August unemployment
rate drops in region;

Job growth gains posted by
both Ocala and Homosassa Springs MSAs

By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Communications Manager
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published Sept. 21, 2018 at 6:18 p.m.
     OCALA –
The unemployment rate in the CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion region was 4.7 percent in August, down 0.2 percentage point over the month and half a percent lower than the same time last year.

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     The labor force was 200,461, an increase of 1,819 over the year. The number of those with jobs was 191,065, up 2,835 compared to August 2017, and there were 9,396 unemployed, 1,016 fewer than the same time last year.
     According to today’s release of the August employment summary by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Levy County continues to hold the lowest jobless rate in the region at 4.1 percent, down 0.2 percentage point, followed by Marion County at 4.5 percent, down 0.2 percent, and Citrus County at 5.3 percent, a drop of 0.3 percent. Florida’s not seasonally adjusted jobless rate – a measure that matches the way local rates are calculated – is 3.8 percent, a decrease of 0.2 percentage point over the month and down from 4.3 percent a year ago.
     Nonfarm employment in the Ocala/Marion County metropolitan statistical area was 104,800 in August, an increase of 3,100 jobs over the year for a job growth rate of 3.0 percent.
     The Homosassa Springs MSA’s nonfarm employment was 33,500, an increase of 1,000 new jobs in nonfarm employment over the month for a 3.1-percent job growth rate.
     For the sixth consecutive month, the Ocala MSA had the fastest annual job growth rate compared to all other metro areas in the state in education and health services, at 5.9 percent. The Ocala MSA continued to post the third fastest annual job growth rate compared to other metros in manufacturing, at 7.2 percent.
     Over the year, the Homosassa Springs metro continued to post the fastest job growth rate compared to all metros in government at 4.7 percent.
     CareerSource CLM’s CEO Rusty Skinner said that in looking at the numbers, “what’s important to look at is the growth experienced over the year.”
      “We should not stress about short-term variations in the seasonally unadjusted numbers,” he said. “To gauge how well the economy is doing, we need to look at the picture from last year to this.”
     Marion County’s labor force shrank by 1,427 over the month to 135,541, the number of those with jobs decreased by 1,026 to 129,437, and the number of unemployed fell by 401 to 6,104. Compared to August 2017, when the unemployment rate was 5.1 percent, the labor force has expanded by 1,871, fueled by an increase of 2,577 in the number of employed and a drop of 706 in the number of jobless.
     Citrus County labor force grew by 375 to 48,065, the number of employed rose by 493 to 45,457, while the number of unemployed fell by 118 to 2,608. Compared to August 2017, when the jobless rate was 5.9 percent, that’s an increase of 158 with jobs and a decrease of 238 unemployed. 
     Levy County’s labor force remained virtually unchanged, slipping by 18 to 16,855, the number of those with jobs rose by 17 to 16,171 and the number of unemployed decreased by 35 to 684. That’s an over-the-year increase of 100 in the number of employed and drop of 72 in the number of jobless compared to when the unemployment rate was 4.5 percent.
     According to the employment data for August, unemployment rates fell in 64 counties and remained the same in three.
     Citrus County’s unemployment rate tied with Highlands County for the fourth highest rate among Florida’s counties, Marion County moved up two spots to reclaim the 12th highest rate and Levy County tied with six other counties with the 22nd highest rate.
     Among the metro areas, the Homosassa Springs/Citrus County MSA had the second highest rate behind The Village’s 5.5 percent and the Ocala MSA continued to hold the fifth highest rate.
     The Ocala MSA’s nonfarm employment of 104,800 reflected an increase of 1,000 jobs over the month and 3,100 compared to August 2017. 
     In addition to education and health services (1,100 new jobs for a 5.9 percent growth rate) and manufacturing (600 new jobs for a 7.2 percent growth rate), industries that grew faster in the Ocala metro area than statewide over the year were leisure and hospitality (700 new jobs, +5.6 percent growth rate); professional and business services (400 jobs, +4.4 percent); trade, transportation and utilities (400 jobs, +1.7 percent); and government (100 jobs, +0.7 percent).
     Industries losing jobs over the year were mining, logging and construction (-100); and financial activities (-100 jobs).
     Information and other services were unchanged over the year.
     In addition to the 3.1 percent over-the-month job growth rate for the Homosassa Springs MSA, the metro area added 200 jobs compared to August 2017 for an over-the-year rate increase of0.6 percent.
     Nonfarm payroll employment in the Homosassa Springs MSA was 32,400, down 1,400 jobs over the month but an increase of 200 jobs (+0.6 percent) compared to July 2017. 
     In July, the Homosassa Springs MSA posted the second fastest annual job growth rate compared to all other Florida metros in government at 3.1 percent. In August, the metro’s 4.7 percent in government was the state’s fastest rate among metros.
The region’s employment summary for September is scheduled tol be released on Friday, Oct. 19.

