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Hernando commissioners set criteria for new judicial center

BROOKSVILLE — The County Commission is working on getting a detailed picture of what it wants in a new judicial center.

The board on Tuesday directed the county administrator to set up a committee that will take an existing list of needed criteria and from it create a request for proposals from companies that would want to take on the project.

At the same time, the county will continue with a plan to build a new courtroom on the third floor of the government center where the jury assembly room is now.

Hernando County's judges have long pressed the commission about the need for new space for the county's judiciary.

Commissioners shelved plans for a new judicial center last year, but in February, they heard a pitch from Bill Rain, a representative of Metro Bay Development LLC, the firm developing the old Brooksville Regional Hospital site.

Previously, Metro Bay had proposed converting the government center into a judicial center and moving county administrative offices to the old hospital.

A new pitch to turn part of the old hospital into the judicial center caught the commissioners' attention.

Since then, county officials and legal staff have been working to find a legal and fair method to again seek proposals for the project so others, not just Rain, can submit proposals.

County officials have four main criteria for a facility: It will be a stand-alone, single-entrance secure county courthouse. It will cost no more than $20 million, including the land, which is what the county has set aside for the project. It will be in or adjacent to downtown Brooksville. And local contractors will be considered favorably for the work.

The group approved Tuesday would take those criteria and expand on them into formal requests for proposals.

County Administrator David Hamilton suggested several key county staff members to help with the process, including county airport director Don Silvernell and planning director Ron Pianta. He noted that he was also looking for an engineer to help with the project.

After their work is done, the county would seek a design and build firm to do the job.

Since the process will take some time, Hamilton told commissioners the work on the new courtroom that the board approved last year will start again. Work was on hold while the judicial center discussions have progressed.

The latest space modifications are expected to cost $304,000, Hamilton reported.

In other action this week, Hamilton shared with commissioners his plans to use a local retired businessman to do an operational audit of the county's Department of Public Works.

Hamilton said he met David A. Milliman, a longtime Verizon and GTE executive, when he was representing Hernando Oaks in a discussion about solving a connection issue with utilities in the subdivision.

The county and Hernando Oaks never resolved the complicated issue, but Hamilton said he came to know about Milliman's extensive background.

For $11,000, Milliman will examine the 14 audits and reviews that have been performed in the department in recent years, including nine related to the fleet department. He will eventually make a report to Hamilton regarding how the department should be structured.

The move comes after Hamilton's decision to fire former public works director Charles Mixson earlier this year. Mixson's second in command, Gregg Sutton, quit days later, and Hamilton put utilities engineer Susan Goebel in the interim public works job. That interim arrangement is expected to end in a couple of months and Hamilton said he needed the information to assist with whatever comes next.

"We trust the pressing need and unique opportunity for structural improvement justifies our request that is within the threshold price permitted for administrative authority,'' Hamilton told commissioners in a memo.

Commissioners offered no objections.

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

Hernando commissioners set criteria for new judicial center 03/10/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 6:26pm]
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