Live Oak —
Aug. 2, various editions thereafter
Medical waste facility seeks to locate here
A Pennsylvania-based medical waste incinerator facility sought to locate at the catalyst site in Western Suwannee County. Integrated Waste Management Systems Inc., 932 Lark Street, Lehighton, Penn., proposed to construct a new medical waste incinerator facility near the intersection of 175th Road and 50th Street in Suwannee County, on the catalyst site.
The company was seeking 25 acres at 175th Road and 50th Street that IWMS would purchase.
According to the company’s air permit application, the proposed IWMS Suwannee facility would consist of four hospital, medical, infectious waste incinerator (HMIWI) units manufactured by Pennram, or similar units. Each unit will burn 2,500 pounds per hour, a maximum of 30-tons per day of hospital, medical and infectious waste and will meet the regulatory definition of “Continuous HMIWI.”
The company met opposition from the onset. A local group formed - No Bio in Suwannee County - with help from Baker County residents. IWMS tried to set up shop there before public opposition told them no. No Bio in Suwannee County rallied support to oppose the company, citing health concerns from the emissions and possible pollution of our waters.
The group was successful in mobilizing.
IWMS withdrew their environmental resource permit application from the Suwannee River Water Management District in October.
Dec. 4 edition
PotashCorp White Springs announces layoffs
Approx. 250 lost jobs immediately, more will come later
Suwannee River chemical plant to close, leaving one
White Springs Agricultural Chemicals, Inc (PotashCorp White Springs) announced Tuesday, Dec. 3, that it will permanently close the Suwannee River chemical plant – one of two plants at the White Springs facility – during the second half of 2014. Initial closure activities resulted in an immediate reduction of about 250 people. Final closure in 2014 will result in an additional reduction of approximately 100 people; a cumulative reduction of approximately 50 percent from current levels.
According to Mike Williams, PotashCorp White Springs public affairs manager, the approximate 250 employees were notified Tuesday, Dec. 3, of their immediate job loss, however, those employees will be paid and receive benefits until February.
The changes at White Springs stem from a company-wide review of business and operational needs that will affect all three business segments (potash, nitrogen and phosphate) and are being undertaken to enhance the global competitive position of the company.
In view of challenges in the global phosphate market and an increased regulatory burden, PotashCorp made the difficult but necessary decision to reduce production levels in White Springs by closing the Suwannee River chemical plant. The new operating level is expected to extend the life of the existing phosphate rock mine by approximately five years.
The Swift Creek Chemical complex, in addition to the Suwannee River granulation plants, will continue to operate and White Springs will maintain over 350 positions at the facility.
The company also announced that Bill Donohue has been appointed general manager at White Springs, replacing Terry Baker. Donohue was previously plant manager at PotashCorp’s Weeping Water and Cincinnati feed phosphate facilities.
Dec. 13 edition
$8.7 million spent on catalyst site
County has paid $6 million, grants paid $2.6 million
Suwannee County has invested a total of $8,725,457.43 on projects at the catalyst site (as of Dec. 10), according to Leeta Bronson, Suwannee County’s chief financial officer. Of that amount, $6,035,241.73 was county taxpayer money while the rest, $2,690,215.70, was grant money (state taxpayer money). Although the project is still in the works and more money will be spent, Bronson said the county will be receiving more grants to assist in the project.
Dec. 20 edition
County settles Suwannee Landing lawsuit
Settlement will cost taxpayers approx. $3.3 million
A lawsuit filed by TSS Development LCC against Suwannee County over the “through the fence” airpark at Suwannee Landing has been ongoing since 2010 and was put to rest Tuesday night, Dec. 17, when the Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to settle the case totaling approximately $3,352,289.33.
From the date the board voted to settle the lawsuit, the county has 90 days to render the payment. County Administrator Randy Harris said TSS Development owner Fred Treadway understands the board is currently requesting loan proposals from banks, and is willing to provide an extension should the county need more time.
On Sept. 9, 2013, Suwannee County filed an appeal to the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee. County Attorney Jimmy Prevatt said Tuesday night if the board approved the settlement, he would dismiss the appeal by the end of the year.
Third Circuit Judge David Fina stated Suwannee County breached a development agreement with TSS Development in his final judgment signed Aug. 23, 2013. Fina ordered the county to pay TSS $2.75 million in damages plus $68,145 for 19.47 acres that was conveyed to the county by the developer. With interest included, the total would be approximately $3,352,289.33.
