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Hernando will push Spring Hill Fire Rescue to consolidate with county's services

BROOKSVILLE — It's been a month since voters rejected a referendum asking them to grant the Spring Hill Fire Rescue District the authority to levy taxes. Now, with no word from the fire board regarding its future intentions, the Hernando County Commission is ready to hand the district its marching orders.

County Commissioner John Druzbick and County Administrator David Hamilton agreed at a workshop Tuesday that they would attend this morning's fire board meeting in the hope of persuading the district to proceed quickly in consolidating its fire and rescue services with those of the county.

A temporary interlocal agreement that has allowed the county to collect property taxes on behalf of the Spring Hill district is set to expire Sept. 30. After that, the district will have no way to fund its services.

Druzbick, who said he found the fire board's inaction frustrating, recommended that the County Commission take quick action to initiate a takeover of the district's operations should the fire board balk at making a decision today.

"Get going; move on it," Druzbick said. "We are now in July. I don't want to pick up the Spring Hill Fire District with no reserves and nothing in it because no action has been taken."

Under a consolidation plan drawn up by Hamilton, a merger could begin shortly after fire commissioners declare a financial emergency with the state. The county would then have the authority under a municipal services taxing unit to collect the 21/2-mill property tax rate now in place.

Hamilton's proposal calls for fire and rescue operations to continue as they exist in Spring Hill, with the county agreeing to honor the department's contract with its firefighters union through September 2013.

Assistant County Attorney Jon Jouben said he and the fire district's attorney, Andrew Salzman, have been working on a plan that would either put the district into receivership to the county or simply merge the operations through an interlocal agreement until the district is dissolved by the Florida Legislature.

The independent district, which was created in 2008 by a special act after voters approved a referendum, can only be dismantled by a legislative act.

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

Hernando will push Spring Hill Fire Rescue to consolidate with county's services 07/12/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 8:59pm]
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