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FDACS tips help consumers safely shop
By FDACS Communications Office
Published Nov. 23, 2022 at 11:12 a.m.
TALLAHASSEE -- As Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday approach, Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) are sharing tips on how to keep your data secure and save money when shopping for deals online.
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“Online shopping remains a convenient way for consumers to compare products and find bargains this winter shopping season,” Commissioner Fried said. “However, consumers need to be on the lookout for potential fraud to keep their personal and financial data secure. The Holidays can stressful enough, without having your information stolen, these simple steps can help every Floridian spend less time worrying and more time celebrating with their loved ones.
Before you click “Place Order,” follow these tips on how to keep your data secure and save money as you shop:
● Verify the site is secure. Before you enter your payment information, verify that the website address begins with “https.” The “s” stands for “secure” and means that your information is encrypted before it is transmitted.
● Decide how to pay. Credit cards give you some protections that other payment methods may not. If there is a problem, the law allows you to dispute charges and temporarily withhold payment while your dispute is investigated. Some companies cap your liability at $50 if someone uses your card without your authorization. Others may waive the charges entirely.
● Plan ahead by setting a budget. Ask yourself how much you should spend and be sure to include delivery costs in your budget.
● Determine what is most important to you about the item you are buying. What are the must have features versus the ones that would just be nice to have?
● Take a few minutes to compare products. Type the product name into a search engine along with words like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” Read online reviews from other people who bought the item or from product experts. Look for feedback about how the product works and its overall quality.
● Look for reviews about the company selling the product. Read information about the company’s reputation and customer service. Don’t rely on just one source for information.
● Verify the total cost of the product. Check shopping comparison sites to compare the price of the product at different shopping sites. Remember shipping costs and other add-on costs may not be included in the listed price.
● Look for online coupon codes. Search the retailers name with terms like “coupons,” “discounts,” or “free shipping.”
● Check out the terms of the deal. Verify when you will receive your order. The law requires sellers to ship the item within 30 days of the sale. Can you get a refund if you must return the item, and who pays the shipping for returns? Is there a restocking fee?
If you have a problem with an online purchase or charge, first try to resolve the issue directly with the seller. If unable to come to a resolution, file a complaint at www.FloridaConsumerHelp.com or call 1-800-HELP-FLA or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (for Spanish speakers).
Background: FDACS is the state’s clearinghouse for consumer complaints, information, and protection. FDACS handles more than 400,000 consumer complaints and inquiries, oversees more than 500,000 regulated devices, entities, and products like gas pumps and grocery scales, performs over 61,000 lab analyses on products like gasoline and brake fluid, performs nearly 9,000 fair ride inspections, and returned over $2.8 million to consumers through mediations with businesses.
Levy County goes deeper
into the world of investments
(from left) Richard Pengelly, CFA, CIMA, CTP, the managing director of PFM Asset Management LLC; Jared Blanton, MBA, CPA the finance officer in the Office of Levy County Clerk and Comptroller Danny J. Shipp; and Rob Boschen, senior financial analyst for the Office of Levy County Clerk and Comptroller Danny J. Shipp, stand before the Levy Cunty Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday morning. Levy County Finance Officer Blanton explained certain actions that were needed for the county to move forward with investment actions.
Story and Phot0
By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 22, 2022 at 7:12 p.m.
BRONSON – Levy County Finance Officer Jared Blanton, MBA, CPA, in the Office of Levy County Clerk and Comptroller Danny J. Shipp, introduced Richard Pengelly, CFA, CIMA, CTP, the managing director of PFM Asset Management LLC to the Levy County Commission on Tuesday morning.
Pengelly provides a broad range of investment advisory and portfolio management services to local governments and non-profit entities. He has worked with all types of public sector investment portfolios including bond proceeds, long-term reserve funds, operating funds, and statewide pools. He specializes in assisting organizations implement structural reforms in their investment programs.
Also present while Blanton sought two resolutions to be adopted, was Rob Boschen, senior financial analyst for the Office of Levy County Clerk and Comptroller Shipp.
The County Commission approved both resolutions with separate 5-0 votes. One resolution is required for the county to allow the clerk to engage the services of a professional investment advisor -- PFM Asset Management LLC -- to assist in the management of the county’s investment funds.
Another action allows the clerk to pay the investment advisor.
The first resolution also amends the investment policy to reflect that authority and to make other updates to the existing investment policy.
Blanton, for the benefit of the new county commissioners – Desiree Mills and Tim Hodge – spoke about the investment policy that was adopted in the summer. To see that July 21, 2021, story click HERE.
Without a statutorily compliant policy, the county is limited to four investment options, Blanton said.
The county, having adopted policy to fit within the statute, can now invest in safe investments that are more in line with straight equities, Blanton said.
With the July approval, the county now has a full, robust, statutorily compliant policy now, Blanton said. As a result, the county needs a qualified investment advisor.
The resolutions adopted Tuesday are the final touches needed to move forward with better portfolio management.
Clerk Shipp is responsible for investing the county’s excess funds. Blanton is the top staff member who the clerk has entrusted with this responsibility.
With the training required by law for the staff member to deal with a financial advisor, Blanton is prepared to move forward. He continues his education to maintain his status as a Certified Public Accountant.
Commissioner John Meeks asked how the county is going to compensate PFM for its financial advisory services.
Blanton said payment will be based on assets under management. The first $25 million will be 1 mill and after that it will be eight-tenths of one mill per million dollars after that.
With the PFM Asset Management LLC having a projected $45 million under management this year, the County Commission authorized up to $50,000 for the fee to be paid to PFM.
Commissioner Matt Brooks asked Blanton to say what the county used to net from its investment of excess funds, as compared to the new return on investment after the revised policy was adopted.
Blanton said the annual income from investments was in the $40,000 range for several years. That increased to $300,000 to $424,000, as a result of more efficiently pulling resources together, Blanton said, the following year. That is roughly 10 times the average annual return on investment from before.
Last year was “a murder year,” Blanton said, with returns of investments of dividends of $287,000 this past year.
