MONDAY MAY 17 8:11 a.m. Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties
Vaccination availability abounds
Pop-up set for Williston area May 20
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 15, 2021 at 10:11 a.m.
TRI-COUNTY AREA – The global COVID-19 pandemic in the Tri-County Area of Dixie County, Gilchrist County and Levy County claimed 123 lives as of May 14, and it sent 446 people to hospitals in other counties, because there are no hospitals in the Tri-County Area so far.
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While the infection rate, hospitalization numbers and death toll are declining in the Tri-County Area currently, the success of vaccinations against the virus is proving to have a positive impact here.
Meanwhile, the ease of ability for the people who have not been vaccinated to join in the effort to save lives is increasing.
In the Chiefland Winn-Dixie on Friday (May 14), shoppers heard the announcement that vaccinations for the one-shot Johnson & Johnson version was available by just walking over to the pharmacy there and getting the shot.
Medical professionals in pharmacies, health-providing entities like Palms Medical Care and the Florida Department of Health are striving to help the people in the Tri-County Area reduce the hospitalizations and death from COVID-19.
Next Thursday (May 20), from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) is providing a free and convenient pop-up vaccination site at Holy Family Catholic Church, 17353 N.E. U.S. Alt. 27, Williston, according to information recently provided by Levy County Emergency Management Assistant Director David Peaton.
While it has a Williston address, this church is on U.S. Alt. 27 outside of the city limits of Williston on the way toward Bronson.
The FDEM vaccine scheduled to be administered there and then is the Pfizer version, Peaton said. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, require two doses. Others, such as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, require one shot.
For people being administered the first of two shots, the FDEM and the Florida Department of Health, and other providers assure their patients are able to receive their second shot in a few weeks.
This pop-up site on May 20 is for any adults and children who are 12 years or older. Children who are younger than 18 years old will need to be accompanied by a parent.
This site will be open with no appointment necessary to all individuals age 12 years of age or older, Peaton said, as he again noted it is free.
Earlier this week, the United States the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that people who are fully vaccinated no longer need to use facemasks indoors or outdoors.
The CDC makes it easy to find a COVID-19 vaccination site, by clicking https://www.vaccines.gov/.
As the medical professionals in the United States work to save lives in this country from the global pandemic, the CDC and the Florida Department of Health want to make COVID-19 vaccination easy and accessible to everyone, according to CDC statements.
COVID-19 vaccines are free and available to anyone who wants one, the CDC noted. The CDC works with partners such as clinics, pharmacies and health departments to provide accurate and up-to-date information about vaccination services.
While people are reducing the use of facemasks and keeping distance between people by becoming vaccinated, the CDC consistently has warned that some “breakthrough cases” will emerge and that “there will be a small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated who still get sick, are hospitalized, or die from COVID-19.”
The promise from doctors to patients being vaccinated is a lower likelihood of infection and a much lower likelihood of severe outcomes.
As far as testing, the CDC’s latest guidance suggests vaccinated people may “refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic” and “refrain from routine screening testing if feasible.”
In a briefing Wednesday (May 12), CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said vaccines have a high effectiveness against the disease.
Despite what has been proved to be true, some people do not think vaccinations against smallpox, polio, tetanus, influenza, measles, mumps or COVID-19 are for them.
Some people who experienced hospitalization from their severe symptoms caused by COVID-19 now say they regret not being vaccinated, and that they apparently chose incorrectly on whether to be vaccinated.
The Rotary Club International has had success in its attempt to rid the world of polio via vaccinations, and Rotarians in the Tri-County Area have been part of that effort with the help of people from this part of Florida.
17 More Tri-County Deaths
From COVID-19 In April
This is the monthly report for April 2021. The next report will show the COVID-19 impact on the Tri-County Area in May. People who are completely vaccinated can go places without facemasks now if they want, according to the most recent CDC guidelines. Remember, a vaccination is not a 100 percent guarantee that COVID-19 won't cause you to have to go to the hospital or the morgue. However, it significantly reduces the odds of that happening.
Graphic By Sharon Hardison
Published April 30, 2021 at 6:11 p.m.
Updated May 16, 2021 at 5:11 p.m
We have supply
Don’t panic buy
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 12, 2021 at 11:11 a.m.
LEVY COUNTY – Stoney Smith, the chairman of the Florida Petroleum Marketers Association, said on Wednesday morning (May 12) that there is plenty of gasoline in Florida.
