Levy County initially accepts
big subdivision development
Levy County Procurement Coordinator Alicia Tretheway (left) speaks with Levy County Planning and Zoning Department Director Stacy Hectus before the start of three public hearings Tuesday morning.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 22, 2022 at 9:12 p.m.
BRONSON – Despite five area residents pleading with the Levy County Commission to reject approval of a preliminary plat for the subdivision of 412 acres into 37 10-acre sites for single family homes, on a motion by Commissioner John Meeks, seconded by Commissioner Matt Brooks, the preliminary plat was approved with a unanimous 5-0 vote that included the votes of Commission Chairman Rock Meeks, Commissioner Desiree Mills and Commissioner Tim Hodge.
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Levy County Planning and Zoning Department Director Stacy Hectus starts speaking about the big planned subdivision for single-family homes on 10-acre tracts on a 412-acre parcel.
Gary L. Milam, surveyor, representing Justin Lamb and Jesse Strickland of L & S Holdings LLC, petitioned the Levy County Commission for approval of the preliminary plat for “Shady Hammock Estates.
A final plat approval and at least one more appearance before the County Commission must occur before the deal is completely done; however, ever since the Levy County Planning Commission convened on Nov. 7 and voted 4-0 to recommend the County Commission approve the preliminary plat, it has been a relative certainty to happen.
Levy County Planning and Zoning Director Stacy Hectus directed the public hearing, and she helped county elected leaders know the developers had met all of the requirements so far.
Both Commissioner John Meeks and Commissioner Brooks let the people know that they saw no choice but to approve the request because the developers had met all of the mandatory minimum requirements so far in the process.
The public hearing included moments when some members of the public were choking up as they made their pleas, and one woman left the podium area as she started to cry. There are species of concern in the area, but that does not appear to be a factor under consideration for approval in the county for development.
The two top issues the neighbors saw were increased traffic problems and the environmental impact from the development, which includes wetlands.
One landowner said she and her husband bought a 20-acre lot and built a home for them and their two young sons. She has seen nearby development of 10-acre and five-acre lots, and now this family has had to drill another well, for $1,200, because of water consumption increasing in the area.
She expressed concern because teenagers are driving slow-moving tractors that drivers of speeding vehicles won’t be able to see in time as the go over the large hill on the county-line road. She made reference to a horrible crash on U.S. Highway 19, where a semi tractor-trailer smashed into a Levy County school bus.
She is concerned about the impact on water quality from the addition of so many septic tanks. With Chinese investors buying land in Levy County, and now large-scale subdivision development it seems like “Everyone is coming for our throat” she said as she left the podium, clearly upset.
She wants people to give conservation a chance, and to try to keep the 400-plus acres for agricultural purposes.
This potential future subdivision will be on 412 acres generally located near Southeast 175th Avenue and 80th Street (Levy County Road 543) -- the Levy County-Marion County line.
Following Commissioner John Meeks’ motion to approve, because the request met all requirements, Commissioner Brooks said there are 800 people moving into Florida each day.
Like others, Brooks said the men own the land and they are following the law and procedures to develop it as they want.
As noted, the motion passed 5-0.
The state will be reviewing the issues related to the wetlands, and some modifications to the initial site plan are possible before the developer returns with a final plat for approval.
4-H public speaking
contestants earn victories
Deja Miranda earned First Place in the Middle School Division of the FL 4-H Public Speaking Contest with her speech titled ‘Tom Ellis.’
Story and Photos
By Jessica Emerson Campos, Extension Agent I
4-H Youth Development
University of Florida IFAS Extension, Levy County
Published Nov. 19, 2022 at 7:12 a.m.
LEVY COUNTY -- Previously known as the Tropicana Speech Competition, the FL 4-H Public Speaking Contest is making a comeback after its period of dormancy that occurred during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Elementary Division winners (from left) Third Place Winner Reid Grant, First Place Winner Kataleyah Leblanc and Second Place Winner Maybree Whitehurst hold their acrylic trophies.
