Tag Archives: Volusia

Hurricane Irma orphaned baby squirrels in DeBary, elsewhere


Lisa Kestory gave the furry critter a kiss.

“When God wants to remind humans what falling love feels like, He sends a baby squirrel,” Kestory said on Facebook today.

The squirrel rehabber at Ahopha Wildlife Rescue said 22 baby squirrels, as well as other displaced animals, are being cared for at the DeLeon Springs-based nonprofit owned by Tom Scotti.

SquirrelGirl, as Kestory is called, recently set up an account on GoFundme.com to help Ahopha Wildlife Rescue rescue squirrels and other animals displaced or injured by Hurricane Irma.

Most of the rescued animals are birds, including waterfowl and sandhill cranes, as well as “lots” of baby squirrels, she wrote.

“Donations are desperately needed for rescue supplies, pet formula, nipples and syringes, medical supplies, medical care and most importantly, FUEL for the Ahopha Wildlife Rescue vehicle to be able to get to the wildlife at rescue locations all over Central Florida, so they can be taken to the local rehabbers and Veterinarians for emergency care,” the GoFundme account says.
Baby squirrels were found across west Volusia after the storm.

On Sept. 11 , the day after Irma, Ej Bielen‎ posted this on the DeBary Proud! Facebook page:
“Found a baby squirrel in the Streets on naranja and Valencia. He’s still alive and has a small injury to his tail. We bandaged him up. He had a sibling next to him that unfortunately didn’t survive due to cars driving through. Luckily we found him before the next car did. He is very young and not moving too much but looks to be breathing normal. Eyes are still closed. If anyone has any tips on how to care for him or wants to help us out please provide guidance. Thank you.”

Kestory’s call for help prompted positive responses online.

Brandy Dantas of DeLand said this to Kestory on Facebook: “Do y’all need any blankets or supplies like that no extra money right now but can see what I have around the house to donate. Would love to help out any way I can Tom does amazing work and I have brought a few baby squirrels to him in the past.”

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‘This is the time to hunker down,’ Volusia manager says

Volusia County officials tonight urged residents to stay indoors as Hurricane Irma hammers Florida. A countywide curfew begins at 9 p.m. today and lasts until noon Monday.

“This is the time to hunker down,” said Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen.

About 4,000 people are currently in emergency shelters in Volusia County. He said the most damaging winds are expected between 11 p.m. today through 10 a.m. Monday.  Gusts of 75 miles per hour are possible.

“We strongly advise that everyone stay inside and not go out in the storm,” Dinneen said. “The ground is saturated from the rain and power lines may be down.”

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said officers will use “discretion and common sense” while enforcing the curfew.

“Those who are evacuating, unavoidably traveling for work or who have an urgent need to travel in the area are free to do so if absolutely necessary.” a county news release said. “The intent of the curfew is to keep people safe, discourage loitering and prevent looting – which won’t be tolerated.”

Other updates from the county:

  • All bridges in Volusia County to the beachside are closed.
  • The north causeway in New Smyrna Beach and the Main Street Bridge in Daytona Beach have westbound lanes open for those who are leaving beachside.
  • Turnbull Bay Bridge in New Smyrna Beach and Highbridge in Ormond Beach are closed.

The number for the Citizens Information Center is 866-345-0345.

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Volusia’s sea-turtle nesting season by the numbers

The numbers are looking good for sea turtles on Volusia County beaches this year.

This is the peak nesting season and the indications are another record year is on tap.

Consider these tallies of the nests by species on Volusia beaches so far for 2017:
• 628 Loggerhead sea turtle nests
• 55 Green sea turtle nests
• 4 Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nests

The four Kemp’s ridley nests mark a record for the smallest and most endangered sea turtle.

There have been only nine other recorded Kemp’s ridley nests in
Volusia County since 1998:

  • Two in 1996
  • One in 1998
  • One in 2005
  • One in 2010
  • One in 2012
  • Two in 2014
  • One in 2016

Sea-turtle nesting continues through early September. Nest-hatching season follows in late September and into October.

