State lawmakers hear wish lists from Hernando officials.

City and county leaders ask the state to pitch in on local projects.
DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times
Hernando County Courthouse ? 20 N Main St., Brooksville
DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times Hernando County Courthouse ? 20 N Main St., Brooksville
Published December 4

BROOKSVILLE — One by one, they brought their wish lists forward as part of a holiday season tradition.

In this case, it wasn't youngsters seeking the good graces of a jolly elf, but local government officials who make their annual asks of state legislators representing Hernando County.

By the end of Monday's legislative delegation meeting, State Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, and State Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Beverly Hills, had a long and pricey list of local projects pitched to them for water quality improvement, community infrastructure and economic development.

Some requests were for sweeping funding fixes, such as the one requested by outgoing Hernando County Clerk of Courts Don Barbee. He urged lawmakers to approve a new funding formula to support the clerk's many duties. The existing formula is based on fees paid by citizens involved in the local court system, many of whom Barbie said are ill-equipped to pay.

The Hernando County schools superintendent sought a similarly sweeping change to transportation funding that would allow more Hernando students to ride school buses.

More specific requests came from officials from Hernando County and the city of Brooksville.

Deputy county administrator Jeff Rogers presented five projects for consideration.

The priciest was a request for $10.4 million, with Hernando contributing another $2.6 million, to convert 450 septic systems in the Spring Hill area to county sewer service. The state has pushed conversions in areas where septic systems leach into and foul natural springs, such as those that feed the Weeki Wachee River.

Another expensive project would expand the water reclamation facility at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport from 3.5 million gallons per day to 6 million gallons per day. The project would allow the county to close the smelly sewer treatment plant on Osowaw Boulevard. The county is set to contribute $21 million to that job and asked for $5 million in state funds.

Rogers also asked for $5 million to help lengthen the 7,500-foot-long runway at the airport to 8,500 feet. The growing air ambulance and aircraft repair businesses at the airport need the longer runway, he explained. The county's contribution to the project would be $1 million.

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Lawmakers questioned whether the project was approved by other agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration and the Florida Department of Transportation. Rogers said the agencies are aware of the plan. Agency approvals may be necessary to keep any legislative allocation from expiring before the approvals are granted, Simpson noted.

Rogers said the county was ready to begin design work immediately.

The county also proposed rebuilding its ground-level waterways office in Hernando Beach, which has flooded during storm surges. The county is seeking $500,000 in state money and offered $100,000 of its own to build a new elevated office.

The final county request was for $1.25 million for road improvements for WPA Road, which frequently floods. The road connects State Road 50 and the Interstate 75 corridor with residential neighborhoods along Mondon Hill Road. The county offered $437,500 as its contribution.

Brooksville Mayor Betty Erhard made the city's requests to the delegation. Late last month, the council decided on five projects to present for possible state funding.

They included requests for:

  • $600,000 for modifying the sewer lift station on Cortez Boulevard, which has had sewage spills during rain events.

  • $200,000 for water and fire protection improvements at Hernando and Bayport streets.

  • $850,000 for reuse water development for the Hernando Oaks Golf Course and the Cascades development.

  • $47,000 to replace the self-contained breathing compressor for the fire department.

  • $175,000 for engineering sidewalks for North Avenue.

Another request, one without a dollar figure attached, came from Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis, who asked for a change in state law to expand the use of drones by law enforcement officials in obtaining evidence.

Organizations and individuals also asked legislators for help and thanked them for previous allocations and ongoing support.

Shannon Turbeville, an advocate for saving the Weeki Wachee River from overuse, urged legislative requirements for carrying capacities to protect the user experience of state resources and prevent overcrowding.

Previous coverage: State reduces kayak launches into Weeki Wachee River

Turbeville also hopes that the delegation — specifically Simpson, who spearheaded the river restoration project — continues to allocate money for the river clean-up.

Contact Barbara Behrendt at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

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