3 dead following high speed chase
Car crashed into downtown building on Thanksgiving, killing two. Third died following day.
Three Live Oak residents were killed, one a teenager, and one seriously injured on Thanksgiving Day after the vehicle they were riding in crashed into a Live Oak business after fleeing from local authorities, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
According to FHP, Lonnie Lavern Freeman, 20, and Patrelle J. Stokes, 16, both from Live Oak, were pronounced deceased on scene following the wreck. Shiateria Wimbash, 20, Live Oak, was pronounced dead the following day at Shands Gainesville.
FHP reports that the Suwannee County Sheriff's Office was called to McDonald's restaurant at I-10 and US 129 North around 12:50 a.m. on an active disturbance call.
Suwannee County Sheriff Tony Cameron said when the deputy arrived, he began by talking to the group that was being the loudest. During that time some tried to leave the scene. The deputy was then informed those trying to leave were part of the group.
Freeman and his passengers, Stokes, Matthews and Wimbash, loaded up in a 2002 Chevrolet Monte Carlo attempting to flee the scene.
“The deputy tried to stop them by standing in front of the car,” Cameron said. “That didn’t stop them and the deputy moved out of the way. There was a car partially blocking the lane. They struck that car with the passenger inside, leaving scrape marks down the side of the vehicle. They took off and headed south (on US 129 toward Live Oak).”
Cameron said by the time the driver moved the vehicle for the deputy to get by, the people fleeing “got a pretty good head start.”
“The deputy was beginning to gain on them but was still some distance behind (when the crash occurred),” said Cameron.
An FHP report stated while the Monte Carlo was actively fleeing from the SCSO deputy and approaching Spruce Street Northwest, Freeman attempted a right turn. Freeman then lost control of the vehicle and entered into a clockwise rotation.
“The deputy saw them tap on their brakes once to try to make the turn, but they lost control,” Cameron said. “The vehicle then began sliding and struck the workforce building with the driver’s side of the vehicle.”
The North Florida Workforce Development Building, located at 815 Ohio Ave., Live Oak, sustained damages. The damaged portion of the building was temporarily repaired with plywood.
Following the crash, Suwannee County EMS pronounced Freeman and Stokes deceased on scene. Passengers Kwon Lavelle Matthews, 23, and Shiateria Wimbash, 20, both of Live Oak, were transported to Shands Gainesville by air. Wimbash was pronounced dead at 12:59 a.m. Nov. 29.
Bulldogs headed to playoffs
For the first time since 2003, the Suwannee High School Bulldogs football team (5-1 district) will be in the 5A district playoffs starting Friday night, Nov. 15, versus the South Sumter High School Raiders (10-0, 5-0 district) in Bushnell.
After beating the Dunnellon High School on Oct. 18, Suwannee marked the first winning season since 2003.
Also, in October, Suwannee officially moved into the top 100 teams in the state, according to Max Preps. Suwannee was sitting at 99, which was ranked higher than Madison (106), Branford (505), Lafayette (293), and Hamilton (284) teams.
The Bulldogs, led by head coach Jamie Rodgers, fell to South Sumter High School (11-0) in the regional quarterfinals, 31-12, to end their season. The loss ended the Bulldogs’ chances of playing in the state championship game that was played mid December.
Suwannee ended the year 7-3.
Jan. 30 edition
Two shot dead, one stabbed
Two counts of first degree murder charged against man
Two Suwannee County men were killed in a shooting late Saturday night, Jan. 26, at a home near Charles Springs in western Suwannee County, according to Suwannee County Sheriff Tony Cameron.
A third person was cut with a knife around the back of the neck.
According to a Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office report, Marcus Cole, 40, of 12803 225th Rd., was holding a party and cookout at his home with 11 people in attendance. At approximately 10 p.m., six of the men got into a fight that resulted in Joshua White, 31, getting cut with a knife.
Shortly after the fight had broken up, Cole went into his home and retrieved a 30.06 rifle. Abram Williams, 41, 130th Terrace, was in the driver’s seat of his truck attempting to leave when Cole shot him in the head. Abram’s brother, Mike Williams, 46, 1229th Drive, was about six feet away from the truck when Cole shot him. Cole then took the gun back into his home.
Guests at the party witnessed the shootings and Cole admitted to shooting the victims.
Abram Williams was transported to a local hospital and remained on life support until he passed away Sunday evening, Jan. 27. White recovered from his injuries.
