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County, tower company reach settlement on drainage project site

Construction of this large drainage retention area to ease flooding in south Brooksville will resume after Hernando County reached a settlement with a cell tower company, which had sued over the drainage project. Construction had been halted by a temporary restraining order.

MAURICE RIVENBARK | Times

Construction of this large drainage retention area to ease flooding in south Brooksville will resume after Hernando County reached a settlement with a cell tower company, which had sued over the drainage project. Construction had been halted by a temporary restraining order.

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County has reached a settlement with a communications tower company that will allow the county to resume work on a project to help alleviate chronic flooding in south Brooksville.

The work was halted earlier this month after a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order. In November, American Tower Asset Sub LLC filed a complaint against the county over the drainage project, on Jefferson Street next to the South Brooksville Community Center.

The company said the drainage project was on land that ATAS was leasing for its tower at that site.

Earlier this year, the county began to excavate a portion of the 5.6-acre site, which it purchased in 2010 from Dauson Supply Corp. The county has a long-term plan to alleviate flooding in south Brooksville, and this drainage project is a key first step.

The complaint details a dispute between ATAS and both the county and the former owner over what portion of the property is leased to the tower company. ATAS maintains that it leases a larger portion of the site while the county and the previous owner said a much smaller section is leased.

The tower company alleges that, because the construction of a retention pond partly surrounds the tower, it will "cause permanent damage to ATAS's ability to access, operate and maintain'' its equipment. It would also pose a threat of structural and flooding issues, the complaint said.

On Tuesday, deputy county attorney Jon Jouben told county commissioners that the county had reached a settlement with the company. ATAS would agree to drop its opposition to the project in exchange for improved access to its site and an easement to a small area where it could expand its tower facility in the future.

Commissioners approved the concept of the settlement, allowing staff to draw up formal paperwork and get work restarted at the site.

Time is of the essence because, as Jouben wrote in his federal court paperwork, if the project is not completed by Jan. 31, the county could lose up to $350,000 in funding from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, commonly known as Swiftmud, which is pairing with the county to complete the job.

Jouben told commissioners that the agreement with the tower company means work can begin again, and "it does not put our Swiftmud funding at risk.''

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

County, tower company reach settlement on drainage project site 12/17/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 6:43pm]
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