Local CEO set to speak about career success on Oct. 17
By CF Marketing and Public Relations Manager Tina Banner
Published Sept. 21, 2018 at 5:48 p.m.

     OCALA -- The College of Central Florida’s Business and Technology Department are scheduled to host Doug Cone Jr., founder and CEO of Cone Distributing, in a special event on Wednesday, Oct. 17, from 5:30-6:30 p.m., at the Ewers Century Center, 3001 S.W. College Road, in Ocala.
     Cone will talk about career success strategies and the importance of learning from mistakes. Cone is a board member of the Ocala/Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership and was named Ocala’s most influential man in 2016 by Florida Trend magazine for his community contributions.
     There is no charge to attend and refreshments will be served. For more information, contact Bonnie Hays at 352-854-2322, ext. 1855, or


SRWMD notification system
keeps people informed

By Katelyn C. Potter
Communications Director
Suwannee River Water Management District
Published Sept. 20, 2018 at 9:08 a.m.
     LIVE OAK --
The Suwannee River Water Management District is encouraging local residents, governments, businesses and stakeholders to take advantage of the new Aquifer Alert system.
     Current groundwater levels are breaking historic records and we are seeing localized flooding across the District due to saturated ground conditions. With the chance for storms ever-present, it’s important to stay informed and be prepared.
     This notification tool allows users to sign up for real-time notifications regarding groundwater conditions, trends and graphics. The feature allows for text and/or email notifications and can be associated with a number of other alert options as well.
     Notify Me is one primary tool the District uses during emergency events, such as floods, to share information.  It also allows you to unsubscribe at any time if desired.
     Aquifer Alert –
     Notify Me –

     If you have any questions or comments, please contact the SRWMD office at 386-362-1001.


SRWMD seeks public input
Published Sept. 20, 2018 at 8:58 a.m.
     LIVE OAK –
In an effort to improve outreach to residents and visitors of the Suwannee River Water Management District (District), the District is seeking public input on the perceptions, knowledge and use of the water resources throughout the Suwannee Valley.
     “At the District, we believe strongly that fulfilling our mission of responsibly stewarding the water resources of the Suwannee Valley includes understanding the perceptions and concerns of our local citizens,” said Katelyn Potter, communications director for the District.  “This effort is an important step in improving the dialogue between the District and the citizens of our area.”
     To gather input, the District has launched an online questionnaire that gathers information on resource use, recreation, issues awareness, and more. The survey is part of a larger outreach effort by the District to more actively engage citizens and stakeholders in the water management process.
     “Citizen and stakeholder engagement with District issues is vital to overcome our water resource challenges,” Potter said. “This questionnaire allows us to gain feedback from those we would not normally hear from.”
     Visit to complete the questionnaire. The questionnaire is available online until Sept. 30 at 11:59 p.m. It takes less than five minutes to complete and is accessible from any mobile device. Responses are anonymous.
     The mission of the Suwannee River Water Management District is to protect and manage water resources using science-based solutions to support natural systems and the needs of the public. The District holds true to the belief of water for nature, water for people. Headquartered in Live Oak, the District serves 15 surrounding North Central Florida counties.


