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Inverness fails to get road grant; moves forward with beach project

It was the kind of phone call Inverness City Manager Eric Williams was hoping he wouldn’t get.

Nearly a year ago Williams and his staff applied for two federal grants to pave the dirt roads that crisscross Inverness Acres and Inverness Village and provide utilities. The roads are so deteriorated that school buses, emergency vehicles, and mail delivery vehicles will not drive down many of them.

The city council in June 2021 agreed with Williams to apply for the grants totaling $32 million and hired North Carolina-based Kimley-Horn and Associates as its consultants.

Williams told the Chronicle that the consultants contacted him late Thursday to say that Inverness was not selected.

It was a letdown for Williams after submitting detailed applications asking for help and a share of the Community Development Block Grant Mitigation fund.

Williams told the Chronicle there were 247 applicants and only 17 awards. He said a letter from the grant program would likely be forthcoming.

“We’re going to keep looking at options,” Williams said. “We’re going back to the drawing board.”

The county spent $30,000 to pay for the consultants and apply for the grants for the two areas north and south of State Road 44.

The deterioration of the roads were so severe last year that the council approved spending several thousand dollars for emergency repairs.

The subdivisions and their dirt roads have been a dilemma for the city for years.

The problem is the plats for the two subdivisions were accepted by the county half a century ago. Later, the county presented the plats to Inverness. The subdivisions are inside the city limits.

But part of the city’s plat acceptance was that the city would not be responsible for the subdivisions’ roads.

The vast majority of the combined 2,051 lots are still owned by Miami-based Inverness Properties Corporation, which has made no moves to pave the roads.

While the city is not obligated to pave the roads, Williams said there are problems leaving them as they exist.

“Though the city specifically did not accept (the roads in the plat), we are faced with conditions today that are an obstacle to smart growth, economic development, and readiness for certain disasters such as a hurricane,” Williams wrote his council bosses in 2021.

Also in city business, Williams set aside $350,000 for construction and permitting costs for the proposed Wallace Brooks Park beach.

Williams told the Chronicle he could not be more specific about costs, given that Inverness staff and consultants were in the middle of design and permitting. The size and layout of the beach were also still being determined.

Originally wanting to build the beach at Liberty Park, city staff earlier this year found in their files a 60-year-old, long forgotten record of a public dedication by Florida officials of submerged lands of Lake Henderson to the city at Wallace Brooks Park and for the city to develop. That record led the city now to build the park at Wallace Brooks given that the city owns a strip of land along the water’s edge and into the lake.

But Williams told the Chronicle Friday the city still needed to get permits from both the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.


Local
DeSantis signs tax ‘holidays,’ gas-tax break

TALLAHASSEE — A series of sales-tax “holidays” on such things as school clothes, hurricane supplies and tools and a suspension of the state gas tax in October topped a package signed into law Friday by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis

The tax package (HB 7071), passed by the Legislature in March, will reduce state and local revenues by $804.3 million during the upcoming fiscal year, according to a House staff analysis. The total will increase to about $1.1 billion when future impacts are factored in.

Along with holding traditional tax-holiday periods before the school year and as hurricane season starts, the package will eliminate taxes during all or part of the 2022-2023 fiscal year on items including baby clothes, diapers, children’s books, Energy Star appliances, impact-resistant doors and windows, new mobile homes and admissions to Formula One Grand Prix races and the Daytona 500.

“This bill comes at an opportune time, as families grapple with the rising costs of everyday expenses like gas, food and clothing,” Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris said during an appearance with DeSantis in Ocala. “I know that every penny saved counts.”

State leaders touted that the election-year package will help consumers.

“The tax relief you’re going to see are going to be breaks for really critical needs, like gas, diapers, disaster supplies, tools for skilled trades, recreational activities, you name it,” DeSantis said. “And, so, families are going to be able to save for things that really matter for them.”

DeSantis, whose youngest child is 2 years old, highlighted the tax breaks for diapers and baby clothes during a bill-signing ceremony at Sam’s Club in Ocala. The ceremony included a stack of Huggies diapers and several families.

“You’ve got to do the diapers, there is no way around that,” DeSantis said.

First Lady Casey DeSantis chimed in, saying, ““We have one child in diapers now. But 2 1/2 years ago, we had 2 1/2 kids in diapers.”

While most of the tax package will not take effect until July 1 or later, two parts of it will start this month.

A sales-tax exemption on children’s books will run from May 14 to Aug. 14. Also a tax holiday will start May 28 on hurricane supplies.

That holiday, which will run through June 10, is projected to save shoppers $25.6 million. They will be able to avoid paying sales taxes on an array of items, from packages of batteries and radios under $50 to generators up to $1,000. The hurricane-season holiday for the first time will include pet supplies.

The second tax holiday, projected to lead to $70.6 million in savings, will be for what lawmakers have dubbed “Freedom Week,” which will run from July 1 through July 7. Shoppers will be able to avoid paying sales taxes on such things as tickets for concerts, movies, ballgames and museum visits, as well as on certain gear for outdoor activities. For example, they will not pay sales taxes on the first $500 of the price of canoes or kayaks.

