Duke Energy Florida customers will not see rate increase for Hurricane Irma and related $513 million in storm costs

Instead of increasing customer rates, Duke Energy says it plans to apply federal tax reform savings toward those storm costs.

  • Hurricane Irma in full force

    Company will apply federal tax savings to prevent rate increase

  • Average residential customer will save $187

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Duke Energy Florida today announced that customers will directly benefit from the new federal tax law and avoid a rate increase for power restoration costs associated with the company’s response to last September’s Hurricane Irma.

Instead of increasing customer rates, the company plans to apply federal tax reform savings toward those storm costs.

On Dec. 28, 2017, the company had filed for recovery of $513 million – $381 millionfor power restoration costs and $132 million to replenish the storm reserve fund. Residential customers would have seen an increase of $5.20 per 1,000 kWh of electricity on a typical monthly bill over a three-year recovery period – an average of $187.20. Commercial and industrial customers were expected to see an increase of approximately 2.5 to 6.6 percent, though bills would have varied depending on a number of factors.

Like many companies, Duke Energy has been working to analyze the benefits of tax reform.

“We are pleased that this solution will prevent a rate increase for our customers,” said Harry Sideris, Duke Energy Florida state president. “Hurricane Irma was the worst storm to ever hit Duke Energy Florida and impacted many lives. Redirecting the tax reform savings against the storm costs ensures that our customers will reap the benefits of this new law.”

The change is supported by the Office of Public Counsel and consumer advocate groups. The Florida Public Service Commission will review the costs to be recovered and the level of the tax benefit and approve the change by year-end.

Hurricane Irma was a historic hurricane that caused widespread, devastating damage across the Southeast region. Utilities united and battled back with an unprecedented response.

Duke Energy crews and contractors from the Midwest and the Carolinas traveled to Florida to assist with restoration, as did workers for utilities from across the country and from as far as Canada to get 1.3 million customers restored as quickly and safely as possible.

In Florida, more than 12,000 line and field workers replaced approximately 1,800 distribution poles, 140 transmission poles and 1,100 transformers. Duke Energy restored power to more than 75 percent of its customers in just three days and 99 percent within eight days.



Inverness pedestrian killed in traffic mishap

A 26-year-old pedestrian who was wearing dark clothing was struck and killed by a van Tuesday evening in Inverness.

A 26-year-old pedestrian who was wearing dark clothing was struck and killed by a van Tuesday evening in Inverness.

Christopher Jones of Inverness died at the scene of the accident which occurred at 6:37 a.m. at East Turner Camp Road and Bloomfield Drive in Inverness, according to an accident report from the Florida Highway Patrol.

He had been struck by a 1993 Dodge van driven by 42-year-old Gerald Grace, also of Inverness. He was not injured.


County still working multiyear plan for oil spill monies

Citrus County Administrator Randy Oliver told the county commission on Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Treasury has approved the county’s plans for $4.3 million, and that the plan will be posted on the county’s web site for 45 day

Citrus County is moving forward with its multiyear plan to use monies from the BP oil spill.

Citrus County Administrator Randy Oliver told the county commission on Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Treasury has tentatively approved the county’s plans for $4.3 million, and that the plan will be posted on the county’s web site for 45 days.

The public will also have a chance to comment during a future public hearing, Oliver said. After that, he said, that information will be sent back to the Treasury Department.

The blockbuster $18.7 billion oil spill settlement unveiled on June 30, 2016 between the U.S. government and oil company BP gave the Justice Department what it wanted: the biggest environmental fine ever levied against a corporation.

It also gave BP what it needed: a sense of closure after years spent fighting costly and complex courtroom battles over its role in the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

The deal marked a final reckoning for the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which riveted the nation for months in 2010 as television networks and Web sites continuously showed underwater video of the leak and the Obama administration struggled to respond effectively.


County reviews Land Development Code

The Citrus County Commission today took another bite out of the Land Development Code apple.

The Citrus County Commission today took another bite out of the Land Development Code apple.

Today was the second public workshop in the commission’s quest to get up to speed on the LDC. The first was the LDC Coastal public workshop on Nov. 17, 2017.

