News

Fri
13
Oct

West Volusia Calendar of Events Oct. 14-21, 2017

Saturday, Oct. 14
 
Farmers Market
8 a.m.-1 p.m. at Gateway Center for the Arts, 880 North U.S. Highway 17-92, DeBary. Call 407-443-6965.
 
Market in the Park
8 a.m.-1 p.m. at Blake Park, 437 S. Lakeview Drive, Lake Helen. Call 305-393-0682.
 
‘Second Time Around’ Rummage Sale
8 a.m.-2 p.m. in the Carriage House at DeBary Hall Historic Site, 198 Sunrise Blvd. Baby and children's items; toys; books; music; movies; home décor; household items; furniture; sporting goods; antiques and collectibles. Proceeds to benefit the restoration, education and preservation of DeBary Hall Historic Site.
 
Fire Prevention Week Fire Station Open Houses
Wed
11
Oct

Flooding along St. Johns won’t recede quickly

Neighbors — Gene Gessler, left, and Kerry Kerlin, neighbors on Hontoon Road, have both experienced flooding. Kerlin lives on the side of the road closer to the St. Johns River, while Gessler’s home fronts a man-made canal leading to the river. The canal is also swollen, and blocked by a tree that came down during Hurricane Irma. 

Neighbors — Gene Gessler, left, and Kerry Kerlin, neighbors on Hontoon Road, have both experienced flooding. Kerlin lives on the side of the road closer to the St. Johns River, while Gessler’s home fronts a man-made canal leading to the river. The canal is also swollen, and blocked by a tree that came down during Hurricane Irma. 

BEACON PHOTO/ANTHONY DeFEO

Not supposed to be a boat ramp — At the Hontoon Landing Resort & Marina, at the southern tip of Hontoon Island, parts of a parking lot near several docks are flooded.

Not supposed to be a boat ramp — At the Hontoon Landing Resort & Marina, at the southern tip of Hontoon Island, parts of a parking lot near several docks are flooded.

BEACON PHOTO/ANTHONY DeFEO

The St. Johns River is mighty swollen lately, and officials don’t expect a reprieve from the flooding to come quickly. 

According to the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, which tracks river flooding across the country, gauges at Astor, DeLand and Sanford show the river experiencing moderate-to-major flooding. 

In DeLand on the afternoon of Oct. 11, the river was measured at 5.39 feet, more than a foot above its flood stage of 4.2 feet. The gauge at Astor showed the river at 3.99 feet, above the flood stage of 2.8 feet.

Those numbers weren’t expected to budge much through Oct. 16.

That’s bad news for riverfront residents of Astor, Volusia, western DeLand and southern parts of DeBary.

At the Riviera Resort & Marina, west of DeLand on Hontoon Island, manager Gary Maddox said flooding is about as bad as it was during 2008’s Tropical Storm Fay. 

Wed
11
Oct

DeBary man earns national yoga medal

Winning form — Mitch Watkins demonstrated the tiger asana, or pose, after leading a yin class in September at Yoga De La Sol in DeLand. Watkins earned a silver medal in his age category at the USA Yoga national championships in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The tiger was one of six poses Watkins demonstrated for the judges. 

Winning form — Mitch Watkins demonstrated the tiger asana, or pose, after leading a yin class in September at Yoga De La Sol in DeLand. Watkins earned a silver medal in his age category at the USA Yoga national championships in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The tiger was one of six poses Watkins demonstrated for the judges. 

BEACON PHOTO/ERIKA WEBB

At 53 years old, Mitch Watkins was a committed non-athlete.

In August, Watkins, now 63, became a national yoga champion.

Watkins earned a silver medal in the senior division of the United States Yoga Federation National Yoga Asana Championships at the State Games of America. The games were staged in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

He’s been a Florida state champion for two consecutive years. 

Ten years ago, Watkins was middle-aged, physically inactive and quick to anger.

Today he feels better and moves in more directions than he did at a much younger age.

His journey started casually with a once-a-week Hatha Yoga class at the Orange City YMCA, where an instructor suggested Watkins might enjoy bikram, or hot yoga. 

Finding his way to bikram yoga in Lake Helen proved to be not only enjoyable but life-changing.

The studio owned by Melissa Basso that Watkins found back then has since moved to DeLand and was renamed Yoga De La Sol.

