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. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals


    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates


    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears


    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'


    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]