By using an investment advisor, Blanton added, he foresees the county enjoying an even higher return on investments than with staff alone making investments.
Blanton let the County Commission know that there will be no investments where he does not understand the investment, because the policy demands that he understand exactly how an investment works before the county funds are put into it.
The Clerk’s Office, Blanton said, will continue to provide annual reports on investments. Due to limits of staff in the office, the policy’s minimal mandatory annual report has been occurring, Blanton said.
After the two resolutions were passed, each with unanimous votes, Pengelly briefly shared some information about the company.
Pengelly is the managing director for PFM Asset Management LLC, for the Southeast United States.
Thirteen of Florida’s 67 counties use PFM Asset Management LLC services, including Marion and Alachua counties.
Given all that was said Tuesday, the county is keeping with its investment objectives. As noted in the policy below:
● Safety of Principal/Capital: The foremost objective of this investment program is the safety of the principal of those funds within the portfolio. Investment transactions shall seek to be consistent with the other investment objectives, which are to keep capital losses at a minimum, whether they are from securities defaults or erosion of market value.
● Maintenance of Liquidity: The portfolio shall be managed in such a manner that funds are available to meet reasonably anticipated cash flow requirements in an orderly manner. Periodic cash flow analyses will be completed in order to ensure that the portfolios are positioned to provide sufficient liquidity.
● Return on Investment/Investment Income: The investment portfolio shall be designed with the objective of attaining a market rate of return throughout budgetary and economic cycles, taking into account the investment risk constraints and liquidity needs. The investment portfolio will be Marked-to-market to comply with GASB 31. Return on investment is of least importance compared to the safety and liquidity objectives described above. However, return is attempted through active management where the Investment Advisor utilizes a total return strategy (which includes both realized and unrealized gains and losses in the portfolio). This total return strategy seeks to increase the value of the portfolio through reinvestment of income and capital gains. The core of investments is limited to relatively low risk securities in anticipation of earning a fair return relative to the risk being assumed. Despite this, an investment advisor may trade to recognize a loss from time to time to achieve a perceived relative value based on its potential to enhance the total return of the portfolio.
Is A Donor-Advised Fund Right For You?
Published Nov. 21, 2022 at 5:12 p.m.
NEWBERRY -- You can find many ways to support charitable organizations. One method that’s gained popularity over the past few years is called a donor-advised fund. Should you consider it?
The answer depends on your individual situation, because donor-advised funds are not appropriate for everyone. However, if you’re in a position to make larger charitable gifts, you might at least want to see what this strategy has to offer.
Here’s how it works:
• Contribute to the fund. You can contribute to your donor-advised fund with cash or marketable securities, which are assets that can be converted to cash quickly. If your contribution is tax deductible, you’ll get the deduction in the year you make the contribution to the fund. Of course, these contributions are still subject to IRS limits on charitable tax deductions and whether you itemize your deductions. If you typically don’t give enough each year to itemize and plan on making consistent charitable contributions, you could consider combining multiple years’ worth of planned giving into a single donor-advised fund contribution, and claim a larger deduction in that year. This move may be especially impactful if you have years with a higher amount of income, with an accompanying higher tax rate. If you contribute marketable securities, like stocks and bonds, into the fund, a subsequent sale of the securities avoids capital gains taxes, maximizing the impact of your contribution.
• Choose an investment. Typically, donor-advised funds offer several professionally managed diversified portfolios where you can place your contributions. You’ll want to consider the level of investment risk to which your fund may be exposed. And assuming all requirements are met, any investment growth is not taxable to you, the donor-advised fund or the charity that ultimately receives the grant, making your charitable gift go even further.
• Choose the charities. You can choose grants for the IRS-approved charities that you want to support. You decide when you want the money donated and how it should be granted. You’re generally free to choose as many IRS-approved charitable organizations as you like. And the tax reporting is relatively easy — you don’t have to keep track of receipts from every charity you support. Instead, you can just keep the receipts from your contributions to the fund.
Although donor-advised funds clearly offer some benefits, there are important trade-offs to consider. For one thing, your contributions are irrevocable, which means once you put the money in the fund, you cannot access it for any reason other than charitable giving. And the investments you choose within your fund will carry some risk, as is true of all investments. Also, donor-advised funds do have investment management fees and other costs. So, consider the impacts of these fees when deciding how you want to give.
In any case, you should consult with your tax and financial professionals before opening a donor-advised fund. And if the fund becomes part of your estate plans, you’ll also want to work with your legal advisor. But give this philanthropic tool some thought — it can help you do some good while also potentially benefiting your own long-term financial strategy.
Publisher’s Note: This article was written by Edward Jones for use by Edward Jones Financial Advisor - Sheila K. Smith, 25349 W. Newberry Road, in Newberry. Phone 352-472-2776.
County to buy $1.6 million radio system
Engineer ranking to occur
Bills coming for road paving
Among the leaders of Gilchrist County agencies that protect and save lives and property of residents and visitors of Gilchrist County are (from left) Gilchrist County Emergency Management Director Ralph Smith, Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz and Gilchrist County Fire Chief J. Campbell. Although these gentlemen were seated in other places, they graciously agreed to a photo opportunity to be seen together here.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 19, 2022 at 2:12 p.m.
TRENTON – Five Gilchrist County Commissioners on Thursday evening (Nov. 17) agreed to buy a $1.6 million radio system from Motorola. Conversation at the meeting showed the County Commission has requested help from the Florida Legislature to fund this much-needed radio equipment. So far, last session, the state kicked in $400,000.
The county’s fire chief and the director of emergency management for the county have been working for three years to obtain this vital equipment.
With the discounts they found as well as Motorola providing another discount due to the county being an existing customer, the $2 million price tag dropped to the $1.6 million range.
The County Commission this year plans to ask its Legislative Delegation for state aid on this purchase. However, whether the state aids the county or not, this is something that must be done to save lives in Gilchrist County. This new system will be adding the Gilchrist County School District, including its buses, for service, too.