“Florida does not have a supply issue with gasoline,” Smith said. “There are seven ports where we get fuel.”
If there is any gas station that has run out of gasoline, he added, it is from motorists hoarding gasoline without any reason. It is an effect from panic buying, Smith said.
Smith said the governor’s state of emergency order eases some restrictions to allow for the safe transport of gasoline to retail outlets with a bit more speed.
The thing Smith is urging consumers to do in Florida is not to panic buy -- like some people did when they thought there was a toilet paper shortage.
Smith said he even heard there was a person from Georgia who came to Florida to buy gasoline in a 55-gallon drum.
That is not only illegal, Smith said, but that type of activity is creating a dangerous situation that does not need to happen.
“The thing I am asking the media to tell the people,” Smith said, “is to not hoard gasoline. There is no reason to do that. Buy five gallons or eight gallons. Spread it around. Here’s the headline – ‘We have supply. Don’t panic buy.”
Smith reminds everyone that the people of Florida do not want everyone else to see this as the state where a person can’t buy gasoline. The fuel supplier who uses a pipeline to transport fuel, who is having difficulty due to attempted extortion, is not causing a gasoline shortage in Florida, Smith said.
The problem is from gasoline tanker drivers not being able to cover the unnecessary demand created from people hoarding gasoline as they are driven by panic that is based on fear, unsupported by the reality of how much gasoline is readily available in Florida, Smith intimated.
Governor issues state of emergency order
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 12, 2021 at 10:11 a.m.
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday evening (May 11) declared a gasoline-related state of emergency, including ordering the Adjutant General to activate the Florida National Guard, as needed, to deal with this emergency."
In his most recent executive order, DeSantis noted that the disruption of Colonial Pipeline operations poses a threat to the delivery of fuel products in Florida.
Florida’s gasoline supplies are largely unaffected by the outage, but a rash of panic buying starting Monday – especially across North Florida has caused some shortages at some gas stations.
A gasoline supplier in the Panhandle is going through issues due to allegedly not complying previously with regulations from the United States Department of Environmental Protection. And that shortfall of immediate supply in the Panhandle of Florida helped fuel the unnecessary stockpiling of gasoline by residential and business consumers in other areas of the state.
An attempt to extort money on May 7 from a relatively significant fuel pipeline company caused that interest to delay business until its computers can be repaired or replaced as a result of that criminal activity.
In DeSantis’ executive order, he makes the head of the Florida Division of Emergency Management as the coordinating officer who will stay in contact with the governor until stress on fuel supplies is eased.
That government leader will have authority to work with entities to “… assist in meeting the response, recovery, and mitigation needs created by this emergency…”
This executive order expires in 30 days from yesterday, unless it is extended, according to the order.
Some other states' governors in the Southeast United States have declared a state of emergency like DeSantis did last night.
For Legal Fees Is Unlikely
Dixie County Building Department Director Leon Wright on Thursday (May 6) told the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners that he thinks it is unlikely that the cable company that was proved in court to have violated county building codes will pay the county the $72,000 the county spent in legal fees to prove the company violated those codes. On another matter, however, the County Commission agreed to let Wright advertise for a new field inspector, because one of Wright’s staff chose to seek employment elsewhere for more money.
Photo By Jeff M. Hardison © May 7, 2021 at 4:11 p.m.
Pharmacies offering vaccinations
Tri-County Area Health Department
continues vaccinating people
By Jeff M. Hardison © April 21, 2021 at 12:11 p.m.
Updated April 23, 2021 at 8:11 a.m.
WILLISTON – The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) continues its vaccination program to help people reduce the odds dramatically of catching COVID-19.
Meanwhile, at the April 20 meeting of the Williston City Council, Williston Police Chief Dennis Strow told everyone there that Walgreens of Williston has vaccinations available for free for walk-in patients.
As noted, the FDOH Tri-County Unit for Dixie County, Gilchrist County and Levy County is continuing its mission of vaccinating people against COVID-19 as well.
As WPD Chief Strow mentioned, the Pfizer vaccine is available at the Walgreens in Williston. Pharmacies all over the Tri-County Area have had the vaccine at various points. Medical service providers, such as Palms Medical Group have had the vaccine as well. The best method to see if a pharmacy or medical service provider has the vaccine is to check with them, and if necessary, to schedule an appointment.