Cole was arrested and charged with two counts of first degree murder.
April 26 edition
SHS Brain Bowl takes state, again
The Suwannee High School Brain Bowl team brought home the state title for the 15th time.
The team was successful in winning the 2013 Division III state championship for the Commissioner’s Academic Challenge last week in Orlando. This competition is recognized as the official state championship by the Florida High School Athletic Association.
The team is made up of Brian Barker, Matthew Hendrick, Jacob Hendry, Phillip Jones, Zac Messcher and Eduardo Moreno. The coach of the team is Michael Pate, SHS history teacher and academic team coach. During the 28 years of the Brain Bowl tournament, Suwannee has won first place in their division a total of times. Pate was the coach for 14 of those 15 wins.
Suwannee students have won over $130,000.
Scores in the final match were: Suwannee 201, Hardee 179, Monroe 170, Walton 164, Franklin 152 and Wakulla 97.
Each member of the SHS winning team will receive $500 scholarships. Moreno, who was selected as one of the six members of Team Florida, will receive an additional $1,000 scholarship.
The SHS team and coach received championship rings.
Feb. 13 edition, various others
NAACP is back
Local chapter’s main goal: Civil rights for all
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is back in business in Suwannee County after holding the inactive status for about three years. For the branch to remain active, it must have a roster of at least 50 members active at all times. After a membership drive, the group held a meeting to elect new officers, and it became official that the NAACP is back.
Officers who were elected to serve two year terms are: Lesley White Sr., president; Larry Jelks, first vice president; Lee Ann Charlton, second vice president; Alonzo Philmore, secretary; Valerie Philmore, assistant secretary; Stefan Blue, treasurer; and Pauline Tooten, assistant treasurer.
According to the NAACP, their mission is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.
Philmore said one of the major misconceptions that people have about the organization is that the NAACP is just for black people.
“We’re not here just to help black people, we’re here to help anyone,” Philmore said. “People just assume it’s just for black people, but we’re are a civil rights organization for everyone.”
Since being back in active status, the Suwannee chapter has been steadily busy looking into civil rights issues at the Suwannee County School Board and Live Oak Police Department, among others.
March 15 edition, various others
Reconfiguration vote falls short
Live Oak grade schools will remain as they are
The Suwannee County School Board voted against reconfiguring Live Oak’s three grade schools at the board meeting on Tuesday night, March 12.
The schools considered for reconfiguration were Suwannee Primary School, which currently offers Pre-K through first grade; Suwannee Elementary School, grades 2-3; and Suwannee Intermediate School, grades 4-5.
If approved by a board vote, the schools would have been transformed into three distinct elementary schools that would all offer Pre-K through fifth grade which would go into effect in the 2013-14 school year.
Prior to casting their vote on reconfiguring, the school board members offered concerned parents, teachers and citizens one last chance to voice their opinion.
Following public comments, the board voted 3-2 to not reconfigure for the 2013-14 school year. Panel members Jerry Taylor and Ed daSilva voted for reconfiguration while Julie Ulmer, Catherine Cason and J.M. Holtzclaw voted against.
Walls come tumbling down
Demolition of buildings in downtown Live Oak
The demolition Tuesday night, Aug. 13, of the two buildings in downtown Live Oak that were condemned as a result of Tropical Storm Debby in late June 2012 made way for near future remediation of the sinkhole that formed underneath them.
The demolition began around 9:30 p.m. and took about two and a half hours tom complete. The rubble was then hauled away Wednesday morning, Aug. 14. According to county historian Eric Musgrove, the buildings were well over 100 years old. The previous owner, John Chambliss, of the west-end building, which used to be Big Wheel Marketplace, said it was built around 1902 while the east building, known as the J.D. Henry building, was built around 1906.
Chambliss ran a drug store, Live Oak Drugs, out of the corner building until 1987, when he sold it to Rite-Aid. Prior to the drugstore, there were at least two medical practices.
Previous owners of the buildings were H.F. Airth, Etta Gibbs, whose family ran a business across the street; Dave S. Kruger and wife Elsie S. Kruger. Chambliss purchased his building from the Krugers in 1979.
Some of the businesses that occupied the buildings were an Army and Navy surplus store, Live Oak Drugs, Rite-Aid, Catos, Bible Bookstore, Big Wheel Marketplace, several thrift and antique stores and Tru Fashion Beauty Supply.