The commission was briefed on the provisions for managing growth by Citrus County Planning Director Mark Green as they are currently in the LDC, and today’s workshop centered around growth as it pertains to a number of areas, such as parking, expansion, zoning and construction. Interestingly, the commission was also challenged to provide for the future.

One of the future concerns, at least to the state, is what to do with electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles.

A proposed Senate Bill requires MPOs (Metropolitan Planning Organizations) to do something  once electric and autonomous vehicles make up at least 2 percent of total vehicles in the state. Commission Chairman Ron Kitchen said one of the issues for that class of vehicles is parking accommodation for of these types of vehicles, and said he wondered what a transition period would look like.

Noting that there has been an increase in building permits, Commissioner Brian Coleman asked Green if there was enough manpower to handle the increased workload. Green said the department was busy, but would increase manpower if the workload grew more. “We’re keeping up,” Green said.

During open-to-the-public, Dan Hillard, Lecanto.  “They’re (businesses and people are) coming, he said. “The question is, how are you going to deal with it. The term business is broad and somewhat vague, he said. He added that developers need infrastructure to guide the building process. He finished by saying that he supported a mixed-use concept when applying LDC provisions, and invited the commission to see what Greenville, S.C., did when they devised a growth plan.

Also during public comment, Sophia Diaz-Fonseca reminded commissioners that the LDC should include accommodations for the county’s historical and cultural identity. Diaz-Fonseca, who sits on the county historical society board, suggested that more historical markers, kiosks and other avenues might draw attention to historical sites along the county’s bike trails.

Commissioner Kitchen agreed, adding, “We’re talking about a sense of place.”


Boat Ramp refurbishing project completed

The Goldendale Boat Ramp at 12199 N Goldendale Ave., Dunnellon, has been refurbished by Citrus County Parks and Recreation’s Grounds Maintenance crew

The Goldendale Boat Ramp at 12199 N Goldendale Ave., Dunnellon, has been refurbished by Citrus County Parks and Recreation’s Grounds Maintenance crew.

Boards, bumper stripping, and mooring hooks were all replaced.

Florida Boating Improvement Funds were used to complete this project. This launch site provides the boater with access to Lake Rousseau, also known as the “backwaters,” to the Withlacoochee River to the south, and to the dam and lock structures to the north. For information on Citrus County Boat Ramps visit: http://www.citrusbocc.com/commserv/parksrec/boat-ramps/boat-ramps.htm.


Inverness announces 2018 events

The Inverness Event & Visitor Bureau announces its signature events, monthly Friday Night Thunder dates and community events. All events are rain or shine and subject to change. Details on events will be found online at VisitInvernessFL.com. Questions? (352) 341-7820



MLK Unity Walk

Church without Walls & City of Inverness

Valerie Theatre, 207 Courthouse Square, Inverness Jan. 15, 2018

8:30 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.

Contact: Doug

(352) 344-2425

Valerie Theatre start to Liberty Park. Note the Valerie Theatre will show the motion picture Selma that morning, and please call or visit the theatre for free tickets.



Military Service Memorial Opening 

City of Inverness with local veteran groups

Inverness Government Center January 20, 2018 11 a.m.

This event will unveil a significant memorial in downtown Inverness. The sculpture is of male and female soldier and features a piece of the fallen Saddam Hussein statue from Iraq brought back by U.S. military leaders. City leaders have partnered with local veterans to welcome the Sculptor Scott Stearman and Gary O’Neal, author of American Warrior, the true story of a legendary Ranger, to speak about this memorial. Open to the public. We encourage all military and veterans to attend this patriotic ceremony.


Citrus Got Talent        

January 27, 2018

7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Valerie Theater, Inverness

Citrus County Talent Show

15 Finalists – 5 in each of 3 age categories



Inverness St. Patrick’s Festival  March 17, 2018 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

1 Courthouse Square, Inverness Largest west central Florida St. Patrick’s celebration with live music by Seven Nations, large parade and local merchant crawl.



