Hernando officials look at more SunTrust property for county offices

BROOKSVILLE — Two new parcels of SunTrust Bank property near downtown Brooksville are getting a close look from Hernando County Administrator David Hamilton and several of the county's constitutional officers.

County officials recently took Property Appraiser Alvin Mazourek, Tax Collector Juanita Sikes and Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams on a tour of the parcels on S Broad Street, once the site of Register Chevrolet.

Hamilton is considering a new option for county government space needs — moving those officials and the county parks offices to that site, which is about two blocks from the downtown government center. SunTrust no longer occupies the property.

Previously, SunTrust Bank offered the county its existing bank at E Jefferson and Main streets, across from the government center, for $4 million. The commissioners didn't turn down that offer, but asked Hamilton and the county staff to continue looking at ways to move offices around in the government center to make room for more courtrooms.

Hamilton has declined to talk about details of the new option until he finishes a report that will go to the County Commission on Aug. 9.

Mazourek confirmed that he and the others have visited the site and that it seemed to offer the space they need. Mazourek has only been in his current spot on the fourth floor of the government center for two years.

He moved from the third floor of Brooksville City Hall to save the cost of renting space from the city.

"I feel like a gypsy,'' he said Thursday.

Williams alluded to the new site during Tuesday's County Commission meeting. She said that a new site she recently toured would provide sufficient accommodations for voting equipment now stored in a small building on the site of the old Department of Public Works compound in south Brooksville.

A warehouse on the Register Chevrolet site would be a perfect fit for the bulky voting equipment, she said. The other, larger building on that parcel, which had been used by SunTrust, is big and open, she said.

"It would help out all the way around for all of us on the same site,'' Williams said, noting that the three offices do work with one another.

"I think it's a good concept. It would be workable,'' Williams said.

The three officials have also toured the bank building, but Williams said the old Register site would work better. Space in the bank's lobby is limited, and with each of the three offices having a heavy component of public service, they need space to accommodate that.

The bank also has very defined spaces for offices. A more open building would allow a more flexible arrangement, Williams said.

Sikes was unavailable for comment Thursday, but Mazourek said the other plus to the site on Broad Street is that since Sikes must take over driver's licensing functions Oct. 1, there would be sufficient room on the old Register display lot to create a driving course.

The current course is at the Florida Highway Patrol office on U.S. 98 near the North Campus of the Pasco-Hernando Community College.

The two parcels on S Broad Street total just under 5 acres. The property appraiser's website lists the market value of the parcel with the old showroom and display lot at $267,882 and the market value of the parcel with the two other buildings at $1.5 million.

Hamilton's broader plan has been to renovate the courtroom in the historic portion of the courthouse as the new chambers for the County Commission. That would reopen the front of the historic building to the public.

Courtrooms could then be built in phases throughout the spaces vacated in the government center.

Circuit Judge Daniel Merritt Sr. has told the commission repeatedly that new courtrooms and related spaces are needed.

The last public discussion of that issue was in March, just days after the Hernando Times published a survey showing that the seven existing courtrooms in the building were empty nearly 60 percent of the time they were checked over a three-week period.

The published report also found that the judges' caseloads had dropped by 15 percent from 2006 to 2010.

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

Hernando officials look at more SunTrust property for county offices 07/28/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 28, 2011 9:30pm]

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