BROOKSVILLE — Pushing talk of consolidation to a new level, County Commissioner Dave Russell on Tuesday proposed folding four of the elected constitutional offices into the Hernando County government.
That would mean eliminating the positions of elected property appraiser, tax collector, clerk of the Circuit Court and supervisor of elections.
Under Russell's proposal, all the duplicated services provided in each of those offices could be merged into one entity.
Russell challenged fellow Commissioner John Druzbick and the focus group of business leaders he is working with to devise a mechanism to bring the concept to the county's voters to the presidential preference primary in early 2012.
Quoting from Article 8 of the Florida Constitution, Russell pointed out that, even without a charter government, by "a special law'' approved by the voters "any county office may be abolished when all the duties of the office prescribed by general law are transferred to another office.''
Russell told Druzbick, "Your group has an opportunity to see if real consolidation and reform is possible.''
"You've really thrown a big challenge out there,'' Druzbick replied.
He told commissioners that the focus group had identified about 10 areas the members thought consolidation could happen and was narrowing the list. He also said the group was looking at a model in Sarasota where the finance functions of multiple offices are under the same umbrella.
Russell said he didn't think that the sheriff should be combined with the fire department, but the four remaining constitutional officers should be the focus. "I think most of our constitutional officers are looking to retire in 2012,'' he said.
Commissioner Jeff Stabins jokingly warned Russell later that the sitting constitutional officers — Property Appraiser Alvin Mazourek, Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams, Clerk of the Circuit Court Karen Nicolai and Tax Collector Juanita Sikes — would all be outside waiting for him after the meeting.
"Yeah,'' Russell said, "with baseball bats.''
In other business:
• School superintendent Bryan Blavatt asked the board to keep the requirements for school concurrency. The state had required that counties coordinate development projects so developers, and not taxpayers, would pay the cost for roads, utilities and classrooms that would be needed when a new development was approved.
Some of those requirements are voluntary and Blavatt pointed out that the school district is stretched to find the resources that it needs and wants to continue to partner with the county in the same way that it has.
Commissioners voiced strong support for keeping the concurrency rules they have for schools and even expanding on their partnerships with the school district as both entities are stretched to provide services.
• The board approved a request by Stabins to have his own show, to be called Memory Lane. The show will be taped by Government Broadcasting and aired on the government channel 622.
Commissioner Wayne Dukes said he didn't care for the idea and Chairman Jim Adkins said it would work only if Stabins didn't push a personal agenda. Russell pushed for the "trial" nature of the show.
Stabins somewhat sarcastically thanked his fellow board members for their enthusiastic support. He tapes the first show today.
• The commission deferred until July 19 a decision to lease the Little Rock Cannery to the Hernando Historical Museum Association for two years. The association plans to run the facility as a seasonal cannery and as a museum to display items recalling the building's original use as a school house.
• The board approved a boating restriction ordinance that includes specific rules regarding boating near dredging operations such as the one going on at the Hernando Beach Channel. The rules include a no-wake zone within 300 feet of dredge equipment and a prohibition of boating over floating dredge lines and pipes.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.