BROOKSVILLE — While those pushing to redevelop south Brooksville have been sitting at the table talking about the concept for more than a year now, this week they will take an important step to make their vision a reality.
Tuesday, the county commissioners will consider approving an interlocal agreement that will allow the county to work side by side with the city of Brooksville as the city applies for grants and loans to upgrade the community's infrastructure.
The City Council also will have to approve the agreement.
Even though a portion of the south Brooksville community is in the county, the rest is within the city limits. Since the city owns the water and sewer system, it must be the applicant for funding available through the federal stimulus program.
The county is needed to meet application requirements related to the ratio of the agencies' debts to the amount of the loan. The city would not be able to meet that criteria without the county, according to the county attorney's memo to commissioners.
The agreement also would allow the partnership between city and county to apply for other forms of funding, such as community block grants or grant money through the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
The money would be used to upgrade and improve the water and wastewater treatment system, make stormwater improvements, build sidewalks and improve roads in the predominantly black neighborhood.
While the deadline to secure funding, which would come in the form of loans and grants, is not until September, County Administrator David Hamilton urged quick action in a memo to City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha this month.
"Though the deadline is not looming, we understand that the funds will be granted so long as they remain available,'' Hamilton wrote. "Thus, the sooner the city of Brooksville applies for ... funds to benefit south Brooksville, the more likely funding will be available.''
Hamilton also notes that he was told by rural development personnel from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that there might be a larger percentage of grant money versus loan money available "because south Brooksville is in need of revitalization and reinvestment.''
Recognizing that the county and city have neglected needed upgrades in the neighborhood for years, in 2008 Hamilton assembled a Community Initiatives Team to address concerns. The team consists of city and county representatives and a core group of south Brooksville residents.
Since the group began work, some improvements already have begun or have been scheduled, including road paving, drainage improvements, a street light plan, a community cleanup and new economic incentives for businesses that locate in the area.
The Sheriff's Office has opened a community center there, and Hamilton has committed to get the long-awaited cleanup of the old county public works compound on Dr. M.L. King Jr. Boulevard accomplished.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.