Dr. Ann Blount named as
the Woman of the Year in Ag

Story and Photo
Provided By Kinley Tuten of the
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Published Sept. 20, 2018 at 7:48 a.m.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam announced Tuesday (Sept. 18) that Dr. Ann Blount has been named the 2018 Woman of the Year in Agriculture.
     Dr. Blount has dedicated her career to researching and implementing innovative techniques to improve fall forage production in Florida’s southern coastal areas.
     The award, now in its 34th year, recognizes women who have made outstanding contributions to Florida agriculture.
     “I’m honored to recognize Dr. Blount as the 2018 Woman of the Year in Agriculture. Throughout her career, Dr. Blount’s extensive research and techniques have incorporated Florida’s unique natural resources to bolster our agriculture industry,” Putnam said.
     Dr. Blount earned a Bachelor of Science in Crop Ecology from Texas A&M University. She continued her education at the University of Florida, where she earned her master’s degree and Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics. Dr. Blount has since spearheaded research of breeding efforts on physiological aspects of fall forage, specifically: developing improved bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum), evaluating new perennial peanut varieties, and enhancing small grains and ryegrasses.
     Dr. Blount joined the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in 1988. She currently serves as an extension specialist and professor of forage breeding and genetics for the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy. Dr. Blount uses a hands-on approach to train new and veteran extension agents to implement innovative foraging, and help landowners test new livestock forages and wildlife blends to assess potential use on their properties.
     Dr. Blount has made significant contributions to the agriculture industry, such as six plant patents and plant variety protections, as well as 76 cultivars and germplasm releases and forages. She has written several educational publications, including: two book chapters, 198 refereed articles, 385 non-refereed articles, 22 national and international proceedings, 124 abstracts and 28 refereed Extension articles.
     Dr. Blount’s impressive forage breeding program and UF/IFAS Extension activities have improved the production and efficiency of thousands of acres of Florida’s forage varieties.
     The Woman of the Year in Agriculture award is sponsored by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida State Fair Authority, and the award will be presented to the recipient during the 2019 Florida State Fair in Tampa.
     The next annual Florida State Fair is scheduled for Feb. 7 through 18, 2019.


Edward Jones
When Should You See
 A Financial Professional?

Published Sept. 17, 2018 at 2:08 p.m.
     It can be challenging to achieve your financial objectives.
     Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone – but when should you seek help?
     Here are some of the key life events in which you might be able to benefit from the services of a financial professional:
     First professional job – Eventually, you will land that first job, which will offer benefits and a 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan. Since you may not have any experience with a 401(k), you may have several questions: How much should I contribute? What sorts of investments should I choose? When should I change my investment selections? A financial professional can help you review your plan and explain the aspects that may affect your investment choices.
     Marriage – When you get married, you and your spouse may decide to merge your finances, including your investments. But if each of you brings similar investments to the table, you might create some redundancies. A financial professional can look at your respective portfolios and recommend ways to diversify. Generally, the more diversified you are, the greater your protection against market downturns that primarily hit one type of asset class. (However, while diversification can help reduce the impact of market volatility, it can’t guarantee profits or protect against all losses.)
     Children – Once you have children, you’ll have new responsibilities – and you’ll have some new financial issues that should be addressed. If something happened to you, could your children still have the same lifestyle and educational opportunities? Would they even be able to stay in the same home? To help ensure your children’s security, you may need to add more life and disability insurance.
While life insurance could help pay for your children’s education, you also should prepare for education costs as if you will be around. So you may want to consider an education savings investment such as a 529 plan. A financial professional can help you with your insurance and education-funding needs. 
     Retirement – Once you retire, you will face a variety of financial decisions, but here’s one of the most important ones: How much money should you withdraw each year from your retirement accounts? To choose an annual withdrawal rate that’s appropriate for your needs, you should consider several factors: how much you have in your retirement accounts, how much Social Security you’ll receive, what other sources of income (such as part-time work or consulting) you might have, your age at retirement, your spouse’s projected retirement assets, your retirement lifestyle, and so on. It might not be easy for you to consider all these elements and then arrive at a suitable withdrawal rate, but a financial professional has the experience, training and technology to help determine a figure that could work for you.
     These aren’t all the life events that may lead you to contact a financial professional, but they should give you a pretty good idea of the type of assistance you could expect over time. So, consider reaching out for the help you need, when you need it. Doing so could help make your life easier as you move toward your financial goals.
    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.

Tim West votes 'No'
on tree permit fee

Tim West Rollin Hudson
Chiefland City Commissioner Tim West and City Commissioner Rollin Hudson listen to a person at the Monday night (Sept. 10) meeting.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 12, 2018 at 12:28 p.m.
Among his first actions as a member of the Chiefland City Commission on Monday night (Sept. 10) was for Tim West to vote “No” on a $50 permit fee.


Betty Walker Donald Lawrence Chris Jones
(from left) Mayor Betty Walker, City Commissioner Donald Lawrence and Vice Mayor Chris Jones conduct city business at the Monday night (Sept. 10) meeting.

