BROOKSVILLE — County Administrator David Hamilton thinks that letting Sheriff Richard Nugent run Hernando County's emergency management services is worth exploring. The sheriff is willing to listen.
On Tuesday, the county commissioners got on board, telling staff to pursue the option.
Now, Hamilton and county staff will crunch the numbers to see if there could be a savings for taxpayers along with the advantages of streamlining responses to local emergencies.
While the commissioners had not planned on approaching Nugent about running emergency management, recent controversies involving the department have created an opportunity, Commissioner Diane Rowden said.
"It could be better for the county and also for the taxpayers,'' she said
Hamilton has been working on ideas for Emergency Management after the recent firing of director Tom Leto and the resignation and arrest of Leto's secretary, Stephanie Anderson.
Hamilton has approached the sheriff, who said he is open to the discussion.
Connecting the sheriff to the county's functions during a disaster seemed to make sense since the Emergency Operations Center is adjacent to Nugent's office, dispatching services are centralizing in that location and the sheriff has the policing authority in time of need.
"Will this save money?'' asked Commissioner Jeff Stabins.
"We believe that's possible,'' Hamilton said, noting that efficiency could be increased by putting the emergency manager under the existing command structure of the sheriff.
"I'd certainly support what you're trying to do conceptually,'' Stabins said, adding that he didn't want to lose out on any emergency management functions.
"I'm thrilled,'' Commissioner Dave Russell. "I frankly can't find a down side to it.''
Commissioner Rose Rocco agreed with exploring the idea but she was concerned that the county has certain responsibilities under Florida statutes. "We're going to fine-tune with our legal staff,'' she said.
County Attorney Garth Coller agreed that there were several legal issues that his office would be addressing as the discussions continue.
Commission Chairman Chris Kingsley said he was looking forward to Hamilton's report to find out more about the possible structure and financial savings.
Then, noting that the hurricane season is just days away, he asked Hamilton, "Are you confident with the way we're operating at this point?''
"Yes,'' Hamilton replied.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352)