BROOKSVILLE — South Brooksville residents Tuesday said they were tired of waiting for someone to clean up a contaminated piece of land that sits at W Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
When pressed, county officials wouldn't say when the old Department of Public Works site would be cleaned up, nor would they say whether it is safe to live near the site.
Residents raised numerous concerns during a Tuesday meeting called to address problems facing south Brooksville and what the county can do to help. The event, hosted by the local chapter of the NAACP, drew about 30 residents and several county staffers.
But most of the hourlong meeting focused on the future of the site.
After a back and forth between some residents and county employees, local pastor Malachi Fogle had one simple question: Is it safe for people to live near the abandoned site, where water and soil have been found to be contaminated with arsenic, lead and other pollutants?
County engineer Charles Mixon declined to answer the question, saying he's been advised by the county attorney's office that such statements might influence pending litigation.
All testing on the 5-acre site has been finished, county engineers said, and a small-scale cleanup should begin by September, said County Administrator David Hamilton. But no one could say when the brunt of the work could be done or when it will be finished.
The DPW closed the site in 2003.
Resident Paul Boston said independent testing must occur at the site to determine if the contamination threatens surrounding residents. Solutions proposed by the county, he said, haven't worked.
"There's a lot of bandages being put on, but nothing's solving the problems," Boston said after the meeting
Hamilton and others said Tuesday's meeting was a time to voice concerns and offer ideas as a community, stressing solutions might not come for years. Hamilton jotted down notes as residents voiced problems including poor road conditions, insufficient street lighting and sidewalks in need of repair.
One idea discussed was to include a sheriff's substation in a community center that could be built on the old site. Hamilton has broached the subject with Sheriff Richard Nugent, but Nugent has expressed reservations, saying he has been planning to build a station at another location, near Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and E Jefferson Street, using money from drug forfeiture cases.
Nugent has said community members have told him they want the increased law enforcement presence in that neighborhood to counter the amount of drug trafficking that takes place there.
Brooksville Vice Mayor Frankie Burnett said he hopes south Brooksville receives more funding than that needed to fix the DPW site. The community has more needs beyond fixing a problem it didn't create, he said.
Burnett, Hamilton and others have tentatively scheduled a walk through south Brooksville at 9 a.m. June 28 to learn first-hand about the community's concerns.
Many in the crowd offered support for Hamilton and said he is genuine in his concern for the city's south side. They just hope solutions will come soon.
"This has been going on for years and years," Isabel Harris said. "We want to see some progress."
Michael Sanserino can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1430.