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--UPDATED--
TUESDAY  SEPT. 21  7:11 a.m.  Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties


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Flood issues heard,
other hearing delayed
Suspicious package
leads to courthouse evacuation

By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 15, 2021 at 9:11 a.m.
     CROSS CITY and TRENTON –
The Tri-County Area of Dixie County, Gilchrist County and Levy County was somewhat of a beehive of activity Tuesday (Sept. 14) with one successful legislative delegation hearing, one courthouse evacuation that caused that hearing to be postponed and one county seat municipal election.

 



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     From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, the Bronson municipal election for two Town Council seats concluded with two winners being selected by the electorate. Bronson is the county seat for Levy County. The story and photos regarding that election were published last night (Tuesday, Sept. 14) in HardisonInk.com.
     Meanwhile, in the Dixie County municipality that serves as its county seat -- Cross City, the Dixie County Legislative Delegation Hearing was conducted Tuesday afternoon (Sept. 14) as State Sen. Jennifer Bradley (R-Fleming Island, Dist. 5), served as the chair for the delegation, and State Rep. Charles Wesley "Chuck" Clemons Sr. (R-Newberry, Dist. 21) also listened to Dixie County elected officials and others sharing input regarding matters those folks want the Florida Legislature to consider during this year’s legislative session.
     The legislative delegation in the Tri-County Area conducts hearings annually to hear from constituents, although the state senator and representatives for this part of Florida listen to residents and visitors throughout the year, too.
     Sen. Bradley serves as the people’s representative in the Florida Senate for District 5, which includes Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Suwannee, Union and part of Marion counties.
     Rep. Clemons serves as the people’s representative in the Florida House of Representatives in District 21, which includes part of Alachua County and all of Dixie County and Gilchrist County.
     State Rep. Joe Harding (R-Williston, Dist. 22) serves as the people’s representative in the Florida House of Representatives in District 21, which includes part of Marion County and all of Levy County. Levy County Legislative Delegation Meeting
     The Florida League of Cities lists the current date, time and place for the 2021 Levy County Legislative Delegation Hearing to be on Oct. 5, a Tuesday, at 9:30 a.m. in the R. Gerald Hethcoat Community Room of Williston City Hall, 50 N.W. Main St.
     As for the Dixie County Legislative Delegation Hearing on Tuesday (Sept. 14), Tonya Shays, one of three legislative assistants for Sen. Bradley noted much of the discussion in Dixie County centered around flooding concerns and the state prison that is located in Dixie County.
     The other legislative assistants for Sen. Bradley are Katelyn Heffley and Mary Lee, according to records from the Florida Senate.
     As for the the delegation hearing set to be heard starting at 3:30 p.m. yesterday, Shays noted it was unable to be held in Trenton due to a security incident at the Gilchrist County Courthouse. Therefore, she added, it will be rescheduled, and that date, time and place will be provided for people to see on HardisonInk.com.
     The next Regular Session of the Florida Legislature is scheduled to convene on Jan. 11, 2022 in Tallahassee.
     As for the security issue that caused the need for rescheduling the Gilchrist County Legislative Delegation Hearing, an alert member of the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office took appropriate action to keep people safe, according to information provided by GCSO Lt. Keagon Weatherford in an email press release Tuesday afternoon (Sept. 14) at 3:56 p.m.
     GCSO Civil Deputy, Sgt. Stephen Stalvey, who serves as a bailiff in the Gilchrist County Courthouse, was made aware of a suspicious package near the front door the courthouse, Lt. Weatherford noted. For safety purposes the courthouse was evacuated and a perimeter was set up to ensure the safety of residents and visitors in the area, Weatherford intimated.
     Members of Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz’s staff contacted the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad, Weatherford said.
      The ACSO Bomb Squad members quickly responded to assist and found that there was no credible threat to the courthouse or to anyone in the area. The courthouse has resumed to normal operations, Weatherford said.
     Sheriff Schultz noted his gratitude for the assistance provided by other people in agencies, including the individuals in the Trenton Public Safety Department, the Gilchrist County Fire Rescue Department and the ACSO for their assistance in this investigation.

 


Silver Springs fish study shows
exotic fish population explosion

Lots of Fish
Blue Tilapia with Mullet on the Silver River, taken during the Florida Springs Institute Silver River Fish Count on July 19th, 2021. Photos by Florida Springs Institute.

Story and Photos provided
By The Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute
Published Sept. 14, 2021 at 3:11 p.m.
     HIGH SPRINGS --
Scientists have been studying the fish population at Silver Springs for decades.