“This is an extremely important time in the life of a sea turtle,” the county said in a news release this week. “This is when sea turtles emerge from their nests and the baby turtles will make an often-treacherous crawl to the ocean, dodging predators, holes, trash, vehicle ruts and beach furniture.”

If a turtle appears to be in immediate danger, notify a lifeguard or beach safety officer or call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-3922.

For more information about Volusia County’s sea turtle program, call 386-238-4668 or visit www.volusiaseaturtles.org. For questions about outdoor-lighting restrictions, call 386-238-4773.

Breastfeeding in Volusia: 3 percent hike

Volusia moms are doing a better job of breastfeeding their babes.

The county’s breastfeeding rate jumped by 3 percent from 2011 to 2015, the Volusia County Health Department announced Tuesday. But Volusia is behind compared to the rest of the Sunshine State. Florida’s rate of increase during that period was 5.6 percent. Those details were released in a new report released by the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County, according to spokeswoman Holly Smith.

The report was prepared to coincide with National Breastfeeding Month, which is August.

“According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there is no better food than breast milk for a baby’s first year of life,” the report said.

“A significant body of evidence supports breastfeeding as critical to improve health outcomes of mothers and babies,” Florida State Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip said in a statement. “Supporting mom and baby during the first few days of life are critical for successful breastfeeding.”

On a national level, the percentage of babies who start out breastfeeding increased from 73 percent in 2004 to 83 percent in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Breastfeeding rates vary among women of different races in Volusia County.

“For example, Hispanic mothers are the only racial/ethnic group that has exceeded a national breastfeeding goal set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” a news release said.
“Black mothers consistently had lower breastfeeding rates than white and Hispanic mothers.”

In Volusia County, the ZIP code with the highest breastfeeding
percentage among (WIC) mothers was 32130 in the DeLeon Springs and Barberville areas with 88.2 percent.

The DeBary-area ZIP code of 32713, came in at 82.4 percent.

At the other end of the spectrum was Oak Hil-area ZIP code 32759 with 47.1 percent.

Local officials with the federally funded Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food and health-care assistance program are working to improve breastfeeding rates.

Two-hour classes for new and expectant mothers are scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. on these dates and at these locations:

  • Tues., Sept. 5, at 775 Harley, Strickland Blvd., Orange City.
  • Wed., Sept. 13, at 717 W. Canal Street, New Smyrna Beach.
  • Thurs., Sept. 21, at 1845 Holsonback Dr., Daytona Beach.

“Each evening class is a one-time session,” the news release states. “Reservations are suggested but not required.”

Details:  volusiahealth.com/wic or call 866-WIC FOOD (942-3663).

Other resources:

  • La Leche League International: Call 1-800-LALECHE or www.lalecheleague.org.
  • Breastfeeding Helpline: Call 1-800-994-9662 or www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding.
  • Florida WIC Program Services: Call 1-800-342-3556 or visit the WIC website

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Volusia’s Chitwood on back-to-school Monday: ‘Slow down and pay attention’

Slow down. Pay attention. Those are among the messages from local officials in preparation for Monday, the first day of the academic year for public schools in Volusia County.

Your work-week driving routine will change, even if you don’t have kids in the school system.

More than 70 schools are reopening across the county, meaning school zones are returning and thousands of students, parents, teachers, administrators and support staffers are hitting roadways and sidewalks.

Extra deputies will be deployed to enforce traffic laws and ensure students’ safety.

Drivers must slow down in school zones and stop at stop lines when children or crossing guards are in crosswalks, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said.

Avoid school zones if possible. Remain alert. Avoid distractions.


“Don’t fall into the trap of thinking it can’t happen to you,” Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said in a statement. “The moment you look down at your phone might be the moment an innocent child steps into the road. Don’t make a mistake you have to live with for the rest of your life. All we’re asking you to do is slow down and pay attention.”

