BROOKSVILLE — For Hernando County Commissioner Diane Rowden, the discussion about the operation of a forklift at Blue Pelican Marina in Hernando Beach came down to the assurance of public safety, even if it wasn't clear who is responsible for enforcing the rules.
During Tuesday's commission meeting, Rowden read through a list of 10 rules for the use of the forklift on Calienta Street that were included in the marina's 2011 permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Those include having lights and a horn to sound when the forklift — used to haul boats between the marina and a canal leading to the Gulf of Mexico — is backing up, making sure that forklift operators have proper training and, for busy times, having a spotter to ensure that pedestrians and passing vehicles, especially those entering the forklift zone from a blind curve, know that the heavy equipment is moving along Calienta.
The safety steps, especially the spotter, are needed now more than ever during the busy summer boating and scalloping season, Rowden said.
Such rules in a DEP permit usually would be enforced by the state agency, Hernando County Sheriff's Office Col. Mike Maurer told commissioners. But he also acknowledged that more research needs to be done because, ultimately, public safety rests in the hands of local law enforcement.
Earlier in the week, the DEP visited the marina after a complaint about the forklift operation was filed by a Hernando Beach resident. Officials discovered that the list of rules was not actually part of the permit, but an attachment. The rules had been proposed by marina owner Gordon Wolf, but not all were put into place.
DEP spokeswoman Ana Gibbs told the Times that the agency is not in charge of enforcing the rules.
"The department has no authority to enforce the operational practices authorized and permitted by other governmental entities, including the use of public roadways," Gibbs said.
County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes urged caution, saying that whatever rules Blue Pelican is made to follow should apply to all similar operations. He asked county staffers what else the county should do.
Brian Malmberg, assistant administrator for operations, said he found a sign and crosswalk plan approved in 2009 for the congested area that includes the county's boat ramp and parking and the marina's boat-launching area. It includes 15 mph speed limit signs. But some of the other warning signs are just now being put in place. Crosswalk markings are slated to be done this week; recent road work in the area erased the old markings.
Vegetation that blocks some of the signs will be trimmed.
Malmberg said he would meet with Wolf to talk about solutions to the safety concerns, and Maurer said he would return with more information.
With the recent approval of the marina's controversial expansion, Rowden said something needs to be done.
"We have to have something in place that's going to make sure it is really safe," she said.