A back-to-school tax holiday will start July 25 and last through Aug. 7. Shoppers will be able to avoid paying sales taxes on clothes and shoes that cost $100 or less, school supplies that cost $50 or less and personal computers with price tags of $1,500 or less. Economists estimate the holiday’s impact to total $100.1 million.

A new tax holiday, with $12.4 million in projected savings, will run from Sept. 3 through Sept. 9 and has been dubbed the “tool time” holiday. During the period, people will be able to avoid paying sales taxes on certain tools and other work equipment.

In the month before voters go to the polls for the November elections, they also will get a break at the gas pump. The package includes suspending the roughly 25-cents-a-gallon state gas tax in October. Lawmakers decided to use $200 million in federal stimulus money to make up for lost gas-tax revenue, which goes toward transportation projects.

“There’s certain things when you have inflation that you can maybe dial back, certain entertainment, whatever, people can make decisions with their family budget,” DeSantis said. “You really can’t just not get around to your job. So, you’ve got to fill up your gas tank.”

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democratic candidate for governor, issued a statement Friday that said many of the tax breaks were aided by federal stimulus money.

“This tax relief package was made possible by the American Rescue Plan, which provided Florida with more than $10 billion in federal funds,” Fried said. “Working Floridians would not be able to access these benefits without the hard work of President Biden and Democrats who wrote and passed this historic legislation into law. This tax package contains important provisions like a tax exemption for energy efficient appliances that my office worked to include and an exemption for diapers that Florida Democrats fought for.”

A big-ticket part of the package would eliminate sales taxes for two years on impact-resistant doors and windows, which is projected to lead to $205 million in savings during the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

Parents are projected to see savings of $74.7 million by not having to pay sales taxes on clothes and shoes for toddlers and another $35.7 million on the costs of diapers.

Meanwhile, making tax exemptions permanent for Formula One races carries a recurring savings of $5.8 million, while eliminating sales taxes on tickets to the Daytona 500 will hit state and local revenue by $6 million a year.

Also, an exemption for “green hydrogen” machinery and equipment backed by Florida Power & Light would cut tax revenue by $300,000 a year.


Local
Despite health challenges, Kinsey Bogart lives life to the fullest

Kinsey Bogart’s positivity is positively infectious.

Now 18 and about to graduate high school, she has spent most of her life in and out of hospitals.

Artwork by teen artist Kinsey Bogart.

As an infant, she was diagnosed with atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome, which destroyed her kidneys.

She also has severe cardiomyopathy, an enlargement of the left ventricle, limiting the amount of blood her heart can pump out.

Plus, she has autism, ADHD and some learning difficulties.

Kinsey is the daughter of Holly and Damon Bogart – Damon, along with his brothers Brady, Ryan, Nathan and Derrick, dominated the sports sections of the local newspapers covering Citrus County in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Since 2004, the Chronicle has followed Kinsey, who lives with her mom and dad in Belleview.

By age 5, Kinsey had undergone 17 procedures and surgeries and was on nightly dialysis until she had a kidney transplant at age 12.

The transplant failed after a little more than two years, and Kinsey went back on dialysis,

However, instead of nightly dialysis at home, she began making the trip to UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville, a good 60 or so miles from home in Belleview, three times a week, and continues to do that today.

And yet, her life is full, with art and dance and family and friends.

Special to the Chronicle 

Since 2016, Kinsey Bogart, right, has participated in the annual University of Florida student-led Dance Marathon fundraiser for the Children’s Miracle Network.

Prior to turning 18 last September when she aged out of the program, Kinsey served as an ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network since 2016, and participated in the annual UF student-led Dance Marathon fundraiser for the Children’s Miracle Network.

She loves Reese’s Pieces, especially in Dairy Queen Blizzards, all things Disney and drinking strawberry Frappacinos from Starbucks.

Meet the artist

As a regular patient at UF Health Shands since she was 8 months old, from the time she could hold a crayon, Kinsey started making art “because I was bored in the hospital,” she said.

In 1990, UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine (AIM) was founded to enrich the hospital experience for patients, families, visitors, health care providers and even the outside community, but especially for patients.

AIM employs professional artists in residence who work with hospital patients on expressing themselves through art.

“I started by coloring and then I learned to paint with the Arts in Medicine program,” Kinsey said. “I like to paint with acrylics, make mosaics and color with gel pens.”

Her drawings are big and bold, frogs and flowers and hot air balloons, and she likes color.

Last year, the staff at the AIM program had an idea and asked to use some of Kinsey’s vibrant paintings to create a coloring book for their young hospital patients.

The result is: “My Vibrant Island: A Coloring Book by Kinsey Bogart.”

Kinsey Bogart graduates this month from high school, a major milestone for the teen who has lived with life-threatening health issues all of her life.

“When Arts in Medicine said they wanted to make a coloring book with my artwork I was so excited,” Kinsey said. “I think it’s very special that other kids are enjoying my artwork.”