Don’t text and drive. The same goes for pedestrians. Distracted people, whether drivers or walkers, are dangerous.

James T. Russell
Volusia County Superintendent of Schools

“Students may think a driver sees them, but if the driver is distracted or the student darts in front of the vehicle, the result can be tragic,” Volusia County School Superintendent Tom Russell said in a statement. “As a community we must be more aware of students traveling to and from school and exercise caution in school zones.”

Other safety reminders include:

  • Deputies are cracking down on speeders and crosswalk violators.
  • The law prohibits passing school buses on undivided roadways if the vehicles are stopped to load or unload children.
  • Drivers don’t have to stop if they are moving in the opposite direction of the bus on a highway divided by a raised barrier or an unpaved median at least five feet wide.
  • Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States
  • Twenty-five percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers occurs during the after-school hours of 3 to 7 p.m.
  • Following the rule s of drop-off/pick-up area are schools
  • Be prepared to stop at all times.

“Be especially careful in areas with parked vehicles on the side of the road. Children crossing between vehicles may be difficult for you to see,” the Sheriff’s Office said.

Check out the Volusia County School District calendar for 2017-2018.

Volusia 2017-18 School Calendar

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DeBary’s Gemini Springs lands $380K for runoff cleanup

A $50 million cleanup plan for Florida’s springs includes cash to protect Gemini Springs and other water bodies in Volusia County.

  • More than $380,000 from state, water district and local authorities will pay for efforts in DeBary to help clean runoff from 200 acres flowing into Gemini Springs.
  • About $1.2 million from state, district and locals will fund a project designed to reduce water withdrawals from Blue Spring in Orange City.
  • Nearly $390,000 for a separate project will help pay to remove 179 septic tanks that threaten the health of Blue Spring.
  • An additional $2 million is earmarked for Blue, Silver and
    Wekiva to voluntarily replace and retrofit septic tanks at an estimated cost of $10,000 per tank.
  • Another $2.5 million is approved to reduce pollution in DeLeon Springs. The money will pay for a conservation easement to transition Fieser Dairy from a highly intensive dairy operation to a less intensive ranching operation.
  • “It is estimated that this project will result in a nutrient reduction of more than 200 pounds of total nitrogen per day and more than 80 pounds of total phosphorus per day,” the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said in a news release.

The state and St. Johns River Water Management District are each chipping in $95,000, and local authorities will provide $190,000, for the Gemini Springs project.

It will pay for “nutrient separating baffle boxes” with “enhanced
nutrient reduction from stormwater and surficial groundwater along Dirksen Drive in Volusia County and upstream of the marsh inflow to Gemini Springs Run,” according to documents released by Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s office. The property in the Fredricka Road area receives runoff from the 123-acre “Plantation Estates to the north, which was constructed prior to the stormwater treatment era,” documents state. “The Mansion Blvd. site receives runoff from an additional 85 acres of Plantation Estates. ”

Scott’s office and the Florida DEP on Monday announced $50 million for 40 projects.  The so called Fighting for Florida’s Future budget will “improve water quality, reduce nutrient loading, recharge water supply and protect habitat in Florida’s iconic spring systems,” the Florida DEP said. This includes a state investment of more than $10.2 million to protect springs in Central and Northeast Florida, including the Silver, Wekiva, Volusia Blue and De Leon

“This includes a state investment of more than $10.2 million to protect springs in Central and Northeast Florida, including the Silver, Wekiva, Volusia Blue and De Leon springsheds,” a statement said. “Combined with match funding from Florida’s water management districts and local partners, the investment in springs projects statewide will total more than $94 million during the 2017-18 fiscal year.”

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TeleTech: 600 jobs heading to Volusia in 3 years

A ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday will mark the grand opening of TeleTech’s new Daytona Beach location, where 600 jobs are planned over three years.

Volusia County beat out four other locations vying for the “customer experience” provider’s new location, according to county economic-development boosters.

