Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

At Hernando town hall, residents criticize county costs and services

SPRING HILL — County officials heard it all Monday when more than three dozen residents stepped up at town hall meetings to talk about everything from invasive golden bamboo to the future of Spring Hill's landmark waterfall entrance.

Along the way, residents urged the county to find a way to continue to fund libraries and mosquito control while others complained about trash collection in neighborhoods, sign pollution, too much law enforcement presence and a lack of response from Code Enforcement and Animal Services.

County Administrator Len Sossamon hosted the two sessions at Northcliffe Baptist Church, drawing about 100 people at the early session and another 30 at a later meeting. He wanted to hear what was on residents' minds as the county begins to set priorities for its 2013-14 budget.

Some speakers were openly critical of county staffers and commissioners, but the format of the meetings allowed only limited input by top county directors and managers. Sossamon had agreed that the sessions would allow the public to talk about whatever they wanted, with no presentations by the county staff.

The format had been advocated by Hamilton Hanson, a Weeki Wachee resident who is a regular at County Commission and other public meetings. Previously, Hanson has pushed to raise money to place panels with the U.S. Constitution on the walls of the commission chambers, and he regularly passes out copies of the Constitution to residents.

The format allowed a variety of viewpoints to be expressed.

"If you think that the County Commission has any interest in you people living in this county, you're wrong,'' said outspoken government critic Joe Lemieux. "They could care less.''

Much of the focus of the input concerned the cost of government and the prioritization of services as the county continues to contend with declining property values and tax revenues.

Hanson accused county officials of not providing clarity on how much it actually costs to operate local government. No document holds the entire cost, he said.

Later, when asked if that was true, Sossamon said he didn't believe that it was.

Spring Hill resident Michael Burmann voiced concerns about his growing water and sewer bill due to the graduated rate increases the county approved several years ago. "I don't know how we can continue absorbing these costs as citizens,'' Burmann said. "It is just becoming a real financial burden.''

He also noted another issue with the Utilities Department. He said he was unhappy that the county's promise to close the smelly wastewater treatment plant off Commercial Way in Spring Hill had never been fulfilled. If someone was choosing a place to settle, "why would they pick our community when it stinks to high heaven?" he asked.

Lucille Marano of Spring Hill urged the county to resume the collection of impact fees on new construction for the sake of schools, roads, libraries and other county needs.

"We need them for everything in Hernando County,'' Marano said.

Those attending also raised questions about the paving of lime rock roads, complained about the county's permitting process and told officials to avoid becoming involved in projects they believe are related to Agenda 21, a controversial United Nations initiative that promotes the control of land uses by government.

There were also suggestions regarding the use of more volunteers to supplement fire and emergency medical personnel, the community operating its own library system without government funding and using private businesses rather than government incentives to attract new businesses.

Spring Hill resident David Philipsen, who is physically challenged, called the county's fixed-route transit system known as THE Bus his "life support system'' and urged county officials to continue to support it.

The county should also consider continuing to fund its environmentally sensitive lands program, said Frank Trama, a member of the advisory committee that oversees the program.

Several residents noted that the bottom line for government spending is what the public sees as priorities and how much people are willing to pay. "I have to ask myself: What am I willing to pay at what level of service?'' said Chris Soto, a Hernando County government employee.

While the county can continue to trim services and staff, there is always a price, he noted. "I also don't want our community to suffer,'' Soto said.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at or (352) 848-1434.

How to participate

Hernando County Administrator Len Sossamon is encouraging Hernando residents and property owners to complete a Town Hall Citizens' Survey to provide feedback as part of the budget review and development process for 2013-14. A link to the survey can be found on the home page of the county government website at

At Hernando town hall, residents criticize county costs and services 12/11/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 8:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. After offseason of work hard, play hard, DeSean Jackson ready to produce for Bucs


    TAMPA — There's no telling what DeSean Jackson will do once he gets a football in his hands. Perhaps that's why a camera crew followed his every move Wednesday while the Bucs' new $30 million receiver stood on a step of the hot tub that empties into a spacious, azure pool at his new, sprawling five-bedroom home in …

    DeSean Jackson jokes around with girlfriend Kayla Phillips at their Tampa home as a crew from HBO’s Hard Knocks documents their day.
  2. Trump announces $10 billion Foxconn plant in Wisconsin


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that electronics giant Foxconn will build a $10 billion factory in Wisconsin that's expected to initially create 3,000 jobs, the largest economic development project in state history.

    President Donald Trump embraces Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the East Room of the White House during an announcement Wednesday that Foxconn is going to build a plant in Wisconsin.
  3. Playoff chase heats up for Rays with key series at Yankees up first (w/ video)

    The Heater


    It was important that Evan Longoria crushed a two-run homer in the sixth inning Wednesday and Steven Souza Jr. blasted a solo shot off the farthest catwalk an inning later.

    Adeiny Hechavarria (11) and Tim Beckham (1) celebrate the double play to end the top of the sixth inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. Conservatives come to Sessions' defense amid Trump attacks


    WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans and influential conservatives rallied around Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday as President Donald Trump kept up his public pelting of the nation's top law enforcement officer and left his future in doubt.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions
  5. Jones: Alex Cobb proves again why he's Rays' stopper, no matter how long he's here (w/ video)

    The Heater


    If a team hopes to hang around the pennant race, it better have an ace. A stopper. A pitcher it can count on every fifth day to stop the bleeding, keep a winning streak going or flat-out win a game that a team flat-out needs to win.

    Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing the first inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]