TRI-COUNTY AREA – All individuals who are 18 years old and older can schedule COVID-19 vaccinations through the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) units in Dixie County, Gilchrist County and Levy County, according to information a video press release from the Florida governor’s office of communications.
Now, all individuals aged 16 and older became eligible to receive the vaccine in Florida, according to information from Florida State Surgeon General Scott A. Rivkees, M.D. The teens who are 16 and 17 must have a parent present with them and sign for the vaccine to be administered to their child.
The Florida Department of Health Department units in the Tri-County Area are accepting appointments to schedule receiving the COVID-19 vaccine by calling: 352-498-1360 in Dixie County; or by calling 352-463-3120 in Gilchrist County; or by calling 352-486-5300 in Levy County.
Scheduling will continue until vaccine allotments are depleted. Residents are encouraged to be patient as phone lines may be busy and scheduling will start and stop as allotments change from week to week.
Dr. Rivkees leads the FDOH, which has a stated vision for Florida “To be the Healthiest State in the Nation.”
The mission of the FDOH is “to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.”
Another way to pre-register and schedule a vaccine appointment in other Florida communities is by visiting http://myvaccine.fl.gov.
Please remember, beyond the FDOH, local medical service providers such as doctors’ offices and pharmacies are providing vaccinations.
The single best starting point to find a place to be vaccinated is by clicking HERE. This is a link to the FDOH vaccination location finding app.
Judge approves emergency injunction
to stop CrabFest promoter
By Jeff M. Hardison © April 22, 2021 at 10:11 a.m.
LEVY COUNTY – Eighth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Craig C. DeThomasis ordered a temporary injunction against Keniuel Gates yesterday (Wednesday, April 21) in regard to Gates promoting and conducting CrabFest 2021 in Levy County, east of the City of Williston.
Gates reportedly has used social media afterward to say he won’t have CrabFest 2021, but instead will lead “a protest” on that day. Meanwhile, the Levy County Sheriff’s Office has issued a motorist advisory to avoid the area where CrabFest has been conducted in past years. (It is on the POLICE PAGE. Please remember to scroll down on pages.)
Church leaders, property owners and residents in the affected area of Levy County, as well the Levy County Board of County Commissioners, Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum and others have worked to stop this annual event, which has included some level of violence, including the death of one person and a few others injured by bullets one year.
The festival has grown to the level of causing traffic jams and other problems in the area. Historically, it started as a small, local annual party. It grew beyond the ability of the area to sustain it and the festival, or huge block party, has caused the quality of life to be diminished in that residential area each year for many years, during the festival.
It reached the point, where the county government stepped in to help the people of the area.
Circuit Court Judge DeThomasis ruled that Levy County succeeded in meeting its burden of proof to demonstrate the elements necessary for the issuance of a preliminary temporary injunction.
The facts and evidence presented to the judge by Levy County proved there was a likelihood of irreparable harm and an unavailability of adequate remedy at law. The Court likewise found the county proved Gates’ promotion of the April 24 and 25 event is centered around a “musical or entertainment festival” without Gates previously obtaining a permit for the event.
The ordinance by the county seeks to assure there is adequate ability for garbage disposal, traffic control, parking plans and security personnel to assure safety at the event, the Court ruled. Evidence and testimony presented to the judge proved Gates has failed to show Levy County that he has provided what is required for public safety at the event.
The immediate threat to public health, safety and welfare, especially given the current concerns caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, outweigh any possible harm to Gates from the court enjoining him to stop this event, the judge ruled.
The Court also ruled that Levy County proved this injunction will not disserve the public interest.
Until the Court dissolves the injunction or modifies the order that took effect yesterday (Wednesday, April 21), Gates must “… immediately cease and desist from any activities promoting, organizing or conducting the 2021 CrabFest event or similar event.”
The judge noted the order is binding on people “… in active concert or participation” with Gates.
The order remains effective until a subsequent order terminates it, or after Gates obtains a permit approved by Levy County for CrabFest or any similar event.
Motion to dismiss filed in federal case
of Weeks vs. Roberts and others
By Jeff M. Hardison © April 19, 2021 at 12:11 p.m.
GAINESVILLE – In the federal civil trial of T. Berlon Weeks versus B. Roberts and others, the attorney defending Roberts and others in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida (Gainesville Division) filed a motion Friday (April 16) to dismiss the case for “failure to state a claim,” according to federal court documents.