The Englewood, Colorado-based company has already invested $5 million for the expansion, which is expected to bring an annual payroll of more than $20 million.

The company has 48,000 employees worldwide, including roughly 1,000 workers at two locations in Brevard County:  Melbourne and Rockledge, according to the Orlando Business Journal.

The company, founded in 1982, recorded $1.24 billion in annual revenue in 2014.

Team Volusia Economic Development Corp. landed TeleTech by beating out competitors in Mobile, Alabama and three cities in Texas, according to Volusia County.

TeleTech moved into space previously occupied by insulation company TopBuild Corp.

“TeleTech has entered a long-term lease for 43,000 square feet of space, with an additional 20,000 square feet of space for future expansion, in the building formerly occupied by TopBuild,” Volusia County said in a statement.

“Due to our aggressive promotion of the former TopBuild Corp. Corporate Headquarters to site selectors and brokers throughout the United States, the space became highly sought after,” Keith Norden, president and CEO of Team Volusia, said in a statement.

He said recruiting TeleTech involved a “number of community partners,” including:

  • Volusia County Government
  • Enterprise Florida
  • The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
  • CareerSource Flagler Volusia
  • Daytona State College among others.

“Special thanks go out to Mr. Dick McNerney with Adams Cameron who represented the Fisher Family, owners of the building, and negotiated the lease,” Norden said.

TeleTech is eligible to earn a tax refund of up to $180,000 for job creation. The state would pay 80 percent with the county covering the balance.

TeleTech qualifies for the incentive because at least 60 employees will earn more than $41,288, or 115 percent of this year’s average wage.

Volusia County Council members, other local dignitaries, and business leaders will gather celebrate at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 8, at 260 Jimmy Ann Drive, Daytona Beach, for the ribbon cutting.

Grand-opening career fairs will be held at this location from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 9, and Thursday, Aug. 10.

“TeleTech is actively hiring licensed health and life insurance agents and customer experience representatives interested in obtaining their insurance license, and other administrative and management positions,” a statement said. “For employment information, visit www.TeleTech.com.”


DeBary Gap: 6-mile trail link may cost $1M

Recreational trails are envisioned as crucial for DeBary’s future. But building a car-free pathway for walkers, runners, bicyclists and others remains an unfulfilled dream.

DeBary City Council members could take a step toward making that vision a reality when they meet tonight (July 5).

City staffers are seeking direction from council members on the so-called DeBary Gap, a nearly 6-mile route that, if built, would connect the River City to other major trail systems in Florida.

The option favored by staffers calls for teaming up with Volusia County to build the pathway on the west side of Donald E. Smith Boulevard, a project estimated to cost $1.1 million.

The funding would come from state grants under the proposal from staffers.

Part of the proposed route would run between the Duke Energy plant and DeBary Golf and Country Club on Donald E. Smith Boulevard. Another segment would run from Donald E. Smith Boulevard along Highbanks Road near Rob Sullivan Park.  Another part would run along the train tracks to Benson Junction Boulevard.

Then it would link to the trail at Gemini Springs Park.

Building the DeBary Gap would connect the Spring to Spring Trail between DeLeon Springs and DeBary.

It would also link to the St. Johns River to Sea Loop and a connect to Florida’s Coast-to-Coast Trail system, according to a memo from DeBary Growth Management Director Matt Boerger.

Boerger said he is asking for direction from City Council for a trail alignment before DeBary loses an opportunity to secure grant financing.

The city has been part of the county’s trail system for years.

A paved pathway stretches from Gemini Springs Park through Deltona and into Osteen.

Plans call for linking that trail to the 250-mile Coast-to-Coast Trail between St. Petersburg and Canaveral National Seashore.

Closing the DeBary Gap would help connect the St. Johns River to Sea Loop, a 300-trail linking St. Augustine to Titusville with a route along the coast and through west Volusia.

As recently as June, council members voiced support for trails, calling them a desired amenity that will help lure development to DeBary.