The FL 4-H Public Speaking Program is funded in partnership with the Florida 4-H Foundation and Florida Power & Light Co. This contest is administered through the 4-H Youth Development Program, Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
This program is designed to engage youth in fourth, fifth, and sixth grades in hands-on, learning-by-doing activities that will help them develop and improve their public speaking skills and self-confidence.
Public speaking is one of the most important and dreaded forms of communication and affects everyday interactions. Youth will be able to build this valuable skill that will have an enormous impact on their success in life and the workplace. The emphasis of the FL 4-H Public Speaking Program is on the growth of every student as we want to see all young students take pride in the expression of their ideas.
This year, more than 100 students from Chiefland Elementary School, Cedar Key School, and Williston Elementary School participated in the contest at the school level. Winners of each grade moved on to participate in the Levy County FL 4-H Public Speaking Contest on Nov. 17.
Contestants in the County Contest consisted of Wren Adams, Adriane Bertie, Darbi Davis, Reid Grant, Kataleyah Lablanc, Maybree Whitehurst, and Deja Miranda.
Kataleyah Leblanc earned First Place in the Elementary Division with her speech titled “The Arts.”
Maybree Whitehurst earned Second Place in the Elementary Division with her speech titled “Middle Child.”
Reid Grant earned Third Place in the Elementary Division with his speech titled “A Day on the Ranch.”
Deja Miranda earned First Place in the Middle School Division with her speech titled “Tom Ellis.”
The 4-H Program is an all-inclusive youth organization that offers a variety of youth involvement ranging from school-based programs to community clubs. Students are encouraged to join 4-H and find their passion by exploring the many opportunities the program has to offer.
For more information about the Levy County 4-H Program, please contact the UF/IFAS Extension Levy County Office at 352-486-5131.
Marion County fights litter
Information and Graphic Provided
By Marion County Public Relations Director Bobbi Perez
Published Nov. 17, 2022 at 7:12 a.m.
OCALA -- At the Nov. 15 meeting of the Marion County Commission, Solid Waste Director Mark Johnson and Solid Waste Resources Liaison Lucy Flores kicked off an anti-litter campaign in Marion County.
The anti-litter campaign is the result of discussion by the Litter Task Force initiative. The Litter Task Force was an advisory board created in 2021 at the request of Commissioner Craig Curry. The purpose of the task force was to “enlist the entire community in an effort to eradicate litter and illegal dumping, while changing the mindset and behavior of those that live, work, and play within Marion County.”
Some highlights from the anti-litter campaign kickoff included a recap of what is being done now in Marion County to eradicate litter, as well as a timeline of upcoming action items including a mascot, a litter-free pledge, billboards, bus wraps, and informational QR code cards to educate the public. Another significant portion of the campaign includes an initiative with Marion County Public Schools to help educate the community on the negative affects litter has on our environment.
At the commission meeting, the board established a uniform procedure for managing Ordinance 22-30 related to litter and junk among all enforcement officers and departments.
In coordination with the Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, the Marion County Attorney’s Office and the sheriff’s attorney, the County Administrator’s Office drafted the policy, which provides for the training and qualifications of all Marion County non-law-enforcement employees who are designated to enforce this ordinance.
Marion County invites residents and visitors to step up, pick it up, and don't litter to help keep Marion County beautiful for generations to come.
Wild turkeys roam
Story, Photos and Video
By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 14, 2022 at 7:12 a.m.
TRI-COUNTY AREA – There was either a rafter, a flock, a brood, a gaggle or there were a "heapa" turkeys strutting their stuff in the Tri-County Area of Dixie County, Gilchrist County and Levy County this weekend (Nov. 12 and 13).
Deer, hogs, red-tailed hawks, American Bald Eagles, quail, dove, turkey vultures, alligators, armadillo (smushed and roaming), coyotes, fox squirrels, other squirrels, rabbits, community cats, free-roaming dogs, free-ranging chickens and roosters, and a very broad assortment of other animals appeared to be enjoying the fall weather, too, having experienced tropical storm conditions in the relatively recent past.
Not every animal seen this weekend was captured in still pictures or videos, however, here are a few of the turkeys.