The City of Trenton, which uses the radio service for its municipal police department, as well as the Gilchrist County School Board, will be approached to contributions if the requested state aid is rejected.
The big new radio system acquisition was not the only business-oriented event that happened at the twice-monthly meeting, which was jampacked with action. This regular meeting came after another in the ongoing meeting workshops where the Gilchrist County Commission is learning about land development regulations.
The first matter on the agenda of the night was engineering submittals, where six firms are vying to be chosen as the engineering firm of record for Gilchrist County.
The County Commission by a 5-0 vote chose to appoint Gilchrist County Commission Chairman Bill Martin, Gilchrist County Administrator Bobby Crosby and Gilchrist County Clerk Todd Newton to be the three-man engineering firm ranking committee.
The six firms seeking the post are Menadier Engineering, with its home office in the City of Alachua; CHW With offices in Gainesville, Jacksonville and Ocala; Locklear & Associates, with its home office in Gainesville; Pitman Engineering, with its home office in Lake City; CMA (Chen Moore & Associates), with its corporate and regional office in Fort Lauderdale, but with Florida offices all over the state, including Gainesville, and an office in Atlanta; and Universal Engineering Sciences, with nearly 70 fully-operational offices, including one in Gainesville.
The Crosby-Martin-Newton team will rank these six firms from top to bottom. Then the entire five-member Gilchrist County Commission – Chairman Martin, County Commission Vice Chairman Darrell Smith, Gilchrist County Commissioner Sharon Akins Langford, Gilchrist County Commissioner Kenrick Thomas and Gilchrist County Commissioner Tommy Langford are tentatively set to select the firm at the Dec. 5 meeting.
While price is a factor, any county commission can weigh cost with other factors to determine the best firm to provide a service.
This is a picture of the grapple truck Gilchrist County hopes to buy. The county’s starting bid is $55,000 and it has set a limit of $80,000 for the purchase via bid.
On the matter of purchases, upon the recommendation of County Administrator Crosby, the County Commission voted 5-0 to bid $55,000 and it has set a limit of $80,000 for the purchase via bid of a grapple truck. This machine will be able to pick up large tree limbs and the like and transport them.
This truck is worth an estimated $150,000 now, but the county has set its bid limit for $80,000.
Another purchase to improve the level of service by Gilchrist County for its residents and visitors was an MTS Power Load for stretchers used by Gilchrist County Fire Rescue on its ambulances. This equipment is of the Stryker brand.
Gilchrist County Fire Chief J. Campbell speaks to the County Commission about ambulance equipment.
The County Commission heard from Gilchrist County Fire Chief J. Campbell, County Attorney David M. “Duke” Lang Jr., County Administrator Crosby and County Clerk Newton to see that the $53,475 total purchase of stretchers and other equipment only costs the county a match of $5,347.50.
Gilchrist County Clerk Todd Newton explains how the county can purchase some items from sole source providers.
Among the biggest stories from the night of many actions in Gilchrist County was the approval by a 5-0 vote to provide a method and procedure to tax certain property owners for paving roads in a subdivision.
This matter has been years in the making, and it finally reached its pinnacle of completion on Nov. 17.
By a 71 percent vote, the people of the Spring Ridge Subdivision approved the paving.
The county is using milling rather than virgin asphalt to cut costs.
Of the three banks approached, Drummond Community Bank was selected to fund the project, which will be repaid by the people in the subdivision who benefit from the paving.
The loan amount of $592,483 for a term of 20 annual payments at a fixed interest rate for the county of 5.39 percent, will require the Gilchrist County government to pay the bank $49,450.37 annually for 20 years. There are no loan costs and no bank fees charged, which is part of why Drummond Community Bank won the bid for the loan to Gilchrist County for this project that costs more than half a million dollars.
Based on the bids received, the estimated annual cost
for each parcel in the Spring Ridge Subdivision will be $285. This is an annual payment for a period of 20 years. There will also be an optional time period to pay in full without interest charges.
This amount is estimated to be $3,400 per parcel.
These are the estimated costs per parcel as of the Nov. 17 meeting. At those rates, the cost would be $5,700 over 20 years or $3,400 per parcel in a one-time payment.
Gilchrist County Clerk Newton mentioned that a person meeting the deadline for the first one-time payment will save the cost of interest for 20 years, but a purchaser of this paving job can save remaining interest by paying off their debt at any point in the 20-year period.
Gilchrist County Administrator Crosby said this project has taken many years to reach this point, where this $275-a-year price is the most reasonable and affordable fee. Other existing paving projects like this in Gilchrist County range between $450- to almost $1,000 a year, Crosby said.
There was some discussion from members of the audience who all were in favor of the special fee. Some people wanted speed bumps. Some people did not want speed bumps.
There is a process to request speed bumps in Gilchrist County, but the conversation at this meeting showed a better method for traffic control might be to make some of the intersections into four-way stop intersections.
Wilkes Site Prep Inc. won the bid for construction for paving the roads. County Administrator Crosby gave a personal 100 percent endorsement for this company’s work when he was asked for details about what is going to happen in that regard.
Old signs will be replaced, too, where they have been left for replacement until road construction is done – to avoid having to complete signage work twice rather than once.
Jobless rate holds steady
By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Director of Communications
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published Nov. 18, 2022 at 3:12 p.m.
OCALA – The unemployment rate in the CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion region was 3.4 percent in October, unchanged over the month and 0.8 percentage points lower than the region's year ago rate of 4.2 percent. The labor force was 210,238, up 3,193 (+1.5 percent) over the year. There were 7,169 unemployed residents in the region.
According to preliminary employment data released today by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, there were 203,069 employed across the region, an increase of 4,638 compared to the same time last year. There were 1,445 fewer unemployed than in October 2021.
Levy County continued to post the lowest unemployment rate in the region at 2.9 percent, unchanged over the month and 0.7 percentage point lower than the previous October. Marion County followed at 3.3 percent, up 0.1 percent point compared to September and 0.8 percentage point lower over the year. Citrus County’s rate was 4.0 percent, the same as in September and 0.6 percentage point lower than the year ago rate.
