County, state ponder way forward in student safety

Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast hosted his own news conference to speak about how Gov. Rick Scott’s plan would dovetail with Citrus County’s plan.

Following on the heels of a news conference on Friday by Florida Gov. Rick Scott about plans for school safety after the Parkland, Fla., shootings, Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast hosted his own news conference to speak about how Scott’s plan would dovetail with Citrus County’s plan. (February 23, 2017).

 

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Friday announced his plans of action in the wake of the school shootings in Parkkland, Fla.

 

PSC: Storm costs won’t increase Duke Energy customers’ bills

The Florida PSC has turned away a requested bill increase of $5.20 per month for a typical Duke Energy Florida, LLC (DEF) residential customers, but there’s a caveat in that ruling.

The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) today turned away a requested bill increase of $5.20 per month for a typical Duke Energy Florida, LLC (DEF) residential customer, instead accepting a negotiated plan to use new federal tax benefits to prevent the increase.

A bill surcharge originally was requested to pay an estimated $513.2 million in restoration costs from Hurricanes Irma and Nate, which the company was authorized to seek approval to begin recovering March 1 under a 2017 rate case settlement negotiated by the Public Counsel and other customer representatives. That same agreement also provided that customers would benefit from any tax savings DEF might realize from proposed federal tax reform.

After federal tax cuts passed in late 2017, Duke Energy reached an agreement with the customer representatives that prevents adding the storm charge to bills by applying the new tax savings earlier than required. The PSC today chose that alternative, avoiding a bill increase.

“The federal tax cuts happened pretty abruptly,” said PSC Chairman Art Graham. “Everyone had to move fast to take advantage of the opportunity to keep customers’ bills from going up on March 1. It’s a success story.”

All parties in the 2017 DEF rate case settlement supported the new plan to prevent a bill increase, including the Office of Public Counsel, the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, PCS White Springs Agricultural Chemicals, Inc., Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and the Florida Retail Federation.

Hurricane Irma was a historic hurricane that caused damage in September 2017 across Florida with strong winds, power outages, coastal surge flooding, and rainfall. Hurricane Nate brought a burst of flooding and power outages to the U.S. Gulf Coast in October 2017.

DEF provides service to approximately 1.8 million customers in a 13,000 square-mile service area in Florida.

Related development

In a related PSC ruling, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) today declared immediate jurisdiction to determine whether the federal tax savings Florida utilities are reaping as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (Act) must be returned to customers.

The Act took effect Jan. 1, 2018 and reduces the federal corporate income tax rate from 35 to 21 percent.

The PSC action preserves its authority to flow back any savings to customers, and applies to all investor-owned utilities (IOUs)—electric, water/wastewater, and natural gas—that do not already have rate case settlements giving tax reform benefits to ratepayers. Actual amounts will be determined after a hearing.

Today’s vote came in response to a Jan. 9 petition by Office of Public Counsel, and is effective immediately.

“Today we drove a stake in the ground,” said PSC Chairman Art Graham. “The urgent need was to assert our jurisdiction to determine who should rightly benefit from any tax savings. Now we can embark on a deliberative process to make sure customers are treated fairly.”

Previous rate case settlements for Duke Energy Florida, LLC; Tampa Electric Company; Gulf Power Company; and Florida Public Utilities Company contain provisions for flowing tax cut benefits back to customers, and that process will go forward in accordance with each settlement’s terms.

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Suspect in Homosassa home invasion returned here

A man wanted in connection with a home invasion of an elderly Homosassa man on Feb. 16 has been returned to Citrus County from Pasco County.

Josh Bernard

A man wanted in connection with a home invasion of an elderly Homosassa man on Feb. 16 has been returned to Citrus County from Pasco County.

The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office said today that on Friday, Feb. 16, just before midnight, Citrus County deputies responded to a home on West Berrigan Court in Homosassa involving a home invasion involving a shooting.

When deputies arrived on scene, the homeowner, Carmelo Marchese, 71 from Homosassa, told them the suspect, whom he did not know, Josh Bernard, 36 of Homosassa, was trying to break into his home.

Marchese told deputies his dog started barking at something outside. The homeowner said at that time he grabbed his gun and went to the front door. Bernard was outside the front door and forced his way through the threshold of the home. Marchese said he warned the suspect not to come inside his home, but Bernard entered anyway. Marchese said Bernard went for the gun he was holding, and said that’s when he was forced to shoot Bernard.

Deputies found Bernard in the living room with a gunshot wound to the chest. Nature Coast EMS transported Bernard to a hospital in Pasco County, where he was medically treated, released and arrested. Bernard confessed to all charges when he was interviewed by detectives.

Bernard was extradited back to Citrus County on Thursday, and was booked in the Citrus County detention facility. He is charged for Burglary with Battery, and Battery on a person over 65 with no bond.

Bernard has a history of burglary, the Sheriff’s Office said, and was just released from jail in January for similar charges.

 

Arlington Street recycling drop-off location to close

Citrus County has been asked by the land owner to remove recycling containers from the Single-Stream Recycling Drop off site located at Arlington Street Just off US 41 in Inverness.

This will be effective February 23, 2018. We apologize for this inconvenience.

Please visit http://www.citrusbocc.com/pubworks/swm/recycling/recycling-dropoff-locations.htm for a list of available singl- stream recycling drop off locations in Citrus County.

For further information please contact the Solid Waste Department at 527-7670.

 

Detectives investigate apparent murder-suicide

Citrus County Sheriff’s Office detectives are investigating an apparent murder-suicide in which two people died.