Wed
11
Oct

Not berry nice: Saw palmettos attract pickers to private property

Valuable berries — Otherwise easily ignored, saw palmetto plants in the Southeastern states, including Florida, beguile harvesters from August through October. During those months, the plants produce fruit, shown here, which is sold to brokers or directly to processors who dry the fruit and turn it to powder for distribution in the health-product industry.

Valuable berries — Otherwise easily ignored, saw palmetto plants in the Southeastern states, including Florida, beguile harvesters from August through October. During those months, the plants produce fruit, shown here, which is sold to brokers or directly to processors who dry the fruit and turn it to powder for distribution in the health-product industry.

PHOTO BY JAMES H. MILLER & TED BODNER, SOUTHERN WEED SCIENCE SOCIETY, BUGWOOD.ORG

A seasonal invasion has some West Volusia residents on edge.

Blue Lake Hills residents Cindy and Rajeev Bakrania felt less-than-hospitable when some brush rustling along War Admiral Drive in DeLand began late last month.

The end of summer brings a bankable bounty from an otherwise unexceptional endemic plant, the Serenoa repens, or saw palmetto. Health claims made for the palmetto’s golden berries cover everything from prostate trouble to hair loss.    

September and October bring unmarked vehicles carrying pickers and buckets to rural roads where the palmetto’s barbed fans herald the loot.

It’s hard, hot, dangerous work. Diamondback rattlesnakes pass their days coiled in palmetto thickets.

It’s also, often, illegal. State law prohibits picking, possessing or removing saw-palmetto berries in Florida’s public wildlife-management areas. And, homeowners are often unsympathetic to laborers trespassing on private property.

Wed
11
Oct

Strategic moves keep Starke on the upswing

Koala all the way — Innovative Principal Dwayne Copeland holds the Starke Elementary School mascot, a koala bear. Copeland and his teachers made changes in how fourth-graders are taught, and significant test-score gains were the result. Copeland has overseen the school’s rise from an F to a C grade.

Koala all the way — Innovative Principal Dwayne Copeland holds the Starke Elementary School mascot, a koala bear. Copeland and his teachers made changes in how fourth-graders are taught, and significant test-score gains were the result. Copeland has overseen the school’s rise from an F to a C grade.

BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN

The Florida Department of Education will have to look elsewhere if it wants to convert persistently low-performing schools to charter schools. Edith I. Starke Elementary will not be on the list. 

Starke, in the Spring Hill community of DeLand, started the 2017-18 school year with a high C school grade — up from an F in 2014-15 — and Principal Dwayne Copeland is working to keep the grade high.

The second-in-a-row C keeps Starke out of the reach of a new Florida law — House Bill 7069 — that requires low-performing public schools to implement one-year improvement plans, and threatens such schools with replacement by charter schools, or outright closure, if they can’t turn things around. 

The law’s provisions apply to schools that earn grades lower than C for two years in a row.

Copeland said Starke was able to rise above this danger zone because of community and school-district support for changes that were made.

Tue
10
Oct

Foodie File: Plenty of American tradition — and good food — at Brian’s Bar-B-Q

Restaurateur by chance — Brian Hill, pictured at right, didn’t intend to own a restaurant, but when he went to work for Barney’s Bar-B-Q after college, he developed a passion for the business and a love of barbecue.

Restaurateur by chance — Brian Hill, pictured at right, didn’t intend to own a restaurant, but when he went to work for Barney’s Bar-B-Q after college, he developed a passion for the business and a love of barbecue.

BEACON PHOTO/TOM STEVENS

A delicious barbecue meal from Brian's Bar-B-Q. 

A delicious barbecue meal from Brian's Bar-B-Q. 

BEACON PHOTO/TOM STEVENS

Vegetarians welcome — For anyone looking for a less meat-centric meal, the all-you-can-eat salad bar at Brian’s Bar-B-Q stands out for its satisfying variety. Everything I expected from a salad bar was there and more: hummus, artichoke hearts, a mix of fruits, coleslaw, pickles and pickled okra, cheeses. The chicken salad is especially good, and distinctive for its smoky flavor. 

Vegetarians welcome — For anyone looking for a less meat-centric meal, the all-you-can-eat salad bar at Brian’s Bar-B-Q stands out for its satisfying variety. Everything I expected from a salad bar was there and more: hummus, artichoke hearts, a mix of fruits, coleslaw, pickles and pickled okra, cheeses. The chicken salad is especially good, and distinctive for its smoky flavor. 

