Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

County hires big legal gun to get dredge project moving

BROOKSVILLE — County Administrator David Hamilton likened the task of accomplishing the Hernando Beach Channel dredging project to a foot race. By all accounts, this project has been a marathon, more than 15 years in the making.

On Tuesday, it shifted to a relay race. Or, more accurately, an obstacle course.

At Hamilton's recommendation, county commissioners agreed to ''pass the baton'' to a new player by hiring Richard Brightman, a Tallahassee attorney with significant experience in similar projects. His job will be to get the county through a maze of legal barriers so the project can finally go out to bid in March.

If that deadline is not met, the county could lose $6-million in state funds, essential money for the $9-million project.

So anxious are county officials to make the project work that Commission Chairman Dave Russell said he was ready to back his own pickup to the water's edge and get out a shovel.

The complication revolves around where to put the soil and silt dredged up from the bottom of the channel. For years, the county has worked to get a permit to place the material on a site owned by the prominent Manuel family on Eagle Nest Drive.

But as the permit was nearing approval, neighbors filed a formal objection to that site, tying it up in a potentially lengthy litigation.

The county then began working on an alternative site, an old wastewater treatment plant property the county owned on Shoal Line Boulevard. The county is working with the state to get a permit on that site as the Eagle Nest Drive permit winds its way through the legal process.

But there has also been a threat of a legal challenge of that permit.

One of those sites needs a valid permit and needs it soon for the project to move forward and that is why Hamilton suggested bringing in the bigger legal guns.

The discussion brought out more than a dozen people from the Hernando Beach area. Many urged commissioners to do whatever it takes to make the project a reality because of the dangers the channel poses to boaters and because of the important economic impacts to the boating, fishing and tourism industries.

Hernando Beach resident Dick Dobrow urged the county to hire the attorney. "Hopefully he can help us through the maze'' and get the dredging work accomplished.

"Safety is the main concern here,'' agreed his wife Ann Dobrow. "Please get it done. Please get it done quick.''

The others in Tuesday's audience were residents opposed to dumping the spoils of the dredge near their homes on Eagle Nest Drive.

"The first site is an environmentally sensitive area and it's a residential area,'' said neighbor Cindy Halley.

Attorney Michele Lieberman, who represents several parties in the challenge, told commissioners that the Manuel site has many problems. Because it is located in the zone most vulnerable to storm impacts, the Federal Emergency Management Agency needs assurances that there would be not flooding issues.

If those assurances aren't given, it could put all waterfront homeowners at risk of losing their federal flood insurance, she said.

Cliff Manuel, whose family owns that site, argued that it is still the best place to put the dredged sand and silt. He stated he was confident that the last concerns could be worked out and urged commissioners to hire the lawyer to resolve the remaining issues.

But the clock is ticking. Residents fighting the Manuel site are set to make their case before an administrative law judge this month.

Brightman's job will be to analyze the two proposed sites and advise the county which will have the best chance of making the March deadline.

Then he will work to either defend the first spoil site on Eagle Nest or work with the state to secure the permit for the Shoal Line Boulevard site in a manner that avoids a challenge from Manuel.

And if Shoal Line is chosen, his job would also be to negotiate with Manuel to minimize any liability for damages.

While Hamilton at first asked for approval to spend up to $25,000 on the lawyer's services, commissioners did not hold him to that ceiling. Hamilton said it might cost more to save the state funding and the project.

He did not recommend that they hire Brightman for another $25,000 as the attorney had proposed, so that he could lobby to keep the state money from evaporating. Hamilton has expressed some concern for the funding because state lawmakers are in a special legislative session to try to find ways to balance their budgets in the midst of a huge state revenue shortfall.

Commissioners also gave tentative approval to holding a so-called "shade'' meeting on Jan. 20 to discuss their legal strategies. Such meetings are closed to the public but the content of the discussions becomes public record after the legal issues are settled.

County attorney Garth Coller was doing additional research on shade meetings to report back to commissioners.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

County hires big legal gun to get dredge project moving 01/06/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 8, 2009 11:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Shakeup on Adam Putnam campaign

    Blogs

    In a sign of unsteadiness for what  had  looked like a strong-out-of-the-gate Adam Putnam campaign, the Republican frontrunner suddenly fired his campaign manager and political director. Hard-charging Campaign manager Kristin Davis and political director Jared Small were two of the three outsiders to join …

    Putnam campaigning in Destin the other day as part of his 22-city bus tour
  2. Rays let early lead get away again in loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As pleased as the Rays were to win consecutive series against the contending Red Sox, Indians and Yankees and to get briefly back over .500, there was a lot of talk in the clubhouse before Monday's game against the Angels that it was time to do better.

    Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) high fives designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) as he rounds third on his lead off home run in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, May 22, 2017.
  3. Tampa man arrested for killing man in his USF-area home

    Crime

    TAMPA — A Tampa man was arrested Monday in the death of man found killed at a home in the University of South Florida area last week, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    Kadeem Dareem Archibald, 26, was arrested Monday on a  second degree murder charge in the University Area killing of Khando Kerr. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Report: Trump asked intel chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence

    National

    President Donald Trump asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, the Washington Post reports, citing current and former officials.

    From  left, CIA Director Mike Pompeo; Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats; and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers take their seats on Capitol Hill on May 11 before  testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on major threats facing the U.S. [Associated Press]
  5. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”