or designated stop where they can be picked up.
     Again, this will only be in the Cedar Key and Yankeetown attendance zones, and all buses in those zones will not be impacted.
     Anyone who realizes that their street is significantly flooded and may present problems for the bus, is asked to please call the bus driver prior to the morning route to confirm if there are adjustments, Peaton said. 
     Rain is continuing for much of west and south Levy with some areas still seeing heavy rainfall.
     "We can expect flooding issues to continue or even get worse," Peaton said. "Otherwise, much has remained the same. A list of road closures is on our homepage at"

Levy County
This sign on the east side of the community of Fowlers Bluff lets people know beforehand that they will need to turn around if they are thinking of driving on CR 347 west toward the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge or farther west.

Levy County
The Levy County Public Safety Department Fire Station in Fowlers Bluff has some water standing in front of one of the vehicles parked there.

In this video, water is flowing north under the CR 347 roadway as it goes to the Suwannee River. Then, the video shows where the water is entering to go under the road.

Video By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 18, 2019

Levy County
Marty Griffin of the Levy County Road Department is one of the many people who do not normally work Sundays, but was called in as a result of flood conditions.

Levy County
This rapidly flowing water travels under Levy County Road 347 on the west end of Fowlers Bluff. An unmistakable smell indicates that not every septic tank upstream may be working at 100 percent. This is the view of the southern flow going under the road.

Levy County
This rapidly flowing water travels under Levy County Road 347 on the west end of Fowlers Bluff. This is the view of the northern flow going under the road and into the Suwannee River at Fowlers Bluff.

Levy County
State Road 345 at Rocky Hammock, looking south toward State Road 24, shows it is marked as a road to not travel due to the danger of water crossing the road and sweeping a vehicle off the road.

Levy County

Levy County
Motorists drive oblivious to the potential of flowing water across Levy County Road 347 between SR 345 and U.S. Highway 19, as they are in-between two sets of signs warning that water is crossing the roadway.

     State Road 345 at Rocky Hammock showed it was closed going southbound toward State Road 24, which leads to Cedar Key.
     "Road Under Water" signs going east on CR 347 from SR 345 (Carter's Crossroads) were ignored by some motorists.
Due to continued heavy rains across Northeast Florida, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced additional road and lane closures in Taylor and Levy counties.
     At 1 p.m. Troy Roberts, communications specialist with the Florida Department of Transportation announced that as of Sunday morning, State Road 51 in Steinhatchee (Taylor County) at Second Avenue is closed due to water on the roadway. The detour route utilizes Third Avenue, 14th Street, and First Avenue.
     Additionally, State Road 500 (U.S. Alt. 27) in Levy County has a westbound outside lane closure between County Road 32B and the County Road 339 intersection, Roberts said.
     The State Road 24 road closures – between Otter Creek and Rosewood, and between Bronson and Otter Creek – that were announced Friday continue to remain in effect, Roberts said.
     Crews remain onsite and monitoring water levels on those and nearby roadways, Roberts said.
      In Dixie County, according to Lt. Mandy Lemmermen, Public Information Officer with Dixie County Emergency Services, at this time, South 349 Highway starting at 346 Highway, is still closed to non-residents of the Town of Suwannee and all affected areas.
      The Dixie County information line is open for any questions you may have, Lemmermen said.
      The number is 352-498-1464, Lemmermen said.
     We ask that you please avoid driving in any affected areas that may have water over the roadway for your safety, Lemmermen said.
     Per the Dixie County School Board, all Dixie District Schools will be open tomorrow (Monday, Aug. 19). All questions or concerns can be directed to school officials.
(Please see related story below)


NWS Ruskin, Tallahassee
and Jacksonville
warn of flooding issues

'Doppler radar indicates 7 to 11 inches of rain
has fallen om Levy County
from Inglis to Fowlers Bluff since Wednesday.'

– NWS Ruskin


By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 18, 2019 at 9:39 a.m.
Offices of the National Weather Service in Ruskin, Tallahassee and Jacksonville warn of existing flooding issues in northern Florida and West Central Florida this morning (Sunday, Aug. 18).

