14-year-old Ocala girl missing, endangered after leaving home

Alicia Johnson, 14, was last seen leaving her home located in the 11200 block of NW 12th Lane in Ocala (Courtesy photo via MCSO)

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office is asking for help from the public to locate a missing and endangered 14-year-old girl who was last seen in Ocala.

According to MCSO, Alicia Johnson was last seen at her residence located in the 11200 block of NW 12th Lane in Ocala. She left her home on foot and is believed to be wearing a long-sleeve black shirt and blue jeans.

Alicia is 5’1” tall, she weighs approximately 100 pounds, and she has brown eyes and brown hair.

Due to the circumstances in which Alicia left, along with several concerning statements made to a friend via text messages, law enforcement and family members are concerned for her safety.

If you have any information about Alicia’s whereabouts, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office asks that you call 911.

FWC continues to monitor avian influenza across Florida

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) continues to monitor bird mortalities suspected to be attributed to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza throughout Florida.

This strain has been documented in the United States since 2021 and was detected for the first time in Florida in January 2022.

The FWC has documented the virus in 37 counties and a variety of bird species. The most common species affected in Florida include black vultures, lesser scaup and Muscovy ducks.

Owls, bald eagles and other raptors, along with aquatic birds and waterfowl, have also been affected.

There is a low risk of HPAI transmission to humans, which can be minimized by following basic safety protocols. To prevent the spread of HPAI, the public should avoid handling sick or dead wildlife, prevent contact of domestic birds with wild birds and report wild bird mortalities to the FWC. Domestic poultry mortality should be reported to the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Additionally, precautions for hunters, the general public and wildlife rehabbers can be found at MyFWC.com/AvianInfluenza.

Please be advised that because HPAI is not treatable and is easily transmitted in wild birds, some wildlife rehabbers may not accept these animals. Information regarding carcass disposal is available through the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.

The FWC is working closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the University of Florida, the National Wildlife Health Center, the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, the Florida Department of Health and wildlife rehabilitators to study mortality events involving wild birds.

Additional Resources:

Citrus County Sheriff’s Office seeks elderly man in Homosassa

Wayne Brown, reported missing in Homosassa on Tuesday, Feb. 28, to the Citrus County Sheriff's Office (Feb. 28, 2023)
Wayne Brown, reported missing in Homosassa to the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (Photo: Citrus County Sheriff’s Office on Feb. 28, 2023)

Please be on the look out for missing elderly male Wayne Brown.

He was last seen at 10 a.m. on Monday in the area of South Suncoast Boulevard and West Green Acres street in Homosassa.

His vehicle was located in the area of Hog Pond Trails in Homosassa.

He is a 74-year-old white male who his 5-feet-11 inches tall, weighs 185 pounds and has salt-and-pepper hair.

If located or if you have any information on his whereabouts please contact the citrus county sheriff’s office at 3 5 2- 2 4 9- 2 7 9 0.

Governor appoints 3 to water management board

Governor Ron DeSantis appointed James Holton, Dustin Rowland and Robert Stern to the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board.

Holton, of St. Petersburg, is the president and owner of JWH Properties, Inc., MHH Enterprises, Inc. and James W. Holton, P.A. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and his master’s degree and juris doctor from Boston University. Holton represents Pinellas County.

Rowland, of Dade City, is the president and owner of Rowland Truck Lines. He graduated from Zephyrhills High School in 1994. Rowland represents Pasco County.

Stern, of Tampa, is a partner and attorney for Trenam Law. Stern earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration and his juris doctor from the University of Florida. Stern represents Hillsborough County.

The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Governing Board members are unpaid, citizen volunteers who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate. The Governing Board sets policy for the District, whose mission is to manage the water and related resources of west central Florida to meet the needs of current and future water users while protecting the environment.

Key Training Center: Choice, Independence

As the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has increased by 20% over the last five years, an increase for non-wage operational costs for iBudget providers has not been addressed in even longer.

For the 2023 Legislative Session, we are seeking $44.6 million in General Revenue ($67.7 million in Federal Match) equating to $112,286,417 critical dollars to address this funding gap.

Thank you! On behalf of the people with intellectual and developmental disabilities we serve, we are grateful to Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for taking the time to listen and understand our direct care worker crisis in the 2022 Legislative session, a vital first step in ensuring that we continue to provide programs that promote CHOICE AND INDEPENDENCE.

  • We still need your help as we are experiencing unprecedented increases in gasoline, health insurance, business insurance, and other non-wage operational costs which threatens our service delivery. While this initial step was instrumental in ensuring program delivery, unfortunately it did not address non-direct care worker support staff and veteran direct care workers already making $15 per hour.
  • Operational costs need to be addressed when funds are added to the Home and Community-based Waiver Program. The iBudget gives individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities the CONTROL AND FLEXIBILITY TO CHOOSE SERVICES that are important to them, providing resources for them to live as independently as possible in their own home or in the community and achieve productive lives.
  • Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) provide essential, hands-on care accounting for approximately 70% of the total cost of providing services.
  • Providers using the iBudget waiver have been covering operational cost deficiencies at a loss.
  • A joint survey conducted by Florida ARF and The Arc of Florida showed that 85% of providers said the new rates do not cover their costs. If not addressed, the providers committed to providing services that supports client choice may have to reduce their services, impacting our neighbors, friends and family member with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Let’s Continue.

DeSantis seeks tax relief in proposed $114B budget

By Andrew Powell | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a news conference in Tallahassee Wednesday to discuss his “Framework for Freedom” budget.

DeSantis’ proposed $114.8 billion budget contains some tax relief measures as the economy in the Sunshine State has performed far better than other states. Last year the state surplus was over $20 billion, and DeSantis stated that this money needs to go back to the people.

“Where you have a growing state where there’s infrastructure needs, you don’t want to just have all this money just sitting there because that’s telling me that you’re not doing as good a job as you need to be doing, returning money back to the people with tax relief.” DeSantis said.

Several tax relief initiatives have already started as of Jan. 1 after a December special session gave $500 million to Floridians in toll relief, saving some hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in a year.

“We’re going to continue to lead on fiscal responsibility and make sure that our state is not drowning in debt,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis unveiled a long list of other essential items that will become permanently tax free including diapers and baby products like wipes, food, clothing, cribs and strollers.

Pet owners will no longer pay tax for over the counter pet medications, as DeSantis pointed out, “they’re parts of our family too, and these are things that you need to do.”

This also includes no taxes for pet food.

Household items under $25 will be getting a one-year tax-free holiday, from everything from trash bags to detergents.

All dental hygiene products are tax free, and this also includes toiletries.

Parents of school children will also benefit from the massive $1.5 billion relief package as children’s books, toys and equipment will now be tax free and when it comes time to purchase new school stationary, there will be a continuation of the already existing 14-day tax holiday to purchase these items.

Disaster preparation will continue with a two-week sales tax holiday for all approved merchandise and DeSantis added that the budget will also cover funds specifically set aside for any future disasters.

Teachers will be offered pay increases to retain and recruit more staff, with $1 billion allocated for that purpose.

Law enforcement agencies such as the Highway Patrol and Fish and Wildlife are likewise going to get pay increases to help recruit and retain staff. There are bonuses of up to $5,000 for new hires included in the governor’s budget.

Over $330 million will be allocated to health services for women and children, including enhanced services for pregnant women and postpartum.

Around $9 million has been allocated for Alzheimer’s research and services and DeSantis also added that $20 million will be for fighting the fentanyl crisis.

Rural communities are also getting a boost with increased infrastructure such as high speed internet access.