     City Manager Mary Ellzey had brought before the City Commission the current ordinance in regard to cutting down and replacing trees as development occurs in Chiefland.
     After a discussion, the City Commission voted 4-1, with West dissenting, to require a $50 permit fee to cut down one tree or any number of trees in one development action.
     For instance, this $50 fee would cover a developer clear-cutting several acres of trees in one fell swoop. The single motion Monday night was in regard to the $50 permit fee. As it exists, a person who fails to obtain the permit before developing their commercial property and cutting one or more trees may be fined twice the permit fee – or $100 for not obtaining the fee prior to tree removal.
     City Commissioner West said he voted “No” because he does not favor the city imposing any fee on a developer for tree removal. West said he wants to do what he can to encourage entrepreneurs to come to Chiefland and build here.
     The current ordinance appears to require a developer to replace tree-for-tree every tree that is cut down.
     City Commissioner Hudson said that whether this is a residential property owner, to which this ordinance does not apply, or whether it is a commercial property developer, the owner of the property is the owner of the trees. Therefore, Hudson said, the property owner should be allowed to do whatever he or she desires with their property with no impact imposed upon them by the municipal government.
     Hudson mentioned that to replace a 20-inch diameter oak tree, for instance, would be very expensive, and that perhaps the ordinance can require the developer to plant a seedling for each tree removed.
     Chiefland City Commissioners plan to discuss the current city tree ordinance more at the next City Commission meeting, and to potentially instruct City Attorney Norm D. Fugate to amend the ordinance for possible approval of the amended ordinance relatively soon thereafter.


Two RV resort developers
express displeasure
with impact fees in Chiefland

City Commissioner Teresa Barron (center) shares her feelings about impact fees to be imposed on RV resort developers on Aug. 27. Also in this photo are Chiefland City Attorney Norm D. Fugate (left) and City Commissioner Rollin Hudson.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 2, 2018 at 11:18 a.m.
Principals in the development of two separate RV resort parks shared their displeasure with probable impact fees to be imposed on them by the City of Chiefland at a recent city meeting.

Incoming Chiefland City Commissioner Tim West
(left, forwardmost) expresses  his belief that the city government should weigh the probable positive future economic impact from development before imposing fees that would essentially reduce the likelihood of development reaching fruition in the city. West was speaking at the Chiefland City Commission meeting on Aug. 27 from the chairs in the audience. After he takes office on Sept. 10, he will be speaking as a City Commission member sitting behind the dais (ˈdīəs). However, if there are matters where he may see some financial benefit from action by the City Commission, West will not be voting.