Florida Rain
This graphic from the NWS shows rain probability from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday (Aug. 18) in Florida.
-- Graphic By NWS

     The National Weather Service (NWS) in Ruskin has issued a Flood Warning for Levy County in northern Florida, which is in effect until 5:30 p.m. Sunday. This warning has been in effect for a few days now.
     At 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, the NWS reported, Levy County Emergency Management reported numerous road closures due to flooding over the past couple of days.
     Additional showers and isolated thunderstorms are expected tonight (Sunday night, Aug. 18) which will hinder flood waters from receding. Doppler radar indicates 7 to 11 inches of rain has fallen from Inglis to Fowlers Bluff since Wednesday.
     Some locations that will experience flooding include Williston, Chiefland, Bronson, Homosassa Springs, Manatee Road, Fowlers Bluff, Homosassa, Inglis, Yankeetown, Fanning Springs, Otter Creek, Citronelle, Crystal Manor, Manatee Springs State Park, Lebanon Station and Citrus Springs, although this list is not all-inclusive, the NWS noted.

     The National Weather Service in Tallahassee has issued a Flood Warning for Dixie County and Southeastern Taylor County in Big Bend of Florida, until 12:30 p.m. (Sunday afternoon, Aug. 18).
     At 12:22 a.m. (Sunday morning, Aug. 18). The Emergency Management Division of Dixie County Emergency Services, the NWS noted, reported flooding in Dixie and southeast Taylor counties.
     Significant flooding is occurring near Steinhatchee. Although rain has temporarily come to an end, flooding will continue through the morning hours, and additional rain is possible this morning (Sunday, Aug. 18), the NWS noted.
     Some locations that will experience flooding include Cross City, Steinhatchee, Horseshoe Point, the Town of Suwannee, Horseshoe Beach, Tennille, Fish Creek, Shamrock, Howell Place, Clara, Cross City Airport, Shired Island, Old Town, Jena, Hines, Jonesboro, Bird Island, Eugene, Fletcher and Yellow Jacket.

     The NWS forecast from Jacksonville for Trenton today (Sunday Aug. 18) notes showers and thunderstorms are likely. Then, showers and possibly a thunderstorm after 2 p.m. is likely. A high temperature near 87 degrees Fahrenheit is noted for Sunday.
     South wind at 3 to 8 m.p.h., with chance of precipitation is 80 percent. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch are possible.
     Tonight (Sunday, Aug. 18), in Trenton, the NWS forecasts showers are likely and possibly a thunderstorm before 7 p.m., then a chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. The forecast shows it will be cloudy, with a low around 73. Calm wind. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

     The NWS Jacksonville Office has issued a Flood Warning on issued Aug. 17 at 9:19 p.m. until further notice for Alachua and Columbia counties.
     The National Weather Service in Jacksonville has issued a flood
warning for the following rivers in Florida Santa Fe River near O`Leno State Park affecting Alachua and Columbia counties from Sunday evening (Aug. 18) until further notice, or until the warning is cancelled.
     At 8:15 p.m. on Saturday (Aug. 17), NWS Jacksonville noted, the flood stage measurement of the Santa Fe River near O`Leno State Park was 40.9 feet. Minor flooding is forecast. Flood stage is 43.0 feet.
     The NWS Jacksonville forecast is that the Santa Fe River will rise above flood stage by tomorrow (Monday, Aug. 19) in the late evening and continue to rise to near 44.4 feet by Tuesday evening.

