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Barbara Behrendt, Times Staff Writer

Barbara Behrendt

Barbara Behrendt is based in Brooksville and covers Hernando County government, growth, development and the environment for the Tampa Bay Times. She joined the Times in 1983. Born in Chicago, she grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and earned her degree from the Ohio State University.

Phone: (352) 848-1434

Email: behrendt@tampabay.com

  1. Failure of Hernando's Nature Coast tourism center has lessons

    Local Government

    HERNANDO BEACH — Hernando County Administrator Len Sossamon wanted it to be the centerpiece of what he called "the Nature Coast experience."

    But after 10 months of controversy and changes in direction, none of which caught on, the Nature Coast Education and Tourism Center ended up more like the "brilliant blunder," as one critic called it during the debate.

    Earlier this month, a unanimous County Commission voted to tell the state to keep the $3 million the Legislature had allocated for the project last spring. That allows the county to keep the $3 million in local funds it had promised as a match....

    Hernando Beach residents pack the County Commission chambers at the County Government Center in Brooksville on June 24, 2014 to protest the rezoning proposal to build the Nature Coast education and tourism center next to the Blue Pelican Marina along Shoal Line Boulevard in Hernando Beach.
  2. Ex-planning official: Get true economic impact study on Cemex mining proposal

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — From 2006 to 2014, as a member of the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission, Robert Widmar studied county land-use rules, weighed testimony and made recommendations to the County Commission regarding everything from rezonings to changes in the county's comprehensive plan.

    Old habits die hard.

    Widmar's term on the planning commission ended in December, but that didn't stop him from penning a letter last week as a private citizen to the commission. He urged it to change direction and seek a true economic impact study before considering the pending mining expansion application from Cemex Construction Materials Florida....

  3. Hernando roads to get safety enhancements from $552,000 in grant funds

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Beginning with Powell Road, 10 curving rural roadways in Hernando County will be receiving safety enhancements, thanks to a $552,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation.

    The improvements include speed advisory signs, new roadway striping and reflective pavement markers. The enhancements will bring the potentially dangerous curves into compliance with the latest Federal Highway Administration rules....

  4. Republic Services crews to help watch for crime in Hernando

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — They visit your street every week and know when something seems out of kilter.

    Now they will be helping in more ways than one to clean up the neighborhood.

    The county's residential garbage hauler, Republic Services, has teamed up with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office to provide another set of eyes and ears for crime prevention. "Operation Clean Streets'' was announced last week at a gathering of Republic employees....

  5. Hernando commission delays action on impact fees, mining study

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Faced with several contentious issues regarding Hernando County's future development, the County Commission this week decided more study was needed before making two key decisions.

    On the possibility of lifting a moratorium on some impact fees, a majority of the commission voted to delay a decision for another two months, prompting the lone Democrat, Commissioner Diane Rowden, to proclaim that her colleagues were simply stalling....

    Coal sits piled ready to fuel the kiln at the Brooksville South Cemex Plant. Cemex wants to mine a site west of Brooksville.
  6. Hernando commission returns money for environmental education, tourism center

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — After nearly a 10-month search trying to find a suitable place to spend $6 million in state and local money to build the Nature Coast Education and Tourism Center — and encountering critics at every turn — the Hernando County Commission on Tuesday voted to end the search and return the money.

    The commission was supposed to consider the last of the sites that county staffers had explored: the old Hernando Beach water tower property. Bordering the Weekiwachee Preserve, the 56.1-acre parcel is county owned and on Shoal Line Boulevard, across the street from Blue Pelican Marina. The marina was the first of a handful of sites the county considered and rejected for the center....

  7. Hernando commission set to revisit contentious issue of impact fees Tuesday

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — After going several years without levying impact fees for schools and roads — the two most expensive categories — the Hernando County Commission on Tuesday will consider bringing back the fees, possibly even before the end of the month.

    In mid November, just weeks after Hernando voters soundly rejected the Penny for Projects 1-cent sales tax referendum — money that would have gone to schools, the county and the city of Brooksville — county commissioners agreed it was time to discuss impact fees....

    School and road impact fees on new homes in Hernando County could return by the end of the month.
  8. Commission may reconsider economic impact study planned for mining proposal

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The controversy over a plan to mine lime rock on property west of Brooksville is likely to resume Tuesday before the Hernando County Commission.