Inverness Big Bass Classic March 24, 2018 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Liberty Park, 286 N. Apopka Ave., Inverness

Draws over 100 anglers to Lake Henderson in hopes of reeling in the biggest bass. One of the largest non-professional fishing tournaments in the state.



Sunshine Grand Prix

March 22-25, 2018

Locations, times and activities to be announced



The Taste  April 14, 2018

12 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Liberty Park, 286 N. Apopka Ave., Inverness

Qualifier for the World Food Championship. The best of the best to win the chance to compete in the World’s biggest food competition. Brings in notable Florida food bloggers to judge the wide array of food. Craft beer tasting and some proceeds to benefit the Citrus County Education Foundation.



Inverness Patriotic Evening July 3, 2018

6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Liberty Park, 286 N. Apopka Ave., Inverness, Florida and

Wallace Brooks Park, 208 N. Mill Ave., Inverness, Florida

(352) 341-7820

Celebration will start at 7 p.m., with live entertainment and a large firework display over Lake Henderson will take place at dark.


Pine Street Jam Parrot Head Party Aug. 4, 2018

6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

(352) 341-7820


Pine Ave. & Courthouse Square, Inverness, Florida

The downtown is transformed into a Margaritaville-themed street party with live music, by the Caribbean Chillers, street performers, local restaurant and pub specials and a parrot-themed scavenger hunt, ugliest Hawaiian shirt contest, games and more!

Cooter Festival 3-Day Music Festival

October 26-28, 2018

Location TBD

(352) 341-7820


Inverness Festival of the Arts

November 3-4, 2018

9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday hours, and closes at 4 p.m. on Sunday

1 Courthouse Square, Inverness, Florida

(352) 341-7820


Juried art show featuring fine arts and crafts the first weekend in November, and is the longestrunning show in the county.

Inverness Grand Prix & Motorsport Festival November 16-17, 2018 Friday 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

1 Courthouse Square, Inverness, Florida

(352) 341-7820


Friday night concert and entertainment. Saturday kicks-off the street races in the morning with karts reaching as high as 65 miles per hour on city streets.

Light Up Inverness! Old Fashioned Christmas December 14, 2018 5p.m. – 8 p.m.

1 Courthouse Square, Inverness


An old-fashioned Christmas tree lighting event on Courthouse Square with music, elves, Santa and snow.

Friday Night Thunder

1 Courthouse Square, Inverness, FL

(352) 341-7820

The Citrus MOPAR Club hosts a car cruise-in and the City has live music in the downtown the third Friday of every month.

  • 19, 2018 Friday Night Thunder with TC and Sass live
  • 16, 2018 Friday Night Thunder Celebrates Black History Month with Rhythm Express
  • March 16, 2018 a special St. Patrick’s celebration
  • April 20, 2018 Friday Night Thunder Goes Green with Duke Energy, Band Groove 41
  • May 18, 2018 Friday Night Thunder with the Jo Jo Jones Band
  • June 15, 2018 Friday Night Thunder with MOPAR DJ
  • July 20, 2018 Friday Night Thunder with Elvis DJ Celebrates Citrus Memorial Hospital
  • August 17, 2018 TBD
  • September 21, 2018 Band TBD
  • October 19, 2018 Band TBD
  • November 16, 2018 Band TBD
  • December 21, 2018 Christmas Singers Jim and Michele


The Centers combats opioid overdose

The Centers will be hosting a community support forum in Marion and Citrus counties, for those suffering from opioid addiction and for their family members. These free forums will focus on providing information about the life-saving drug, Narcan.

OCALA, FL (January 08, 2018) – In a continuing effort to combat the growing opioid epidemic, The Centers will be hosting a community support forum in Marion and Citrus counties, for those suffering from opioid addiction and for their family members. These free forums will focus on providing information about the life-saving drug, Narcan.

According to www.narcan.com, “NARCAN® (naloxone HCl) Nasal Spray is the first and only FDA-approved nasal form of naloxone for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose. NARCAN® Nasal Spray counteracts the life-threatening effects of opioid overdose. Since most accidental overdoses occur in a home setting, it was developed for first responders, as well as family, friends, and caregivers.”