The sound of shotguns were heard in various parts of the Tri-County Area, even after dark this weekend in part of the Tri-County Area, heralding hunters or target shooters showing they can afford to buy ammunition and the like
Of course, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, some local turkeys may feel the sites of shooters zooming in on them. Meanwhile, some of Tri-County Area turkeys were captured in still shots and video, which resulted in sharing some of their activities in the area.
Click on the Photo Above to see the turkey video.
County Commission honors city fire chief
CR 347 awaits work
Chinese monkey research lab
and night meetings discussed
Pausing for a photo opportunity after the Levy County Commission honored Chiefland Fire Chief James Harris on Tuesday morning (Nov. 8) are (from left) Commissioner John Meeks, Commissioner Desiree Mills, Fire Chief Harris, Commissioner Lilly Rooks and Commissioner Matt Brooks.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 9, 2022 at 2:12 p.m.
BRONSON – Chiefland Fire Chief James Harris, who plans to retire relatively soon, was honored Tuesday by the four members of the Levy County Board of County Commissioners who attended the regular twice-monthly meeting.
Commissioner Lilly Rooks and Commissioner John Meeks sit next to each other for a pre-meeting photo opportunity when requested to do so by an award-winning daily news website publisher and editor.
A bouquet of flowers sits on the dais near soon-to-retire Levy County Commissioner Lilly Rooks. During the primary elections, a majority of the qualified voters in Levy County chose Tim Hodge as the next commissioner to fill this soon-to-be-vacated seat. Hodge was in the audience Tuesday morning.
Commission Chairman Rock Meeks, whose district includes the City of Chiefland, was absent.
Commission Vice Chairman John Meeks led the meeting, and he was the first to speak about his respect and gratitude for the service Chief Harris has provided for the past 12 years to the people in the fire district covered by Chiefland Fire Rescue (CFR).
The Chiefland Fire Department covers the entire city, but it is also responsible for a large area in the unincorporated part of Levy County surrounding the city. Chief Harris is known for having obtained at least two fire engines for the city for extremely low cost, and he has led firefighters, Paramedics and EMTs on CFR to significantly improve the level of service provided by the agency in the past 12 years.
The Levy County Commission presented Chief Harris with a plague of appreciation.
Acting Chairman Meeks was the first to speak.
He said it is bittersweet to see Chief Harris retire, just as it is sad to see Levy County Commissioner Lilly Rooks retiring. And yet, he hopes both people enjoy their retirement.
As he spoke about the presentation of the plaque to the fire chief, the acting county commission chairman said Chief Harris has been very loyal to the people of Chiefland and to the people of Levy County during his 12 years as chief of the CFR.
Meeks said that while he and Harris did not always agree on some aspects of fire and EMS methods, Chief Harris always had the best interests of the residents and visitors of Chiefland uppermost in his mind.
“He did everything he could to empower and better his department,” Meeks said of Chief Harris. “So, although we may have disagreed on budget stuff or other internal issues of how departments were runs, and things of that nature, I know in my heart that Chief Harris always put the citizens of Chiefland first.”
Acting Commission Chairman John Meeks went on to speak a bit about Harris as a member of the Chiefland area community.
Meeks said Harris contributed to the betterment of Chiefland when he was off duty as well as when he was active in fighting fires, saving lives, balancing the budget, hiring employees and volunteers.
Harris was active in the booster club of Chiefland, and he was “ingrained in the community, and the fabric of Chiefland,” Meeks said as he commended the man on his helping that part of Levy County above and beyond the call of duty he completed as fire chief.
County Commissioner Rooks said she was glad to have been able to speak with Chief Harris about facts relevant to fire departments, and he would tell her exactly how it was.
“He was easy for me to work with,” Rooks said, “and I appreciated the information that he gave me.”
County Commissioner Matt Brooks spoke next.
“I just want to thank you, Chief Harris, for your loyalty and dedication to our county and to Chiefland,” Brooks said, “for taking the time and sitting down with me. When I was a new commissioner, I sat down with the chief and he pretty much educated me on the system.”
Brooks said he is grateful for the time the chief spent with him to help him understand, and the commissioner said he is grateful for the actions Harris performed to save lives and property in Levy County.
