Amid the machinations over Hernando Sheriff Richard Nugent's appropriation from the County Commission is a pending commitment to south Brooksville that must not be overlooked.
Nugent has said he will close the rural substations his department staffs part time after the commission cut the 2010 budget he proposed, but the push to open a substation/community center in south Brooksville remains a priority and possibly could be accomplished within 30 days. That is welcome and appropriate, given government's broken promises toward residents there in the past.
The building — cracker-style architecture with a metal roof and white-fenced porch — sits brand new in an area dominated by vacant industrial buildings, modest housing and the contaminated site that formerly housed the county public works department. The parking spaces are painted, the landscaping is complete and three ground-level lights point skyward to illuminate the top of the pole that awaits the American flag.
Except, Nugent said, he is still trying to locate enough money to pay the utilities at the 1,600-square-foot building. We trust keeping the electricity on won't become a secondary consideration.
The building represents more than a visible crime deterrent in an economically depressed area that straddles the Brooksville city limits and unincorporated Hernando County. It is a tangible investment in a community that sorely needs one. The substation/community center "will be driven by the residents,'' said Nugent. "What kind of services do they want and need?''
For starters, it could feature employment assistance from Career Central and virtual school, GED classes, mentoring and such things as domestic violence awareness and crime prevention from the Shiloh New Beginnings Pillar of Truth Ministries, which operates similar programs adjacent to Kennedy Park in Brooksville. Pastor Clarence Clark said the aim is to reach out to the young men of the neighborhood to provide a haven to allow them to return to schooling and to try to restore them to productivity.
The building, which Nugent prefers to call a community office, will be used by deputies as well, which is why the sheriff was able to tap money confiscated under drug forfeiture laws to pay for the construction. Its actual location on the north side of Martin Luther King Boulevard puts it inside the city limits, so Brooksville officers also will have access.
Though Nugent led this effort, the building is envisioned as a focal point for the entire community. Now, if only someone would turn on the lights.