Meanwhile, if the motion to dismiss fails, as will be decided by United States District Court Judge Robert Lewis Hinkle, then this matter is currently set for deciding by trial on Feb. 22, 2022. If the suit continues, as of the current docketing, then a jury will decide whether the facts and evidence weigh in the favor of the plaintiff or the respondents (civil defendants), according to records.
United States District Court Judge Hinkle is presiding over this case, according to records.
Hinkle was nominated by President Bill Clinton on June 6, 1996, to a seat vacated by William H. Stafford Jr. of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 25, 1996, and received his commission on Aug. 1, 1996. He served as chief judge from 2004 to 2009. He took senior status on Nov. 7, 2016, according to records.
In her 22-page motion to dismiss, attorney Susan S. Erdelyi of Jacksonville presented facts to show what happened from the perspective of her clients – the defendants – Bronson Town Councilman Aaron Edmondson, former Bronson Town Clerk Melisa Thompson, Bronson Town Councilman Robert Partin, Bronson Town Attorney Steven Warm, Bronson Town Councilman Jason Hunt and Bronson Mayor Beatrice Roberts, according to records.
Attorney Woodroe Blake Fugate of Williston is representing Weeks, according to records.
As part of her motion for the Court to dismiss this case, attorney Erdelyi noted that it was not until three months after the point of Weeks’ alleged resignation (Sept. 15, 2020) from Bronson Town Council, when Weeks filed his lawsuit in the Eighth Judicial Circuit of Florida. After that initial filing, this issue was ruled to be a federal civil case, hence it is in the court presided over by United States District Court Judge Hinkle.
In her memorandum of law, attorney Erdelyi noted that “Mr. Weeks has sued the wrong parties. Any claims he may assert, should be asserted against the Town of Bronson. The Amended Complaint asserts claims against four council members, the Town Attorney and the former Town Clerk, all in their official capacities.”
By the plaintiff making claims against all defendants in their official capacities, Erdelyi noted, these actions “… should be dismissed and if any valid claim remains, the Town should be substituted as the sole Defendant.”
Supporting her action for dismissal, Erdelyi cites other cases and specific information from those cases.
Among those arguments, she noted “A suit against public official defendants in their official capacities is, in actuality, a suit against the governmental entity which employs the officials.”
The defense attorney noted that the amended complaint “… fails to state a claim against any Defendant in his or her individual capacities. The Amended Complaint could not be more nebulous with regard to its attempt to state individual capacity claims. The sole allegation relating to individual defendants is: ‘Plaintiff files this Complaint against Defendants Individually regarding the circumstances and facts which describe actions outside of their official capacities.’”
In her supported statements, Erdelyi noted in part, “Unfortunately, the Amended Complaint alleges numerous claims by Mr. Weeks against ‘Defendants’ without providing any detail as to which claim Mr. Weeks is making against which defendant and which fact relates to which legal claim.
“Compounding this confusion,” Erdelyi noted, “is the fact that the Amended Complaint has only one “WHEREFORE” clause at the end of all three counts in which Mr. Weeks asks the Court to grant relief, preliminarily and permanently enjoin “Defendants” and to order ‘Defendants’ to do various acts without identifying which defendant is to be enjoined for which act.”
She cited a federal court rule of procedure, which notes “… a complaint must include ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
This form of complaints, which violate certain rules of procedure in federal civil actions, she added are “…often disparagingly referred to as ‘shotgun pleadings’.”
She contends that shotgun pleadings “unnecessarily tax the time and resources” of courts, as she cites cases supporting this contention.
As part of her notations in this regard, she noted “When faced with a shotgun complaint, the Eleventh Circuit has held that ‘a district court that receives a shotgun pleading should strike it and instruct counsel to replead the case – even if the other party does not move the court to strike the pleading,” and she cited the exact point in the case she notes to support that, as she did in her motion to dismiss this federal civil suit.
A complaint is considered a shotgun pleading when “it is virtually impossible to know which allegations of fact are intended to support which claim(s) for relief,” Erdelyi noted as she cited the 1996 case of Anderson versus the District Board of Trustees of Central Florida Community College.
The Court in that 1996 case dismissed a 58-page complaint naming 14 defendants, charged in each count that was “replete with allegations that ‘the defendants’ engaged in certain conduct, making no distinction among the fourteen defendants charged…”), according to records.
After showing the four different categories of a shotgun pleading, Erdelyi noted “Mr. Weeks’ Amended Complaint violates all four categories of shotgun pleadings; therefore, it would be entirely appropriate for the Court to dismiss it. It is unfair for Mr. Weeks to demand that the Court and Defendants adjust to his refusal to follow elementary rules of procedure. On this basis alone, dismissal is warranted.”