Rusty Skinner, CareerSource CLM’s chief executive officer, said the report highlights continued job growth in both the Ocala and Homosassa Springs metro areas which cover all of Marion and Citrus counties. In the Ocala MSA, the mining, logging, and construction industry added 500 new jobs and grew by 5.7 percent, faster in the metro area than statewide over the year. In the Homosassa Springs metro area, 200 new government were added over the year for a 4.4 percent growth rate, the second fastest annual growth rate compared to all metro areas.
“The jobs are definitely there, and employers are actively hiring,” Skinner said. He pointed out that 20 top businesses, all with immediate jobs to fill, will take part in the 10th Annual Paychecks for Patriots job fair. The job fair, which was postponed earlier in the month due to Tropical Storm Nicole, has been rescheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 30 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Marion County Public Library headquarters in Ocala.
Veterans, military families, and active service members get priority access at 11 a.m. with open access to all job seekers beginning at 11:30 a.m. There is no charge to attend the job fair which is available to anyone in the three-county region.
Information about fee-free job fairs, hiring events and other job seeker and employer services are available at https://careersourceclm.com/ or by calling 800-434-JOBS (5627).
State and local employment reports for November 2022 are scheduled for release on Dec. 16, 2022.
Speaker-Designate Paul Renner
Recommends Rep. Chuck Clemons
for Florida House Speaker Pro Tempore
By Michael Murtha of Tallahassee
Sent Npv. 17, 2022 at 2:26 p.m.
Published Nov. 18, 2022 at 10:12 a.m.
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida House of Representatives Speaker-Designate Paul Renner yesterday (Thursday, Nov. 17) recommended State Rep. State Rep. Charles Wesley "Chuck" Clemons Sr. (R-Newberry, Dist. 22) to the Florida House of Representatives leadership team as Speaker Pro Tempore for the upcoming legislative term. In this position, Rep. Clemons is responsible for performing the duties of the Speaker in the event of an interim vacancy of the Speaker through death, resignation or disability. Also, Clemons will preside in the Chamber when the Speaker leaves the Chair. Clemons was recently elected to the Florida House, District 22 seat.
“When recalling the first time he entered the Chamber of the Florida House, Representative Clemons said, ‘I do not deserve to be here,’” Speaker-designate Renner said. “True leaders have such reflections because they recognize the weight and value of the sacred trust voters place in us. I am honored to call him a colleague and a friend. Representative Clemons embodies servant leadership, and his experience throughout his time in the Legislature will help ensure we conduct our business on the House floor professionally and efficiently.”
Rep. Clemons responded to the recommended appointment.
“I am honored that Speaker-Designate Renner would nominate me to serve on his leadership team as Speaker pro tempore,” Clemons said. “Speaker-Designate Renner will be leading us through a historic moment where all eyes are on the Sunshine State. I am grateful for his friendship, his leadership, and his commitment to leading the Florida House with courage and principle.”
Clemons represents the people of House District 22, which includes Gilchrist, Levy and part of Alachua County. He was recently reelected to his fourth consecutive term. Due to redistricting, he did not “term out,” having served in the previous District 21, which covered some of the same area.
Dixie County is no longer in Clemons’ service area.
Now, District 21 is served by State Rep. Jason Shoaf (R-Port St. Joe, Dist. 21). District 21 now includes Dixie, Franklin, Gulf, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Liberty, Suwannee, Taylor and Wakulla counties.
In the 2020 through 2022 Legislative Sessions, when Clemons served the people in the previous area known as District 21, he served as Deputy Majority Leader and Majority Whip of the Florida House of Representatives.
One tiny red spark from the hayfield view
One giant rocket launch for humans
One view of the Moon through a camera in a Levy County hayfield shows it was visible at 1:04 a.m. on Nov. 16.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 16, 2022 at 10:12 a.m.
SOUTH OF JEMLANDS – In a hayfield just south of the unrecorded subdivision known as Jemlands in Levy County, a tiny red spark was seen on the eastern horizon through the trees on Nov. 16 at approximately 1:47 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time).
A second view of the Moon through a different camera lens in a Levy County hayfield shows it was visible at 1:05 a.m. on Nov. 16.
A third view of the Moon through one of the two cameras used early this morning in a Levy County hayfield shows it was disappearing from view from that certain hayfield touching the southern boundary of The Ink Pad property at 1:15 a.m. on Nov. 16. By 1:47 a.m. on Nov. 16, the night sky had no lights visible due to complete cloud cover, one or two seconds of a tiny red spark, however, was seen on the eastern horizon through a space in the planted pines’ trunks.
A journalist who watches progress in science chose against mixing in with the crush of humanity in Brevard County early Wednesday morning (Nov. 16) to see the launch of Artemis I, despite having previously obtained certification for his ability to participate in live coverage, as being among the approved journalists from around the globe for that purpose. This morning heralded the launch of the largest rocket from America so far in the history of the country.
The normal view of a rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center as seen from a certain neighbor’s hayfield in Levy County had a much higher likelihood of being seen earlier Wednesday morning at the first possible launch minute of 1:04 a.m., but a delay until about 1:45 a.m. made the option for better pictures and video vanish.
Crickets alone were the sound, too, unlike some night launches witnessed in the past from this launch viewing location, when more humans and animals are awake. No dogs barked. A particular community cat did not meow. The coyotes did not howl. The owls did not hoot. The moderate temperature even silenced any nearby air conditioners.
Two cameras were fully ready. A handheld flashlight and a folding rocking chair to tote equipment across the 50-foot walk through the damp grass relatively safe and easy.
The cameraman said he saved more than $1,000 from not going for the first launch attempt of Artemis I, when he was approved by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to cover that failed first launch attempt, and there were “X” amount of dollars saved by not trekking over to the east coast to compete with 100,000 other Space Coast visitors for a place to sleep on subsequent attempts, including the final successful one on Wednesday morning (Nov. 16).
