Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Public safety

Hernando County Commission will hear fire fee ideas on Tuesday

RECOMMENDED READING


BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission is expecting a lively debate Tuesday over how taxpayers will pay for the services of the newly merged county and Spring Hill fire and rescue services.

The proposal, which will be presented in a public hearing, calls for adopting a maximum annual fee of $171.44 for each property owner for fire service and a 0.5598 millage assessment for emergency medical services.

"There are a lot of opinions about it out there, and I guess we're going to hear them," offered Hernando County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes.

Along with other commissioners, he's heard from Spring Hill property owners who currently pay a 2.5 mill ad valorem tax for such services and are likely to be the most affected by the change.

Not surprising, many aren't happy, especially those whose property is worth less than the $50,000 the state exempts from taxation, said Commissioner Dave Russell.

"To people whose property has always been exempt I imagine there would be some opposition," Russell offered this week. "But overall, I think it's more equitable to have everyone contribute."

The proposal being presented by public safety director Mike Rampino is the result of months of study by county staff and was chosen over other options. These included a hybrid mix of flat fees and charges based on property value for fire service. That option, Rampino said, still exists should the commission decide to go that route.

Key to the proposal that would go into effect Oct. 1 would be the inclusion of the formerly independent Spring Hill Fire District's 48,000 residential properties. For county residential customers who are currently paying an annual flat fee of $194.87 for fire service, the proposed rate would mean a savings of $23.43 a year.

But for some Spring Hill residents, whose fire and rescue service is currently tied to the taxable value of their property, a flat fee would likely mean an increase, especially if most or all of the value of their home is exempt. In addition, churches, which were not included in Spring Hill Fire Rescue's assessment, would be charged under the new plan.

The measure being offered lays out a budget totaling $27.4 million that seeks to bring the consolidated department to a higher standard by adding 18 new firefighters. This would enable emergency vehicles to be staffed by a three-person crew.

According to Rampino, the added expense would be offset by $600,000 in savings through the absorption of administrative positions, plus additional concessions gained through recent labor negotiations between the firefighters unions.

Russell and Dukes say their biggest quibble with the proposal so far is the numbers. Both feel that the proposal is too expensive and that the addition of new personnel needs a closer look.

"I haven't seen anything that justifies adding manpower that will cost an extra $900,000," Dukes said. "And I don't think you're going to see it fly with a lot of people either."

Russell suggested that adding personnel would be best done incrementally while the department concentrates on finding other ways to shave expenses.

"I don't oppose properly staffing our fire trucks, but it should be something we work toward over time," Russell said.

Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.

Comments
Mountains beckon, but family sticks with beleaguered Seminole Heights for Thanksgiving this year

Mountains beckon, but family sticks with beleaguered Seminole Heights for Thanksgiving this year

TAMPA — Before the killings began, Bob and Vivian Fiallo envisioned having Thanksgiving at their North Carolina mountain getaway.Most years, the couple spends the holiday at their tidy, brick-faced home on North Olney Avenue, in the heart of Southeas...
Published: 11/22/17
Report: Pepin Academies director had alcohol in his system at time of fatal boating accident

Report: Pepin Academies director had alcohol in his system at time of fatal boating accident

CLEARWATER — The former Pepin Academies executive director who died in a watercraft and boat collision on Sept. 23 had a blood-alcohol level nearly twice the level at which the state presumes someone is impaired, a toxicology report showed. Just befo...
Published: 11/21/17
Pasco Deputies: Man climbs into bed with sleeping woman after multiple burglaries

Pasco Deputies: Man climbs into bed with sleeping woman after multiple burglaries

NEW PORT RICHEY — A man who ended a series of burglaries by breaking into the home of a sleeping woman, where he climbed into her bed, was arrested Monday afternoon, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said.Russel Smith, 42, now faces three felony char...
Published: 11/21/17

28-year-old man shot dead in Spring Hill home, deputies say

SPRING HILL — A 28-year-old man was shot and killed inside a Spring Hill home Monday night, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies responded to at least two separate 911 calls about 8:15 p.m., in which callers reported shots being...
Published: 11/21/17
Crime Stoppers, Straz Foundation still working out Seminole Heights reward money

Crime Stoppers, Straz Foundation still working out Seminole Heights reward money

TAMPA — You can collect $110,000 in reward money for information leading to an arrest in the Seminole Heights killings, but for now you’ll have to make two stops.The David A. Straz Foundation announced Monday it would contribute $10,000 to a reward f...
Published: 11/21/17

Crash involving bicyclist closes EB lanes on W Kennedy Boulevard in downtown Tampa

TAMPA — Eastbound lanes on W Kennedy Boulevard were reopened by 6:30 a.m. at S Parker Street in downtown Tampa after a bicyclist was struck early Tuesday morning.The crash occurred in front of the University of Tampa, according to broadcast reports.W...
Published: 11/21/17
In wake of killings, Seminole Heights hosts supper to thank first responders

In wake of killings, Seminole Heights hosts supper to thank first responders

TAMPAKenny Hoffa surprised everyone when he made the seven-hour drive from Charleston, S.C., to Tampa’s Seminole Heights to attend a dinner set up to thank police for working hard to solve a string of recent killings.For Hoffa, it was an easy decisio...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
Another teen fights for his life following reported stolen car crash

Another teen fights for his life following reported stolen car crash

ST. PETERSBURG — Another teenager is fighting for his life after a crash involving a car that was later reported stolen, according to police.The 15-year-old was a passenger in a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro that hit a tree in the 4000 block of 11th Avenue S...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
NTSB report details steep turns and dives preceding Roy Halladay’s fatal crash

NTSB report details steep turns and dives preceding Roy Halladay’s fatal crash

Before he crashed, Roy Halladay flew within 75 feet of houses and skimmed the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, according to a report published Monday by the National Transportation Safety Board.The report, which did not address the cause of the crash, ...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
Blasts at plant kill 1, injure dozens

Blasts at plant kill 1, injure dozens

NEW WINDSOR, N.Y. — Authorities recovered the body of a male worker reported missing after two explosions and a fire at a New York cosmetics factory left 30 to 35 people injured, including seven firefighters caught in the second blast, officials said...
Published: 11/20/17