BROOKSVILLE — Federal stimulus money may be available to pay most of the cost of expanding Hernando County's landfill.
The county got notice last week that the new landfill cell under construction is eligible for nearly $5 million in loan and grant money through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
After Hernando officials hold a public meeting on the funds on Feb. 23, they can apply for the federal money.
"This means we have cleared a major hurdle," Joe Stapf, county utilities director, said Monday. "It now comes down to a final decision on how our project measures up to all the others currently under consideration."
With that economic stimulus money, the county could hold the line on the landfill assessment Hernando County property owners pay each year, he said. Last year, Stapf and county commissioners considered raising the fee from $63 to $102, but other cost-cutting measures were implemented instead.
The Agriculture Department is requiring Hernando to pay at least $1.4 million for the project, dollars Stapf said have already been set aside.
The contract to build and line the new cell is $5.5 million and just over another $1 million has been spent for pre-excavation work and stabilization by grouting around areas thought to be prone to sinkholes.
The construction work is about 30 percent complete, and workers are already installing the liners on the main sections of the new cell, Stapf said.
Hernando County is facing a tight deadline for the work since space at the landfill could be used up by August, the same month final construction and approval to begin operations at the new cell is expected.
County officials don't know how much money would come as a grant and how much as a loan, but Stapf said even a loan would be a big help because it would be at a very low-interest rate.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.