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Hernando commissioners okay rezoning of land that expands mine site

BROOKSVILLE — To understand the full impact on her community, Nancy Frizelle said, you actually have to live there.

That's why Frizelle, president of the Whispering Oaks Estates Homeowners Association, invited county commissioners to come to her house when the next blast erupts at the nearby E.R. Jahna Industries rock mine.

"You will get a firsthand experience of what the sensation is,'' she said. "It will give you maybe a different view of things.''

Commissioners didn't take Frizelle up on her offer.

Instead, they unanimously approved the rezoning of 112 acres — the first step in an expansion of the mine's existing 660-acre site that will bring blasting and mining closer to some residential areas of Ridge Manor, on the county's east side.

Neighbors have voiced concerns about the effect the explosions have had and will have on their homes and their peace.

"This is a quality of life issue to us,'' said Lynn Gruber-White, vice president of the Ridge Manor Property Owners Association.

While she said officials with the mine have been working with residents, they still have concerns.

The acreage has always been identified as mining land in the county's comprehensive plan and on the future land use map. But Gruber-White noted that other county maps list the land as Equestrian Trails, a platted subdivision that was never built. She said neighbors assumed that, if the mine ever expanded, it would be to the east and not to the north.

Darryl Johnston, the attorney representing Jahna, told commissioners that at an earlier hearing before the county's Planning and Zoning Commission, it had become clear that residents did not know to whom to complain when they worry about the effects of blasting. It was also clear that the residents want to be on the notification list so they knew when blasting will occur.

Johnston said mining officials are taking care of those concerns.

He also assured both the residents and the commission that the mine does not blast above the "base level,'' and as long as it stays below that level there should be no damage to nearby property.

In addition, Johnston noted that the rezoning approval does not give Jahna permission to mine. There are still permits that must be sought, followed by an extensive master planning process with the county that will include discussion of issues such as buffering and setbacks.

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

In other business

The Hernando County Commission on Tuesday:

• Voted u nanimously to hire from within to fill the newly revamped job of public safety director, giving County Administrator Len Sossamon the choice of picking current public safety director Mike Nickerson or Spring Hill Fire Chief Mike Rampino. The new job description also requires the person chosen to be working toward a bachelor's degree.

• Voted 4-1 to move forward with the $4.5 million purchase of radio communication equipment to replace components of the aging system used by the Hernando Sheriff's Office and nearly every other county agency. Presented with five funding options, the board agreed to make the initial payment to Motorola and pay the remaining $3.7 million over the next 10 years. Commissioner James Adkins dissented, favoring an option with a larger initial payment. The board agreed to help cover the expense by increasing a telecommunications tax levied on telephone bills. The formal vote on that move, which would add 44 cents to a $100 phone bill and bring in an additional $400,000 a year, will take place at an upcoming meeting.

• Voted to seek proposals from consultants to help the county deal with the red tape involved with collecting money through Project Restore, a program through which counties expect to collect a share of the fine money from BP related to the 2010 gulf oil spill.

• Listened to a request for help from Michael Heard of the Florida Blueberry Festival. She sought $25,000 in sponsorship money for the 2013 festival, an agreement to help with the closure of state roads for the event and help with the set-up of the festival by agreeing to close county government at noon May 3. Commissioners said they would consider the requests at a later meeting.

• By consensus, agreed to stop all work on trying to reconfigure space in the government center to make more room for the judiciary. Commissioners stopped short of deciding what to do with the $700,000 that remains within their control in the old judicial fund.

• Concurred with the state surgeon general's appointment of Robin Wright as the new administrator of the Hernando County Health Department. Wright, 46, is currently doing double duty as administrator of the Putnam County Health Department and interim administrator of the Citrus County Health Department. She is expected to start in Hernando in early January.

• Gave tentative approval for the county to apply for a $1.5 million Community Development Block Grant to pay for infrastructure at the corporate park at Brooksville-Tampa Regional Airport to ready a site for Accuform's new headquarters and manufacturing plant.

• Approved a temporary site for a fire station on the east side of Eldridge Road south of Spring Hill Drive in Spring Hill. A modular building will be placed on site and until a permanent station can be built at the nearby Spring Hill Branch/Harold G. Zopp Memorial Library on Spring Hill Drive.

Hernando commissioners okay rezoning of land that expands mine site 12/11/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 8:19pm]

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