     The most recent study completed by the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute (FSI) reveals a troubling trend. Blue tilapia, an exotic fish, has exploded at Silver Springs over the last two years to 88 percent of the total fish population.
      “This is a troubling trend because blue tilapia compete with native mullet and gizzard shad for food and bass and sunfish for nesting areas. They disrupt the aquatic habitat,” explains Dr. Robert Knight, executive director of FSI. “Breaching the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam would bring back large, predatory fish such as the striped bass and channel catfish which would compete with tilapia and potentially help control their population,” he added.
     The tilapia population explosion is not the only changing fish story at Silver Springs. Native fish species have not fully recovered and still only comprise about 41 percent of the fish population seen prior to the completion of the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam in 1968.
     Fish populations collapsed after dam construction, decreasing by 78 percent in 1979 and by 92 percent in 2004. Largemouth bass and sunfish declined by 67 percent between 1950s and 2004. These two species are still down by 48 percent compared to pre-dam data.
     The catfish that were historically the stars of the glass-bottomed boat rides dropped by 91 percent from 1954 to recent studies. Striped mullet, which are one of the few species that eat the algae coating the once bright green eel grass in the springs, diminished by 77 percent since 1954.
     Although total biomass or fish weight in the study area is now on the rise, the increase recorded this year is predominantly by non-native and invasive tilapia.
      “The only way to fully restore the ecosystem at Silver Springs and bring back our native fish population is to restore the historic fish migration route and natural flow from Silver Springs to the Atlantic by breaching the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam near Palatka,” Knight said.

 


3-1 vote leads
to new Levy County attorney being named

New Levy Cpuonty Attorney
Incoming Levy County Attorney Nicole Shalley tells members of the Levy County Board of County Commissioners reasons to choose her during a special meeting held late yesterday afternoon (Tuesday, Sept. 7).

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 8, 2011 at 2:11 p.m.
     BRONSON –
A special meeting to select the Levy County attorney was extended from its conclusion late Tuesday afternoon Sept. 7) until after the evening regular meeting of the Levy County Board of County Commissioners.

 

New Levy County Attorney
Candidate for Levy County attorney -- attorney Walker Wade Bullock explains why his private practice as an attorney has helped him prepare to serve as the Levy County attorney. His limited exposure to practicing law as a government attorney worked against him from being selected, although there was a 2-2 tie vote initially after both candidates were interviewed, because the Levy County Commission saw both attorneys vying for the job as being a viable choice.

     The delay happened when there was a 2-2 tie vote – with Chairman John Meeks and County Commissioner Rock Meeks choosing attorney Nicole Shalley and commissioners Lilly Rooks and Matt Brooks choosing attorney Walker Wade Bullock.
     If Commissioner Mike Joyner were alive, he could have cast the tie-breaking vote, but his seat remains vacant.
     Rather than having an arm-wrestling contest, drawing straws, flipping coins or arbitrarily deciding in some other manner how to break the tie -- in any other manner beyond having at least three voting one way or the other, the final debate among the County Commission members led to a 3-1 vote.
     Attorney Evan Rosenthal had explained to the County Commission that the decision made from a tie is not a decision. Flipping coins, or participating in a rock-paper-series method, or conducted feats of strength between members of opposing sides on an issue is not an accepted method to make this decision. Rosenthal and attorney Heather Encinosa, both from the law firm of Nabors Giblin & Nickerson, are serving as temporary Levy County attorneys – after the retirement of Anne Bast-Brown and until incoming Levy County Attorney Shalley takes office.

New Levy County Attorney
Attorney Evan Rosenthal, currently serving as one of the temporary Levy County attorneys, explains why the decision to choose the next county attorney cannot be by a flip of the coin or anything other than a straight majority vote. A tie vote is ‘no decision,’ he explained.

New Levy County Attorney
County Commissioner Matt Brooks sits next to the vacant chair once occupied by the now late County Commissioner Mike Joyner. The 2-2 tie vote late Tuesday afternoon is a prime example of why Levy Countians are hoping the governor will make an appointment to that post sooner rather than later.

New Levy County Attorney
County Commissioner Rock Meeks is seen and Commissioner Lilly Rooks is partially seen from the front row perspective in the auditorium used by the County Commission for its meetings. The County Commission members sit behind a long table on the elevated stage as the people in the audience occupy seats built in the mid-20th Century for high school performances and gatherings.

New Levy County Attorney
Levy County Commission Chairman John Meeks leads the special meeting to decide the next county attorney.


