Are two fire services needed?
The buzzwords were "pride'' and ''cooperation" as the Hernando County Fire Rescue and city of Brooksville Fire Department sealed the deal on their interlocal agreement to share space for the next 25 years. This agreement has Hernando County Fire Rescue closing Station 24 and moving in with the city of Brooksville's Fire Department.
County Chief Nickerson said this would save the taxpayers over $1.6-million because they would not have to build a stand-alone firehouse. They will be using $572,000 in impact fee money to build an addition onto the Brooksville Fire Department on Veterans Avenue in Brooksville.
"It's a new day in Brooksville and a new day in Hernando County when the government considers the best interest of taxpayers in their decisions," said Brooksville fire Chief Tim Mossgrove.
Please tell us how a duplication of services for two fire departments, housed in one building for 25 years, is in the best interest of the taxpayers?
Are we all living in some type of time warp? How is spending over a half-million dollars on an unnecessary building addition to the Brooksville Fire Department in the best interest of the taxpayers? Which department is going to pay for the upkeep on this building for the next 25 years? Is the city going to charge the county for utilities, such as electric, phone, water and garbage service? Is there a lease agreement involved between the city and county fire departments to cover all these costs, or is it going to be up to the city taxpayers to pick up the tab?
The citizens living in Township 22 tried to warn the county Fire Rescue before it took over this district a few years ago. Their main objection was that the city of Brooksville was already providing service to this area and there was no need for an additional county Fire Department. In fact, city fire hydrants were previously installed in the majority of this area to provide the Brooksville Fire Department with adequate water supply, and now the county is using this equipment that was paid by Township 22. The citizens were very vocal with their objections, citing duplication of services.
The most pressing problem with this new spirit of cooperation is the existing billing systems of the two fire departments. The city of Brooksville charges the city taxpayers at an ad valorem rate of approximately 2.5 mils using a municipal service tax unit. The county charges residential customers $195 a year. Some people in the city pay minimal fees, or no fire fees, on the municipal service tax while county residents all pay a flat rate residential fee of $195. Incidentally, both fire departments charge commercial customers at different rates, too.
This new spirit of cooperation should have been the announcement that one of these fire departments would officially close its doors. Maybe it's time we seriously look at a countywide service, as suggested in the consultant's report last year. Its time to stop putting Band-Aids on a broken fire system that continues to cost the taxpayers for duplication of services in some areas while neglecting many other areas of Hernando County.
Anna Liisa Covell, Brooksville
Dubious honors for this county
The recent news was kind enough to bestow on Hernando County No. 1 status for the region. The unemployment rate, 9 percent, is the highest in the Tampa Bay area and higher than the national average.
Congratulations are in order for most of the commissioners and all of the state officers drawing those big salaries and leaving caution to the wind for years. They have all succeeded at something at long last. Being a negative No. 1.
Unfortunately, the only ones paying for these mistakes so far are the local transients who lost their jobs in Tampa-St. Petersburg but are unemployed in Hernando, not Pinellas or Hillsborough. Face it, the construction workers mostly have been unemployed for two years now and long ago fell off the list so these are people who have lost jobs in the last six months and are still eligible for benefits.
Let's give the police, fire, educators all 5 percent raises and the rank-and-file county workers 2 percent and union dues. The thing that has to happen now is to lay off 9 percent of all the untouchables plus 5 percent more to cover their moronic raises. That's a 14 percent cash equivalent reduction in staff to keep solvent.
While at it, rethink the $52-million additional sales tax-funded school complex approved for U.S. 19 and Hexam Road that they can't maintain, staff or even fill with students after it's built. They can't even afford the fuel to bus them there.
Our new county slogan: "Welcome to Hernando. What happens here is less than nothing."
Doug Adams, Spring Hill
Agreement on rodeo good news
I read with interest the debate and a decision on whether to let the Old School Biker Rodeo proceed this year. There were concerns about the last one, titled "Party in the Pasture," that had many complaints regarding nudity, noise, gunshots, drunk bikers, etc.
I'm glad organizer Jimmy Batten and the commission reached an agreement on how it would be handled this time around. After all, the success of the event benefits needy veterans and is a worthwhile cause. One more benefit occurred to me. After seeing photos of the bikers at the County Commission meeting I think the only drug of choice may be Viagra.
Gene Huber, Spring Hill