“I am very grateful to NASA for letting me again apply and to be accepted again to cover a rocket launch,” HardisonInk.com publisher Jeff M. Hardison said. “I also appreciate the motel corporation with whom I had reserved a room for the period of the first attempted launch allowing me to cancel that reservation.”
With the most recently planned launch window being after a hurricane and a tropical storm that had taken a toll on the state and on the east coast’s available motel rooms for rent, the journalist chose again to go with the long-distance method of photography of a launch early Wednesday morning.
Hardison knew he had been able to see and photograph smaller rockets taking off from the KSC launchpad 150 miles to the east.
“I knew cloud cover was a gamble this morning,” Hardison said. “I watched the ability to see the eastern sky deteriorate from the hayfield vantage point in the 40-plus minutes between the first moment of possible launch at 1:04 a.m. and when the rocket actually lifted off about 43 minutes later.”
The Levy County hayfield perspective of that one second or so of a tiny red spark being visible was worth staying awake a bit later than normal, the multiple award-winning journalist said.
“This launch was different in another way from previous hayfield experiences,” Hardison said. “Needles the Community Cat of Jemlands did not escort me out in the field. He was asleep somewhere. However, all the launches I have seen, as an elementary student watching on a black and white TV, or as a University of Florida student watching with colleagues on a beach on the east coast, or watching from a different beach with other journalists, or watching from the hayfield through clear skies or not seeing as much through cloudy skies as the publisher of a daily news website – every successful rocket launch is great!”
As for this being a significant step of progress for humans hoping to migrate to space, as well as perhaps mine material from the Moon, it obviously showed NASA and the European Space Agency (The ESA is 22 member states dedicated to the exploration of space, established in 1975 and headquartered in Paris) the journalist said he is glad to see humans progressing together.
The “uncrewed” capsule launched spaceward on a 25-day mission to orbit the moon and return safely to Earth. It did have a “crew” of manikins, with one lovingly named “Moonikin,” and there was a stuffed Snoopy toy, complete with a NASA astronaut suit fashionably designed to match other space explorers’ outfits on Artemis missions.
The Artemis II mission is planned to be with a human crewed Orion spacecraft performing a lunar flyby test and return to Earth. Then like the Apollo missions of 50 years ago, there will be people landing on the Moon after that. And subsequently, in time, people will go to fly through space for six months or so to land on Mars.
“I saw the late Timothy Francis Leary (Oct. 22, 1920 - May 31, 1996) in the late 1970s or early 1980s when he gave a presentation at the University of Florida,” Hardison said. “This renowned American psychologist and author endorsed students learning more so that they could extend the human lifespan and also to migrate into space.”
Hardison, the publisher of the award-winning daily news website said he saw Hunter Stockton Thompson (July 18, 1937 - Feb. 20, 2005) at UF, too.
Thompson was an American journalist and author who founded the gonzo journalism movement.
“And I took a picture of Dan Rather eating a meal while he visited with then UF College of Journalism and Communications Dean Ralph L. Lowenstein (March 8, 1930 – Aug. 10, 2020), back when I was a UF journalism student.”
Hardison said as publisher of HardisonInk.com, he also enjoyed watching then United States Sen. Bill Nelson, a former astronaut who now heads NASA, when then-Sen. Nelson visited the City of Fanning Springs during a set of speaking engagements in Florida, before taking the oath of office as the 14th NASA administrator on May 3, 2021.
“I enjoy watching and reporting news and human interest stories,” Hardison said. “In this instance, I took a different view of a significant rocket launch 150 miles away. Rather than being right there, where the cloud cover would not have obscured my view, I tried it from here in Levy County, not too many feet away from The Ink Pad. Therefore, I enjoyed the chance to write about a silent night with crickets rather than a silent night with crickets highlighted by seeing a distant rocket going into space on humans’ ongoing research beyond this planet. During my watch of the sky, the moon became obscured by clouds. The stars vanished. However, there was that one second or two seconds of a bright red spark, which showed my hope was answered to the degree it was answered. And I am thankful for that. As usual, I am happy!”
Liftoff! NASA’s Artemis I Mega Rocket
launches Orion toward the Moon
NASA’s Space Launch System rocket carrying the Orion spacecraft launches on the Artemis I flight test, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA’s Artemis I mission is the first integrated flight test of the agency’s deep space exploration systems: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, and ground systems. SLS and Orion launched at 1:47 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time) from Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center.
Story and Photo Provided
By the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Published Nov. 16, 2022 at 9:12 a.m.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER -- Following a successful launch of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket in the world, the agency’s Orion spacecraft is on its way to the Moon as part of the Artemis program.
Carrying an uncrewed Orion, SLS lifted off for its flight test debut at 1:47 a.m. EST Wednesday (Nov. 16) from Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The launch is the first leg of a mission in which Orion is planned to travel approximately 40,000 miles beyond the Moon and return to Earth over the course of 25.5 days. Known as Artemis I, the mission is a critical part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, in which the agency explores for the benefit of humanity. It’s an important test for the agency before flying astronauts on the Artemis II mission.
“What an incredible sight to see NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft launch together for the first time. This uncrewed flight test will push Orion to the limits in the rigors of deep space, helping us prepare for human exploration on the Moon and, ultimately, Mars,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said.
After reaching its initial orbit, Orion deployed its solar arrays and engineers began performing checkouts of the spacecraft’s systems. About 1.5 hours into flight, the rocket’s upper stage engine successfully fired for approximately 18 minutes to give Orion the big push needed to send it out of Earth orbit and toward the Moon.
Orion has separated from its upper stage and is on its outbound coast to the Moon powered by its service module, which is the propulsive powerhouse provided by ESA (European Space Agency) through an international collaboration.
“It’s taken a lot to get here, but Orion is now on its way to the Moon,” said Jim Free, NASA deputy associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate. “This successful launch means NASA and our partners are on a path to explore farther in space than ever before for the benefit of humanity.”
