Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando commission will enforce park, boat ramp fees after all

BROOKSVILLE — The County Commission on Tuesday wrestled with two issues tied to how, during a period of falling revenue, Hernando can still provide parks and other community amenities through user fees.

First, the commissioners agreed to enforce the park and boat ramp fees they put in place last year.

Next, they tabled a plan to implement fees for using athletic fields. Instead, they will once again look for a way to tap into the county's sensitive lands fund to maintain county parks.

Approving the ordinance to enforce the park parking and boat ramp fees got commissioners out of an awkward situation they created in early December when they rejected an ordinance that would have allowed law enforcement officers and county employees to issue $40 citations to those who fail to pay to park at several parks and use the county's boat ramps.

Those fees apply at Alfred A. McKethan Park at Pine Island, Rogers Park on the Weeki Wachee River, the Centennial Rotary Dog Park and use of all county boat ramps.

From Oct. 1 through December, the fees generated nearly $43,000.

But once the public learned there would be no enforcement, some residents had begun to seek refunds for annual fees they had already paid. Others talked about not paying when they visited parks.

Commissioner Wayne Dukes had said that it could be a safety concern to have county employees handing out citations.

After the strong public reaction, Dukes said he spoke with the sheriff and learned that he was willing to have deputies swing by the parks periodically to provide enforcement, taking county employees out of the equation. Because of that, Dukes said he was willing to change his vote on the ordinance.

Commissioner John Druzbick was the sole no vote Tuesday. He continued his opposition to the park fees, saying that he did not believe staffers had done all they could last year to cut spending.

He listed several areas where money could have been saved, including the county's contribution to employee health insurance for their families, additional savings from department consolidations and raising funds through selling unneeded county-owned land and buildings.

Dukes was critical of the county's entire process of approving the fees. He said that the program, including enforcement, should have been approved before the county purchased and installed parking meters.

"This whole program was done backwards,'' he said.

Pat Fagan, parks and recreation manager, apologized and said that the program from this point on would be run correctly.

As for using athletic fields, commissioners in August approved $10 per hour daytime and $15 an hour nighttime fees.

Shortly after they were put in place on Oct. 1, there was a flood of criticism from youth leagues. The fees were suspended pending a review by Parks and Recreation officials.

After meeting with youth league officials, the county proposed a $20 per-player per-season fee. Adult, outside and AAU leagues would pay the $10 per hour field use fee.

Any team using the fields at night with lights would have paid $15 per hour.

On Tuesday, commissioners heard from some youth league officials that the $20 was understandable but others were adamantly opposed and claimed that much-needed youth activities would fade if such a fee were charged.

Commissioner Dave Russell suggested tabling the action. He said he still wants to find a way to use some of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in the county's sensitive lands fund to pay for park maintenance. His suggestion was tapping the fund for the next two years, then asking voters in 2012 if such a use was acceptable.

If voters say no, the fund could be paid back with money taken from the county's stormwater fund, Russell suggested. Other commissioners agreed to a delay in the discussion while details are worked out. The topic is expected to be on the Jan. 25 commission agenda.

Dukes said he wanted the county staff to bring back a plan that would show how to cut spending on parks even more than it has been cut in the past including a plan for which parks should be targeted for closure.

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

In other business

• Commissioners approved hiring Tammy J. Heon as tourism development coordinator. Heon of Zephyrhills most recently worked as director of marketing and public relations for the Ogunquit Playhouse Foundation in Maine, and before that she was the manager of creative services for a promotions company in New Hampshire. She replaces Sue Rupe, who retired last month.

• A divided commission approved an ordinance that would increase the cost of civil and criminal traffic offenses by $15 to raise an estimated $300,000 to $600,000 annually to help pay for more judicial space. Commissioners Jim Adkins and Dukes voted no.

• Adkins was elected commission chairman for 2011. Dukes was chosen as vice chairman and Commissioner Jeff Stabins is second vice chairman.

Hernando commission will enforce park, boat ramp fees after all 01/11/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 7:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. JFK's last birthday: Gifts, champagne and wandering hands on the presidential yacht


    It has been 100 years since John F. Kennedy's birth on May 29, 1917, at his parents' home in Brookline, Mass., just outside Boston. Over the course of his life, Kennedy enjoyed lavish birthday celebrations, the most famous being a Democratic fundraising bash at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962, when a sequined …

    President John F. Kennedy aboard the Sequoia in 1963 opening birthday presents. [Robert Knudsen | John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum]
  2. 1 in 4 Florida adults aren't registered to vote, according to non-partisan group


    TALLAHASSEE — Five million people in Florida who are eligible to vote aren't registered, according to a nationwide non-partisan group that helps improve the accuracy of state voter rolls.

    Voters line up in front of the Coliseum Ballroom in St. Petersburg on Nov. 8. A non-partisan group estimates that more than a quarter of Florida's adult-age population isn't registered to vote. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. Rays morning after: A lot that went into a marathon win


    Rays manager Kevin Cash had a simple strategy when Fox Sports Sun's Alex Corddry asked him how the team would move on from Sunday's marathon win and get ready to face the Rangers tonight in Texas:

    Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays celebrates as teammate Michael Martinez slides safely into home plate to score a run against the Minnesota Twins during the 14th inning.
  4. Navy parachutist dies during demonstration over Hudson River


    JERSEY CITY, N.J. — In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, a Navy Seal team member fell to his death Sunday after his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River.

    Officials surround a U.S. Navy Seal's parachute that landed in a parking lot after the parachutist fell into the Hudson River when his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the river in Jersey City, N.J. The Navy said the parachutist was pronounced dead at Jersey City Medical Center. [Joe Shine | Jersey Journal via AP]
  5. As White House defends Jared Kushner, experts question his alleged back-channel move


    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration argued over the weekend that back-channel communications are acceptable in building dialogue with foreign governments, part of an effort to minimize fallout over White House adviser Jared Kushner's reported discussion about creating a secret conduit to the Kremlin at a Russian …

    President-elect Donald Trump embraces son in law Jared Kushner, as his daughter Ivanka Trump stands nearby, after his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of Nov. 9. [Mark Wilson | Getty Images]