After this point in her memorandum of law, attorney Erdelyi notes “The Amended Complaint’s substantive claims are insufficiently plead for the Defendants to form a response.”
Erdelyi contends that Weeks’ actions at the Sept. 15, 2020 meeting leave reason to believe he resigned. If he resigned, the vacancy occurred when he resigned. As the town attorney noted, Mr. Weeks’ resignation was “solidified by his saying ‘You can appoint somebody else’” and his resignation was “punctuated by leaving (walking out) the meeting.”
The attorney for the defendants noted “as a practical matter, nothing could be more clear than announcing a resignation
and walking out of a meeting in progress. This is precisely what Mr. Weeks did on September 15, 2020,” as she showed more reasons for the federal judge to dismiss this case.
Further, on another issue in her motion that notes more than a few points, Erdelyi noted that Weeks’ “… claims for attorney’s fees are due to be stricken or dismissed because the Amended Complaint cites no statutory or contractual authority to support the recovery of attorney’s fees.”
After making the points noted in the story above, and other points, Erdelyi noted in her conclusion that her clients, the defendants, respectfully request that the Court dismiss the Amended Complaint based on the grounds noted in the motion.
As a matter of procedure, Erdelyi noted that she did not confer with opposing counsel Fugate regarding the motion to dismiss, which was filed April 16, “… because this motion may be determinative of the outcome of the case and therefore meets the exception of local rule 7.1 (D).”
TIMELINE OF ACTIONS IN COURT
Court records show the following:
This lawsuit was first filed in the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court in Levy County on Jan. 26, 2021. The initial complaint asserted a federal claim pursuant 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution along with various state law claims based on Article I, Section 9 of the Florida Constitution (Florida’s Due Process clause), Chapter 86,
Florida Statutes for declaratory relief and Chapter 286 Florida Statutes relating to Florida’s Sunshine laws.
On Feb. 19, 2021, the defendants timely removed the case to the federal court based on federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
On March 3, 2021, defendants filed an unopposed Motion to Extend Case 1:21-cv-00027, which the Court granted setting the responsive pleading date for April 5, 2021.
On March 26, 2021, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint.
On March 29, 2021 the Court issued the Initial Scheduling Order.
On April 9, 2021, the deadline for Defendants to respond to the Amended Complaint was set for April 16, 2021.
On April 16, 2021, the Defense filed a motion to dismiss.
Dixie County deals
with daunting dump dilemmas
Employees may see raises
Dredging project sought
(from left) County Commissioner James Valentine, County Commissioner Mark Hatch, County Commission Chairman Jamie Storey and County Commissioner Jody Stephenson provide a photo opportunity. Not pictured, because he participated via teleconference on Thursday night, is Commission Vice Chairman W.C. Mills. This picture was taken after Cindy Bellot of the Dixie County Library asked the men to pose for a picture.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © April 16, 2021 at 4:11 p.m.
DIXIE COUNTY – A vector of human behavior and existing conditions are combining to create a daunting dilemma for the five men on the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners.
County Commissioner Jody Stephenson reviews some papers at the meeting.
Dixie County Solid Waste Department Director Michael ‘Preacher’ Latson tells the Dixie County Commission he is conferring with Levy County Solid Waste Landfill Operations Administrative Director Rod Hastings on methods to overcome some issues plaguing the garbage service in Dixie County.
The Thursday night (April 15) meeting revealed some of the sordid underbelly of garbage and an apparent lack of manners, as well as people who disregard state law related to improper dumping, and the scene at the meeting room in Old Town kept unfolding layer after layer of issues.
In the only split vote of the night, where the five guys generally agree unanimously, Commissioner Jody Stephenson (Dist. 1) made a motion, seconded by James Valentine (Dist. 5), that was defeated after Commission Chairman Jamie Storey (Dist. 4) sided with Vice Chairman W.C. Mills (Dist. 2) and Dixie County Commissioner Mark Hatch (Dist. 3).
Stephenson wanted people who are accepting money to pickup Dixie County residential garbage by the trailer-full to have to go to the main transfer station in Cross City. Valentine agreed as he made the second.
It was Stephenson’s contention that this practice by haulers accounts for overflowing receptacles at drop-off sites.