Over the next several hours, a series of 10 small science investigations and technology demonstrations, called CubeSats, will deploy from a ring that connected the upper stage to the spacecraft. Each CubeSat has its own mission that has the potential to fill gaps in our knowledge of the solar system or demonstrate technologies that may benefit the design of future missions to explore the Moon and beyond.
Orion’s service module will perform the first of a series of burns to keep Orion on course toward the Moon approximately eight hours after launch. In the coming days, mission controllers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will conduct additional checkouts and course corrections as needed. Orion is expected to fly by the Moon on Nov. 21, performing a close approach of the lunar surface on its way to a distant retrograde orbit, a highly stable orbit thousands of miles beyond the Moon.
“The Space Launch System rocket delivered the power and performance to send Orion on its way to the Moon,” said Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager. “With the accomplishment of the first major milestone of the mission, Orion will now embark on the next phase to test its systems and prepare for future missions with astronauts.”
The SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft arrived at Kennedy’s Launch Pad 39B on Nov. 4 where they rode out Hurricane Nicole. Following the storm, teams conducted thorough assessments of the rocket, spacecraft, and associated ground systems and confirmed there were no significant impacts from the severe weather.
Engineers previously rolled the rocket back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) Sept. 26 ahead of Hurricane Ian and after waving off two previous launch attempts Aug. 29 due to a faulty temperature sensor, and Sept. 4 due to a liquid hydrogen leak at an interface between the rocket and mobile launcher. Prior to rolling back to the VAB, teams successfully repaired the leak and demonstrated updated tanking procedures. While in the VAB, teams performed standard maintenance to repair minor damage to the foam and cork on the thermal protection system and recharge or replace batteries throughout the system.
Artemis I is supported by thousands of people around the world, from contractors who built Orion and SLS, and the ground infrastructure needed to launch them, to international and university partners, to small businesses supplying subsystems and components.
Through Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the surface of the Moon, paving the way for a long-term lunar presence and serving as a steppingstone for astronauts on the way to Mars.
Publisher speaks to AARP Chapter 912
Seven women and two men listen to the man who owns the 12-year-old daily news website named HardisonInk.com.
Story and Photo
By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 15, 2022 at 9:12 a.m.
WILLISTON – Jeff M. Hardison, an intrepid, illustrious and prolific publisher who seeks to inform, educate and entertain the public via the mass communication method of a daily news website, spent an hour or so with nine wonderful people in Williston Monday morning (Nov. 15). Members and guests of AARP Chapter 912 of Williston gathered at 10 a.m. that particular second Monday morning of the 11th month of November in St. Barnabas Episcopal Church’s Thompson Hall, at 661 N.W. First Ave., in Williston.
The group meets every second Monday for many months of the year, and they welcome new members. Socializing started at about 10 a.m. on that particular day, with the monthly meeting beginning as normal at about 10:30 a.m.
The group does not keep a 12-month calendar, because some members live in the area only part of the year. AARP Chapter 912 in 2022 and 2023 limits its meeting to the second Monday each month from January to May and from September through December.
There was a time when this AARP chapter had almost 100 members.
Like Rotary clubs, Kiwanis clubs, garden clubs, church groups, veterans’ organizations, scout troops and some other youth groups, the AARP chapters in America appear to have dwindled in membership over the past few decades.
Nevertheless, this relatively small group meets regularly and invites speakers who may provide the attendees with information -- and on occasion -- entertainment.
Hardison, a relatively renowned multiple award-winning Florida-born journalist, who is not shy about self-promotion, said he had fun sharing a few behind-the-scenes stories with the group on Monday morning.
“I’ve been an AARP member for 16 years now,” the local business owner said. “I can’t dedicate time to being part of any club nowadays, though, because I have to sell advertising as well as to cover the news and human interest stories.”
The writer said he enjoyed visiting with his silver-haired cohorts and telling them stories to enlighten and amuse them.
Paychecks for Patriots Job Fair
rescheduled for Nov. 30
By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Director of Communications
CareerSource Citrus | Levy | Marion
Published Nov. 15, 2022 at 9:12 a.m.
OCALA – The 10th Annual “Paychecks for Patriots” job fair, sidelined last week by Tropical Storm Nicole, will now take place on Wednesday, Nov. 30 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Marion County Public Library Headquarters, 2720 E. Silver Springs Blvd., in Ocala.
The job fair is part of a statewide effort to connect Florida veterans with employment opportunities. Veterans, active service members, and military families get priority access to the hiring event starting at 11 a.m. with open access to all job seekers beginning at 11:30 a.m. There is no charge to attend but for fastest access, participants are encouraged to register in advance by clicking HERE.
Henry Ayala, local veteran employment representative for CareerSource CLM, noted that nearly all the businesses signed up for the earlier event plan to take part on Nov. 30.
“The timing of the storm was unfortunate, but we were able to quickly pivot to a new date and bring just about every single business with us,” said Ayala, who is a retired United States Army sergeant first class.
To date, the following businesses with immediate jobs to fill plan to attend: AutoZone Auto Parts, AutoZone Distribution Center, Chewy, Chick-fil-A Ocala, City of Ocala, Colen Built Development, Early Learning Coalition of Marion County (ELC,) E-One/REVGroup, Florida Department of Children and Families, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Marion County Board of County Commissioners, Marion County Public Schools, Mission BBQ, Mojo's Bar and Grill, Social Security Administration, Tri-Eagle (Budweiser), US Navy Reserves, Volunteers of America, and World Equestrian Center - Ocala.
CareerSource CLM’s Paychecks for Patriots, along with similar hiring events held throughout the month in other CareerSource Florida regions, is presented in partnership with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Florida National Guard, and Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The local job fair is also supported by Inverness-based Bivouac Veteran’s News and the Marion County Public Library System.
Ayala said that those unable to attend the rescheduled Paychecks for Patriots can apply for open positions online by clicking HERE.
A special employment portal of information and resource links for Florida veterans is also available at https://veteran.employflorida.com.