One of the artists in residence took Kinsey’s colorful artwork and digitally extracted the color and transformed them into coloring pages that were then made into coloring books.

The cover art and back cover are Kinsey’s colorful images.

Kinsey also creates greeting cards, which she sometimes sells, along with her original paintings, to raise funds for the Children’s Miracle Network. Plus, she has donated some of her paintings to them to auction off.

“This is a great way for her to give back,” Holly Bogart said. “She really enjoys doing her artwork, and with the coloring book, other kids in the hospital can enjoy it too.”

“If I could do anything, I’d want to be an artist for Disney,” Kinsey said.

Now that she’s about to graduate on May 21, what’s next for Kinsey?

“That’s the question,” Mrs. Bogart said. “Because of her autism and her medical stamina, there’s a lot she can’t do. She can’t stand for longer than 10 minutes, so we don’t know what kind of a job she could do, maybe a greeter at Walmart or at the local Ace Hardware. But she says that sounds boring.”

Kinsey said she’s both happy and not happy to be graduating from high school, although she hasn’t attended in-person classes at Forest High School in Ocala since a second episode of respiratory distress the day after Christmas 2019 landed her in the hospital.

Once she recovered she was placed on hospital homebound, learning at home with a teacher coming over twice a week.

“I’m happy to be graduating because I finished school,” she said. “But not happy because it is my routine, so it will be weird not to do it anymore.”

She said she might take sign language classes or try to play the piano.

Holly Bogart said they’ve talked about Kinsey being an inspirational speaker to kids, have a set speech prepared about not letting a medical condition stop you, and she could bring her coloring book to show other kids what can be accomplished even when you’re sick and have a lot of obstacles.

“She loves to encourage and lift people up,” Mrs. Bogart said, “and that would give her a purpose.”

Kinsey said her best advice for other kids who have longtime medical issues is to “stay strong, don’t give up and trust God.”

Right now, she and her parents are trusting God for what’s next in Kinsey’s life, especially concerning another kidney transplant.

She’s currently on the transplant list, although in “inactive” status because her overall health is precarious.

“This is our life,” Mrs. Bogart said.

Follow the Bogart family on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Caring ForKinsey or Instagram at KinseyWarrior.

To download pages from Kinsey’s coloring book, go online at: https://tinyurl.com/5yrjj6s8


Local
A love for comics leads to lifelong collecting

With the takeover of Marvel and DC Comics movies, having knowledge about comic books is no longer “nerdy.”

Today marks National Comic Book Day, and for someone like Max Obstfeld with a collection of 30,000 comics and a treasure trove of comic book knowledge is sharing his passion with those in the community.

Growing up in Citrus County, he started reading comics when he was a kid, going to the nearest comic book store with his dad and reading comics like “Sonic the Hedgehog” – Knuckles being his favorite character.

Obstfeld’s love for comics has been lifelong, but he truly began his collection when he was in middle school.

“I was bullied a lot in middle school, so I became very introverted, and comic books and video games after school was how I got through it,” said Obstfeld.

mattbeck / Matthew Beck Chronicle photo editor 

This DC comic book Batman #232 from 1971, is signed by Adam West, Burt Ward and renowned illustrator Neal Adams

During middle school, he and his family moved to Taiwan since his parents wanted to expand his education, plus his mother is from Taiwan as well. Due to the move, Obstfeld donated his already growing collection rather than taking it with him. The transition from Citrus County to Taiwan was “definitely different,” said Obstfeld, mainly because it’s very urbanized, so he went from living in a small town to somewhere big like New York City.

When he moved back to Citrus County for high school, he started rebuilding his comic book collection all over again, reaching around 30,000 in total over the years.

mattbeck / Matthew Beck Chronicle photo editor 

Of the collection of more than 30,000 comic books these are just a few of Obstfeld’s comic books. These are kept in protective plastic cases to preserve the valuable books.

Now 32 years old, Obstfeld has collected a broad mix of comics from all different genres, but his favorite in his collection is Marvel’s Daredevil #1. The character Daredevil is one Obstfeld felt he could relate to since Daredevil is considered a more introverted character. Not to mention, one of the first major superheroes who is handicapped.

When it comes to the Marvel vs. DC Comics debate, he actually prefers indie comics over either.

“Marvel and DC recycle the same story,” said Obstfeld. “Indie comics are more unique and take more risk with their stories.”

The popularity of the Marvel and DC movies has definitely changed how the world views being a fan of comics, though.

“It went from something kids would get bullied for to something everyone loves now, which is great,” Obstfeld explained. “It’s been normalized.”

mattbeck / Phots by Matthew Beck / Chronicle photo editor 

Max Obstfeld, 32, has been collecting comic books since his freshman year in high school. To date, he has gathered more than 30,000 comic books. He works at Pat’s Pawn in Crystal River.

Now that he’s an adult who also owned a pawn shop for six years, he’s been able to collect significantly more each year. He currently works at a comic book shop in New Port Richey on Sundays called Yancy Street Comics, as well as two local Citrus pawn shops where he’s able to both buy and sell for his collection as it continues to grow.


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