Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Site of Southern Pines Condominiums pitched for new judicial center

BROOKSVILLE — The sales brochure described a luxury condominium project "in an urban garden setting" — secure buildings, balconies and attractive amenities, including a fitness center, heated jacuzzi and two stocked lakes with lakeside barbecue grills.

The housing bust stalled plans to complete and fill the condo buildings.

Now, the 39-acre site of the Southern Pines Condominiums is being pitched to the Hernando County Commission. It would make "an excellent location for the future judicial center with plenty of room to accommodate other county services such as the proposed utilities administrative office,'' according to an email sent to commissioners by real estate broker Buddy Selph.

For just $3.8 million, the county could purchase one condominium building filled with unfinished units, plus the finished clubhouse. Another $330,000 would buy another condo building. The site is on the south side of Cortez Boulevard, on the west edge of Brooksville.

But the county has no plans to build the long-talked-about judicial center.

The idea fell out of favor last year after the community questioned whether there was really a need for more courtrooms.

In a survey in early 2011, the Times found that Hernando County courtrooms were vacant about 60 percent of the time. Around the same time, the County Commission agreed to take $5 million from the county's judicial fund to pay for cost overruns on the Hernando Beach Channel dredge.

Commissioners this year are considering using a portion of the $7 million still socked away in the fund to balance the county's 2012-13 budget.

Officials said last week that whenever the county talks about what to do with the remaining money in the fund, potential sellers pop up looking for a share of the pot.

"I admire Buddy's entrepreneur spirit,'' Commissioner Dave Russell said of the offer of the condo project.

Russell noted that county government has downsized to the point that additional office space is not needed.

"The most pressing issue we have is getting our budget under control,'' he said.

One thing the discussion of the judicial fund has reignited is an idea proposed by previous County Administrator David Hamilton to convert the old courtroom in the historic 1913 courthouse into the commission chambers and the current commission chambers into a courtroom.

Hamilton's proposal would have moved more of the court functions into the east side of the government center, opening up more of the historic building for basic county services.

While commissioners John Druzbick and Jeff Stabins said they believed those plans were abandoned last year, commission Chairman Wayne Dukes said he has been talking with Chief Circuit Judge Daniel Merritt Sr., who is retiring at the end of the year.

Merritt still wants to see the plan go forward, and Dukes said the county staff has continued to investigate the idea. But Dukes, like the other commissioners, said a freestanding judicial center is off the table.

While the county has $7 million that had been set aside for the project, Merritt also has almost $5 million that must be spent on judicial needs. And Russell pointed out that, if the judges decide they need more space, they can issue bonds for a project, pledging $600,000 a year in court fees to pay off the loan.

Commissioner Jim Adkins said he wasn't aware that Merritt was still looking to add judicial space.

"I don't want to spend money buying something when the need is being satisfied,'' Adkins said.

Dukes said one of the ongoing issues for the judges is their desire for a new secure entrance into the courthouse. He said Merritt wants to use full-size buses to transport inmates to the center for court appearances and has expressed an interest in building a secure entrance for that purpose.

But even if some of those plans become a reality, the county has more money set aside than Merritt needs, Dukes said, and that money could be used, avoiding the need for an increase in the property tax rate.

Dukes said he likes the idea of better utilizing the old courthouse, and the staff is still working through issues such as lead and asbestos.

He said he wants all of the details of what the proposal would entail to be completed by early September so the commission can make a decision on what it wants to do prior to public hearings on the 2012-13 budget.

As for Selph's property offer, Dukes said, "I'm not interested in buying and building anything.''

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

Site of Southern Pines Condominiums pitched for new judicial center 08/22/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 9:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start

    College

    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  2. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Those wide-open, end-to-end, shoot-at-will games are a lot of fun to watch, especially when those shots are going in the net. But if the players had their druthers, they would rather have a more controlled pace, one with which they can dictate the action.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  3. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy

    World

    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  4. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)

    Nation

    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102
  5. Chemical industry insider now shapes EPA policy

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — For years, the Environmental Protection Agency has struggled to prevent an ingredient once used in stain-resistant carpets and nonstick pans from contaminating drinking water.

    This is the Dow chemical plant near Freeport, Texas. Before the 2016 election, Dow had been in talks with the EPA to phase out the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is blamed for disabilities in children. Dow is no longer willing to compromise.