Monday, July 16, 2018
News Roundup

Hernando commission refuses to grant TreeUmph! reprieve on lease

BROOKSVILLE — TreeUmph!, the tourism venue that county officials have hoped would boost their marketing of Hernando as Florida’s Adventure Coast, has again been delayed, and this time the County Commission is refusing to help.

Just days before the tree-top adventure course was slated for its grand opening in mid September, Hurricane Irma roared through Hernando County. The storm splintered trees and flattened decks and aerial pathways built to snake through the trees within the attraction.

Work to clean up the damage and obtain the final permits to open the course is ongoing, and an opening date will likely be set for later this month, officials said. But TreeUmph! owner Aaron Corr had sought a one-year deferment from the county on its lease payment.

County Administrator Len Sossamon pitched the lease assistance to commissioners last month, telling them that TreeUmph! was "in great condition’’ before the storm, which was demonstrated in photos of the site before Irma cut its destructive path through Hernando on Sept. 11.

The company has gone through the Federal Emergency Management Agency to get a bridge loan. But Sossamon said the commission could help by voting to defer the $48,000 annual lease payment for a year at 2 percent interest.

The company had been making payments on the lease, Sossamon said. Payments for the first two years, as TreeUmph! sought permits and built the facility, were at a commission-approved rate of $1 per year.

Landing the adventure course had come as part of Sossamon’s job as the county’s economic development director. With an original opening date projected for late November of last year, the slowness of the progress earned Sossamon and the county some criticism through the 2016 election cycle.

Permitting problems and other issues were cited for the delays.

"I hope you know that the public is not crazy about this,’’ Commissioner Steve Champion said during the discussion of the deferred lease. "There is not an appetite for this waiving a year and getting the revenue back. I don’t know.’’

Corr said he was seeking the help to deal with the damage and so he can open strong. With the timing of the storm, he had already brought staff on board, but his business interruption insurance had not yet kicked in. Also, his other business insurance wouldn’t pay for all of the damage. He said he was willing to pay the interest on the loan.

"It helps us in the short term and gets these unexpected costs covered,’’ he said.

That didn’t sway Champion.

"Every time we turn around, it seems like there’s something with this project, and the public is not happy about it,’’ Champion said, noting that he owns a business, and "I don’t see any kind of benefit like this for my business. Government doesn’t step in and help me. I lost all kinds of money.’’

Tammy Heon, the county’s tourism development manager, showed commissioners before and after photos of the TreeUmph! site and explained that the after shots "really don’t show the level of the devastation that transpired out there.’’

She said the business was not asking for a gift, "just an extension."

Brooksville resident Shirley Miketinac said that while she wished TreeUmph! the best, she couldn’t see giving it a break on its lease. She talked about how she and her husband were cleaning up significant tree damage on their own property and that the county would "think we’re absolutely crazy’’ if they asked for financial help with their property taxes.

"This is a private business which the taxpayers have subsidized for far too long,’’ she said.

Champion made a motion to deny deferring the lease payment.

"It’s not our problem,’’ he said.

Corr said he was just trying to "get the project up and running.’’

Commissioner John Allocco said he wanted to see the business succeed, but could not grant the request.

He seconded the motion, and the commissioners voted unanimously to deny.

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

Comments
Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome falls in playoff at LPGA Marathon Classic

Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome falls in playoff at LPGA Marathon Classic

Times wiresSYLVANIA, Ohio — Brittany Lincicome could have been forgiven for looking ahead. But that didn't appear to be a problem.The Seminole resident took Thidapa Suwannapura into a playoff, falling on the first hole Sunday in the LPGA Marath...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-Twins game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-Twins game

There are times when Rays OF Carlos Gomez looks lackadaisical, but he made an urgent dash in from rightfield to near the mound when the benches first cleared and was ready for any action. Reminiscent of Jonny Gomes in '08.The loss is still what matte...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Rays journal: Twins grand slam ends heated game

Rays journal: Twins grand slam ends heated game

MINNEAPOLIS — That the Brian Dozier walkoff grand slam in the 10th inning that beat the Rays 11-7 was only part of the drama probably tells you all you need to know about Sunday's 4½-hour plus roller coaster ride, which included two benche...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Rays lose hot-tempered game to Twins 11-7 on walkoff grand slam

Rays lose hot-tempered game to Twins 11-7 on walkoff grand slam

MINNEAPOLIS – The Rays didn't have quite enough fight in them Sunday.Brian Dozier hit a walkoff grand slam in the 10th inning to give the Twins an 11-7 win in a back-and-forth and hot-tempered game that sent the Rays into the All-Star break at ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Wilson Ramos injury is a giant pain for Rays

Wilson Ramos injury is a giant pain for Rays

MINNEAPOLIS — The immediate reaction around the Rays to the extent of catcher Wilson Ramos' hamstring injury is disappointment, everyone knowing how much he was looking forward to playing in Tuesday's All-Star Game in Washington.But they are li...
Updated: 8 hours ago
At Croatia Club of Tampa Bay, a World Cup disappointment — but celebration nonetheless

At Croatia Club of Tampa Bay, a World Cup disappointment — but celebration nonetheless

CLEARWATER — In front of what looks like a small church auditorium just off U.S. 19, boys in oversized T-shirts kicked a soccer ball between parked cars on fenced-in grass. About 70 anxious adults walked through the doors of the Croatia Club of Tampa...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Team featuring USF hoops alumni advances in national tourney

Team featuring USF hoops alumni advances in national tourney

For the second year in a row, a team consisting of several former USF men's basketball players is among the final 16 competing for a $2 million purse.Led in part by Bulls alumnus Dominique Jones' 24 points, sixth-seeded Team DRC topped No. 3 Memphis ...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Italy seeks more EU pledges on migrants

ROME — Another day’s worth of food and beverages was sent Sunday to a pair of military ships off Sicily as Italy waited for more European nations to pledge to take a share of the hundreds of migrants on board before allowing the asylum-seekers to ste...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Hudson man dies in Hernando County motorcycle accident

Hudson man dies in Hernando County motorcycle accident

HUDSONmotorcyclist killed on u.S. 19 wasn’t wearing a helmetA Hudson man died in a motorcycle accident Sunday morning on U.S. 19 in Hernando County.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 51-year-old Timothy Guillotte was driving his 2007 Honda Silv...
Updated: 12 hours ago
A 71-year-old Florida man tied a gun to a weather balloon to fake his own murder, police say

A 71-year-old Florida man tied a gun to a weather balloon to fake his own murder, police say

The Palm Beach Gardens Police Department’s first homicide investigation of 2018 opened in late January - rather early in the year, considering that Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, is basically a live-in golf course of 50,000 people, where the annual mur...
Published: 07/15/18