For Marion County residents, the forum will be held Saturday, January 13 at 11:00 a.m. at The Centers located in Building 2 at 5664 SW 60th Avenue, Ocala. For Citrus County residents, the forum will be held Saturday, January 20 at 11:00 a.m. at The Centers located in Building 2 at 3238 South Lecanto Hwy, Lecanto.

During this forum, attendees will be trained on how to use Narcan, in case of an overdose. Attendees will also have an opportunity to obtain a free dose of the medication to take home.

In October 2017, The Centers donated 200 doses of Narcan to the Ocala Police Department, since many officers are the first responders during an overdose emergency situation.

Steve Blank, Vice President of Outpatient Services said, “The Centers recognizes an essential part of recovery and saving lives is to offer many opportunities for community and family members to collaborate with their loved ones’ treatment. These forums are a way to do just that.”

The Centers, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, has been serving Marion and Citrus Counties since 1972. With five locations, approximately 450 employees, and 17,000 clients, The Centers provides child welfare services, and comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment services, including a unique program for mothers battling opioid addiction. Committed to offering quality and affordable care for all in need, The Centers is rebuilding hope and significantly impacting the lives of children and adults in the community each year. For more information, visit www.thecenters.us.

Mom accused of DUI, crashing into vehicles

Brianna Dee Knox

SEFFNER — State Troopers say a Citrus County mother was drunk Tuesday when she crashed into several vehicles on Interstate 4 while her 2-year-old son was inside the car.

The Florida Highway Patrol arrested Brianna Dee Knox, 28, of Beverly Hills, on charges including driving under the influence, child neglect, leaving the scene of a crash and battery on a law enforcement officer.

A Florida Highway Patrol spokesperson said FHP began receiving reports of a reckless driver on westbound I-4 near McIntosh Road around 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

While troopers were on their way to the scene, the vehicle that Brianna Dee Knox was driving crashed into several vehicles one mile east of County Road 579. Her vehicle then became disabled under the CR-579 overpass.

Knox then got out of the vehicle and was acting erratically and disturbed, the FHP said. She then removed a 2-year-old boy from the vehicle and began walking around the shoulder of the road and allowed the boy to wander toward traffic.

Knox is said to have then pulled down her pants and urinated on the shoulder of the road.

The FHP tried to arrest Knox and she became violent and resisted. Both troopers fell to the ground. Knox was eventually arrested, but refused to answer any questions or identify the child.

DCF was notified and a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office child protection officer was contacted to take custody of the child. Knox was transported to the Hillsborough County Jail.


Pleasant Grove Elementary School teacher facing marijuana charges

A Physical Education Teacher at Pleasant Grove Elementary School is facing marijuana charges.

Kimberly Hellenburg
Kimberly Hellenburg

The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday morning arrested a Physical Education teacher at Pleasant Grove Elementary School and charged her with selling and possessing marijuana.

Kimberly Hellenburg, 55, was arrested on active Citrus County arrest warrants, the CCSO said

She was charged with two counts of selling marijuana and two counts of possession of marijuana. This occurred after narcotics detectives with the Sheriff’s Office’s Tactical Impact Unit concluded a several-week investigation into illegal sales from her home at 6716 E. Blue Heron Lane in Inverness.

During the investigation, the CCSO said, detectives were able to purchase large amounts of marijuana from Hellenburg. During the execution of a search warrant, detectives located more than two pounds of marijuana in the home, distribution equipment and at least one-half pound of marijuana in Hellenburg’s bedroom.

Hellenburg’s son, Brendan Brown, 19, was arrested at the same home on Dec. 28, 2017, when detectives served a search warrant at the residence. Brown was arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute after it was learned Brown would receive large amounts of marijuana in the mail from California.

It was learned Hellenburg was a teacher at a local elementary school late in the investigation, TIU Sgt. Ed Blair said. “It was important to us that after learning of her career as a teacher and the influences she has on our young children that she be arrested before students returned to school from winter break,” Blair said. After the arrest, school board officials were notified and made aware of the charges.

The specific charges are as follows:

  • Two counts Sale of a Controlled Substance and two counts Possession of a Controlled Substance.