Citrus County Sheriff’s Office detectives are investigating an apparent murder-suicide in which two people died.

The Sheriff’s Office said on Sunday that detectives were dispatched just before 11 a.m. on Saturday to a home in Homosassa in reference to a well-being check.

Upon arrival, deputies found two deceased people inside a bedroom with gunshot wounds.

After further investigation, Major Crimes detectives said it appears to be a murder-suicide involving a female victim, Erin Cain Prost, 42, from Homosassa and a male suspect, Bruce Leonard, 31, also from Homosassa.

The medical examiner’s office will determine the exact cause of death, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Homosassa man facing murder charge

A Homosassa man who was shot by a Citrus County deputy on Thursday after running into his vehicle and then attempting to run him over was discharged from the hospital on Friday and arrested in Pasco County on a Citrus County warrant.

William Bryant of Homosassa has been charged with the attempted murder of a law enforcement officer. More charges are pending.

A Homosassa man who was shot by a Citrus County deputy on Thursday after running into his vehicle and then attempting to run him over was discharged from the hospital on Friday and arrested in Pasco County on a Citrus County warrant.

William Bryant, 21, of Homosassa, is charged with the attempted murder of a law enforcement officer and aggravated fleeing and eluding.

He has no bond.

The investigation into the incident is being conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is standard procedure. The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement about the incident that it is thankful that the Citrus deputy is okay, and that no others were injured during this dangerous altercation.

More charges are pending.

Man threatening to ‘shoot someone’ dies in hail of bullets after chase

A man who had allegedly threatened to shoot someone at a Hernando business died himself on Saturday following a chase by Citrus County deputies and a subsequent exchange of gunfire.

The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office shot and killed a man who had threatened to shoot someone at a Hernando business and then led deputies on a wild chase before crashing near that business. (CCSO photo on February 17, 2018)

A Hernando man who had allegedly threatened to shoot someone at a Hernando business died himself on Saturday following a chase by Citrus County deputies and a subsequent exchange of gunfire.

At approximately 5 p.m. deputies started looking for a Blue KIA Sedona after Citrus County Sheriff’s Office dispatch received a call stating 28-year-old Brian Batchelder from Hernando was making threats to shoot someone at the Xtreme games 3 store at the U.S. 41 / State Road 200 apex across from the Cumberland Farms gas station in Hernando.

Patrol units quickly found Batchelder speeding down U.S. 41 north toward the shop. Batchelder failed to stop his vehicle, the CCSO said. A pursuit ensued Northbound on State Road 200. Because of high speeds and traffic volume, the chase was canceled. Marion County Sheriff’s Office was also notified, the CCSO said.

A short time later, deputies found Batchelder speeding down Southbound on County Road 491 and then Southbound on U.S. 41 through Hernando, passing the Xtreme games 3 store, at which point he pointed a firearm at deputies, the Sheriff’s Office said. After multiple attempts to try and stop the vehicle, Batchelder ran the red light at the U.S. 41 and S.R. 200  apex traveling at a high rate of speed, directly toward CCSO deputies who put themselves between Batchelder and citizens.

He slammed his vehicle into a sheriff’s vehicle, which in turn, pushed the cruiser into three other parked cars, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The impact of the crash forced other vehicles into a CCSO deputy. That deputy sustained non-life-threatening injuries, and the deputy was taken to a nearby hospital.

The CCSO said that deputies were then forced to discharge their weapons toward Batchelder’s vehicle. Deputies were able to get Batchelder out of the vehicle, but he died a short time later.

“This is a very tragic turn of events, where a man lost his life. We are very thankful that our officers were not seriously injured and that the many citizens who were very close to this extremely dangerous situation did not suffer catastrophic injuries,” said Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast.

“Again, we will count on FDLE to do a thorough investigation.”

FDLE will now take over the investigation. The deputies involved have been placed on administrative leave with pay per agency policy. We will not be releasing any more information regarding this case until FDLE is done with their investigation.

UPDATE ON SUNDAY, FEB. 18:

Below are the two names of the deputies who were put on paid administrative leave while the case is being investigated.

  • Deputy Ryne (no first name provided by the CCSO), who was hired on July 17, 2017;
  • Deputy Michael Anger, who was hired on Jan. 17, 2017.

 

BOCC selects Olney as Public Works head

A new Public Works Director has been selected by the Citrus County Board of County Commissioners. Randall Olney’s appointment was effective immediately

A new Public Works Director has been selected by the Citrus County Board of County Commissioners. Randall Olney’s appointment was effective immediately (February 13, 2018).

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County to examine mobility fees

Citrus County Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith brought up the issue of mobility fees versus impact fees during a meeting of the Citrus County Commission. There’ll be further discussion, commissioners have decided

Citrus County Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith brought up the issue of mobility fees versus impact fees during a meeting of the Citrus County Commission. There’ll be further discussion, commissioners have decided (February 13, 2018).

The idea of comparing the two came during discussion and vote on the collection of impact fees at the issuance of Certification of Occupancy (CO), instead of when the permit is filed. The board also discussed the collection of impact fees at the issuance of Certification of Occupancy (CO), instead of when the permit is filed.

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Feb. 18-22 night lane closures on U.S. 19

Night lane closures on U.S. 19

Homosassa Springs, FL — Periodic lane closures may take place in each direction of US 19 (Suncoast Boulevard) from West Green Acres Street to South Jump Court between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. Sunday through Thursday (February 18 – 22) nights.

Be alert to possible lane shifts.