Blackfin Boats celebrates
50th Anniversary with employee event
Karron Miller, 36, of Williston, one of the 625 employees celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Blackfin Boats in Williston, carries his lunch and drink, wears his company tee-shirt and pauses for a few seconds on Wednesday (Nov. 9) for a photo opportunity.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 10, 2022 at 11:12 a.m.
WILLISTON – The largest manufacturing interest in the Williston Municipal Area celebrated its 50th anniversary Wednesday (Nov. 9).
Blackfin Boats President Bobby Pita is seen Wednesday (Nov. 9) near to the serving area where he would soon be among the crew delivering a wonderful lunch to 625 employees.
A server delivers a roll as part of the lunch plate of food to a Blackfin Boats employee who had barbecue ribs on the plate already.
Another view of one of the two sets of serving tables shows happy servers providing a wonderful lunch to workers at the boatbuilding plant in Williston. The brownies at the endpoints for both tables were overheard to be the driving point for at least one employee’s joy.
A Hills Bar-B-Q and Catering worker carries a pan full of hot, delicious barbecued chicken as he determines which way a roving reporter is going to step while the journalist snaps a few pictures.
Barbecued chicken, barbecue ribs, potato salad, macaroni salad, rolls and brownies are provided to diners on one side of the two-sided serving area.
Blackfin Boats President Bobby Pita prepares to serve a brownie as a fleet-footed photographer captures the moment in time about one part of one second before an employee provides the president a chance to deliver that dessert to the worker’s plate.
With the Monterey Boats sign on the building and the Blackfin Boats vertical banner flags blowing in the wind, a few of the 625 workers strike a quick pose for a photographer as they stand in line to pick up a delicious lunch.
Some of the scores and scores of workers walking along a lunch line are captured in a photo as they are destined toward an enjoyable midday eating experience in the midweek part of the second week in November.
With a strong breeze carrying the aroma of delicious, cooked barbecued chicken and barbecued ribs as that same wind fluttered some vertical flags, the Blackfin Boats’ 50th Anniversary Employee Event was a resounding success at the midweek point.
Six hundred and twenty-five employees stood in a relatively fast-moving serving line as sales representatives and others dished out barbecued chicken, barbecued ribs, side dishes, drinks and even brownies for dessert.
Immediately prior to the significantly large celebration, which included every employee also getting a Blackfin Boats tee-shirt, the president of the company fielded questions from a three-member press corps that came to see, hear, smell, feel and even taste the landmark point in the Williston area’s manufacturing history.
President Bobby Pita, 67, of Gainesville not only took on the daunting task of facing members of the media, but after that 20-minute grilling, he was on the giving end of the serving line distributing brownies to the people who build boats in Williston.
Incoming Tropical Storm Nicole had not yet made landfall on the east coast of Florida, but the breezes had already begun at the manufacturing plant that is near to the Williston Municipal Airport and the upcoming location of the Williston Community Animal Shelter.
President Pita paused with three journalists, one from a daily news website, one from a weekly tabloid-sized newspaper and one from a boating magazine, as all of the gentlemen sat on benches at one of the picnic tables near the tented serving area.
It was there and then on the campus of Blackfin Boats and Monterey Boats, on Wednesday, Nov. 9, that the company president spoke about the boat-manufacturing plant.
Blackfin Boats, Pita said, is one of the premium saltwater fish brands of boats in the United States, and it is among the fastest growing of the premium saltwater fish brands of boats.
This growth provides excitement for the company interests, which is now able to hire a lot more employees as the company continues its growth, Pita said.
“We’re now up to 625 employees,” Pita said. “and many of those are producing Blackfin Boats. They’re what makes the whole thing happen. Boat manufacturing is one of the last real capital goods manufacturers that are just completely, pretty much hand built.”
Pita took pride in saying this creation of boats is not completed by robotic devices. Instead, it is a job that is done by craftsmen.
This company leader -- who has been at Blackfin Boats for 30 years now, and for the prior 12 years to that was an employee of SportCraft Boats – said he finds enjoyment and excitement in seeing people “come to work, and learn and grow.”
“We don’t hire many experienced boatbuilders in Williston,” Pita said. “So, we kind of have to hire people and work with them to become boatbuilders.”
This extremely large luncheon event on Wednesday, Pita said, was an opportunity to share with the employees the celebration of Blackfin Boats’ 50th year, as well as to share some of the benefits from company growth.
This event acknowledges the workers for their contribution to the success story of this business, Pita said.
“Without all of them,” Pita said, “all of this would not be possible.”
The campus of the Blackfin Boats / Monterey Boats manufacturing plant is nearly 300,000 square-feet on 40 acres of property, Pita said.
On the Blackfin Boats side of the production plant, the vessels range in size from 22-feet to 40-feet from bow to stern, he said. The highest quality of new Blackfin Boats range in price from $90,000 up to $1 million, he said. Of course, used boats can be found at lower prices than that.
To see more about Blackfin Boats, including a method to design a custom-made boat visit the website at https://www.blackfinboats.com/.
Every step of the manufacturing process of these world class boats, and Blackfin Boats are sold all over the world, including the upholstery, the cabinets, the interior is all produced in Williston, he said. Raw materials such as fiberglass and other building material comes to the plant and then goes out from there as finished, handcrafted vessels.
The Williston manufacturing plant sells to a wholesale dealer network, and it does ship the boats internationally as well as in the United States, Pita said. Retail boat sales do not happen at the boatbuilding plant in Williston.
One nearby retail outlet for Blackfin Boats is Miller’s Marine at 1661 N.W. 57th St., in Ocala.
“They (Miller’s Marine) do a great job for us,” Pita said.
Blackfin Boats’ success story for the past 50 years reflects some essential truths in business stories across America. As customers’ expectations and demands have increased, the basic boat of decades ago has been improved.
Even longer ago, boats were only wooden – prior to the advent of successful fiberglass construction.
As people came to expect more from their boats, Pita said, competitive boatbuilders responded to the demand as they paid attention to consumers’ wants and needs.
