Some of the most popular stories of the week
County residents prepared for hurricane that missed us
At the beginning of the week, Citrus County residents prepared as Hurricane Ian seemed to be headed to the Nature Coast. People boarded up windows, bought cases of water and rolls of toilet paper, barricaded their houses with sandbags, some evacuated their homes ahead of a projected storm surge.
But like Hurricane Charley in 2004, the hurricane that was supposed to be “ours” stayed to the south and instead decimated counties below us.
Citrus County Sheriff’s Office deputies tallied over a dozen road closures and blockages from downed trees and power lines Thursday morning, Sept. 29, after Ian skirted by overnight, hitting the county from the east with wind gusts of around 40 mph.
No storm-related injuries or deaths were reported, according to the sheriff’s office.
Sheriff’s office Captain Troy Hess, Citrus County’s interim emergency management director, said the county was “extremely blessed” thanks in part to the coordination of its people and government entities.
Inverness subdivision could see bad roads fixed
For years, people who live in the Inverness Village Unit 4 subdivision have endured some of the worst roads in Citrus County.
The process to improve those roads is underway.
An Orlando attorney, representing a property owner, has filed a petition with the county to initiate the Municipal Service Benefit Unit (MSBU) process. The affected area is roughly between Independence Boulevard and Arlington Street.
Under an MSBU, the entire cost of paving the road is borne by property owners. That includes all engineering and surveying fees, materials and labor.
The roads in Inverness Village are not county owned so they are not maintained by regular grading or drainage clearing.
County Administrator Randy Oliver met with homeowners of Inverness Village Unit 4 to update them about the MSBU petition and assured them the condition of the roads will not prevent emergency vehicles from accessing the subdivision in emergencies.
Right Rudder COO announces 'huge' economic coup for county
The Inverness Airport will soon be the home of 29 new state-of-the-art aircraft as part of a joint partnership between Right Rudder Aviation and Arizona-based Mesa Airlines.
And that partnership is not only an economic coup for Inverness and the entire county but is sure to put Citrus on the national map and help relieve the existing pilot shortage, according to Right Rudder’s chief operating officer Andrew Chan.
Mesa selected the Inverness Airport to not only house the new Pipistrel planes but also to operate them starting in October, with expansion to Arizona over the next year.
The new fleet will be the backbone of the Mesa Pilot Development Program (MPD), a major initiative to close the pilot shortage gap that has been affecting the industry over the last several years.
As part of the program, pilots will be provided with the opportunity to accumulate up to 1,500 flight hours required to fly a commercial aircraft at Mesa Airlines.
At full strength, the fleet will have capacity for up to 2,000 daily hours of flying time and is expected to train more than 1,000 pilots per year – right here in Inverness.
“That means Mesa will recruit cadets who will come to Inverness, stay for about six months,” Chan said.
Figuring between four to eight cadets per airplane, that means around 200 people will be traveling to Citrus County every six months, renting homes or staying in hotels and spending money during their time here. It also means Right Rudder will be hiring new staff to meet the needs of this new program, another economic spurt, Chan said.
County to offer administrator contract to Steve Howard of Georgia
And then there was one as county commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to negotiate a contract with Steve Howard as new county administrator.
Howard is currently the county administrator in Camden County, Georgia – a post he’s held for 15 years.
If talks fail, commissioners will negotiate with their second choice: Tobey Phillips, assistant county administrator in Hernando County and long-time Citrus Countian.
Howard was praised for his strategic plan expertise, economic development contacts and longevity (15 years) in government.
Current administrator Randy Oliver is retiring after seven years with Citrus County. His last day is Nov. 8 and he plans to be around long enough to help in the transition.
Hot topic of the week: Hurricane Ian was THE central topic of everyone’s conversation this week, from the “must have” hurricane snacks to the serious concerns about potential storm surge.
Culled from this past week’s Chronicle stories and Facebook page, here’s what some said:
Quote of the week: “You can’t take anything for granted ... we’re extremely blessed.” — Captain Troy Hess, Citrus County interim emergency management director, about Citrus County being spared Hurricane Ian’s wrath,
Good news item of the week: Crystal River has painted manatees, Ocala has its horses, Cincinnati, Ohio, has painted pigs, and Inverness is about to get bicycles as its city-wide public arts project. Six local artists are each in the process of creating a bicycle made of materials of their own choosing to be displayed outdoors for a year throughout Inverness.