PHOTO COURTESY BRIAN’S BAR-B-Q

Brian’s Bar-B-Q sits unassumingly along State Road 15A in DeLand, set back by a large parking lot. Walking toward the restaurant, I had time to take in the classic roadhouse facade, with wood plank walls, an American flag posted above a metal roof, and picnic benches out front.

Inside, the AC was cool. I smelled hot barbecue and caught a glimpse of prepared meals ready to be delivered to tables.

The 170-seat dining room is cozy and airy. Strings of incandescent bulbs run over the booth dividers, throwing lukewarm light over the smooth hardwood décor and tiled floor. A steer head is mounted by the door, and a salad bar is situated near the front.

On one wall, framed photos of John Wayne in his gunslinger get-up hang end to end. Though I don’t have any special liking for the old movie star, it made me faintly nostalgic for silver-screen-era Hollywood, and how those old American movies had a clear sense of justice and moral rightness.

Mon
09
Oct

Former Sheriff Ben Johnson running for Volusia County Council

Former Sheriff Ben Johnson, who is running for a seat on the Volusia County Council, addresses the media in this April 2016 file photo.

Former Sheriff Ben Johnson, who is running for a seat on the Volusia County Council, addresses the media in this April 2016 file photo.

BEACON FILE PHOTO

Former four-term Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson has thrown his hat into the ring in the race for the Volusia County Council’s at-large seat.

Johnson, a 43-year law-enforcement veteran, served 16 years as Volusia County’s elected sheriff before retiring last year.

The former sheriff is running for the at-large County Council seat currently held by Joyce Cusack. Due to the county’s term limits, Cusack is prohibited from seeking re-election to the seat when her term expires next year.

Thu
05
Oct

West Volusia Calendar of Events Oct. 6-14.2017

Friday, Oct. 6
 
Scrub Stroll
9-10 a.m. at Lyonia Environmental Center, 2150 Eustace Ave., Deltona. LEC staff and volunteers will lead an exploratory hike through Lyonia Preserve. Free. Reservations requested; call 386-789-7207, ext. 21028, or visit www.lyoniapreserve.com.
 
Master Gardeners Plant Clinic
10-11 a.m. at the DeLand Regional Library, 130 E. Howry Ave. The gardeners will discuss camellia culture. Free. Call 386-822-5778.
 
Health Fair
10 a.m.-1 p.m. at the DeLand Regional Library, 130 E. Howry Ave. Free. Call 386-822-6430.
 
Healthy-Living Program
Thu
05
Oct

Your taxes are increasing

How much more money are you on the hook for?

How much more money are you on the hook for?

Nearly every government raised property taxes. How does your city stack up? 4

Jurisdiction 2016 rate 2017 rate Rolled-back rate Increase
DeBary

2.9247  

2.9247 2.8676 1.99%

DeLand1      

7.1579 7.0775 6.7965 4.3%

Deltona      

7.9500 7.8500 7.2784 7.9%

Lake Helen2    

7.8000 7.8000 7.3046   6.8%

Orange City 

7.4500 8.0650 7.0466 14.45%

Pierson        

Thu
05
Oct

Mom upset by shelter rules for disabled son

Special storm needs — Yorelia Navas tells the Deltona City Commission about her experience trying to find shelter during Hurricane Irma for her family, which includes a teenage son who uses a ventilator. Her story illustrates the importance of planning specialized care for those who have serious medical conditions.

Special storm needs — Yorelia Navas tells the Deltona City Commission about her experience trying to find shelter during Hurricane Irma for her family, which includes a teenage son who uses a ventilator. Her story illustrates the importance of planning specialized care for those who have serious medical conditions.

BEACON PHOTO/AL EVERSON

A mother with a teenage son who has a severe disability said she encountered trouble trying to find a place for her family to weather Hurricane Irma.

“When I got to the shelter, they said they were not taking special-needs,” Yorelia Navas told The Beacon.

As Irma approached, Navas said, she contacted Volusia County Emergency Management about a place to evacuate with her family.

The 13-year-old boy suffers from a muscular disorder and requires a ventilator. Navas said she was told she could go to Deltona’s Heritage Middle School, a special-needs shelter.

However, arriving at the school at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 9, Navas said she was not welcomed.

“They first said no. They said they were not taking special-needs,” she said.

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