    The quick return of the issue comes because a consensus by commissioners in December to conduct an economic impact study on the proposal by Cemex Constructions Materials Florida is now being questioned and is up for further public discussion and a possible reversal....

  9. Hernando targets coastal site for education, tourism center

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — After months searching for the ideal home for the Nature Coast Education and Tourism Center, Hernando County officials are zeroing in on the site of the old Hernando Beach water tower.

    The site is across Shoal Line Boulevard from Blue Pelican Marina, where the center originally was proposed, which renews questions of compatibility. The 56.1-acre parcel is owned by the county and adjacent to the Weekiwachee Preserve, a popular natural recreation area owned by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, commonly known as Swiftmud....

    Hernando Beach residents pack the County Commissioners chambers at the County Government Center in Brooksville protesting the rezoning proposal to build the Nature Coast education and tourism center next to the Blue Pelican Marina along Shoal Line Boulevard in Hernando Beach on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times] 

  10. Judge blocks Citrus hospice expansion into Hernando


    BROOKSVILLE — Officials with Hospice of Citrus County and the Nature Coast have failed to prove to an administrative law judge that they should be allowed to expand into Hernando County to provide for unmet needs and offer pediatric services for the youngest hospice patients.

    Late last month, Judge John D.C. Newton II overturned the state Agency for Health Care Administration's ruling that granted the Citrus hospice a certificate of need allowing for the expansion into Hernando....

  11. Fair association's operations questioned, examined

    Local Government

    The Hernando County Fair Association struggled with financial and public relations issues in 2014.

    Early in the year, fair association officials came before the County Commission seeking financial assistance, but their presentation ended up raising several questions about the fair's operations, questions that former board members had been asking for years.

    One of those former board members, Ty Mullis, filed a complaint with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office and talked extensively with the Tampa Bay Times about his concerns regarding how the fair association's leadership lacked transparency in its financial dealings, did not have a good system for monitoring revenue and spending, and used questionable bidding practices....

  12. Repairs begin after erosion forces closure of coastal bridge linking Pasco and Hernando

    Local Government

    ARIPEKA — The residents of Aripeka and nearby coastal communities in Pasco and Hernando counties likely will be inconvenienced for several more weeks by the closure of the bridge over Hammock Creek after erosion of the bridge's foundation, Hernando officials said Monday.

    Brian Malmberg, assistant county administrator for operations, visited the bridge Monday to check on repairs. Two small pieces of heavy equipment were moving dirt along the roadway and carting riprap from one area to another to shore up holes that had formed at the south base of the bridge....

    Hernando County employees and Samsson Construction, Inc. personnel look over the ongoing work on the Osowaw Boulevard bridge in Aripeka that remains closed due to apparent erosion of the bridge's foundation along the Hernando and Pasco County line Monday (12/29/14)  morning.
  13. Heading into 2015, Hernando administrator has a lot of prospects, projects on his plate

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — For Len Sossamon, the pace each day is a sprint.

    That's because Sossamon is wearing two very demanding hats — one as county administrator and the other as Hernando's economic development director.

    When he takes a breather to think about what's in store for the county in 2015, as he did recently with the Times, it is no surprise that he has not just one, but two lengthy lists of tasks....

    Len Sossamon is Hernando’s county administrator and director of economic development.
  14. Asphalt millings are settling the dust on Hernando's lime rock roads

    Local Government


    For two decades, Rackley Road resident David Nelson endured the issues that come with living on a lime rock road. Send the dog out to do his business; he returns covered with dust. Try to dry the clean clothes on a clothesline; be prepared to wash them again.

    "Even with the windows closed, you still get the dust in the house. Your vehicles constantly look like trash," Nelson said. "We've been eating the dust bad."...

    Robert Batten guides recycled asphalt millings onto the lime rock surface of Perimeter Drive for grading and compacting in October.
  15. Amid battle with county, Corporate Jet Solutions leaving Hernando airport

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Last year, Tony Dye and his father, Bradley, fought hard to get their aircraft repair facility moved from Clearwater to Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport, butting heads with airport officials and the then-chairman of the Hernando County Aviation Authority.

    Last week, the Dyes' company, Corporate Jet Solutions, delivered notice to the county that it planned to break its lease and abandon the site by Dec. 31....

    “It’s been a difficult process since we began,’’ says Bradley Dye.