Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Plans for judicial center in Hernando may be put on hold

BROOKSVILLE — The county is moving ahead with plans to reshuffle space in the government center for a new courtroom, but plans for a new judicial center are likely going to be put on hold.

Related News/Archive

County commissioners agreed Tuesday to carve a courtroom out of a third-floor jury assembly area for some immediate relief, but the soured economy is stalling plans for a judicial complex.

"We just don't have the resources to move forward with the center,'' said Commission Chairman Dave Russell.

He explained that Hernando has nearly $19 million set aside for the project, but not enough to service the debt the county would have to take on to cover the rest of the $50 million facility.

Commissioners did not officially shelve the plans Tuesday. Because the process to build the center has begun, commissioners will hear more details of the proposals at an upcoming meeting.

They will then consider a recommendation from County Administrator David Hamilton to put the project on hold for six months to a year.

Commissioners agreed to set aside money earmarked for the center into a special reserve fund to be used once economic conditions improve.

Chief Circuit Judge Daniel Merritt urged the board to give the judiciary some relief.

He gave a history lesson of actions by boards and statements by county administrators over the past decade outlining the need to accommodate a growing judicial system. Each case, the project stopped just short of being built.

"This is like déjà vu all over again,'' Merritt said.

Even when Hernando was in the recent building boom and revenue was pouring in, the project didn't happen, he said.

"We've been in better economic times, but when is there going to be a good time to construct a courthouse facility?'' he asked.

Merritt noted that the issues related to space needs are becoming constitutional in nature. Not only is the commission legally obligated to provide adequate space for the judiciary, the courts were required to provide adequate access to the public.

"They don't get their day in court quickly,'' Merritt said. "And justice delayed is justice denied.''

He said judges just want adequate space to do their jobs.

"We do not want anything plush. We do not want a Taj Mahal. We want what we need to serve the citizens of this county,'' he said.

He expressed concern about seeing the county spend money on remodeling instead of a new judicial center.

"If you chase a rabbit and a squirrel at the same time, you're not likely to catch either,'' Merritt said.

The discussion questions and concerns from the public. Activist Janey Baldwin asked why courtrooms were not used on Fridays; Merritt corrected her and said courtrooms are used on Fridays.

He said staff prioritizes cases when there are more judges with cases than there are courtrooms. He likened the situation to having 74 bathrooms in the government center, but when someone is standing in line to use one, "that becomes a critical issue to you.''

Paul Douglas, whose firm Burnhardt Group LLC had one of the top three proposals for developing the judicial center, expressed concern about delaying the project.

"Now it appears the rules are changing,'' he said.

Purchasing director Jim Gantt explained that the proposals the county received were submitted as the first part of a two-part process. The first proposals were to be a concept of how to develop the facility as a public/private partnership.

The second step is to present the short list of three firms to commissioners, who will decide whether to direct the firms to prepare more detailed plans. Gantt said that step generates expenses for the firms and the county.

Hamilton said that he would bring the short list to the commissioners at an upcoming meeting, and then he could recommend that further action be suspended, possibly for six months to a year.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at or (352) 848-1434.

Plans for judicial center in Hernando may be put on hold 03/10/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 10, 2009 8:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Dade City's Wild Things blocks PETA officials at gates for court-ordered site inspection


    Times Staff Writer

    DADE CITY — Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show.

    Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show. This comes four days after 19 Wild Things tigers arrived at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. A judge had granted an emergency injunction July 14, ordering Stearns not remove any tigers pending the upcoming PETA inspection. Photo from Facebook page of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.
  2. St. Petersburg City Council approves $326 million sewage fix


    ST. PETERSBURG — Last week the City Council learned no criminal charges would result from the up to 200 million gallons of sewage St. Petersburg's sewer system released from …

    [LARA CERRI  |  Times]
  3. Pasco commuters watch out: Broken water main restricts State Road 52

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A water main break has caused a portion of State Road 52 — one of the busiest roads in Pasco County — to buckle on Thursday afternoon, reducing three lanes of westbound traffic to just one.

  4. Police identify man who drove along Clearwater Beach sand

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — Clearwater Police have identified the Pinellas Park man who they said drove his car over beach chairs and umbrellas along Clearwater Beach and streamed it on Facebook on Thursday afternoon.

    Clearwater Police took a suspect into custody Thursday afternoon after he drove along Clearwater Beach to Caladesi Island, running over beach chairs and umbrellas. [Courtesy of Clearwater Police]
  5. Once trapped and wounded, manatee and calf return to the wild


    NEW PORT RICHEY — The small crowd readied cameras and craned their necks, peering over heads and through bodies to try and catch a glimpse. Brittany Pharel, 10, wanted to see the hulking manatees, a mother and her calf, laid out on blue tarps Thursday along the edge of the Pithlachascotee River.

    Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo's associate veterinarian Lauren Smith, 33, examines the heart rate of a manatee calf named Cottee just before it was released into the waters of the Pithlachascotee River on Thursday. 
Cottee's mother Pascow was released at the same time in New Port Richey. 
The pair became stranded in May and the mother was found wounded. They needed to be rehabilitated before they could be released into open waters. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]