Tuesday, January 23, 2018
News Roundup

How Hernando made sneaky, stinky sewage decision

Sewage plants are boring, but bear with me, please, because they are also very expensive and absolutely necessary to keep us and our environment healthy. Plus, they promote economic growth and — as anyone who lives near a stinky one will tell you — quality of life.

So, decisions about where and how these plants are built are clearly worthy of public discussion. In fact, there aren't that many things more worthy.

But Hernando County commissioners have abandoned a $150 million long-range plan, approved less than four years ago, to modernize the county's entire sewage treatment system. And they did this over the phone and in private offices.

I'd call it a shocking display of government-in-the-shadows, except there was no display at all.

None, that is, unless you count the few minutes set aside for this matter at Tuesday's commission workshop.

I don't.

After all, nobody mentioned the cost of tossing out all of the engineering work we paid for in the old — or, really, not-so-old — plan.

Nor did anyone say a word about how much might be saved in future rate increases. Nor did the staff delve into the details about the capacity of the various plants around the county and how much longer they could be expected to last.

And, surely, it couldn't be a serious discussion if the one engineer on the commission, Nick Nicholson, suggested we don't need to close the foul-smelling plant on Osowaw Boulevard, part of which was built in the 1960s and is quickly rusting away from the inside out; maybe, Nicholson suggested, we could just cover it with a dome instead.

And finally there is conclusive proof that this was a charade rather than a real discussion:

The decision was made last week!

Yep, that's when the county hired Coastal Engineering Associates Inc. of Brooksville to start looking to see if the county had any cheaper options.

And how, exactly, did this happen?

Well, business big shot and Aviation Authority chairman Gary Schraut, along with a designated messenger for business big shots, Len Tria, started making calls to county commissioners.

Commissioners then talked to County Administrator Len Sossamon, who, in turn, passed the word on to Utilities chief Susan Goebel-Canning, who hired Coastal — with a contract small enough not to require competitive bidding but that might help it get bigger contracts in the future.

Maybe Sossamon went along with all of this because he's naive: He came to Florida, the land of government in the sunshine, less than a year ago.

Or maybe he's very savvy. After all, his predecessor, David Hamilton, lost his job after off-the-record calls were made to commissioners by some of these same people — a powerful reminder that it's smart to pay attention to such calls.

If this is all a sneaky plot to benefit some particular business interest, I can't prove it.

So it's possible Schraut and commissioners really are worried about the costs of the next phase of the long-range plan, a $40 million expansion of the sewage plant near the county airport. Maybe they genuinely believe the expansion is too much for our current modest rate of growth.

Fine. Then talk about it in the open. Before the decision is made.

Comments
Lawmakers call for additional investigations into Tampa Bay’s two CareerSource boards

Lawmakers call for additional investigations into Tampa Bay’s two CareerSource boards

Federal and state lawmakers are calling on Congress and the Florida House of Representatives to investigate whether two regional workforce centers inflated the number of people they helped find jobs. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D–St. Petersburg, and sta...
Updated: 1 minute ago
Undersea quake causes fear of tsunami in Alaska; Kentucky teen kills 2 classmates in shooting; ex-gymnast tells Nassar: ‘You didn’t heal me. You only hurt me’; more in U.S. news

Undersea quake causes fear of tsunami in Alaska; Kentucky teen kills 2 classmates in shooting; ex-gymnast tells Nassar: ‘You didn’t heal me. You only hurt me’; more in U.S. news

AlaskaUndersea quake causes panicA powerful undersea earthquake sent Alaskans fumbling for suitcases and racing to evacuation centers in the middle of the night after a cellphone alert warned a tsunami could hit communities along the state’s southern...
Updated: 1 hour ago
MacDill crews shift from Islamic State battle to join winter fight against Taliban

MacDill crews shift from Islamic State battle to join winter fight against Taliban

Now that the fight against the largely defeated Islamic State is winding down, the U.S. Air Force is turning its efforts toward the Taliban and moving aircraft and crews to Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.Crews and a KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refue...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deputies identify 11-month-old who drowned, no other details released

Deputies identify 11-month-old who drowned, no other details released

BRANDON — The 11-month-old girl who drowned in an apartment complex pond on Monday was identified as Deleah Morgan by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday.Deputies released no other details about the incident or the ongoing investigation....
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: A good first step in restoring the right to vote

Editorial: A good first step in restoring the right to vote

Allowing felons a meaningful chance to reclaim their right to vote and rejoin civic life is edging closer to reality in Florida. On Tuesday the state announced that a yearslong petition drive to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot h...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Man, 60, arrested in fatal shooting of his neighbor in Holiday

HOLIDAY — A 60-year-old man fatally shot his neighbor on Tuesday while the younger man stood outside his own home, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said Qiu Feng Kek shot Edward Tudor, 37, outside 3519 Richboro Drive. He died a...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Avalanche causes evacuations in Italy; indictment says Madsen abused journalist Wall before killing her; more in world news

Avalanche causes evacuations in Italy; indictment says Madsen abused journalist Wall before killing her; more in world news

Italy150 evacuated after avalancheFour helicopters evacuated 150 people trapped in a four-star hotel and other remote structures Tuesday after an avalanche, authorities said, as heavy snow caused disruption across the Alps. The Langtauferer Hotel, lo...
Updated: 2 hours ago
ScarFace the Osprey scarfs up prized neckwear to make Coquina Key home

ScarFace the Osprey scarfs up prized neckwear to make Coquina Key home

ST. PETERSBURGSome 25 feet up in the air, towering over Coquina Key, sits an osprey surveying the park below.It is on the hunt for any bit of material so it can prepare a nest for future hatchlings. Whether it be sticks, hay, palm leaves, a trash bag...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Special counsel questions Sessions; Is Trump coming soon?

Special counsel questions Sessions; Is Trump coming soon?

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned for hours in the special counsel’s Russia investigation, the Justice Department said Tuesday, as prosecutors moved closer to a possible interview with President Donald Trump about whether he ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Woman, 60, found guilty of filing false liens against Pinellas judge

Woman, 60, found guilty of filing false liens against Pinellas judge

LARGO — In his eight years as a circuit judge, Thomas Minkoff has handled family and civil cases, as well as 14,000 foreclosure hearings.He was in court once again on Tuesday, but not in his usual perch at the bench. This time, he was on the witness ...
Updated: 3 hours ago