Monday, August 20, 2018
News Roundup

Opponents, Cemex hone arguments as Hernando commissioners prepare for mine-expansion vote

BROOKSVILLE — A year has passed since officials from Cemex Construction Materials Florida stood before a room full of Hernando County residents and explained why they were proposing a significant expansion of their lime rock mining operation on 573 acres west of Brooksville.

The County Commission approval of the comprehensive plan change to allow the mining for 20 years will expand the life of the historically significant industry, company officials said.

Opponents, including Neighbors Against Mining, argue that the site, now designated for residential development, is not suited or needed for mining and incompatible with the surrounding area.

They have also pointed a spotlight on the fact that the land is owned by prominent and influential local business leaders, including Tommy Bronson, Joe Mason, Jim Kimbrough and Robert Buckner.

While the group has raised a familiar list of issues, ranging from habitat destruction and lower property values to health concerns and damage to the Fort Dade Avenue tree canopy, they have ratcheted up their arguments and added new ones as they approach the commission's final public hearing on the Cemex request, scheduled for Tuesday.

At the most recent County Commission meeting, DeeVon Quirolo, who has headed up the opposition, raised a series of questions about whether the self-reporting Cemex does on its blasting levels is accurate and whether anyone even checks to be sure state rules are being met.

Even though residents have complained about blasting and the Florida Administrative Code requires that mines report all complaints, "Cemex has never reported a single complaint,'' Quirolo told commissioners.

Cemex takes issue with Quirolo.

"It is very clear to us that much of the data she is looking at has been grossly misinterpreted,'' said Sara Engdahl, Cemex spokeswoman.

Engdahl noted that Cemex will present a letter on Tuesday showing that the company is in full compliance with all blasting regulations.

Quirolo said she wished the economic impact study done by the Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council had gone further in comparing future mining to other potential land uses, but she did not disagree with the study's conclusion that continuing mining activity would not significantly improve the county's economic position.

After reading the study, Quirolo gathered tourism-related statistics from Visit Florida.

In 2013, travel spending to Hernando County topped $93 million, generated $34.9 million in payroll for employees, employed 2,090 people and generated millions in state and federal tax receipts.

"It shows that tourism is 10 times stronger in this county than mining, and that's an economic fact,'' Quirolo said.

Engdahl said the mining expansion will not affect tourism and noted that the higher-than-average wages and full-benefit jobs it provides surpass the economic value of tourism-related jobs. With $12 million in wages and cement manufacturing making up 12 percent of the county's manufacturing jobs, "the impact is significant, and there is really no denying that,'' Engdahl said.

Quirolo also is unhappy with the settlement Hernando County has reached with Cemex over what the company must do to mitigate for the destruction of more than 300 acres of hardwood hammock habitat, which is to place a conservation easement on a 100-acre parcel just south of Lake Lindsey Road.

"It's not an appropriate trade-off,'' she said.

Cemex officials have been working with the appropriate agencies to meet their environmental responsibilities, Engdahl countered, "and we've reached a more-than-fair agreement.''

She said the commission should approve the application because "this project ensures economic viability for the county, will continue to provide solid jobs as well as much-needed product for future construction in the state of Florida.''

"The project is a temporary use for the land and will be reclaimed back to where it can be developed for a variety of uses," Engdahl said. "It will be done safely and in an environmentally conscious manner.''

The comprehensive plan change — which already has been reviewed by local officials and state agencies — will require at least four yes votes. Mining opponents, who have gathered more than 1,500 signatures on a petition, have been meeting with commissioners to try to swing the number to their advantage.

Brooksville resident Shirley Miketinac used the same tactic at a recent commission meeting.

"I appeal to you to think of this moment in time as the most important thing that you will ever do, to protect the beauty and unique lifestyle Hernando County has to offer,'' Miketinac said.

Vote no, she urged commissioners, "with a clear conscience, knowing that nothing else influenced you but to do the right thing at the right time and earn the respect of the overwhelming majority of the constituents in the county, to be proud and make us proud that you stood up for us, the little guys.''

Comments
Rays defeat Royals thanks to pitching and replay

Rays defeat Royals thanks to pitching and replay

ST. PETERSBURG — That the Rays defeated the Royals 1-0 on Monday night — Tampa Bay's major-league-leading 51st one-run game — is not surprising. What is a bit unusual is how they did it.With two outs and runners on first and third i...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays journal: Seminole’s Brett Phillips returns home

Rays journal: Seminole’s Brett Phillips returns home

ST. PETERSBURG — Brett Phillips played at Tropicana Field in 2012 when he was a senior at Seminole High and a member of Team Pinellas in the annual Hillsborough vs. Pinellas All-Star Game. He was just weeks away from being picked in the sixth r...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Who says preseason doesn’t count for Bucs?

Who says preseason doesn’t count for Bucs?

TAMPA — Monday was a beautiful day out at One Buc Place.Sunny. Blue skies. Hot, but not a thousand degrees like it has been in recent weeks around here.The Bucs were finally back home after spending most of the past week in Nashville. And despi...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rodney Page’s takeaways from Monday’s Rays-Royals game

Rodney Page’s takeaways from Monday’s Rays-Royals game

Replay played a big role in the game. The Rays got their run in the second when an out call at first was overturned. Then in the fourth, Kevin Kiermaier was picked off second with no outs after a replay showed his hand came off the base.Ryan Yarbroug...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Head-on crash kills three, injures two children in Zephyrhills

Head-on crash kills three, injures two children in Zephyrhills

ZEPHYRHILLS — Three people were killed and two children were seriously injured in a head-on collision that took place Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place about 7 p.m. on County Road 54, west of Chantel Drive.Elv...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Tampa Bay Catholics react: ‘Terrible and horrible,’ ‘betrayal,’ ‘deep disappointment’

Tampa Bay Catholics react: ‘Terrible and horrible,’ ‘betrayal,’ ‘deep disappointment’

ST. PETERSBURG — The fallout from a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing the molestation of more than 1,000 children by at least 300 Roman Catholic priests that was covered up by church officials for decades has reverberated among Tampa Bay paris...
Updated: 5 hours ago
More manatees have died in Florida so far this year than in all of 2017. Blame Red Tide.

More manatees have died in Florida so far this year than in all of 2017. Blame Red Tide.

ST. PETERSBURG — The number of manatee deaths in Florida this year has already exceeded the total for all of 2017. Blame Red Tide, which is suspected of killing more than 100 of them.So far, 554 manatees have died in 2018, with four months left to go...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Bulls snubbed in preseason AP poll

Bulls snubbed in preseason AP poll

Less than two weeks before their season opener, the Bulls finally have a gaudy accessory to complement their new Adidas uniforms.The ol' chip on their shoulder pads.USF received no votes in the Associated Press preseason poll released Monday, marking...
Updated: 7 hours ago
After parents object, Pinellas halts active shooter training videos for younger kids

After parents object, Pinellas halts active shooter training videos for younger kids

After a torrent of complaints, the Pinellas County school system is scrapping its plans to show a video to elementary school students in preparation for state-mandated active shooting drills to begin soon.The reaction came from parents after the dist...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Yes, that’s a crocodile on a pool noodle. No, the human didn’t get it back.

Yes, that’s a crocodile on a pool noodle. No, the human didn’t get it back.

A little over a week ago, Key Largo resident Victor Perez was looking out toward the bayside canal behind his house when he spotted an unusual sight."I’m on my balcony," said Perez, "and all of a sudden, I see this noodle and there’s a crocodile hang...
Updated: 7 hours ago