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Hernando Commission votes to buy parcels near contaminated public works site

BROOKSVILLE — The planned cleanup of the contaminated soil and water at the county's old Department of Public Works site has dragged on for more than 17 years and, so far, the focus has been on testing.

On Wednesday, a new chapter was opened.

The County Commission voted unanimously to spend $130,000 to buy two parcels adjacent to the southeast corner of the compound and secure a release from property owners saying they will not pursue any future personal injury claims arising from the contaminated site.

The commission's action provided for the purchase of a single-family home and an adjacent vacant lot owned by Essie Mae Holmes and Sandra Holmes.

Property appraiser records place the value at $52,663 on the 2008 tax rolls.

"Since acceptable soil levels differ for on-site versus off-site property, DEP (the state Department of Environmental Protection) suggests informally that the county purchase of the parcels ... would lower remediation costs and demonstrate county good faith in beginning to resolve neighborhood issues,'' according to the staff memo to commissioners.

"The purchase price is just a small portion of the amount spent on soil assessment for the old DPW site,'' the staff memo said.

The money would come from a fund set aside to pay costs related to the contamination at the compound, which is on Dr. M.L. King Jr. Boulevard on the south side of Brooksville.

The county is also in conversation with the owner of another parcel that may be purchased.

Commissioner Jim Adkins, who reminded fellow commissioners that he doesn't usually favor county home purchases, explained that he was willing to spend the money in this case since the county caused the problem.

Commission Chairman Dave Russell agreed. "I'd do almost anything to be done with it,'' he said.

The compound is contaminated with a variety of chemical and petroleum products from its years of use by the Department of Public Works. Once final testing is completed, the county expects to work with the DEP on a formal plan to clean up the site.

Several months ago, again to demonstrate the county's interest in finally moving the remediation forward, the top several feet of soil were removed from part of the area and replaced with clean fill dirt.

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

Fast facts

Other County Commission business

The Hernando County Commission on Wednesday:

• Voted to establish a burn ban until high fire threat conditions subside. The ban came a day after the state Division of Forestry issued a warning that the recent hard freezes, low rainfall, low humidity and winds have combined to create a wildfire danger. County Fire Chief Mike Nickerson told commissioners that Wednesday's fire index for Hernando was a 611 on a scale of 1 to 800, putting it in the danger zone.

• Put on hold plans to meet with the local business group Hernando Progress. Len Tria of the organization e-mailed the county Tuesday, saying that scheduling conflicts would prevent a meeting on Feb. 26.

The meeting, which had been planned for Pasco-Hernando Community College, raised an issue with Commissioner Jeff Stabins. He wrote a memo in which he said he would prefer inviting the group to a regular commission meeting where there was better public access.

"What we shouldn't do is allow a private group of businessmen with their own agenda to dictate where and when we meet as a board to discuss public business,'' Stabins wrote.

• Acting as the county's Municipal Planning Organization, approved the formal list of transportation project priorities to send to state officials in case federal economic stimulus money is made available.

The list includes a variety of resurfacing projects on county roads as well as State Road 50, a continuous turn lane for a stretch of Deltona Boulevard and, in the city of Brooksville, construction of Governor Boulevard and the resurfacing of a portion of North Avenue.

Commissioners delayed ranking a broader list of possible stimulus projects until more information is known about the criteria.

Hernando Commission votes to buy parcels near contaminated public works site 02/11/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 11, 2009 8:21pm]
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