     During the regular Chiefland City Commission meeting on Aug. 27, Tim West, the incoming City Commission member who defeated Teresa Barron in the recent city election, and Alan Wallace, a principal in the development of Southern Leisure RV Resort, both said impact fees will kill their RV resort developments. Hal Lyons, a partner with West, said impact fees are "deal breakers."
     As some people know, the Barron-West election decision was by drawing lots, per Florida law in the event of a tie vote when there is no city charter rule calling for a method other than what the state deems fitting as the best method for deciding a tie vote.
     West is connected with Lyons in the development of Strawberry Fields 4 RVers, another development under construction in Chiefland that is separate from Southern Leisure RV Resort.
     West has said that when he takes office, he will not vote on matters where the City Commission's decision could affect the development where he has a financial interest.
     Wallace mentioned to the Chiefland municipal leaders that another development with which he has an interest – Williston Crossings RV Resort – did not have impact fees imposed on it when he developed there.
     Wallace intimated that the development of Phase II of Southern Leisure RV Resort may not occur if excessive impact fees are imposed.
     Lyons previously shared a similar sentiment, which West reiterated in regard to Strawberry Fields 4 RVers.
     During the meeting Aug. 27, West said there would be no RV resorts being built if they city had told the developers about impact fees for each site, as well as for the permanent structures, beforehand. He said this seems like an unfair burden for two significant independent residential developments that promise to serve as economic engines for the city and surrounding area.
     City Commissioner Barron said a residential home being built in the city has to pay hundreds of dollars in impact fees for each structure like that.
     West reminded Barron that these are permanent structures.
      “The positive impacts will highly outweigh the negative impacts,” West said in regard to the RV resorts’ future residents.
     Barron countered that she is not disagreeing with him in this regard. Nevertheless, she added, it seems the house developers may be having to pay more than the RV resort developers in regard to the cost of increasing infrastructural needs of the city.
     Wallace added to West’s statements.
     He reminded the City Commission that it voted 3-2 to require RV residents to stay no longer than 180 days. The impact of a yearlong resident in comparison with a seasonal resident is less, Wallace said.
     “It’s not apples to apples when you are trying to compare a house to an RV site,” Wallace said. “It’s just – there’s no comparison.”
     Attorney Fugate said there is an impact on the city’s services from these developments. There is a need, though, he added, for a relationship to be developed to show the difference in the impact of an RV site in contrast with a house so that a fair impact fee is imposed.
     Chiefland City Manager Mary Ellzey told the City Commission that both developers were given directions to check the Municode website ( to see the impact fees that exist for Chiefland. She referred to when Tommy Miles and Lois Livingston were planning a development back before some of that project changed.
     As for the history of the city collecting impact fees, Ellzey said that during a one-year period in 2010-2011, the city chose not to collect impact fees as a method to help encourage development in the city.
     Before discussion began at the Aug. 27 meeting, Chiefland City Commission members were provided with the agenda and background leading to this discussion.
     The background showed that a brief discussion on Aug. 13 at the City Commission in regard to impact fees on RV parks did occur.
     "The current impact fees," City Manager Ellzey said, "were implemented in 2007 after a study conducted by Government Services Group in December of 2006. The city's current Law Enforcement, Fire, Transportation and Recreation impact fee schedules are provided for discussion."
     Phase I of Southern Leisure RV Resort shows a combined total of $25,543.11 for the impact fees on Fire, Law Enforcement, Recreation and Transportation for the 218 spaces to be developed there.
     Strawberry Fields 4 RVers would pay the city a total of $11,397 for the total 72 spaces it is developing, according to the information provided to the city leaders at the Aug. 27 meeting.
     The City Commission discussed the matter Aug. 27 for a relatively long time, including City Commissioner Rollin Hudson saying he would not vote to impose an impact fee on the Levy County School Board if it bought the Central Florida Electric Cooperatives warehouse and other property it has for sale, were that to be bulldozed and a new vocational school built there.
     Chiefland City Attorney Norm Fugate said there probably have been cases since 2006 related to impact fees in regard to public schools versus private schools. Until or unless, however, three or more City Commissioners direct him to conduct the research to present a legal opinion on any matter, he indicated that he is not likely to do that.     The “Florida Impact Fee Act” resulted after the Florida Legislature found that impact fees are an important source of revenue for a local government to use in funding the infrastructure necessitated by new growth.
      As noted in Florida law, "The Legislature further finds that impact fees are an outgrowth of the home rule power of a local government to provide certain services within its jurisdiction. Due to the growth of impact fee collections and local governments’ reliance on impact fees, it is the intent of the Legislature to ensure that, when a county or municipality adopts an impact fee by ordinance or a special district adopts an impact fee by resolution, the governing authority complies with this section."
      The act by the state leaders shows that "an impact fee adopted by ordinance of a county or municipality or by resolution of a special district must, at minimum:
     "(a) Require that the calculation of the impact fee be based on the most recent and localized data.
     "(b) Provide for accounting and reporting of impact fee collections and expenditures. If a local governmental entity imposes an impact fee to address its infrastructure needs, the entity shall account for the revenues and expenditures of such impact fee in a separate accounting fund.
     "(c) Limit administrative charges for the collection of impact fees to actual costs.
      "(d) Require that notice be provided no less than 90 days before the effective date of an ordinance or resolution imposing a new or increased impact fee. A county or municipality is not required to wait 90 days to decrease, suspend, or eliminate an impact fee."
     Later in the law, it shows that "In any action challenging an impact fee, the government has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the imposition or amount of the fee meets the requirements of state legal precedent or this section. The court may not use a deferential standard."
     City Manager Ellzey said in 2006 Chiefland did not have any RV resorts.
     Ellzey told the City Commission she could seek Government Services Group (GSG) to review the impact fee rates with another study for an updated version of fees to be collected by the city. She said the cost for the GSG impact fee study cost the city $9,000 in 2006.
     The city manager said she presumes GSG would charge fewer dollars to conduct an update study for revising impact fees in 2018.
     Attorney Fugate looking at the moment on the Internet resources for development impact fees in regard to sewer service, spoke about the possibility of one RV unit not equaling one full house unit for the purpose of imposing impact fees.
     Mayor Betty Walker asked City Manager Ellzey to return with more information at the next meeting, including the cost of a GSG update of impact fees.
     The bottom line on this matter for the Chiefland City Commission is that City Commissioner West is scheduled to take the oath of office on Sept. 10. That meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the Hardy Dean Sr. Municipal Building, which is also known as Chiefland City Hall, located at 214 E. Park Ave., in Chiefland.
     The agenda for that meeting probably will show possible further discussion about impact fees on RV resorts in Chiefland, and perhaps some action in relation to the two developments – which are some months into construction now.
     As for new development in Chiefland, it has been relatively stagnant for 12 years. Even the building and zoning structure has been converted into a structure to house the Tri-County Community Resource Center, rather than a separate place for developers to review matters with the city.
     Like Chiefland, Bronson has done away with its on-staff building and zoning official and is contracting with a firm instead.
     Former Chiefland Building Official Bill Hammond became the Levy County Building Department’s director some years ago.
     Even the county is seeing difficulty with development now, too, as indicated by a recent County Commission meeting where Hammond told the Levy County Board of County Commissioners that the county lacks enough building inspectors to meet demand currently.