     Commissioner Rooks was the lone dissenter who stuck with Bullock, while the majority chose Shalley.
     On Wednesday afternoon, Levy County Coordinator Wilbur Dean confirmed the choice had been consummated with the selected person accepting the offer.
     It probably will be another 60 days before Shalley can begin in her new role, because she is currently the city attorney for Gainesville, where she works in a department with eight attorneys and five legal assistants.
     As a condition of her current contract, she must give the City of Gainesville 60 days’ notice of her intent to begin work – in this instance – as the Levy County attorney.
     Shalley started working in that municipal attorney department in August of 2006. Her current annual salary is $200,000, however she is willing to work as the only attorney for the Levy County Commission, for a far lower sum.
     Likewise, she affirmed her agreement to work full-time and accept questions from staff to help the county, just as her predecessor did.
     She has been a licensed attorney in Florida for almost 20 years. Shalley earned her Juris Doctor degree from Florida State University. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Florida.
     She is a Dunnellon High School graduate.
     During her interview, Shalley showed her extensive knowledge about serving as an attorney for a government entity. Her familiarity with law regarding Community Redevelopment Areas was reflected in part by her explaining how an agreement between Alachua County and Gainesville was reached in regard to CRA.
     She has had plenty of experience dealing with the finer points of the Comprehensive Growth Management laws of Florida.
     Among her key messages for the County Commission is that she is there to serve them. She will hear what the county leaders want, and she will craft a method to attain that goal, as well as to avoid any pitfalls from being unfamiliar with the law.
     Attorney Bullock used his familiarity with the area, being from Levy County and his many family connections as being reasons to hire him. His unfamiliarity with CRAs, and other necessary aspects of being a government attorney worked against him.
     Commissioner Rock Meeks was the first to say he wanted Shalley as the next Levy County attorney.
     Meeks said Shalley was far more experienced in government law.
     Rooks was next to provide her input. She said Bullock is from the area. She said the previous county attorney was able to find outside counsel for matters she could not perform herself.
     Then, Brooks gave his opinion about which person to select. Brooks said he knows Bullock has “the grit” and “the work ethic to figure it out.”
     Chairman Meeks said he was impressed by both candidates for the position. Shalley has the most experience, Meeks said, and she wants to leave Gainesville to move back to the rural area.
     Shalley’s experience and ability, Chairman Meeks said, far exceeds Bullock’s.
     Chairman Meeks said he likes that Bullock is local and he is young, and willing to learn. Meeks then asked -- Can Levy County afford to hire someone as the county attorney who is young and willing to learn?
     When Chairman Meeks mentioned his concern about Shalley’s willingness to take a cut from $200,000 a year to what Levy County can offer, County Coordinator Dean said she is aware of the budgeted limit for the position.
     The County Commission debated the matter until it became time for more government business that had a time-certain attached. This delayed their discussion until the end of the regularly scheduled twice-weekly County Commission meeting.
     Before the night was over, Commission Brooks came around to the idea that a more experienced attorney was the better choice. Rooks maintained her choice of the young, local man who was willing to learn.
     Hence, the 3-1 vote resulted in Shalley becoming the next county attorney for Levy County.

    


Two groups help people struck by disaster
Information Provided
By DCES Lt. Mandy Lemmermen, Public Information Officer
Published Sept. 4, 2021 at 8:11 a.m.
     CROSS CITY --
The American Red Cross is offering assistance to those individuals who may have evacuated for Hurricane Ida into Florida.
     The Red Cross will be providing cash assistance to those individuals who may need help in returning home -- such as for fuel, etc. The number is 1-800-733-2767.
     The Florida Baptist Disaster Relief left to assist in Louisiana yesterday (Friday, Sept. 3); however, this organizations is still assisting anyone in Dixie County who suffered from the recent flooding.
     The Florida Baptist Disaster Relief can be reached by calling 904-253-0502. 

 


‘This Is Us!’
Gilchrist Rotarians start new event

Gilchrist County Rotary Club
(from left) Gilchrist County Rotary Club President Rick Washburn, Rotary Assistant District Governor Lowell Chesborough and Rotarian John Greist are seen with dogs Stormy and Mandy.

Story and Photo Provided
By Gilchrist County Rotary Club President Rick Washburn
Published Sept. 1, 2021 at 7:11 a.m.
     TRENTON --
The Gilchrist County Rotary Club started a new event this week at our meeting on Monday (Aug. 30) -- “This is Us!”
     This new event is a time when members of our club share some of their past experiences in life and in the Rotary, and they speak about what serving as a Rotarian means to them. We kicked it off this week with a veteran of the club and the newest member of the club.

