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Hernando commissioners approve largest lime rock road paving project in recent memory

Portions of 28 lime rock roads, largely in Royal Highlands, will be paved in what amounts to one of the largest such projects in recent memory.

Times (2009)

Portions of 28 lime rock roads, largely in Royal Highlands, will be paved in what amounts to one of the largest such projects in recent memory.

BROOKSVILLE — The issues debated were familiar.

Lime rock roads are expensive to maintain. They throw dust clouds into the air that sicken those with breathing issues and coat houses, trees and vehicles with a white film.

On the other side of the argument, paving the roads costs a lot of money, too, and people who bought property on lime rock roads should have known what they were in for.

What wasn't so familiar was the size of the lime rock road paving project that the Hernando County Commission considered Tuesday.

In the end, the commission approved the project unanimously, taking another bite out of the 500 miles of unpaved roads in the county.

Ever since the commission loosened rules for getting lime rock road paving projects approved earlier this year, the county's Transportation Services Department has been flooded with requests.

Under the new rules, residents pay a fee to have their roadway surveyed by the county, and if 51 percent or more of those who return their cards say they want to have their street paved, the process of forming a municipal service benefit unit continues.

The county pays one-third of the ultimate construction cost; the residents pay the remaining two-thirds, divided according to the number of lots along the road.

On Tuesday, Brian Malmberg, assistant county administrator for operations, presented the commission with what amounted to the largest paving project in the time he has been on the job.

Portions of 28 lime rock roads, largely in Royal Highlands and totaling nearly 18 miles, were included. Of the 1,112 parcels along the roads, 1,031 could pay the assessment. When cards were delivered to the property owners, 558 came back, and 58 percent favored the project, Malmberg told commissioners.

The old rule required 60 percent of property owners to say yes on a petition.

For those owning property in what Malmberg referred to as Royal Highlands 2013-Road Area B, the total construction cost is an estimated $4.25 million, with each lot owner paying an estimated $3,314. On a 10-year installment plan, including interest, the cost would be approximately $473 a year.

Residents from the area packed the commission chambers.

Joe Celentano, who lives on Meinert Avenue, said that the lime rock wasn't just a cosmetic problem, but a real health concern. He asked how the cost of the paving project could be compared to the value of a human life.

Roger Giordano, on Jenny Wren Road, said he wanted the road paved, but didn't understand why the impact fees he paid when he built his house in 2005 didn't cover the paving costs.

"I really feel like I paid for this road. What happened to the money?'' he said.

Malmberg said impact fee money is reserved for more heavily traveled collector roads.

Ester Drive resident George Herman said he had no interest in seeing his road paved. A 30-year resident of the area, he said he couldn't afford the financial burden and questioned why experimental road surfaces like asphalt millings couldn't be used, with the county picking up the tab.

The cost of the paving will be less expensive than the medications that Horned Owl Road resident Jackson Jean-Marie said he must buy for his wife, who suffers from asthma.

"I am for this project,'' Jean-Marie said. "It's been a long time overdue.''

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

In other business

The Hernando County Commission on Tuesday:

• Unanimously approved a new fertilizer ordinance that relies heavily on certification and training of applicators to be sure that damaging phosphates and nitrates do not run off into streams and rivers. Certified, trained applicators will be able to apply only slow-release fertilizers from Jan. 1 to March 31 each year. The county plans an outreach program to explain the new rules.

• Agreed to move forward with a phased-in expansion plan for the county's regionalized wastewater treatment plant program. The plan will gradually expand the plant at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport and allow the county to finally take the troublesome treatment plant in Spring Hill off line by summer 2016. That plant, on Osowaw Boulevard, has been the source of odors for years. The overall plan will cost approximately $20 million when completed.

• Balked at establishing a litigation reserve fund, even though Clerk of the Court Don Barbee suggested it would be prudent to set aside money. A divided commission voted recently to not pay for the legal defense of Gary Schraut, chairman of the Aviation Authority, who is being sued for defamation. County officials differed on whether the money for such a fund, with a suggested level of $250,000, should come from county or airport reserves. Ultimately, the commission tabled the idea.

• With the bankruptcy of the county's original primary recycling company and the court awarding the contract to another firm, voted to seek proposals to change to a single-stream recycling system. In the interim, officials expect no interruption in recycling service.

Hernando commissioners approve largest lime rock road paving project in recent memory 11/12/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 6:49pm]
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