Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando commission discusses space needs, seeks appraisals

BROOKSVILLE — As they sort out the need for more office and judicial space, county commissioners agreed Tuesday to ask the owners of the downtown SunTrust Bank building and 12 acres at the old Brooksville Regional Hospital site for appraisals on their properties.

The commission stopped short of taking further action, holding off until County Administrator David Hamilton can present his space needs plan on March 8.

Commissioners also were interested in conducting a new survey of judicial space needs, possibly by a Washington, D.C.-based independent company that Commissioner John Druzbick suggested.

The board also heard from Chief Circuit Judge Daniel Merritt Sr., a frequent visitor to their meetings to press the commission for more room for the local judiciary.

Last week, Merritt and County Commissioner Jeff Stabins engaged in a heated and public war of words over the issue, including an unprecedented situation in which each man filed a public records request of the other. Merritt had termed Stabins' actions "sophomoric,'' while Stabins called the judge's response "grumpy.''

On Tuesday, both were more restrained.

"All we've really ever asked for is reasonable and necessary space,'' Merritt said, noting that was the language in the statute requiring the county to provide what the judges need. Merritt also discouraged the board from making any comparisons between this need and the palatial Tallahassee courthouse that has been dubbed the Taj Mahal.

The local need is more like "the garage Mahal … putting three vehicles into a one-car garage,'' he said.

Stabins apologized for "the tone of my rhetoric" in sharply worded e-mails that he exchanged with Merritt last week as he sought a copy of a judicial space needs study done by the county several years ago.

Merritt chided Stabins for not simply picking up the phone or visiting him rather than exchanging e-mails, portions of which were then published by the St. Petersburg Times. Each agreed to work together professionally in the future.

Merritt made a point of shaking Stabins' hand before leaving the meeting.

Merritt told the commissioners that since 2006, the board has talked about judicial space needs 16 times. He ran down more than half a dozen proposals that had been discussed and dismissed and noted that since 2006, only the one courtroom has been added at the government center.

Merritt said he understood the "fiscal realities'' the county faces. While reusing existing buildings is not a perfect solution, he said, "we need space so we'll take it however we can get it.''

Merritt also warned that several new judges have been recommended for the circuit, and that the space needs will continue to grow.

While he did not object to a new study, Merritt said the need had already been accepted and proved in the past by the words of past commissions and county administrators.

He strongly discouraged the commission from touching any of the $18 million that had been set aside for the judicial center and especially not to use it to balance the county's budget.

Stabins suggested taking the $6 million in the judicial fund raised through court fees and spending a small amount on a space needs study and the rest on any space reconfiguration shown to be needed in the existing downtown government center.

The remaining $12 million in the fund could be used for tax rebates, economic development and relief for ongoing revenue shortfalls and reserves, Stabins suggested.

Commissioner Wayne Dukes said he liked the idea of getting appraisals for the properties offered to the county and the space needs study.

"Hopefully, what we do now should last us for years and years,'' he said, noting that the government functions should stay in Brooksville, the county seat.

"We don't need buildings scattered all over the place'' to provide county services, Dukes said.

While acknowledging that the judiciary has been patient with the county, Druzbick said that building the latest courtroom "cost us substantial money" and that the county needs to get its facilities consolidated to realize some cost savings.

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

Hernando commission discusses space needs, seeks appraisals 02/22/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 22, 2011 8:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Bay Times journalists wins 17 Green Eyeshade Awards

    Human Interest

    Tampa Bay Times journalists placed first in seven categories of the prestigious Green Eyeshade awards, which honors outstanding journalism in the Southeast.

  2. What you need to know for Tuesday, May 23

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    A manatee swims near the entrance to Three Sisters Springs on Kings Bay, some of many springs that feed the Crystal River in Citrus County. The Southwest Florida Water Management District is considering a proposal that would allow a decrease to the amount of fresh water flowing in the Crystal River so that water can be diverted to fuel development. Critics say similar proposals around the state could threaten Florida's environmental health. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2014]
  3. Ailing Florida springs could be tapped further to fuel development

    Water

    BROOKSVILLE — Efforts by state officials to set a minimum flow for its iconic springs have stirred up a wave of public opposition. Opponents contend the state is willing to destroy its springs in order to justify continuing to provide water for new development.

    A manatee swims near the entrance to Three Sisters Springs on Kings Bay, one of many springs that feeds the Crystal River in Citrus County. The Southwest Florida Water Management District is considering a proposal to decrease the amount of fresh water flowing in Crystal River so that water can be diverted to fuel development. Critics say similar proposals around the state could threaten Florida's environmental health. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2014
  4. Canned by lawmakers, PTC staff say they are now forgotten

    Transportation

    TAMPA — After roughly 20 years in the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Mike Gonzalez got another job with a uniform and badge when he was hired in 2015 as an inspector for the Public Transportation Commission.

    The badge that PTC inspectors carry while on duty. State lawmakers voted to abolish the agency this year leaving its remaining employees fearing for their future.
  5. Ferries from Florida not a priority for Cuban government

    Tourism

    Cruises and commercial flights now link Tampa and Havana, but before the U.S. government approved either for such journeys, ferries had the nod.

    Baja Ferries was among a handful of companies the U.S. government approved to service Cuba two years ago.
But Cuba's ambassador to the United States recently said the wait may be long. Ferries are not a high priority for Cuba.
This is an example of one of the overnight passenger ferries the  Baja Ferries wanted  to use to reach Cuba from Florida.


Photo Credit: Baja Ferries USA LLC