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Author: Brian Lester

Septic treatment a growing problem,
but Flush Factory in Holt not the solution

But that possibility doesn’t mean those concerns aren’t valid or don’t need to be addressed.

In fact, the law requires those concerns to be addressed.

It is entirely possible that the anticipated volume of treated sludge — somewhere between 5,000 and 200,000 gallons per day, depending on how you read the project’s application— won’t seep downhill and into Bone Creek. It’s possible that even if there is seepage, the treated materials will pose no danger to the surrounding environment.

We admit, the possibilities for a safe, profitable, convenient service that, frankly, residential customers on the north side of Okaloosa County could really use, are worth considering.

But, those are just possibilities – claims, really, that the County Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have yet to corroborate.

It is unrealistic, however, to expect any Bone Creek area residents to be happy with the idea of this facility literally in their backyards.

We understand their concerns.

Will being located near such a facility drive down property values?

Will such a facility attract an influx of bugs and birds?

Will such a facility create an odor that neighbors can’t escape?

How will burying treated septic sludge affect well water downhill and downstream?

Will the facility see five trucks a day, or 25? (And will the county ask taxpayers to cover the cost of the road improvements needed to support that traffic?)

At last Tuesday’s County Commissioners meeting, concerned Holt residents asked these questions — and a host of others — prompting commissioners to add this issue to the meeting’s agenda and take immediate action.

The problem Mr. Watts’ project aims to address is a valid one. Most septic systems in Okaloosa County are on the north side. The county’s only collection facility is inconveniently located on the south side. As fuel prices continue to surge, it’s easy to see why a north side solution — even the Flush Factory — is worth considering.

Our hope is that the County and the City of Crestview can come to an agreement on expanding the city’s current wastewater treatment facility to include a septic receiving station.

Giving northside septic trucks a place to safely unload without the added time and expense of traveling to Niceville with every tankful – and without disrupting the lives of an entire neighborhood – is just the kind of solution this situation calls for.

While that may not be the most profitable for Watts, it would resolve the issue — and probably save area septic customers a lot of money in the long run.

Kayleb Wagner prepares for Baker gridiron curtain call

Last year, Wagner took over as the workhorse in the Baker backfield. He was at his best Sept. 17 when he scorched South Walton for 535 yards on just 25 carries to break NFL star Derrick Henry’s state single-game record of 502 yards.

He did all that with just one hand. He was born without a fully developed left arm and hand due to amniotic band syndrome.

Wagner stands 6-foot-1 and packs a solid 205 pounds on his frame. His 4.6 time in the 40-yard dash isn’t elite, but it’s better than average and allows him to run away from many 1A football players.
Gator first-year head coach Barry Gardner has been on the Baker staff for a few years, and he knows that Wagner will be a big part of the team’s package on both side of the football.

“Kayleb is going to be a weapon for us,” Gardner said. “Even when he doesn’t carry the ball, his presence on the field will draw defenders and allow us to put other players in a position to make plays.
“When he’s in the game, he’s going to set things up for other kids too,” Gardner added. “He’s going to play a lot more defense for us, because we are going to be young on that side of the ball. We are working on getting him into shape to go both ways.”

Gardner said that as Wagner has grown and become stronger on the field, his offensive game keeps getting better.

“Early in his career, as a sophomore, he was more of a missile (flying by defenders),” Gardner said. “Last season, as a junior, he was a missile and a hammer (physically pounding people when he ran). This year, as he’s gotten stronger, he will be more of a hammer.”

Being a marked man since breaking Henry’s record doesn’t bother Wagner. In fact, he enjoys it.

“I love it,” he said. “I play off of it. I want them coming after me.”

Wagner credits former Baker running back Joe Brunson, who was a senior when he was a sophomore, with showing him the right way to handle things. He said Brunson showed him how to lead off the field as well as on it.

Brunson, who was a two-way player as well, also was an example to Wagner of how to condition and get ready for playing iron man football.
Wagner hopes to play college football. And, if given the opportunity, he would play for his dream team, Alabama.