     Levy County Emergency Management Assistant Director David Peaton noted that U.S. Alt. 27, Levy County Road 347, and State Road 345 are all open.
     There are still several roads throughout Levy County that are closed, partially flooded, or soon to be flooded. State Road 24 between Bronson (U.S. Alt. 27) and U.S. Highway 19, as well as State Road 24 between Otter Creek (U.S. 19) and Rosewood (State Road 345) are still closed.
     Levy County Emergency Management will keep road closures updated as best as they can at this county’s website at
      Levy County property owners can report flood-related damage to the online damage reporting portal at Levy County Emergency Management will begin taking damage reports over the phone from people that do not have access to Internet -- beginning Monday morning.
     It is vital that everyone use extreme caution on the roadways. Pay attention to surroundings. Do not try to cross flooded roadways. Research alternative routes before leaving home, because road closures can occur rapidly.
     Report new road closures or other non-emergency issues in Levy County to the Levy County Sheriff's Office at 352-486-5111. If a person experiences an emergency, he or she should dial 9-1-1.
     The Levy County School Board notes that school will be in session in Levy County on Monday.
      “Road flooding is occurring throughout all of Levy County, but the most severe is south of Chiefland and west of U.S. Highway 19, including all Of Yankeetown, Inglis, Otter Creek, and Gulf Hammock,” he said Saturday.
     “Stay off of the roads if possible,” Peaton continued “and if you do have to cross roads, research alternative routes before leaving the house in the event that you encounter a flooded roadway.”
     The second in command at Levy County Emergency Management noted that due to the geographical size of Levy County, not all flooded roads will be identified or marked.
     “Make sure that you use extreme caution if you our out on the roadways,” Peaton said. “If you encounter an unmarked flooded road, contact the Levy County Sheriff’s Office at 352-486-5111. if you experience an emergency, dial 9-1-1.
     Dixie County Emergency Services Public Information Officer Lt. Mandy Lemmermen sent information reminding members of the public to stay safe.
     At 12:34 p.m. on Saturday (Aug. 17), Lt. Lemmermen noted that at this time, South 349 Highway, starting at Highway 346 in Dixie County and continuing into the Town of Suwannee, is CLOSED to all non-residents of Suwannee or those affected areas until further notice.
     "As soon as the road is opened back up for normal traffic, we will let you know," she added.
     Later Saturday evening (Aug. 17), Lemmermen noted that the members of Dixie County Emergency Services urge everyone to practice safety when driving in flood conditions.
     The Florida Department of Health is urging all residents and visitors to avoid direct contact with floodwaters. Flood water may contain fecal matter from sewage systems, and septic tanks, agricultural and industrial waste and other bacteria. There may also be unseen hazards under the water in areas that received storm surge or freshwater flooding.

     As for Gilchrist County, there have been no public notices of flooding issues or closed roads, or springs in that county from Wednesday (Aug. 14) through 9:39 a.m. on Sunday (Aug. 18).


Boil water notice issued
for Manatee Utilities;

By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 16, 2019 at 12:09 p.m.
A boil water notice has been issued customers of Manatee Spring Utilities, of Chiefland, as of today (Friday, Aug 16).
     Manatee Utilities serves the Chiefland Golf and Country Club.
     Manatee Utilities is on a precautionary boil water notice until two consecutive days of satisfactory bacteriological tests are done.
     A precautionary boil water notice is issued to protect consumers when it is possible that drinking water has been contaminated by microorganisms that can cause illness (i.e. germs or pathogens).
     To learn more about a precautionary boil water notice, click HERE for the proper link to the Florida Department of Health.
     People who have any question about the Manatee Utilities boil water notice are asked to please call Levy County Water in Bronson at 352-486-5376.


Police chief predicts
recreational marijuana laws
are destined for Florida's future

Chiefland Police Chief Scott Anderson warns City Commission members that he believes recreational marijuana will be approved for use in Florida by state legislators in the near future. The chief’s comments