By the way, this is just the tip of the heap of garbage problems from the evening discussion.
After it was mentioned these three or so local entrepreneurs may have to charge customers for what could be added fuel costs, the bottom dropped out of that motion. Mills said he did not think it was fair to cause an inconvenience of those enterpriser folks who are toting neighbors’ trash to drop-offs. That garbage should go to the nearest point, he said.
Commissioner Hatch mentioned the potential for more blowoff trash on the side of the roads if those garbage collectors drove farther with their trailers. With the Stephenson-Valentine versus Mills-Hatch votes made, Chairman Story voted with the men who favored the garbage-haulers.
Dixie County Solid Waste Department Director Michael “Preacher” Latson, like other department directors gave the County Commission information about the makeup of the personnel and equipment, as well as pay rates, which leads to separate issues in the soon-to-be 100-year-old county.
One probable hinderance to Dixie County having enough space in its garbage collection points, Latson said, is people bringing their trash to Dixie County. These people are coming from Levy County, Gilchrist County, Taylor County and elsewhere, Latson said. This causes drop-off points to be overwhelmed after the weekends.
Another problem the County Commission is dealing with and has said it would do before, is to either collect the fees due for rented garbage receptacles or pick them up from people who fail to pay their bills to rent them. This is among the delinquent revenue sources plaguing Dixie County, as best as can be understood from what was said Thursday night and at previous meetings.
Among the many other garbage service issues mentioned Thursday night were from a woman who had to be issued a trespass warning by the Dixie County Sheriff’s Office, and another woman who had the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission knocking on her door.
The trespass warning was lifted by the County Commission after the woman explained why she was rude and acted up at the dump site. Apparently, she owns a lot of rental property that requires cleaning up after the tenants vacate it. She complained about not knowing the days and hours of operation, and what all is accepted at the various drop-off or transfer sites in Dixie County.
She complained that she saw boards at the site, but the attendant would not let her drop off a few boards and plywood she had brought there on a trailer.
Latson was asked if the information about what is accepted at the various drop-off sites for the county was on the website. He did not have an answer, although the schedule for hours of service can be viewed by clicking HERE.
The phone number for the Dixie County Solid Waste Transfer site is 352-498-1289. Latson met with the disgruntled female customer after the meeting to clear up any misunderstanding.
Another man complained that some people do not have computers or know how to use the Internet when the word “website” was mentioned. Of course, there is the public library, where people can help, and the phone number for the Dixie County Solid Waste Transfer site is 352-498-1289.
As for the FWC, Commissioner Hatch spoke about a woman he knows who was visited by state law enforcement with the FWC. Apparently, her garbage was found on land protected by the state from this type dumping.
Hatch said he knows the woman, and this must have shown up there as the result of “dumpster divers” discarding what they did not want after sorting through the garbage, because she would not do such a thing. He seeks better control of drop-off sites so that after a person puts their garbage there, it does not get taken away by some other person.
Dixie County Manager Duane Cannon goes through a long list of informational items as he speaks to the Dixie County Commission.
As for money provided to Dixie County Commission workers, County Manager Duane Cannon provided the commission with the cost to bring all people who do not yet make $10 an hour up to that level of pay. Commissioner Hatch suggested there will be a need to provide compensation to workers who are not seeing an increase, because they are already at $10-an-hour or more.
He suggested a 50-cent an hour increase across the whole workforce.
Later in the meeting, Commissioner Stephenson said he sees an increase of $1.44 an hour to bring up the lowest paid county worker to the $10-an-hour level. He suggested giving all County Commission worker a $1.44-an-hour raise this year. Commissioner Hatch said he would second that if Stephenson put it in a motion.
Stephenson said the County Commission must wait to see how much money it has before it can spend it, and so he chose against making that motion.
A representative from the office of Dixie County Clerk Barbie Hutchinson said the clerk, deputy clerks and extra hired help are untangling the books left by former Clerk Dana Johnson. Not only are the financial matters not clear, but some adopted ordinances are needing to be sent to Tallahassee for recording.
There was no absolute clarity as of Thursday night whether some ordinances may need some action beyond what already happened to make those local laws enforceable. During the summer, the County Commission may have a better view of financial standings of that government entity.
Meanwhile, current payroll is being met and as the Clerk’s Office repairs records from before, it is continuing its daily operations.