Commissioner Desiree Mills thanked Chief Harris for his dedication and service to Levy County, adding that the people of Levy County appreciate him.
With that, the chief went to the front of the auditorium in the Levy County Government Center. After accepting the plaque, the chief let the presenters know there was a typographical error, because he served as chief of the CFR for 12 years, not 22 years.
Levy County Sheriff’s Office 9-1-1 Coordinator Mike West speaks to the County Commission before commissioners approved two requests from the LCSO. In answering a question, Coordinator West said the 9-1-1 failure by Verizon this past week was due to Verizon alone, not because of the LCSO 9-1-1 system.
In other action and information from the regular twice-monthly meeting, the four county commissioners present completed their public service in the public eye as a group.
A few of the many items they spoke about included the possible repaving of Levy County Road 347, and there was some response to public input regarding the purchase of land in the Morriston area for a research lab for primates.
The Chinese monkey lab story that has spread in various forms over the past months,
In a Nov. 2 press release from PETA, it noted This week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and more than 4,000 Gulf Hammock–area residents received urgent letters from PETA warning them about a plan to turn Levy County into a monkey importation center.
“The Chinese company JOINN Biologics has purchased 1,400 acres of land and plans to build a massive facility to receive and quarantine newly imported monkeys, effectively establishing the county as another point along the dangerous and deadly wildlife-trade chain,” the PETA press release noted.
As for this event coming to fruition, the Levy County government has noted before that some people appear to be premature in their presumptions.
During the Public Comments part of the agenda on Nov. 9, Commission Meeks acknowledged receiving email forms from residents in Bradenton (Manatee County), LaBelle (Hendry County); Lake Butler (Union County) and Chiefland noting concern about the allegations of a monkey importation center.
Meeks has said before the process to even seek such a development has not started.
On another Public Comments matter, a couple of women asked the County Commission to improve the ability for people to see and hear live commission meetings, and an email was sent from a man seeking to have six nighttime regular meetings a year, which is something that already exists.
The person who sent in that public comment email form presumed that five County Commission members were retirees who are all older than 65 years old. Commissioner Meeks said he is the oldest member of the commission, and he is in his 40s. He is not retired, by the way, and he owns and operates the Ace Hardware Store in Bronson.
The City Council of Williston has the most interactive system in the area. People can participate via the Internet during live broadcasts of those twice-monthly regular City Council meetings that are broadcast on YouTube.com.
As for night meetings, they are no more well-attended than the daytime meetings, except when there is a matter of specific interest to people.
Commissioner Meeks reminded listeners that individuals can speak with their County Commission members outside of meetings. It is only against the law for members of the same board to converse with each other about matters upon which they may be voting.
For instance, a person can call his or her county commissioner and say they would like to be able to watch the meetings from their home on their computer via the Internet.
Another method for people in Levy County to express their opinion is by calling the office at 352-486-5218 to speak with staff members.
Also, people can send emails to County Commissioners. Those email addresses are:
John Meeks, District 1: email@example.com
Rock Meeks, District 2: firstname.lastname@example.org
Desiree Mills, District 3: email@example.com
Tim Hodge, District 4: firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt Brooks, District 5: email@example.com
CR 347 awaits work
Levy County Road Department Administrative Coordinator
Alice E. LaLonde spoke to the County Commission about the possible repaving of Levy County Road 347.
That matter was tabled for action at a later date.
The engineer for the project and the Florida Department of Transportation suggested that Levy County shorten the project to 1.76 miles, which would elevate the wetlands from the permitting with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
LaLonde noted that the suggestion from the FDOT and the engineer would allow the project to move forward as the County Commission would prefer -- completely.
With the cost of construction now – about $1.9 million for 1.76 miles -- compared to what it was when the project was let, the prices of things have doubled, LaLonde noted.
That is the reason for the new proposal, she said. All of the new scope of works includes adding an additional foot of pavement and reconstruction of the roadway along with the general work associated with projects, such as new signs, paint, etc., LaLonde said.
The work would end at the large culvert (waterway) on the road, she said, according to the current suggested revisions.
The Levy County Commission was not very happy with this suggestion.