By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 14, 2019 at 9:39 a.m.
Police Chief Scott Anderson on Monday night (Aug. 12) told the four Chiefland City Commission members present for the twice-monthly regular commission meeting that the next thing they should expect is recreational marijuana being approved in Florida.
     Chief Anderson received a 4-0 vote of approval to buy another $8,500 K-9 to replace Blitz, the Chiefland Police Department K-9 who is being retired due to his skill at sniffing out marijuana proving to be essentially useless now. Blitz had been on the police force for years, finding suspected drugs with his nose.
     The chief had to return a different recently-approved and recently-purchased $8,500 K-9 that was trained to detect marijuana and other drugs, because it would be giving “alerts” that could not stand the test of the judicial process for reasons to conduct a search of a vehicle.
     The returned K-9 is being “swapped” for a dog that is trained to find drugs other than marijuana, which then will show the CPD having two K-9s qualified for the newest version of drug-detecting law enforcement – that excludes sniffing for marijuana.
     Both of the recent K-9 purchases by the CPD were of dogs bought from Southern Coast K9 Inc., a well-established reputable training and sales facility on the East Coast of Florida, in New Smyrna Beach. The two dogs with a total price-tag of $17,000 are being bought with money from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund, which exists from money seized from criminal activities – such as Internet café operations that were raided and closed in Chiefland by the CPD.
     Chiefland City Commissioner Donald Lawrence was absent for his second consecutive regular meeting, on a night which included extra meetings where the City Commission also sat as a Planning Board and then met in a workshop for the city’s annual budget.
     City Commissioner Lawrence has sold his Chiefland home, and when he returns from an out-of-state visit for a family celebration, he will be living in his recreational vehicle at the Strawberry Fields For RV’ers Resort. He intends to buy another house within the city limits, City Manager Mary Ellzey said in an interview Wednesday (Aug. 14).
     City Manager Ellzey is the clerk of the city, too, and in that capacity she is the supervisor of elections for city elections in Chiefland.
     By living at the RV resort that is in the city limits, City Commissioner Lawrence can still be a member of the Chiefland City Commission. Only people who are qualified voters in city elections can serve on that commission, and to vote in Chiefland, an individual must reside within the city limits, according to city charter and state law.
     As for the recreational use of marijuana being on the horizon, recent state legislation approving hemp farming and sales may be perceived as greasing the skids for those laws to be enacted.
     When the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services succeeded in having the Florida Legislature allow hemp to be grown and sold in Florida, it created a problem for law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to successfully arrest people for using marijuana recreationally.
     This issue results due to the inability to distinguish levels of the psychoactive element in this plant – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is one of at least 113 cannabinoids identified in cannabis. THC is the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis.
     Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney William Cervone sent a letter July 31 to all law enforcement agencies in this circuit – which includes Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union counties – regarding officers charging suspects and his office prosecuting marijuana possession cases.
     The letter explains to law enforcement officers why State Attorney Cervone and some number of the total 20 state attorneys in Florida’s 67 counties within the 20 circuits are conceding that the mere odor of marijuana is not enough probable cause to justify a search or arrest.
     Chief Anderson told the Chiefland City Commission a recent request by him for a search warrant based on the odor of marijuana coming from a motel room was denied. In that instance, one suspect spontaneously admitted having other drugs, however, as he stated that he smoked drugs – but he did not sell them, according to information in the arresting officer’s narrative.
     “Because hemp and cannabis are indistinguishable by sight or smell,” Cervone noted in his July 31 letter, “that alone is no longer significant probable cause to go forward.”
     The current field tests to determine if THC exists in a sample of suspected marijuana, Cervone noted, are not adequate to differentiate and detect if the three-tenths of 1 percent of THC threshold has been exceeded to prove the leafy green substance is potent enough to prosecute the possessor.
     While Chief Anderson was somewhat throwing his hands up in surrender to busting misdemeanor marijuana possessors, Cervone clearly wrote methods for law enforcement officers to arrest some number of suspects who are inclined to be successfully prosecuted by the Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office.
     A K-9’s “alert” to the smell of marijuana is not sufficient, Cervone noted.
     Therefore, he added, an officer must reach “an odor-plus standard.” The arresting officer must be able to articulate additional facts beyond the detection of the odor, Cervone noted. For instance, if the subject is involved in other criminal activity, admits that he or she is using a form of marijuana that is potent, admits to other criminal acts, shows signs of nervousness or deception, makes furtive movements or provides other indicators of to suggest his or her guilt, then the officer can combine those elements with the detection of the odor of marijuana to have probable cause to move forward with action to enforce the laws of Florida.
     However, even if the officer meets the “odor-plus standard,” and then if he or she wishes to move forward with a criminal charge against a person, then State Attorney Cervone wrote that prefers the officer do so by a sworn complaint rather than by an arrest.
     “I would also suggest that the arrest option be limited to significant quantities of suspected cannabis or known drug traffickers,” Cervone said in his July 31 letter to all law enforcement officers in this circuit.
     The state attorney reminds officers that the state must prove beyond and to the exclusion of reasonable doubt that any substance submitted as evidence is proved to be the illegal form of cannabis with a high enough THC level to meet that standard.
     He added another fact to show why his office is taking this new stance, because it is based on a foundation in ethics.
     “Our ethical burden,” Cervone wrote, “requires a good faith belief that we can produce admissible evidence sufficient to sustain a conviction, and that is not something that we can do at this moment.”
     Cervone wrote that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is currently unable to test to find the levels of THC from evidence collected. Cervone said no private lab has stepped forward to fill that gap, which must be completed to show evidence that meets the requirements of the law for a successful prosecution.
     Meanwhile, Cervone noted, recreational use of marijuana in Florida is still illegal. The only change with hemp being grown and marketed by farmers and salespeople in Florida for uses other than recreation, he said, is the level of ease in regard to the ability to prosecute.
     As for cases related to the seizures of other illegal drugs, illegal weapons and evidence of all other crime, Cervone reminds all law enforcement officers that his office shall continue prosecuting people suspected of violating laws.
     He ended his letter by letting readers at law enforcement agencies in this circuit know Texas and other states face similar issues as a result of hemp being grown legally. As this issue continues to develop, Cervone promised to circulate additional information.


