Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

East Hernando residents question lack of progress on library after fire

The fire, which was set in this patio area, set off the sprinklers inside the library. The county is expected to hire a contractor for repairs later this month.

Chris Price | Special to the Times

The fire, which was set in this patio area, set off the sprinklers inside the library. The county is expected to hire a contractor for repairs later this month.

RIDGE MANOR WEST — Last July, a suspicious fire broke out at the East Hernando Branch Library, causing smoke and water damage running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A few months later, county officials said they hoped the library would be back up and running early in 2014, but that isn't going to happen.

After the fire, the county contracted with a company to clean every piece of furniture and every book made smoky or wet. But since then, there has been no significant activity.

The current estimate for reopening the library is August, and that's only if everything goes as scheduled over the next few months. Delays in completing the specifications to put the construction work out to bid are to blame, according to Russ Wetherington, assistant county administrator for general services.

The job was finally bid late last year, and those bids are slated to be opened today.

East Hernando residents have been asking questions about the lack of progress. Last month, Ridge Manor resident Mary E. Locke wrote to the county's library advisory committee.

"My concern is that our Ridge Manor library, after several months, is still closed. County commissioners have apparently had difficulties (and delays) in contracting the work that needs to be done, but it would seem they could speed up the process,'' Locke wrote.

"Patience is running thin and people in our area want some concrete answers as to when we will again have the use of our wonderful library.''

Lynn Gruber-White, president of the Ridge Manor Property Owners Association, has also been asking questions. She has requested that the county send someone to her association's monthly meeting next week to provide an update on the project. She is waiting to hear back.

"I'm a little confused on how it can take over a year to make this happen,'' Gruber-White said. "It's definitely on the residents' radar screen.''

She pointed out that some of the older residents in the area live their entire life east of Interstate 75. Driving all the way to Brooksville to use the library there would be a major issue. And without any public transportation from the Ridge Manor area, there are few other choices.

"So many people depend on the library over here,'' Locke wrote in her letter. "For many of our retired folks who regularly visit the library it is one of the ways they stay connected to their community. People with no home computer use the lab for a variety of reasons, many to job search.

"The numerous educational programs have been sorely missed.''

Wetherington said the County Commission likely will be asked to approve the contractor on Jan. 28. Work will include painting, installing the suspended ceiling, installing light fixtures, insulation, window blinds, ceiling fans and other interior and exterior work.

The job is projected to take 60 days, but Wetherington said it might be longer. Once it is done, the county will need to return all of the furnishings and books, which have been kept in storage.

A reopening celebration is planned when the work is complete.

Joseph M. Brannen was charged with setting the fire. Arrested days afterward, he told investigators how he got into the screened reading room at the back of the library and set the blaze.

Wearing firefighting bunker gear he said he purchased on eBay, Brannen was seen in the area when firefighters came to extinguish the fire. He later said that he had set it so he could help Hernando firefighters put it out.

Brannen, 18, is charged with second-degree arson, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. His next status hearing is set for Feb. 5 in Hernando County Circuit Court.

Staff writer Tony Marrero contributed to this report. Barbara Behrendt can be reached at or (352) 848-1434.

East Hernando residents question lack of progress on library after fire 01/07/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 4:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Twins eventually cash in as Rays lose, fall back to .500 (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays could only battle their way out of trouble for so long Saturday afternoon before succumbing in a 5-2 loss to the Twins.

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 27: Brian Dozier #2 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates hitting a two-run home run as Derek Norris #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on during the eighth inning of the game on May 27, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Rays 5-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) 700010973
  2. Rays Tales: The stories behind Corey Dickerson's ascension

    The Heater

    The 25 pounds DH/LF Corey Dickerson lost during the winter through diet and exercise are considered the primary reason for his ascension to one of the American League's most productive hitters, going into the weekend leading in hits, multi-hit games and total bases, and ranked in the top five in average, runs and …

    Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) connects for a sac fly, scores Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Steve Pearce (28) in the fourth inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
  3. Fans in Florida and beyond won't forget Gregg Allman

    Music & Concerts

    The end can come quickly for those who live fast and live hard, who create worlds with their talent and sometimes come close to throwing them away.

    This Oct. 13, 2011 file photo shows Gregg Allman performs at the Americana Music Association awards show in Nashville, Tenn. On Saturday, May 27, 2017, a publicist said the musician, the singer for The Allman Brothers Band, has died. (AP Photo/Joe Howell, File)
  4. Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, a former senator, dies at 85


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jim Bunning, a former Hall of Fame pitcher who went on to serve in Congress, has died. He was 85.

    In this June 21, 1964 file photo, Jim Bunning of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches a perfect game against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium in New York.  The Phillies beat the Mets, 6-0.  Bunning retired all 27 batters who faced him in the first game of a doubleheader to become the first pitcher in 42 years with a perfect game in regular season play.   (AP Photo/File)
  5. Trump to decide next week whether to quit Paris climate agreement


    TAORMINA, Italy —President Donald Trump declined to endorse the Paris climate accords on Saturday, saying he would decide in the coming days whether the United States would pull out of the 195-nation agreement.

    President Donald Trump, right, arrives to a G7 session with outreach countries in Taormina, Italy, on Saturday. Climate and trade were sticking points at the two-day summit in Taormina, Sicily. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli)