A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order against Hernando County, halting work on a drainage retention project intended to ease chronic flooding in south Brooksville.
A significant delay in the work could financially jeopardize the project.
Late last month, American Tower Asset Sub LLC filed a complaint alleging that the county project is on property that the company leases.
Since 2007, ATAS has leased the site and operated a communications tower on Jefferson Street next to the South Brooksville Community Center. According to the complaint filed by the company, several other companies operated the tower previously.
Earlier this year, the county began to excavate a portion of the 5.6-acre site, which it purchased in 2010 from Dauson Supply Corporation. The county has a long-term plan to alleviate flooding in south Brooksville and the drainage project on the Jefferson Street site was 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 the 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 at the site, the complaint said.
In a court filing by deputy county attorney Jon Jouben late last month, the county "needs to complete construction of the drainage retention area on or before Jan. 30, 2014, or it will lose approximately $200,000 in funding for the project from the state of Florida.''
Jouben also notes that state environmental rules will require the contractor to secure and maintain the site, which is not currently part of the job they were hired to complete.
A federal judge is slated to conduct a hearing next week on a motion to seek a longer term shutdown of the project through an injunction.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.