He hasn’t had offers from any teams from major conferences, but several Division 1 schools are interested in his services. Middle Tennessee State, Appalachian State and Utah. Texas Christian and the University of Southern Mississippi are in the mix for Wagner’s services as well.

The distance of a perspective college from Baker will be a factor in Wagner’s decision-making process.

“TCU and Southern Miss are probably my top two right now,” he said. “I don’t want to stay too close to home, but I don’t want to be too far away either. I want to be close enough that my family can come and see me play.”

Heading into the 2022 season, Wagner is only assured of 10 more high school games. If he’s to play game 11, 12 or 13, Wagner and his Gator teammates will have to earn it.

Baker players are used to playing well into November, which remains the focus for Wagner heading into his final high school season.

Wagner embraces the opportunity to lead the Gators on both sides of the football.

“I don’t have a next year, so this year means a lot more,” Wagner said. “I’ve seen just about everything, so I have to leave an impression on the younger generation of players. I want to be a great leader.
“I want to go out there and be a great example of what a Baker athlete is,” he said. “I want to out there and get better every game and have the guys look up to me. I want us to get back to state.”

First Church of God in Christ
ministering to the Crestview community

First Church of God in Christ was on hand to join in the Juneteenth Celebration and to let people know the church is there to serve people from all walks of life.

“First Church is a great church to come to,” Winters said. “Our youth ministry is on fire. We have a women’s ministry and men’s ministry.
“We have a great outreach ministry with our food pantry,” she added. “As a matter of fact, we served over 90 people last weekend (June 18-19). If you need food, you can contact the church (at 850 682-4900).”

Winters said the youth ministry of the church is for ages 3 to 21, and that it has something for everyone within those ages.

The church’s Juneteenth booth was an example of how it strives to reach younger children. The theme was, “Jesus Love is so Sweet.” The church handed out sweet treats to go along with the theme.

“Doing this (the Juneteenth exhibit) is a ministry,” Winters said. “We want everyone to know that Jesus’ love is so sweet, especially the kids.”

As is the case with most churches, the attendance at First Church was hit hard during the pandemic. And as is also the case with other churches, First Church is starting to see members come back to live worship.

“We have about a hundred people on Sunday,” Winters said. “We are just getting back from Covid. A lot of people went virtual (attended service online).
“Before Covid, we probably had about 200 each week. We are starting to see people come back to the services, which is awesome.”

Events such as the Juneteenth Celebration continue to help tear down racial barriers in the Crestview community. First Church wants to be a part of the reconciliation of people of all races. Every ministry of the church is colorblind to those in need.

Winters said the church is hoping to do more in and for the community in the days ahead.

“Our church is looking into doing a resource center,” she said. “It will be a place where we can help people to get back into the community with jobs and things of that nature. Also, in the future, we are looking into community housing. “There are a lot of things we are looking at in the community to bring us together.”

Teaching baseball to children of all ages

“We’ve got a bunch (of campers),” Bulldog baseball coach Tim Gillis said. “We don’t have an exact number now, but we have quite a few. It looks like the biggest one we’ve ever had.
“It’s so much fun. The kids are great, and our boys do such a good job working the camp with them. It’s just a really overall good time.”

The camp started at the ground level in teaching the basics to baseball players as young as age 4.

“Basically, we started from the ground up throwing-wise right down to the grip of the baseball,” Gillis said. “Our arm placement, our elbow placement, our aiming point, what we do with our feet. We’ve covered that and we are about to cover fielding ground balls and fly balls. We will play a game to finish out the day.”

Working with the smallest of campers, Gillis has to be innovative in the way he teaches things. Ideally, a player uses a two-finger grip to throw the ball, but the younger players sometimes need to use three fingers or their whole hand when throwing.

“Whatever they can do at this point, is what we want them to do,” Gillis said. “But we do want to get to where to grip the baseball.”Gillis seldom stops smiling as he conducts the sessions. The love he first developed for baseball still runs deep.
“I have a blast,” Gillis said. “ If there was one thing I learned in the game as a player, it was the fun part. I remember being at this age and how people look up to our high school kids, and what they do, it matters.
“I think it’s a great opportunity and a great responsibility to teach the game the right way and to give back to something that has been so good to me and my family,” Gillis continued. “When you are in game in the professional ranks it’s understood that you’ve got to pass the game down to younger people and keep the game going in a good way.”

Okaloosa County represented in softball all-star game

Lyla Stokes of Baker also played in the game and came through with one of the biggest hits of the night, drilling a three-run shot to the outfield that brought three runs across the plate in a 10-run third inning.

The East went from trailing 2-1 to start it to leading 11-2 at the end of it.

The East went on to win the game 15-10 in six innings.

Chloe Bussanmas also represented Baker at the all-star game while Hayleigh Hudson of Laurel Hill competed in the game as well.

The East players hailed from schools in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa Counties and were up against the West, which featured top senior standouts from Escambia County.

Randy’s Report

Arriving back in the area with less than four months left in the school year made me feel as I arrived just in time to cover the 200 meters of a 1600-meter race. I’ve gotten to know a few of the young people, but not as many as I would have liked to.

This coming weekend I’ll be with my high school classmates to celebrate our 46-year reunion. Yes, I said 46. Covid delayed our 45-year reunion, but we weren’t going to wait until 2026 to get together again.

As I reflect on the passing years in my life, I want to give to the Class of 2022 my wish list for the adult life on which they have now embarked.

The Apostle Paul spoke of faith, hope and love in 1 Corinthians 13. In the end of the chapter he wrote, “Now these three remain and the greatest is love.”

My first gift would be probably the most difficult for some of you and that’s the ability to love yourself.

The ability to love yourself will open countless avenues for you to love and serve others. If you love yourself, if and when, you are blessed to find that one you will spend your life with, you will be able to love them in a more selfless way.

That selfless love will flow down to your children, grandchildren and the generations that follow. By loving yourself will be a blessing to others and more easily touch the world.

My second gift would be the gift of faith. My prayer for you is that you will find a faith in the Creator that will carry you through the tough times, because there will be countless tough times. I would give you the gift of having faith in others even when they fail you.

I know those who have shown faith in me; my parents, pastors, coaches and friends, have carried me when I haven’t had the faith to carry myself.

And yes, I would give you hope.

Your high school years were disrupted by a global pandemic. What had been the anticipated and expect of your high school days came up short in so many ways.

Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Notice how King Solomon said, the hope is deferred, not denied. I know how hard it is to be patient, especially at the doorway of your adult life. But I encourage you to hope and be patient.

My gifts will not include an easy life because I’ve learned the best things in life often require perseverance and hard work. Those things require the faith, hope and love to grow.

Don’t be afraid of the storms of life because it’s in those storms are roots sink deep that later produces beauty and strength.

I have known my best friend since seventh grade and several other friends since elementary school. I would encourage each of you to continue to cultivate the friendships of youth as they are the people that knew you at the start and helped you form the dream. I promise you, if you cultivate those friendships life will be so much sweeter.

I am now 64, and as I’m sure all of you have heard, I can’t believe how fast life has flown by.

Laugh often, serve others and love freely. Believe in God in the tough times.

Good luck and God speed to you all.

Council honors city heroes

Mayor JB Whitten recognized the Crestview Police Department’s Officer of the Year, four Life-Saver Awards (to three officers), and the city’s first-ever Strongest Link Employees of the Quarter awards.

Officer Tyler Culbertson helped save lives in two separate incidents in December. Culbertson and Corporal Beau Baier responded to a victim in cardiac arrest Christmas Eve on Oakview Place. They used an automated external defibrillator (AED) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) techniques until paramedics arrived on scene to transport the victim to the hospital.

