County will survive closure of nuclear plant

Published Feb. 11, 2013

This has been a difficult week for Citrus County. We learned that the nuclear power plant in our county will not be fixed, and that Duke Energy will start the process of retiring and decommissioning the facility.

Our first concern is with the 600-plus individuals who work there and the families they support. They have been an integral part of our community, and any support we can give, we will. We are grateful to the men and women who have worked at the nuclear facility, and as a community we fully support them.

The impact of this decision will also be felt by numerous businesses that support the nuclear plant operations and that provide goods and services to the people who work at the plant. While all these issues can be overwhelming, we must remember and know that Citrus County will get through this. The news and issues presented are huge, and to the emotions of our community, it is another punch to the gut; but we will get through this.

We have a great story to tell the world. We are the gem of the Nature Coast. On the west side of our county we have seven Florida Outstanding Waterways; on the east side, we have a beautiful lake system. We are home to more beautiful natural resources than almost anywhere in the state or nation.

Our school system is ranked as one of the best in the state, and we have one of the lowest crime rates in Florida. We are home to some of the best golf courses in the nation. We are home to the largest concentration of manatees in the world, and we have cities like Crystal River and Inverness that epitomize small-town America.

We are home to a four-year accredited college, and have one of the best technical vocational institutes in the state. We have multiple hospitals that provide excellent state-of-the-art medical care. We have large residential developments that are wonderful places to live. We have a workforce that has been tested and been through a lot and is one of the hardest-working anywhere.

We have churches that are woven into the fabric of our community and provide a bedrock for our county. We have thousands of small businesses that manufacture goods and provide services to our residents. We have businesses that manufacture state-of-the-art technology that is sold throughout the world and employ hundreds of local residents. We are home to one of the largest military veteran populations in the country, and have extremely strong veterans support groups. We have organizations like the United Way, YMCA, Salvation Army, food banks, and many more that work every day to support our community and help those in need.

We have civic and community groups, and individuals who work everyday to improve our county. We have agriculture farms that win awards for being some of the best in the country. We have recreational activities that rival any community, anywhere. The list of positives can go on and on.

While times are tough now, and issues can seem overwhelming, our community will get through this. As the chairman of the County Commission, I can tell you, Citrus County local government will do everything possible to make sure our community is a successful and thriving place to call home.

We have been and will continue to work hard every day to diversify our local economy, keep costs low and ensure our quality of life remains high. The closing of this plant is an opportunity for us to redefine our identity, and focus on priorities that will ensure we are a sustainable, thriving community for generations to come.

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So while we face big issues, individuals can be proud to live in Citrus County. The nuclear plant does not define us, and its closing will not devastate us. We are a community made up of more than 140,000 people, thousands of businesses, hundreds of charitable groups and thousands of individuals who refuse to give up on making our county a better place to call home.

So while we pray for the families affected by this decision, and work hard to help them, I ask that you join me in the journey to make Citrus County better, and together, as a community, we can, we will, and we must succeed. We are Citrus County.

Joe Meek is the chairman of the Citrus County Commission.