Lowell Chesborough
     Lowell Chesborough has been a Rotarian for many years with both the Gainesville and Gilchrist clubs, including when the Gilchrist County club was the Rotary Club of Trenton.
     Growing up in the rugged farmland of Minnesota, he graduated college with honors before using money from the National Defense Act to pursue a Doctorate in Finance and serving on the faculty of the University of Florida.
     An Entrepreneur at heart, he left UF to become a businessman. When he was invited to join Rotary, he was by far the youngest of his club. Rotary became part of his life -- serving the community in several projects including helping to restore occupied, rundown houses in Gainesville to leave the neighborhood better than how he found it. He moved east to Gilchrist County to return into the county life similar to the environment in which he was raised.
     Having served as President of the local club multiple times, he is now an Assistant District Governor for the Rotary District 6940.


John Greist
     John Greist and his wife Mary recently joined the club. They came to network and meet people with like values such as Rotarians. Originally a military brat, his grandparents served as Medical Missionaries in Alaska for 30 years. Mary’s family lineage includes an interpreter on the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition (August 31, 1803, to September 25, 1806, also known as the Corps of Discovery Expedition).
     The Geists’ mission is to “Get known by our deeds and not our issues.” In addition to his membership in Rotary, John is a Mason and he is looking forward to serving together with his wife in the Rotary. His upbringing as a military brat taught him some tough lessons and shaped his heart for serving.
     In south Florida he still has a couple group homes that help kids and adults with disabilities have a place to live and be taken care of. A graduate of UF and formerly an engineer for the Florida Department of Transportation, John and his wife Mary are enjoying the Gilchrist County area, as well as enjoying the opportunity to visit their four children and 12 grandchildren around the country.

 


District governor visits Williston Rotary
Williston Rotary
District Governor Larry Kubiak (left) presents Williston Rotary Club President Chris Cowart with the 2021-2022 Rotary International banner. Cowart also serves as the superintendent of schools in Levy County.

Story and Photos
By C.L. Watson, Correspondent
HardisonInk.com © Aug. 29, 2021 at 10:11 a.m.
     WILLISTON --
District Governor Larry Kubiak visited the Rotary Club of Williston on Tuesday (Aug. 24) to give a motivational speech and encourage fellow Rotarians to participate in community service.



Williston Rotary
Williston Rotary Club member Reggie Priest takes a moment to pose with District Governor Larry Kubiak.

Williston Rotary
Williston Rotary Club Charter Member Mary O'Banyoun-Abdullah sorts through sheet music.

Williston Rotary
Williston Rotary Club Sergeant-At-Arms Norm D. Fugate happily takes ‘happy/sad dollars’ from his mother and fellow Rotarian Patsy Fugate. Williston Rotarians, and on occasion their guests, donate dollars to say why they are either happy or sad.


     The district in which Kubiak serves (District 6940) is the largest in Florida and includes 49 clubs throughout 25 counties. Pensacola was the first club in district formed in 1915, Live Oak was the second formed in 1921 and Tallahassee was the third formed in 1922. Williston Rotary was formed in 2006.
     Women were first admitted in Rotary in 1989.
     Women were first admitted into Kiwanis in 1987. On July 7, 1987, delegates at the annual Kiwanis International convention in Washington, D.C., heard the declaration: “The chair rules that it (Amendment Number 2 as amended) has passed by two-thirds vote.”
     Among the clubs in District 6940 are Chiefland, Dixie County, Gilchrist County, Suwannee Valley and Williston.
     District Governor Kubiak shared quoted from Rotary International President 2021-2022, Shekhar Mehta as he spoke to the Williston Rotarians and guests.
     “Service is the rent we pay for our space on earth,” International Rotary President Mehta said.
     International Rotary President Mehta’s motto for this Rotary Year is “Serve To Change Lives.”
     “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others,” the Rotary president who lives in India has said.
     Shekhar Mehta is only the fourth Indian in 115 years to be nominated as the President of Rotary International. The Rotary Year 2021-22 is from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022.
     Tallahassee Rotary the club in which Kubiak is a member took on an international project in Central Mexico.
     There are six Rotary Clubs in Tallahassee – Tallahassee, Tallahassee (Capital), Tallahassee Northside, Tallahassee Southside, Tallahassee Sunrise and Tallahassee Sunset.
     As for District Governor Kubiak’s club -- Tallahassee, and the international project they selected -- the small Mexican village they chose to help has naturally toxic ground water that contains fluoride and arsenic making it unsafe for consumption.
     Tallahassee Rotary provided materials and instructions for the village women to create a cistern to collect rainwater. The first cistern was perceived so well that other villages requested help in creating more of them.
     Williston Rotarians were encouraged by District Governor Kubiak to incorporate service projects that capture skills and passions of its members, develop a plan to welcome new members and look for areas of an environment to grow.

 


 

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