As a result, the County Commission requested that LaLonde noted return with the cost of resurfacing the entire project without widening it, that she provides the County Commission with an estimated cost for the Levy County Road Department to finish the project.
The members of the Levy County Commission are not interested in leaving the project unfinished, LaLonde noted after the meeting.
County Commissioner Valentine resigns
By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 4, 2022 at 7:12 a.m.
CROSS CITY –Dixie County Commissioner James Valentine resigned effective Oct. 24, according to an announcement Thursday morning (Nov. 3). Before starting the regular twice-monthly meeting of the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners on Nov. 3, County Commission Chairman Jamie Storey said Commissioner Valentine and his family announced his choice to resign is the result of health issues precluding him from continuing, Storey said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been requested to make an appointment as the replacement for Valentine, whose term ends in 2024.
Dixie County Supervisor of Elections Starlet Cannon said she had been advised of the resignation. She believes that a special election is not called for in this instance.
If the governor makes an appointment like he did for the two constitutional officers recently appointed in Levy County, then the Dixie County Commission can expect to go a year or longer as a four-member board.
In the event of a 2-2 tie by the Dixie County Commission during this period of seat vacancy, whatever action is being voted upon will just not happen. For instance, if a motion was made and seconded to approve a special exception to allow a recreational vehicle in an environmentally sensitive area and the four men voted 2-2, then that approval would not pass.
Within the past couple of months, Commissioner Valentine told HardisonInk.com that he loves helping people as a county commissioner, as he has for decades all-told now in his terms of office.
Valentine represents District 5 of Dixie County, although commissioners are elected countywide rather than as single-member districts. It was announced that all four commissioners consider themselves now as being the commissioner for District 5, and any of them can take calls from people who have concerns about matters in that district or who live in that district.
Other than Chairman Storey (Dist. 4) and Commissioner Valentine (Dist. 5), the members of the Dixie County Commission are Vice Chairman W.C. Mills (Dist. 2) Jody Stephenson (Dist. 1), Mark Hatch (Dist. 3).
Commissioner Mills chose against running for reelection and his replacement is scheduled to be decided in the Nov. 8 general election.
The qualified voters of Dixie County who exercise their right to vote will choose either Jaffry Crawl, a Democrat, or Keith Tuten, a write-in candidate, or Daniel Wood III, a Republican, as the person to take the place of outgoing Commissioner Mills.
First Published Feb. 1, 2011 at 8 a.m.
On Feb. 1, 2011, HardisonInk.com came into existence on the Internet. On All Saints Day - Nov. 1, 2011, The Christian Press section on The Life Page of HardisonInk.com started, which was about nine months after the start of the daily news website. The name "The Christian Press" was derived from an encounter a decade earlier in 2001 in St. Petersburg, when and where a man mentioned to a journalist that this particular journalist must work for "The Christian Press." Although the presumption by the man about that journalist was incorrect and misplaced, the name sounded good. And the journalist said that if he could work for The Christian Press, then that certainly would be the publication to serve.
Since Nov. 1, 2011, The Christian Press section of this page has run daily devotionals from several individuals who contributed over the past years. There were two days in 2018 when the daily devotional did not run due to a journalist requiring emergency orthopedic surgery on broken bones in his left arm and wrist. That surgically added metal, though, makes that part of that arm even more able to withstand forces. Many daily devotionals are pulled from Strength for Service to God and Country (Whitmore & Stone © 1942; Renewed 1969 by Norman E. Nygaard; Second revised edition © 2002 Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, Providence House Publishers). The journalist who is the sole proprietor and owner of HardisonInk.com (Jeff M. Hardison) notes his appreciation for the use of those devotionals from that now-defunct publishing company, and for the many other contributors who have helped people over the past decade-plus now. Strength for Service to God and Country's daily devotionals include many from a time when the United States of America was a partner in a World War, both WWI and WWII. This journalist welcomes contributions of daily devotionals. Daily devotional authors are asked to please send only their original works to firstname.lastname@example.org. Americans are reminded that all religions, having no religion and or being a person who endorses anti-religion are all protected as part of the freedoms from government intervention, as are other benefits from being an American.
Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 at 8:12 a.m.
Read Philippians 4:8-9
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
-- Philippians 4:8 (KJV)
You who are members of the armed forces of the United States of America find yourselves – as some of us did a generation ago – plunged into a world to which you are strangers. It may have its points, as you will discover someday as you look back upon it. But in the main, it is a world of shattered ambitions, frustrated love, haunting fear, and perhaps it is a world of hell itself -- if the heavy burden of killing other humans rests directly on you.
But there is another world which you must keep fresh in memory and aspiration. You have gone out from important sections of the world that others may live in. And someday you – we hope – may be permitted to return to it. It is the world of home: father, mother, child – where love abides and waits. It is the world of friendship, in which hands and hearts are joined in quiet friendship. It is a world of nature, filled with beautiful, inspiring and majestic wonders, like flowers, sunsets and mountains. It is a world of music and art, the abiding place of beauty.
It holds good books, and offers the leisure to read them in store. It has work, which one loves to do. It has God waiting at sanctuaries where everything is designed to speak of Him. Allow that world to live in memory and aspiration, that one day it may live in daily experience.
O GOD, help me to live in two worlds at the same time. I would be brave in this grim world of war where I must walk. Help me to play the part of a soldier in it. But help me to live also with the great spirits of the human race – Jesus, Isaiah, and the noble company of the prophets. Give me time for great thoughts, which encompass the world. Help me most of all to live with Thee. Amen.
The Rev. Vere V. Loper (Sept. 9, 1893 - March 1, 1983)
First Congregational Church
Strength for Service to God and Country
(Whitmore & Stone © 1942; Renewed 1969 by Norman E. Nygaard; Second revised edition © 2002 Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, Providence House Publishers)
This the time of the year I spend most of my days hunting in the barn. I’ve enjoyed the past several years so much, I have added another barn, at another location, and have started turning it into Barndominium West. It’s only has the basics at the moment, but over the next few years I will personalize it. Hopefully, it will provide as many good memories as my original. I know I’ll see a few bucks from this new perch and the view will be enough to keep me from being bored when none are around. At Barndominum East, I’m watching several bucks, but only one that I’m really interested in. I discovered him on my trail camera and am waiting for him to show up during shooting hours. He will in the next few weeks. Maybe I’ll get the first chance at him before the neighbors do. If not, I’ll celebrate with them. Speaking of celebrating, this is also the time of year I get to celebrate other’s success. During rifle season I get to take a few youngsters. Either of my barns make an excellent atmosphere for them to comfortably hunt. I’m one that doesn’t want to make it too hard on them. I want them to become life-long hunters. As they get older, they will decide how determined and extreme they want to become as deer hunters. My opportunity is just to introduce them to the possibilities. After all, it’s not really supposed to be hard. We make it that way – I make it that way, when I decide to wait on one particular deer, instead of taking what is in front of me.
“Making it too hard” is a battle many Christians have had as well when it comes to the expectation of other’s faith. Many people, unfortunately, have taken the simplicity of grace and attached unnecessary baggage to it. They have added things never meant to be added. They have taken the work of the Spirit and made it their work. Fortunately, we have an illustration in the Bible. It was the new Jewish Christians who were concerned that the new gentile Christians were not doing enough. They believed they should be circumcised as well as follow many of the Jewish laws that described God’s chosen children. When this suggestion was brought to a counsel, Peter was the first to remind the Jewish people that they were asking these new gentile Christians to do what they themselves were not even able to do. And James, the brother of Jesus, settled the matter when he concluded, “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” (Acts 15:19 NIV) Let me ask you something, fellow believer. Are you making it too difficult for people to come to Jesus? Are you adding law to grace? Don’t let your culture, your upbringing, or your religious background add anything to grace. When we do that, we make salvation a goal and not a gift.
-- Gary Miller email@example.com
Gary Miller has written the Outdoor Truths articles for 20 years now. He also has written four books which include compilations of his articles and a father/son devotional. He speaks at wild-game dinners and men's events for churches and associations. Gary Miller's website is located at http://www.outdoortruths.org/.
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