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Spring Hill fire board to vote on handing over district to Hernando County

SPRING HILL — After weeks of uncertainty, Spring Hill Fire Rescue District board members on Monday are expected to vote on an agreement that will detail how the district will be handed over to Hernando County.

The consolidation agreement that was hammered out by attorneys for the county and the fire district over the past few weeks looks to be a done deal, according to the district's attorney, Andrew Salzman.

At a recent workshop, two fire commissioners asked Salzman to seek an opinion from the state Attorney General's Office as to whether the district's assets could be legally absorbed by the county without at least some oversight by the board.

Salzman informed the board by e-mail Thursday that although he had made the request to Tallahassee, he assumed that the attorney general would "take the same position as the Governor's office … that the issue is a local matter."

Salzman urged the fire board to go ahead with plans to meet and make its decision on the agreement.

Fire Commissioners Ken Fagan and Rob Giammarco both said they would vote to ratify the agreement.

Commissioner Amy Brosnan said Thursday that although she had not read the final version of the document, she agreed that the board "needed to move forward on it."

According to the agreement, the district will begin operating under a municipal services taxing unit on Oct. 1.

Spring Hill taxpayers, who twice rejected giving the fire board taxing authority, will continue to pay the current 2.5 mills in annual property taxes for at least one year. Fire and rescue services will essentially remain the same and Spring Hill Fire's four stations will remain open.

The district's firefighters and paramedics will continue working under their existing union contract until it expires in 2013.

Although the district will officially remain an independent entity until it is dissolved by the Legislature sometime next year, the fire board will have no decision-making powers once the merger is complete.

Giammarco said that's fine with him. Being part of a governing body known for its constant bickering and pettiness has made him weary, he said.

"We haven't been much more than a joke in the taxpayers' eyes," Giammarco said. "I won't miss it all."

The County Commission is expected to review and vote on the agreement at its meeting Tuesday.

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

Spring Hill fire board to vote on handing over district to Hernando County 08/05/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 5, 2011 8:23pm]
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