Homicide victim
found in Levy County;

LCSO seeks help from the public

Inglis Florida



Jafet Padin Rodriguez
Photo Provided


By LCSO Lt. Scott Tummond
Published Aug. 12, 2019 at 8:49 p.m.
At 7:53 p.m. on Sunday (Aug. 11), deputies with the Levy County Sheriff’s Office responded to Levy County Road 464 in the southeastern area of Levy County.
     A 9-1-1 caller reported finding the body of an unidentified male on the side of the road. Deputies arrived and immediately secured the area as a crime scene. Levy County detectives and Crime Scene investigators were dispatched to the scene and assumed the investigation.
     Detectives learned the identity of the person is Jafet Padin Rodriguez, 33. He would have been 34 years old on Sept. 14. He is from Ocala.
     Rodriguez had been listed as a missing person the day prior to his body being found by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. Detectives determined that Rodriguez suffered a single gunshot wound, which ended his life.
     Levy County detectives are asking people in Levy County and Marion County for assistance.
     This investigation has determined Rodriguez left his home on Saturday evening to go clubbing in the Ocala area. He never returned home.
     Anyone who saw Rodriguez in or nearby any nightclubs in Ocala and has information that could assist this investigation is asked to call LCSO Det. Mike McNeil at 352-486-5111 ext. 266.


Dixie County conference shows
resources for
response to mental health issues

Dixie County
Prevention Specialist Robert Wells of Meridian Behavior Healthcare speaks about resources to help people.