USDA confirms Atypical Bovine
Spongiform Encephalopathy

By Jenn Meale, Florida DACS
Published Aug. 29, 2018 at 4:38 p.m.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced today (Wednesday, Aug. 29) that it is working closely with the United States Department of Agriculture regarding an atypical case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), a neurologic disease of cattle, in a 6-year-old, mixed-breed beef cow in Florida.
     This animal never entered slaughter channels and at no time presented a risk to the food supply, or to human health in the United States. This form of BSE is not contagious.
      “This detection shows just how well our surveillance system works. We’re grateful to our partners at the U.S. Department of Agriculture who work alongside us day in and day out to conduct routine surveillance and protect consumers,” Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam said.
     Atypical BSE is different than Classical BSE, and it generally occurs in older cattle and seems to arise rarely and spontaneously in all cattle populations.
     USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) confirmed that this cow was positive for atypical H-type BSE.  The animal was tested as part of APHIS’s routine surveillance of cattle that are deemed unsuitable for slaughter. APHIS and Florida veterinary officials are gathering more information on the case.
     BSE is not contagious and exists in two types - classical and atypical.  Classical BSE is the form that occurred primarily in the United Kingdom, beginning in the late 1980s, and it has been linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in people.
     The primary source of infection for classical BSE is feed contaminated with the infectious prion agent, such as meat-and-bone meal containing protein derived from rendered infected cattle. Regulations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have prohibited the inclusion of mammalian protein in feed for cattle and other ruminants since 1997 and have also prohibited high risk tissue materials in all animal feed since 2009.
     The United States has a longstanding system of interlocking safeguards against BSE that protects public and animal health in the United States. Additionally, the BSE surveillance program allows USDA to detect the disease if it exists at very low levels in the U.S. cattle population.
More information about this disease is available in the BSE factsheet.


Aquifer alert system
keeps residents informed

Graphic by SRWMD
By Katelyn Potter, Communications Director
Suwannee River Water Management District
Published Aug. 28, 2018 at 5:08 p.m.
     LIVE OAK –
With aquifer levels reaching record-breaking highs in some areas, the Suwannee River Water Management District (District) has released a new alert system to keep local governments, residents and stakeholders informed on the changing groundwater conditions.
     "In some areas of the District we continue to see flooding that began in early July, which is very unusual especially since there have been no tropical systems yet," Fay Baird, senior hydrologist for the District, said. “In many places the Floridan Aquifer is more saturated than it has been for numerous years.”
     Aquifer Alert, the new alert system, allows users to sign up for automatic notifications through text and/or email whenever new groundwater or hydrological information is posted. The District is currently updating the information twice per week.
     Over half of the 88 long-term groundwater gauges across the District are showing groundwater levels above the 90th percentile – the highest on record in many areas. High groundwater levels increase the risk for flooding if a major rainfall event were to occur because the ground is already saturated.
      “If a significant weather system occurs over our already-wet conditions, we will very likely see localized flooding in many areas across the District,” Baird said.
     Although no major storms have been predicted for the area, residents should prepare now.
     The District recommends residents take the following precautions:
     1) Make a plan for an alternate exit route in the event your main route is flooded.
     2) Identify a location to move low-lying valuables and animals to higher ground.
     3) Clear drainageways and ditches of fallen trees or debris.
     4) Become familiar with past flood water levels in your area so you have a reference point.
     For more information on water level information throughout the District or to sign up for Aquifer Alerts, visit


Peanut Harvesting
Peanut Harvest
Harvesting of peanuts continues in the fields of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties. Seven huge combines comb this field separating peanuts from the vines that held them.

Peanut Harvest
Peanut-harvesting equipment makes its way on U.S. Highway 129 near Bell in Gilchrist County recently. This still shot is taken from a dash camera mounted in the PT Newser (a 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser).

Peanut-harvesting equipment takes both lanes of Levy County Road 347, west of State Road 345 in Levy County on Sunday (Aug. 26). This still shot is taken from a dash camera mounted in the PT Newser (a 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser).