Earlier in December, Culbertson and Officer Schon Sweeney responded to a shooting and found a victim with two gunshot wounds to his chest. The officers retrieved two first-aid kits and sealed the wounds, helping ensure the victim’s survival.

“Saving lives, that’s amazing, even when you’re in that line of work,” Whitten said.

Police Chief Stephen McCosker told Culbertson that many officers never have an opportunity to save someone’s life.

“You saved two lives in one month,” McCosker said. “That’s incredible. I’ve served as a police officer for 30 years and never had that experience.”

McCosker also introduced Det. Mike Tingle as the department’s Officer of the Quarter. Tingle went “undercover” online to help gather evidence against suspected sexual predators and helped investigate two murders and aggravated child abuse, among other crimes.

“You represent what we are striving for in Crestview, ‘One City, One Mission,’” City Manager Tim Bolduc told Tingle.

The council also recognized its first-ever “Strongest Link” award-winners honoring its general staff and public safety employees of the quarter. Department heads selected Michael Clinton and Sgt. Lucas Kraus as the inaugural recipients of the awards, sponsored by All-In Credit Union. Besides certificates, the appreciation of the council and lunch with the city manager or a department head, recipients also receive a $100 check from All-In Credit Union.

Finally, Whitten surprised All-In Credit Union business development officer Hannah Wilburn with the first “Powering Partnership” coin for her role in creating the employee recognition program.

In other business, the council:

  • n Approved buying five new police patrol vehicles from Step One Automotive for a total cost of $238,000.
  • n Passed ordinances annexing, rezoning and changing the future land use of 1.89 acres of property at the southwest corner of U.S. Highway 90 and Lindberg Street from Okaloosa County mixed use to Crestview commercial low intensity. No development plans have been submitted, according to staff.
  • n Rezoned 23.4 acres served by Crosson Street from commercial high intensity to commercial low intensity. The change would allow owners to develop apartments on the property, although staff said no specific plans have been submitted.

Bulldogs have strong showing at Wildcat Invite

Redmond placed third in the high jump with a leap of 4-feet-8-inches while Speights finished third in the 100 with a time of 11.47. Jacob Anderson took fourth in the 300 hurdles, clocking in at 43.05.

Redmond was fourth in the long jump with a distance of 15-2.

Top 10 Finishes for Crestview

Girls

100: 8. Illianna Rivera, 13.62; 9. Audrey Crawford, 13.63

200: 6. Illianna Rivera, 27.86

400: 9. Kaniel Kimberly, 1:08.07

3200: 8. Addie Brooks, 13:56.51

400 Relay: 6. (Audrey Crawford, Illianna Rivera, Tionna Dortch, Paris Kolmetz) 52.26

1600 Relay: 5. (Audrey Crawford, Marta Elliot, Unique Redmond, Illianna Rivera) 4:29.57

High Jump: 3. Unique Redmond, 4-8; 5. Hailee Hardman, 4-6

Long Jump: 4. Unique Redmond, 15-2; 8. Audrey Crawford, 14-7 1/2

Javelin: 7. Jhett McCosker, 74-11 1/4

Boys

100: 3. Jamarian Speights, 11.47

110 Hurdles: 8. Jacob Anderson, 17.61

300 Hurdles: 4. Jacob Anderson, 43.05

400 Relay: 6. (Thaddius Atchison, Jamarian Speights, Raheim Studevan, Simeon White) 44.62

3200 Relay: 8. (Aaron Bates, Raj LaRue, Ricardo Santiago-Sanchez, Demarion Newton) 9:20.05

Triple Jump: 9. Max Anderson, 38-5 3/4

Muse shines at state meet for Bulldogs

All the Crestview sophomore had to do at this point at the FHSAA 3A state weightlifting meet was give her fans a little more to cheer about.
And she did.

Muse executed her final lift to perfection. She smiled knowing she had gotten the job done, setting two personal bests, and walked towards her coach with open arms for a hug to celebrate. She also shared a group hug with the Navarre lifters who cheered her on.