By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 7, 2019 at 8:09 p.m.
A Dixie County High School senior introduced the program Tuesday afternoon (Aug. 6) where mental health professionals spoke about available resources in Dixie County.
     Jacob Knox, a DCHS senior, introduced Prevention Specialist Robert Wells of Meridian Behavior Healthcare. Wells spoke about some of Meridian’s many programs to help individuals with mental health issues.
     Wells, who has been in the prevention field since 2001, shared information about some of the services provided by Meridian Behavior Healthcare. Meridian provides housing, intervention services, group therapy, as well as in-patient and outpatient care and other services, Well said.
     Wells is one of the founders of the Levy County Prevention Coalition in 2001. He was instrumental in the success of the Dixie County Prevention Coalition starting some years ago, when he worked with Katrina VanAernam, the founder of that coalition. Now, Wells is assisting in the start-up of the Gilchrist County Prevention Coalition.
     VanAernam and several other people were present for the gathering on Tuesday. Some people shared how drug abuse and domestic abuse have hurt them.
     Wells said coalitions find that gaps that need filling as they work to prevent people from falling victim to the ravages of drug abuse.
     Among the things Wells teaches is a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training course as a step all individuals can take toward wellness and helping others to reach wellness. He is willing to teach to groups of people from a half dozen to 25 people at a time.
     Just as physical health issues have warning signs and symptoms, early intervention for mental illness is very important, the Meridian website notes. The MHFA course teaches participants the risk factors and warning signs of a variety of mental health challenges common among adults including: anxiety, depression, psychosis, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and substance use disorders, the Meridian website notes.
     Wells also spoke Tuesday afternoon about the Meridian Mobile Response Team.
     Meridian Behavior Healthcare Mobile Response Team (MRT) Manager Alesha Smith, also was present Tuesday at the Dixie County Public Library in Cross City.
     The Meridian Behavior Healthcare MRT Program is to help troubled young people, 25 years and younger, who are in Baker, Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Suwannee and Union counties whenever they are in need of crisis intervention services 24-hours-a-day, on any day or night.
     The MRT Hotline number for young people to call when they need help is 1-800-330-5615.
     While neighboring Taylor County is not in this coverage area for Meridian, all 67 counties in Florida have resources.
     The goal of the MRT program is “… to lessen the trauma of crisis situations, particularly diverting individuals away from” emergency rooms and jails. As part of that goal, the MRT intends to stabilize the person in the most conducive setting possible.
     During the initial crisis phase, a counselor with a master’s level counselor responds to the crisis location at any hour of the day or night. Meanwhile, a care coordinator establishes links to appropriate community resources.
     According to the information shared with the public on Saturday, Mobile Response Teams from Meridian aim to
     ● Respond to the site within 60 minutes of a crisis notification;
     ● Follow up the next day with a tailored behavioral health crisis-oriented care plan;
     ● Provide screening, standardized assessments and referral services;
     ● Create safety plans to prevent future crises;
     ● Include family members in decision-making and support processes;
     ● Assure links between all continuing care services, including psychiatric care, as well as outpatient and referral agencies; and
     ● Promote the use of innovative technology.
     To respond within 60 minutes, sometimes a law enforcement officer is needed to provide “Telehealth,” where the crisis counselor can aid the person via a video-audio link.
     Telehealth is a convenient and confidential way to access real-time outpatient services through a computer, tablet or smartphone. Meridian uses secure broadband or cellular connections to protect privacy during a session, the Meridian website notes.
     Assessment, counseling, psychiatric evaluation, and medication management are available by telehealth. Telehealth can be provided from Meridians clinics to home or a mobile device, to a school, other community settings, or from one Meridian clinic to another, the Meridian website notes.
     While the MRT is for young people, individuals of any age can use the Meridian Behavior Healthcare 24/7 Crisis Line by calling 1-800-330-5615.

Dixie County
Seen here are (from left) Jennifer Gregory, Debby Sweem and Donna Crawford, members of The Hope Dealers. They are currently working under the umbrella of the Dixie County Prevention Coalition, but the plan is for The Hope Dealers to become an independent group that provides peer support for drug rehabilitation and prevention.

     Also, on Tuesday afternoon, Debby Hagan Sweem introduced a new group named The Hope Dealers.
     Working under the auspices of the Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition, Program Coordinator Sweem is joined by Donna Crawford and Jennifer Gregory as they are all peer support specialists.
     They all have experienced drug abuse having a negative impact on their lives, and have recovered for three or more years to qualify to take the training to become peer support specialists.
     Lutheran Services of Florida provided the training for these women who are The Hope Dealers.
     The Hope Dealers are those who have been through the burdens from addiction. They provide people with support in designing their very own methods for getting off of drugs and staying off of them.
     The telephone numbers for people with drug problems to call for help in getting off of drugs are
     Debby Sweem 352-210-2601
     Donna Crawford 352-210-2561
     Jennifer Gregory 352-440-2776.
     Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition Event Coordinator Rebecca Fusco provided a wealth of telephone numbers to call for resources that can help.
     In addition to the Meridian Crisis line and The Hope Dealers phone number, both noted above, other groups people can utilize for assistance are:
     * Lutheran Services of Florida at 1-877-229-9098. This 24-hour North Florida hotline provides referrals for anyone living with a substance abuse or mental health disorder.
     * Overcomers at 386-965-8461. This is a Christian faith-based recovery support group that helps individuals and their family members break the chains of drug addiction, without cost or judgment. They meet every Monday at 6 p.m. in the New Life Church on Chavous Road in Old Town.
     * Alcoholics Anonymous at 352-210-3623. This group meets every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the Ameris Bank location in Cross City, where the Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition also has its offices.
     * 7th Day Adventist Recovery Group at 352-231-0849. This is a Christian faith-based recovery support group that is focused on rest and restoration.  It meets every Friday at 7th Day Adventist Church in Cross City.
     * Tri-County Community Resource Center at 352-507-4000. Located in Chiefland, this is a resource for people to find help if they are needy. It also serves as a clearinghouse to direct people who need help across the whole spectrum of social services.
     * Another Way at 1-866-875-7983. This agency helps people who are suffering as a result of domestic (spouse or child) abuse.
     * Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
     * Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673.
     There are resources to help people in need.