Daniel Wallace (at the podium) seeks a reason for the refusal of a special exceptions he sought to put an RV on land near the Suwannee River. In the background is an attorney who substitutes for Dixie County Attorney M. Michael O’Steen when the county attorney is not available to attend a meeting.
On some other matters where the County Commission voted 5-0, it:
* Denied a special exception request from Daniel Wallace to place a recreational vehicle on property at 146 S.E. 904th Ave., Old Town, Suwannee Shores addition 3. Commissioner Hatch explained to Wallace that the refusal results primarily from neighbors objecting to allowing the variance. Commissioner Stephenson added that Dixie County is one of the few counties in Florida that allows RVs on parcels other than in an RV resort or park. When neighboring property owners do not object, then the County Commission historically has granted the special exception. Wallace was advised to build a house and apply for a special exception to have his RV there while he built the house. He was also advised to speak with neighbors about why they petitioned to not grant the special exception.
* Approved a special exception request from David and Nancy Manierre to place a recreational vehicle on property at 337N.E. 364th Ave., Old Town, Fox Run Subdivision. This is in Commissioner Mills’ district and there were no objections from neighbors or other to the request.
* Granted two separate requests for variances from setbacks on two different pieces of property by people seeking those variances from building and zoning codes.
Carol West tells the County Commission about her desire to move forward with performing action to have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District dredge the McGriff Channel at the Suwannee River. The Corps was planning to do that, but now it is not.
Among the other actions by the County Commission, it agreed to let Carol West continue on a mission to receive federal funding to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District to perform a project for maintenance dredging of the McGriff Channel at the Suwannee River.
The aim of the project is to restore the channel depth and width for safe and efficient navigation.
The proposed dredging would take place at McGriff Pass (Wadley Pass), at the mouth of the Suwannee River, Dixie County. The scheme encompasses a portion of the Suwannee River Federal Navigation Project, which borders Levy County and Dixie County.
The project proposes to dredge 50,000 to 60,000 cubic yards of material for placement at Cat Island. The material would help to restore beach area lost in recent decades to erosion and sea level rise.
According to the Corps, the placement will beneficially create some 10 acres of bird habitat and help protect archaeological deposits affected by erosion.
The project was tentatively scheduled to be constructed from December 2021 through March 2022 to avoid impacting the Gulf sturgeon migration period.
However, the Army Corps of Engineers moved the more than $5 million dedicated to this project to fund other jobs it is tasked with completing.
If the United States Congress funded this project, though, then the Corps would get it done.
Meanwhile, like all of his colleagues in the United States House of Representatives, U.S. Rep. (Dr.) Neal Dunn, M.D. (R-District 2 Florida) has provided all of the counties in his district with forms that can be completed to seek federal funding. These are known as community-based projects or “earmarked” projects.
The House started this program again. While Dr. Dunn is not necessarily in favor of this practice, it is the new accepted method of operations, Will Kendrick of Rep. Dunn’s Office said.
West said the leaders in both the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate would need to approve this community-based project.
There is an obstacle in addition to and even beyond the odds of the federal leaders agreeing to something.
The form that Rep. Dunn’s Office provided to request the community-based project must be completed by Monday, West said, and she does not have the information required in these lengthy forms to fill in the blanks. Regardless of the odds of success, West was given permission to attempt to seek first approval of the U.S. House for the project.
As noted, the United States Senate would need to approve it, given that it reaches the House for consideration and that those members of Congress approve the request from Dixie County.
Another bit of interesting news unfolded in the meeting that lasted more than two hours Thursday night.
County Manager Cannon provided information about applicants for the job of Human Resources Department director to the County Commission.
The unanswered question when he gave folders of information to those men is – Does the County Commission hire department heads or does the county manager hire them? Is it as Commissioner Hatch thinks, that the County Commission hires only the county attorney, county manager and engineering firms – and does the county manager hire department heads?
Holly Houghton, director of UF IFAS Extension in Dixie County, has volunteered to help County Manager Cannon to conduct research on the policies of Dixie County, which have been amended over the years, regarding who hires whom.
County Manager Cannon at one time had an office with himself and two other employees.
With the departure of an incredibly significant employee, now it is a one-man office. Cannon told HardisonInk.com that he anticipates having a replacement for Cheyenne Stemple Hutchinson, his former assistant. Cannon believes he will have his new employee in May, and there is some hope for another worker in that office in the future, he intimated.
Hutchinson also was the Equal Employment Opportunity coordinator, the grant coordinator, the Fair Housing coordinator, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator.