Hernando commissioners narrowly approve alcohol sales at more sponsored events

BROOKSVILLE — Even after the success of last month's Reggae Festival, some county commissioners still had concerns about serving alcohol at county-sponsored events.

A divided commission agreed Tuesday to let county Parks And Recreation serve beer and wine at more events, including a two-day event planned in September.

Alcohol sales at the reggae event generated about $3,000 in profit, said Parks And Recreation Director Pat Fagan. But that wasn't the whole purpose of the event. "It's providing additional recreational activities to the community,'' he said.

Commissioner Rose Rocco, who spent several hours at the festival, said she didn't see any alcohol-related problems, adding that she has received positive comments about the event.

"I have somewhat of a problem with this,'' said Commissioner Jim Adkins, who noted that he would rather see private vendors selling at the events rather than county employees.

County resident Michael Burmann told commissioners that he believed people were overwhelmingly against the alcohol sales and that the commission should consider that.

Commission Chairman Dave Russell asked how much business would be lost if the county hosted such events in the future and didn't offer beer and wine. Fagan said he believed that the alcohol sales did draw a number of people to the event.

Commissioners voted 3-2 to allow serving of beer and wine at two additional events, with Adkins and Russell voting no.

In other business:

• Commissioner Jeff Stabins told the board that the Budget And Finance Committee wanted the County Commission to reconsider its recent vote to allow in-house maintenance staff to build the new courtroom in the government center. Since that vote, the St. Petersburg Times has reported that similar projects done in-house were done on overtime and after hours.

County Administrator David Hamilton told commissioners he was meeting with county engineer Charles Mixson and assistant engineer Gregg Sutton this week to gather more information for the budget committee and the commission.

• Hamilton apologized for hiring an outside law firm to assist the county in the first bargaining session with the Teamsters Union earlier this month. He said he now knows that such decisions must be made by the commissioners. "You have been to the woodshed,'' Russell told him.

Commissioners voted to pay the $2,186 bill from the law firm of Thompson, Sizemore, Gonzalez and Hearing, P.A.

• Commissioners held a public hearing on the proposed new water and sewer fees crafted to pay operational costs and pay for $150-million in planned utility upgrades.

The restructured water rates, which will be phased in over five years, would mean the typical water and sewer bill for the user of 8,000 gallons of water per month would increase from $42.25 to $43.01 next year. By 2014, that bill would rise to $57.12.

The hearing was continued until June 9 at 9:30 a.m. to meet a requirement county staff just discovered that all utility customers be notified of the rate increase in their utility bills.

• Commissioners approved changes to eight existing personnel policies and added a new fraud policy. Cheryl Marsden, personnel director, said she has been working on the policies that she has seen needed changes since she came on board months ago.

Policies ranging from military leave to bereavement leave, vehicle usage and tuition reimbursement were tweaked.

Commissioners questioned the genesis of the fraud policy and Hamilton said it was an attempt to formalize the process county human resources, county legal staff and audit services functions have used when past personnel issues have arisen.

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

Hernando commissioners narrowly approve alcohol sales at more sponsored events 05/12/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 8:35pm]

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