“It’s amazing,” Muse said. “That’s an all-time PR for me in the clean and jerk and PR total (300 pounds). I tried for 175 at regionals and didn’t get it. This was my redemption. I did it when it counted.”

That she did and Muse’s effort was enough to catapult her to a third-place finish in the 110-pound weight class. She also placed second in snatch, which involves lifting the barbell from the floor to an overhead position in a single motion. She recorded a lift of 120 pounds in that category.

Teammate Cierra Ezell also competed for the Bulldogs at state. She finished 13th in snatch in the 169-pound weight class and took 12th in the traditional meet with a total lift of 305.

For Muse, this was her second trip to state, and this time the nerves didn’t get to her as much.

Cierra Ezell competed at state for Crestview as well.

“It’s a different feeling than the first time,” Muse said. “There were more nerves then. This time, it was more adrenaline.”

Her coach couldn’t have been prouder. 

“She had a great day and really saw all of her hard work pay off,” Pottinger said. “It was great to see Madi and Cierra get here. They earned it and hopefully we can get more girls here in the future.”

Muse is poised to return again next season considering how well the early part of her high school career has gone. It’s gone better than expected, according to Muse.

“I didn’t think I’d get here two times in a row,” Muse said. “The goal this year was to get to state and it’s an amazing accomplishment to be able to lift in front of all these people and be supported by so many people.”

Muse did her best to stay loose prior to competing Thursday morning, jumping up and down while also watching her competition closely.

She looked calm and focused during each lift and was glad to see the day end on a high note, the hard work she put into the sport paying off.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better season,” Muse said.

While Muse said she’ll take time to enjoy the success of this year, it won’t be long before she’s back to work. She said she’ll spend a lot of time improving her bench press in the offseason.

“There’s always something I can improve on,” Muse said. “I’ll put in a lot of time and a lot of hours, especially on the bench.”

Crestview’s Madi Muse shines at state meet

Her coach, Alex Pottinger, shouted words of encouragement. And a few of the Navarre lifters crouched down outside the competition area cheering on Muse.

All the Crestview sophomore had to do at this point at the FHSAA 3A state weightlifting meet was give her fans a little more to cheer about.

And she did.

Muse executed her final lift to perfection. She smiled knowing she had gotten the job done, setting two personal bests, and walked towards her coach with open arms for a hug to celebrate. She also shared a group hug with the Navarre lifters who cheered her on.

“It’s amazing,” Muse said. “That’s an all-time PR for me in the clean and jerk and PR total (300 pounds). I tried for 175 at regionals and didn’t get it. This was my redemption. I did it when it counted.”

That she did and Muse’s effort was enough to catapult her to a third-place finish in the 110-pound weight class. She also placed second in snatch, which involves lifting the barbell from the floor to an overhead position in a single motion. She recorded a lift of 120 pounds in that category.

Teammate Cierra Ezell also competed for the Bulldogs at state. She finished 13th in snatch in the 169-pound weight class and took 12th in the traditional meet with a total lift of 305.

For Muse, this was her second trip to state, and this time the nerves didn’t get to her as much.

“It’s a different feeling than the first time,” Muse said. “There were more nerves then. This time, it was more adrenaline.”

Muse is poised to return again next season considering how well the early part of her high school career has gone. It’s gone better than expected, according to Muse.

“I didn’t think I’d get here two times in a row,” Muse said. “The goal this year was to get to state and it’s an amazing accomplishment to be able to lift in front of all these people and be supported by so many people.”

Muse did her best to stay loose prior to competing Thursday morning, jumping up and down while also watching her competition closely.

She looked calm and focused during each lift and was glad to see the day end on a high note, the hard work she put into the sport paying off.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better season,” Muse said.

While Muse said she’ll take time to enjoy the success of this year, it won’t be long before she’s back to work. She said she’ll spend a lot of time improving her bench press in the offseason.

“There’s always something I can improve on,” Muse said. “I’ll put in a lot of time and a lot of hours, especially on the bench.”

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