The coming year promises to be a busy one in Hernando County. Politicians will be out in force campaigning during election season. And there's a lot of business to be conducted by county government, the school district and the city of Brooksville. Here's a rundown of some of the key stories to watch for during 2014.
• County Administrator Len Sossamon plans to actively pursue new business and tourism opportunities in the first half of the year as he doubles as the county's economic development director. Among his goals is to establish a new venue for activity that will draw attention and visitors to Hernando County.
• With a new logo for Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport, the county administration and airport staff will work toward a total rebranding of the airport and the affiliated industrial, corporate and rail parks.
• Hernando residents will continue to see orange barrels and cones as the state continues work on the widening of Cortez Boulevard and the resurfacing and other improvements along the Suncoast Parkway and U.S. 19.
• Hernando voters will have a number of important choices in the 2014 election. Those include filling two seats on the County Commission, three seats on the School Board and three seats on the Brooksville City Council.
• For those who are eagerly awaiting the promise of new retail and restaurant openings at the planned Cortez Commons shopping center, construction likely will begin this year. The center, planned near the southwest corner of Mariner and Cortez boulevards, has been through final plat and construction plan approval, giving the developer 12 months to start infrastructure improvements and 18 months to complete them. No tenants have been announced.
• Two high-profile first-degree murder cases are expected to go to trial. Byron Burch is accused of killing beloved Brooksville teacher Sarah Davis in 2010; Brett Hattenbrun is charged in the bludgeoning death of his daughter-in-law, Joey Hattenbrun, at her home near Weeki Wachee in 2011.
• Superintendent of schools Lori Romano will finish her first year on the job. She will soon release a report of her findings and recommendations for the district.
• We should learn what will happen to assistant superintendent of schools Ken Pritz, who was recently relieved of all of his responsibilities in the division of teaching and learning and put in charge of the district warehouse and purchasing.
•After struggling with its launch, Suncoast Technical Education Center, Hernando's new adult technical center, will offer more classes to more students.
• The half-cent sales tax for capital needs in the school district, which has produced more than $6 million a year, expires in December. For it to continue, voters would need to extend it, but school officials have not yet put the question on the ballot.
• Hernando County commissioners will vote on whether to approve an education impact fee. The School Board has already given its approval of the fee.
• Under assault from a grass roots political action group, and its constitutionality questioned by county judges, the future of Brooksville's red-light camera program, which is due for contract renewal in October, will likely be a major topic of discussion this year.
• With the clock ticking on a $1.5 million state restoration grant, work on the historic Chinsegut Hill Manor House is expected to be completed sometime this summer. In the meantime, the Friends of Chinsegut Hill volunteer group is readying the home and its adjoining 114 acres for public access.
• A proposal by the nonprofit Brooksville Vision Foundation seeking to reroute two U.S. highways around the downtown core could gain momentum this year.
Compiled by staff writers Barbara Behrendt, Tony Marrero, Logan Neill and Danny Valentine.