Peanut Harvest
John Deere Tractors pull KMC bins used for transporting peanuts from fields to awaiting semi tractor-trailers. Peanuts are among the many crops grown and harvested in this part of Florida. Peanut farmers, like all farmers and ranchers, work hard to produce the food people need to survive.
The launch pad for the unmanned aerial system (drone) named Dragonfly is seen on a grassy public median of a county road. The shadow of the drone is seen in the upper left of the 8-year-old banner. This still photo taken from a video shows the blades bent in a peculiar way due to the way light is recorded. The propellers are straight and spin very quickly to lift the drone. 'The Greater Levy County Area' became Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties soon after the 8-year-old daily news website began. This banner makes a good place, however, for launching a UAS to keep grass out of the four propellers.
Hobbyist drone pilot Jeff M. Hardison looks up at the very low-flying object. No airplane or helicopter could have been in the airspace this drone occupied for the 10 minutes it was in the air on Monday (Aug. 27), because those other aircraft would have collided with trees and powerlines. To see the previous story, photos and video from the farmers harvesting peanuts on Labor Day 2017, saved in the archives, click HERE.

Photos by Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 28, 2018 at 8:28 a.m.
All copyrights reserved


SCORE of Citrus County accepts
Levy County as a service area;

Williston Chamber mixer
offers networking opportunities

SCORE Citrus County
Jim Green, chapter chair of SCORE of Citrus County, stands below a banner that helps promote the organization.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 17, 2018 at 11:08 a.m.
SCORE of Citrus County sponsored the Williston Chamber of Commerce mixer Thursday evening (Aug. 16) in conjunction with Dr. Kenneth Schwiebert and Heidi Schwiebert of Two Hawk Hammock.

Williston Florida Chamber Mixer
Among the many members and guests at the event are (from left) Williston Chamber President Marc Pompeo of Harriett Downs Real Estate, Williston Chamber Vice President Kimberly McLane of Gamma Communications Solutions, Williston Mayor Jerry Robinson and Joel Maxson of Harriett Downs Real Estate. Standing in front of the group is Nicky, a 4-year-old male standard poodle. Nicky was raised by McLane since he was born. He is a very-accomplished dog with an impressive pedigree, and his official name is longer than just Nicky. He is also a service dog. There was a relatively large cat in the pole barn-stable during the event, and while the two animals looked at each other, both pets exhibited model behavior. There was not one bark or hiss to be heard. A good time was had by all.

Williston Florida Chamber Mixer
Hors d'oeuvres were plentiful during the Williston Chamber mixer. There was free beer available as well.