Are you raising
mosquitoes in your yard?

By Levy County Mosquito Control
Under the Direction of Mathew Weldon
Published Aug. 1, 2019 at 12:09 p.m.
     BRONSON --
Check around your yard and home for places where water collects such as water-holding containers, house A/C drains, and ornamental ponds – You May Be Raising Mosquitoes! 

Levy County 


    Here are positive steps you the homeowner can take to reduce this menace.
     Get rid of old tires, tin cans, bottles, jars, buckets and other containers.
     Empty your small toddler-size wading pool weekly and store it indoors when not in use. 
     Make certain your backyard swimming pool is properly maintained.
     Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets and move air conditioner drain hoses frequently. 
     Scrub and change the water in bird baths and in vases holding flowers or cuttings twice each week or grow cuttings in sand.
     Empty outside water pans for pets daily.
     Clean clogged roof gutters and drain flat roofs and stock ornamental ponds with fish. 

Levy County

     With all the recent rain, mosquitoes are going to be hatching out and we all need to remember a few tips to avoid being bitten.
The Five Ds are:
     Dusk & Dawn are when mosquitoes are most active so you should avoid being outside at those times. And if you must be outdoors then--
     Dress so your skin is covered with clothing. Wear shoes, socks, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt.
     Drain any empty containers and stagnant water so mosquito wrigglers can’t grow up to become biters.
     Deet mosquito repellant is best to protect bare skin and clothing. It is important to remember that DEET in not recommended for children younger than two months old. Instead, avoid exposing your baby to mosquitoes.
     Levy County is the home for 40 known species of mosquitoes. They are as different in their feeding and breeding habits as humans are different in their lifestyles.
     All mosquitoes must have water to develop.  Most prefer slow-moving or stagnant water in which to lay their eggs. One tablespoon of water will breed over 200 mosquitoes. During warm weather, mosquitoes can complete their life cycle in four days.
     While there are dozens of mosquito control devices on the market today, the most effective method is to destroy mosquito breeding places. This means getting rid of any standing water conditions around your home.
     Practice good “mosquito hygiene” around your home.

It’s A Fact….
     All mosquitoes need water to develop. 
     Most prefer slow-moving or stagnant water in which to lay their eggs. Eliminating potential breeding grounds around your home will certainly reduce the mosquito menace around your property.
     One tablespoon of water will breed over 200 mosquitoes. 
     During warm weather, mosquitoes can complete their life cycle in four days.
     For detailed information, visit the website at



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Sandra Wilcox (left) and Angie Acevedo pause for a moment before singing the Jingle on Thursday evening (June 11) in the lobby of The Chief Theater in Chiefland. These two performers accommodated at photographer-videographer as he assured the picture-taking machine (Canon EOS Rebel T6) was in focus. Wilcox and Acevedo are both assistant directors working with Director Rebecca Locklear on the play School House Rock Live Jr
Watch the video below to hear this duet sing the jingle -- in one take! There are photos and a story about the children's performances, which are set for two weekends on the LEISURE PAGE.
Photo by Jeff M. Hardison © July 12, 2019 at 9:39 a.m.

115th Set of Jingle Performers

Sandra Wilcox (left) and Angie Acevedo sing the Jingle on Thursday evening (June 11) in the lobby of The Chief Theater in Chiefland. Wilcox and Acevedo are both assistant directors working with Director Rebecca Locklear on the play School House Rock Live Jr. If you want to sing the jingle, just let Jeff M. Hardison know or send an email to He asks people to sing it, too, and some of them agree to sing it. (Thanks people!)
Published July 12, 2019, at 9:39 a.m.

© Video by Jeff M. Hardison, All Rights Reserved


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WEDNESDAY  AUG. 21  10:39 p.m.
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