“The ones (boatbuilders) that figure out how to do a better job of doing what the customer wants -- deliver,” Pita said. “And they grow and succeed. So, we’ve been fortunate to do that.”
Blackfin Boats and Monterey Boats are on the same campus. They are separate corporate entities, which are both owned by Seabring Marine Industries Inc.
Seabring Marine Industries Inc. is doing business as Monterey Boats, and it is doing business as Blackfin Boats. Combined, it manufactures boats that are on separate product lines. They are completely separate plants, Pita said.
The celebration Wednesday was for the 50th anniversary of Blackfin Boats.
One challenge faced by Blackfin Boats most recently was the global COVID-19 pandemic, Pita said. That worldwide epidemic of the infectious disease has killed more than 639 million people as of Nov. 10, whose deaths are confirmed cases in 228 countries and territories, according to the World Health Organization and others.
As part of the impact on manufacturing from COVID-19, and its subsequent mutations, the supply chain of raw material needed to build boats has presented a major obstacle, Pita said.
“We’re beginning, I think, to get on the backside of that,” Pita said. “That has been a major issue with the supply chain.”
This supply chain, he said, adds to the demand for employees. For instance, he said, a vendor who provides electrical panels for installation into boats may not be able to manufacture that part, which causes a delay in building the boat that needs that part.
Combined with the big number of various models of Blackfin Boats that are built at this plant, the supply chain issue and the need for more employees are challenges that must be addressed and overcome, Pita said.
The Blackfin Boats manufacturing plant in Williston builds many different models of this boat. It’s not like Ford, with a robotic plant that constructs only F-150 trucks. This boatbuilding facility builds the whole range of Blackfin Boats – about 28 different models, Pita said.
“And they are all human made,” Pita said. “All human built. So, that’s probably the biggest challenge today.”
The proverbial bottom line from Wednesday, though, was the company showed the humans that it values their work, and the people received a tee-shirt and a delicious lunch as a bonus to their normal paycheck.
Gilchrist County Chamber of Commerce
considers website improvement
Gilchrist County Chamber of Commerce President Charlotte Pederson, owner of Forever Florist, and Gilchrist County Chamber of Commerce Secretary Bill Levy, employee of Drummond Community Bank, are seen moments before the start of the meeting Nov. 1. Other officers in the Chamber are Vice President Leah Myrick, Clinical Director at On Point Home Health of Trenton and Health Occupations Health Occupations Instructor at Chiefland Middle High School; and Treasurer Karen Jones of Jones and Son Fire Extinguisher Service Inc. of Trenton.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 2, 2022 at 9:12 a.m.
TRENTON – Now going into his fourth month as the executive director of the Gilchrist County Chamber of Commerce, Walter Wobig is hoping for improvement of the Chamber’s website within the next 60 days, according to what he said Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 1).
Barry Krusch, seen on the screen in the background, speaks with Gilchrist County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Walter Wobig before the Chamber meeting on Nov. 1 about the method for Krusch to take answers from the Chamber officers and members concerning his mobile app that would combine with the Chamber’s future website, and his beta version of a marketing app that would be a free app to Chamber members during the beta rollout process. Krusch, in his opening statements, mentioned that he has lived in Lakeland and Tampa before.
Gilchrist County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Walter Wobig is the newest part-time employee of the Chamber. Wobig is enthusiastic about business and economic growth in Gilchrist County.
Meeting in the City of Trenton’s Community Center, a couple of Gilchrist County Chamber of Commerce officers and fewer than eight Chamber business members first listened to a presentation via Zoom by a man who invited the Chamber to be part of his beta version of a program for marketing.
The city’s facility is very well equipped for presentations, including a roll-down screen, Internet access and equipment to make presentations.
There was some discussion among the few people in the Trenton Community Center, which like the big dining hall at Black Prong Equestrian Center in Levy County is a bit of an echo chamber, about accepting the offer from Krusch to be part of the beta-testing group for his marketing app.
Discussion then went toward Wobig providing the names of a few web-designing and hosting companies, and the potential for the current website with the Chamber’s name on it being improved to best serve Chamber members and the customers who seek products and services in this area.
Wobig seemed to be leaning toward a company based in Wisconsin that has as a main sales point for its service that it provides some sort of discount for non-profit organizations. Shopping for a website building and hosting company is a challenge. He hopes to have a better website up and running within the next 60 days, and from that foundation the Chamber may improve from this starting point.
There was some discussion last year about the Chamber disbanding. Chambers across America are finding social media outlets replacing them as a source to connect business with consumers.
The Gilchrist County Chamber of Commerce office has moved to be inside the Gilchrist County Courthouse, near to the Clerk of Courts’ Office in that structure.
The final regular monthly meeting of 2022 by the Gilchrist County Chamber of Commerce is set for Dec. 13, at 4:30 p.m. at Trenton Community Center, 214 S.E. Third Ave., in Trenton.
The City of Trenton’s Community Center is ideal for parties, reunions, receptions, and business seminars and / or meetings, although there is that echo chamber effect.
The daily rental fee from the city is $50 plus tax ($53.50). There is a refundable deposit required and it is $100. For more information about renting the facility, contact the City of Trenton.
Crop Duster Delivers
A crop-dusting airplane is seen in the distance as it delivers chemicals to help crops on Friday morning (Oct. 21) in Levy County
The pilot banks to make another pass.
This 2012 S2R-T34 airplane, manufactured by Thrush Aircraft Inc., is among the aircraft seen in the Tri-County Area of Levy County, Dixie County and Gilchrist County as the airborne assistance aids agricultural interests.
The pilot prepares to deliver again.
Click on the PHOTO ABOVE to see the plane make a pass, while the videographer journalist takes a call on his cell phone and then packs up to continue his journey to Bronson to watch the administration of oath of office on Friday morning.
Photos and Video By Jeff M. Hardison
© Oct. 22, 2022 at 5:12 p.m. – All Rights Reserved