BROOKSVILLE — If and when leaders in Washington and Tallahassee launch an economic stimulus package designed to improve infrastructure, Hernando County wants to be ready to get its piece of the pie.
Federal and state officials are discussing such a program, similar to the Roosevelt-era Works Projects Administration, and County Administrator David Hamilton knows the value of being prepared to act.
When he was an elected official in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Hamilton told the St. Petersburg Times editorial board this week, having a plan in place ahead of a similar public works project push allowed his city to secure significant funds for community improvements.
One ongoing transportation project Hamilton has in mind for stimulus money is improving County Line Road. Next week, he and several other county staffers will visit their counterparts in Pasco County, administrator John Gallagher and his staff, and discuss ways to work together on this and other projects.
While they wait to see what money might come raining down from Washington, local officials are wary of losing state funds. A looming state budget deficit could imperil money that is essential for ongoing efforts.
Hamilton stressed it is imperative for communities to be ready, and flexible. "No one knows how it will shake out,'' he said.
Projects like the long-delayed Hernando Beach Channel dredge and a passive park envisioned at the 80-acre Peck Sink near Brooksville could be affected.
On another front, Hamilton told the Times that the top priority to emerge from this week's goal-setting session is more important than it may appear at first blush.
The commissioners want to form at least four standing committees to deal with various major county issues.
Hamilton said he has worked successfully with this format in other communities. He would prefer to start slowly, maybe creating a budget committee first and adding a possible second standing committee on business development in the second quarter of 2009.
Provided that there are no legal complications, he said, both the County Commission chairman and vice chairman could sit on the proposed budget committee. Other members could be himself, other staff members, Clerk of the Circuit Court Karen Nicolai or her designee, as well as members of the public.
During the goal-setting session, several commissioners talked about ways to get citizens more involved in government. Hamilton said he believed that commissioners need to be involved at a deeper level as well and the standing committee could be one way to do that.
The committee meetings would be held in the same formal manner as county commission sessions, and the public would be welcome. An agenda would be followed and minutes kept.
That entire public record would be shared with the other three county commissioners, and only the full County Commission would make final decisions.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.