Dec. 18 edition
Warren back open
Part of Warren Street in Live Oak that was damaged by a sinkhole from Tropical Storm Debby in June 2012 is back open to traffic. The portion of the street near the Suwannee County Courthouse was paved and striped Monday night, Dec. 16.
Curt’s Construction was awarded a bid on May 25, and approved by the Live Oak City Council in August to perform the task of remediating parts of the sinkhole and rebuilding the road. The project began in early September.
Proposals by the Live Oak CRA now include making Warren Street a one way road (West to East) to facilitate angled parking; closing one block of Pine Avenue adjacent to Veterans Park, and creating green space where the condemned buildings once stood along US 90.
Various editions throughout the year
Live Oak alcohol ordinance
In December of 2012, Development Manager George Curtis was tasked with drafting an alcohol ordinance that would mimic the county’s ordinance passed on Nov. 20, 2012, to extend the hours of alcoholic sales from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Saturday, including hard liquor.
The council voted 4-1 on Jan. 8, 2013, to amend the ordinance allowing conforming, properly licensed businesses to sell alcoholic beverages seven days a week from 7 a.m. until midnight.
On Feb. 12, 2013, the councilors then voted 4-1 in a compromise to extend the hours of alcohol sales to 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. the following day, Sunday through Saturday, including hard liquor.
Mayor Sonny Nobles vetoed the ordinance on March 6, with a letter that stated his reasons for objecting the proposed ordinance. In the letter, Nobles said he believes domestic violence and drunk driving would increase and have serious consequences.
At the regular meeting in April, Council President Adam Prins presented another proposed alcohol ordinance that would permit the sale of alcohol from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. the following day, Sunday through Saturday, including hard liquor.
Between the first and second readings, modifications were made to the ordinance that was not approved during the reading, ultimately causing the council to have the first hearing again in May to adopt the changes.
The second reading was held on June 11, and passed 3-2, council members Jacob Grantham and Keith Mixon voted against.
At the council meeting on July 9, Nobles presented a letter stating his objections to the proposed ordinance and vetoed it. In a written statement, Nobles cited a lack of job creation and economic benefits as some of his reasons.
The council voted to override but fell short.
The Live Oak City Council kicked off their third attempt of passing an alcohol ordinance Tuesday night, Aug. 13, at their regular meeting when Prins introduced the first reading of Ordinance Number 1343. The Ordinance passed 3-2, Grantham and Mixon voted against.
On Sept. 10, the Live Oak City Council voted 3-2 on the second and final reading of Ordinance No. 1343 that would extend the hours of alcoholic sales to 7 a.m. to 2 a.m., the following day, Monday through Friday. Alcohol sales on Saturday would end at 11:30 p.m
Mixon and Grantham voted against. On Sept. 30, Nobles submitted a letter stating his objections. A 3-2 vote to pass the ordinance was not enough to overturn the mayor’s objections.
The Live Oak City Council passed the second and final reading of Ordinance 1348, Dec. 10, with a 3-2 vote, Tuesday, Dec. 10, which is the city’s fourth attempt to pass an alcohol ordinance. Prins and Council member Bennie Thomas voted against.
As an amendment to the ordinance, Councilor Jacob Grantham recommended modifying the hours in the proposed ordinance to reflect the hours currently in place, which prohibits alcoholic sales and consumption on Sundays, but to exclude full service restaurants. Grantham also recommended keeping the distance restrictions proposed in Ordinance 1348.
According to Curtis, the ordinance which was adopted provides that times for sales and consumption be the same as they were prior: until midnight Monday through Friday, with those establishments which are licensed for consumption to be allowed an extra 30 minutes past midnight for consumption to stop, and all establishments must stop all sales and consumption on Saturday night at midnight with no extra 30 minutes.
Curtis said full-service restaurants which have been approved continue to have extended hours Monday through Saturday and also limited hours on Sunday, which begin at 1 p.m. and end at 10:30 p.m. for sales and 11 p.m. for consumption.
Distance requirements were increased from 100 feet of residential properties to 250 feet and also liquor package stores would be bound by new separation requirements of 500 feet of a church, school or another liquor store, as well as 250 feet of a residential property, Curtis said.
“Otherwise, the entire chapter was reorganized with more clear and concise language, better definitions, prohibition of bottle clubs and standards which are more descriptive pertaining to prohibiting the conversion of a use from one type of establishment to another,” Curtis said.