     Two Hawk Hammock is a retreat home rental property at 17950 N.E. 53rd Lane, Williston.
     The property includes an adjacent pasture for visitors who are traveling with a horse. It is pet-friendly with a fenced yard. The property is near to Devil's Den Spring for scuba divers and snorkelers, and it is within walking distance of Cedar Lakes Woods and (botanical) Gardens.
     As for the Chamber mixer, there were plenty of hors d'oeuvres, including shrimp, a couple of different kinds of meatballs, various breads and sauces. Cone Distributing of Ocala provided the beer via SCORE of Citrus County. Other available drinks at the mixer included tea and lemonade.
     Heidi Schwiebert’s homemade soaps were in a basket and open for the free taking by members and guests. The main gathering was in a huge outdoor pole barn-stable. Horses, a cat and several other types of animals were in or near the barn or stable.
     Members and guests all enjoyed an opportunity to share information with each other in regard to what their businesses provide.
     During Thomas L. Griffin’s speech about Bird Dog Boats, there was a donkey, mule, burro or some animal of that ilk that made some loud calls, as if it was music playing off an actor to leave the stage at the Oscars, because the actor’s time was up. Everyone enjoyed the humorous timing, because coincidently, that animal’s call wrapped up Griffin’s description of what his group does for people.
     Griffin is the director of the non-profit group – Bird Dog Boats – that is dedicated to the charitable cause of helping people with disabilities, so that they may enjoy outdoor water sports like boating, fishing, kayaking, swimming and the like.
     Griffin notes that he is appreciative of the following people who made this program possible: Capt. Bobby Witt of Scale Key Clam, in Cedar Key; Robert and Rick Coarsey of Coarsey Fiberglass, in Chiefland; Troy Wilson of Marine Metals, in Williston; and David Jones of the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association, in Tallahassee.
     Among the free door prizes that were randomly selected for winners were two tickets to Two Tails Ranch - All About Elephants for its 7th Annual Elephant Appreciation Day & Fundraiser.
     This two-day event is scheduled for Sept. 22 and 23 from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Gate admission is $10 per person. Children 2 years and younger are admitted for free. Two Tails Ranch is located at 18655 N.E. 81st St., Williston
     Patricia Zerbini, owner of Two Tails Ranch, said this educational facility teaches people about elephants. She let Chamber participants know the ranch draws thousands of people to Williston each year.
     In addition to Zerbina, who is the owner of All About Elephants as well as being a past president of the Williston Chamber of Commerce, other members at the mixer included representatives from Al's TV Antenna and Satellite; Capital City Bank; Citrus County SCORE; the City of Williston; Custom Sage; Devil's Den Spring; Gamma Communication Solutions;; Harriett Downs Real Estate; Regional General Hospital of Williston; Sharon C. Brannan, CPA; Williston Pioneer; and others.
     Jim Green, chapter chair of SCORE of Citrus County, shared information about this organization with the group.
     Katherine Regan and Chuck Kircoaf, two of the other six SCORE certified mentors at the event, also shared their insight about the group that, when it was founded in 1964, had the acronym SCORE – derived from Service Corps of Retired Executives.
     The latest motto or slogan for SCORE is “For the Life of Your Business – Your No Cost Business Partner.”
     The SCORE Association is supported by the United States Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA is a federal government agency that provides support to entrepreneurs and small businesses.
     SCORE is a nonprofit association of thousands of volunteer business counselors throughout the United States and its territories.
     SCORE members are trained to serve as counselors, advisors and mentors to aspiring entrepreneurs and existing business owners.
     SCORE of Citrus County has an office at the College of Central Florida Citrus Campus in Lecanto and now has one at the CF Jack Wilkinson Campus in Levy County, just south of the city of Fanning Springs, Green said.
     Green said SCORE of Citrus County received a one-time grant to incorporate Levy County into its service area. Formerly SCORE of Gainesville was the service-provider for Levy County, Green said.
     Green said he hopes to recruit another three or four people in Levy County who will become certified mentors to help business interests in Levy County. The training takes 18 to 20 hours online, Green said.
     Once a SCORE mentor is certified, he or she can create a plan to donate hours to help business interests. Green said this is a very flexible volunteer position, where the mentor and the business owner work when they can schedule their activities together.
     For instance, Green said, a mentor may want to play golf in the morning and assist a client in the afternoon or evening.
     SCORE is connected with the SBA and it is working with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development program as well.
     Katherine Regan, a SCORE mentor for four years now, said she helps encourage people who plan to start a business. She gives them guidance and helps them with their business plan. One woman, she said, had a vision to start a daycare venture.
     After looking at the plan and the market, however, that person chose against starting the enterprise. Regan said the woman was very thankful to her for helping her understand business concepts showing how this venture probably would have resulted in an outcome other than the one she desired.
     Chuck Kircoaf, an eight-year veteran SCORE mentor who specializes in restaurants, said he meets with clients to help them with their business plans. This includes reviewing the finances and legal obstacles in business.
     Inventory control and flow are among the aspects of a business plan that can be reviewed.
     For an existing business, Kircoaf said, he can help them consider obtaining a bridge loan. This is short-term financing that the SBA can assist a business in locating. Kircoaf said there are some attractive packages for relatively low interest rates.
     Therefore, if a business owner saw reasons to want to increase his or her inventory and they needed a loan to go forward with this expansion, a certified SCORE mentor could help counsel that owner to lead the person toward the best resources to obtain that loan.
     SCORE is aiming toward assisting rural and agricultural business owners, too, Kircoaf said
     For instance, the USDA, Kircoaf said, is providing $12 billion to American farmers and ranchers affected nationwide by trade wars and tariffs that recently came into existence. SCORE and the SBA can help agricultural interests interested in learning more about these options, Kircoaf said.
     Beyond this assistance, SCORE mentors can help farmers and ranchers with other aspects of their business plans.
     Anyone interested in becoming a SCORE mentor in Levy County is asked to contact Jim Green at or, or call him at the office at 352-249-1236 or on his cell phone at 352-464-7971.
     As for the Williston Chamber of Commerce mixer, people appeared to enjoy the food and fellowship as they socially networked with other Chamber members and guests.
     The 2018 officers of the Williston Chamber of Commerce are President Marc Pompeo, Vice President Kimberly McLane, Secretary Lon Sullivan and Treasurer Paul Jones.

MONDAY  SEPT. 24  9:18 p.m.
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