Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando commission halts search for county judicial center space

BROOKSVILLE — County commissioners on Tuesday abandoned their search for a form to make their plans to build a judicial center a reality.

But that doesn't mean the center, for which Hernando has socked away nearly $19 million, is dead. Chief Judge Daniel Merritt made it clear Tuesday that he won't let that happen.

Bill Rain, one of the investors who bought Brooksville Regional Hospital from the county in 2007, again made a pitch to use that $19 million to move administrative offices to the old hospital and turn over the government center to the judiciary.

But commissioners didn't bite.

Instead, they formally rejected the dozen or so proposals received last year outlining various ways to build the complex through a public-private partnership.

Commissioners had suspended the process in the spring to deal with more pressing budget issues. They also agreed then to use in-house staff to build one courtroom to help ease the space crunch in an area in the government center now used as a jury assembly room.

That project was supposed to be under way months ago but with so many offices moving around in the courthouse, the new courtroom has been pushed back and now isn't expected to be done until later next year.

"We're in dire need,'' Judge Merritt said.

The recent moves in the government center have been a logistical challenge. Before the courtroom is built, a new jury assembly room needs to be constructed. But the county's code enforcement staff still occupies that space and will be there until their new quarters, at Animal Services, are finished, sometime early next year.

Merritt reminded the commission that talks about new space have stretched over the last decade and that the board has a legal responsibility to provide it.

"The point is you can't continue to ignore the 800-pound gorilla in the room,'' he said. "Sooner or later, there will be consequences.''

Commissioners turned to their administrator to find a way to make the courtroom happen sooner, even if that meant the code enforcement staff would have to move twice.

County Administrator David Hamilton assured Merritt and the commission that he plans to begin a more informal process to find a way to make the judicial center happen. He suggested holding workshops to discuss the ideas brought forward and then making a final report before the commission has to set its budget a year from now.

Merritt said he wanted to see continued action. "We need to move forward,'' he said.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at or (352) 848-1434.

fast facts

In other business

• Commissioners unanimously approved a new contract for their attorney, Garth Coller. The only changes to the contract include a one-year perpetual renewal rather than the four-year contract with an automatic renewal in the current contract; elimination of the $300 fuel allowance; the same 10 furlough days as other county employees; and a requirement for two votes at public meetings to terminate the contract. Coller's base salary and benefits come to $175,882.

• The board voted to disband their two standing committees, the Budget and Finance Committee and the Business and Economic Development Committee. The board will hold more workshops instead. They decided the full board discussions were more efficient and noted they still expected public comments through that process.

Hernando commission halts search for county judicial center space 10/27/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Large brush fire burning in Brooker Creek Preserve near Westchase


    A large brush fire is burning early Thursday morning in the Brooker Creek Preserve just north of Oldsmar near Westchase, but appears to be contained, according to reports.

  2. Clearwater confronts a new wave of homeless people, many addicted to spice

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — Having lived on the streets since 2014, when he said God ordered him to go out and watch over the homeless, Scott Elfstrom has seen new faces brought out by the typical drugs, despair or plain bad luck.

    Clearwater police Sgt. Rodney Johnson talks to a group of homeless people near the Clearwater Police Department. Johnson has worked to decrease the amount of spice being used in the homeless population.
  3. Preservation group's efforts help revitalize Hudson Cemetery

    Human Interest

    HUDSON — Since the 1970s, the area's unhoused could count on Hudson Cemetery as a place to eat, drink and doze. They would crouch behind bushes on the 2 acres — sandwiched between an ABC liquor store and a shopping center — and leave behind beer cans, cigarette butts and rotting clothes. They would …

    Dennis Kingsley, former president of the Hudson Cemetery Preservation Association, looks at recently cleaned headstones at the cemetery. It got a new fence and was cleared of weeds and brush in June.
  4. Adam Putnam
  5. Forecast: Summertime heat, late-day showers soldier on in Tampa Bay


    The summertime pattern of hot temperatures and afternoon showers continues through the second half of the week across Tampa Bay.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]