That’s when DeBary approved a vision for roughly 200 acres along U.S. Highway 17-92 called designated as a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Overlay District.

The property is anchored by the SunRail station and linked to trails that would expand by closing the DeBary Gap.

“The construction of the DeBary Gap could provide a cohesive bike/ped pathway to local amenities such as Sunrail, TOD, Gemini Springs, microbreweries, and Rob Sullivan Park,” Boerger said in a memo. “Additionally, the trail may provide for regional connectivity to all businesses, attractions, and assets associated with those communities within the” St. Johns River to Sea Loop.

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Florida leads nation in fatal lightning strikes

Florida remains the most deadly state in the nation for lightning strikes.

Fifty-two people have been killed by lightning since January 2007, according to a Naples Daily News report Sunday.

Nine people were killed by lightning in Florida last year, including a tourist in Volusia County.

Janika Gardner of Georgia died after she was hit by lightning on the beach in Daytona Beach Shores on June 24, 2016, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

She was the last lightning fatality in Volusia County, NOAA said.

Two people have been killed by lightning so far this year. Laura Miller, 37, died after being hit by lightning while riding a horse in Douglas County, Colorado on May 7.

Florida far outpaces any other state when it comes to lightning-related deaths. Texas had 21 deaths, less than half of Florida’s deaths in the same time period, according to a USA Today Network-Florida analysis.

DeBary resident Terri Hoag survived a lightning blast 11 years ago.

Hoag currently serves on the city of DeBary’s community center task force.

Some residents of The Reserve at DeBary were credited with saving Hoag after she was struck by lightning in May 2006 while carrying her then 2-year-old son to a neighbor’s house, according to the Orando Sentinel.

Son Logan wasn’t grounded and wasn’t shocked, the newspaper said.

Lightning facts and safety tips from NOAA:

“If you’re outside and hear thunder, the only way to significantly reduce your risk of becoming a lightning casualty is to get inside a substantial building or hard-topped metal vehicle as fast as you can.”

During storms:

  • Avoid open areas. Don’t be the tallest object in the area.
  • Stay away from isolated tall trees, towers or utility
  • Lightning tends to strike the taller objects in an
  • Stay away from metal conductors such as wires or
  • Metal does not attract lightning, but lightning can
    travel long distances through it.


Turtle Day: Free entry Saturday at Marine Science Center

Free entry to the county’s Marine Science Center is a highlight of this year’s Turtle Day on Saturday — two days before sea turtle nesting season begins.

The center, at 100 Lighthouse Drive in Ponce Inlet, will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday for the 15th annual event.

“Animal rehabilitation staff will explain how they care for injured birds and sea turtles, while vendors will sell food, beverages andfrozen custard,” the county said in a news release.

Then, on Monday, sea turtle nesting season will begin. That means residents are required to turn off or shield lights so they don’t shine on the beach, the county said. It ends on Oct. 31.

“We need everybody’s help to make this a safe and productive
nesting season,” Jennifer Winters, Volusia County’s sea turtle Habitat Conservation Plan program manager, said in a statement. “We encourage residents and visitors to play safely, protect wildlife and respect the beach. That includes letting only the natural moonlight provide the light at night.”

The season already started, unofficially, because of a warmer winter and ocean temperatures in the 70s, Winters said.

Two days ago, the county announced a rare Kemp’s
ridley sea turtle was spotted nesting, staking a claim in Ponce Inlet.

Kemp’s ridley is a critically endangered species and is considered the rarest sea turtle species found nesting in Florida, the county said.

Since 1988,

There have been only nine other recorded Kemp’s ridley nests in
Volusia County since 1998:

  • Two in 1996
  • One in 1998
  • One in 2005
  • One in 2010
  • One in 2012
  • Two in 2014
  • One in 2016

For more information about Volusia County’s sea turtle program, call 386-238-4668 or visit www.volusiaseaturtles.org. For lighting questions, call 386-238-4773.