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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


  1. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming


    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The 13-mile, four-lane extension of the Suncoast Parkway has been dubbed by critics as "the road to nowhere" because it ends in the middle of Citrus County. It doesn't bend west toward U.S. 19, or east toward Interstate 75, and there are no firm plans to extend it....

    A 2011 aerial photo of development along the intersection of State Road 52 and the Suncoast Parkway. This view is looking northwest. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [WILL VRAGOVIC, Times]
  2. Hernando readies for possible rally at county's Confederate monument

    Public Safety

    BROOKSVILLE — Law enforcement officials have readied themselves in response to a string of social media rumors about possible rallies at the Hernando County courthouse Friday afternoon centered around the Confederate soldier statue that sits out front.

    There has been no official notification to county or city officials of an organized event. But Facebook and Twitter posts — by both those who want to see the statue removed and those who say they will fight to keep it there — say people plan to gather at the courthouse, at 20 N Main St., about 4 p.m....

    Barricades surrounded the Confederate monument outside of the Hernando County Courthouse in downtown Brooksville Friday afternoon. Law enforcement and city and county officials said they were prepared for a possible rally nearby the statue after seeing social media posts suggesting meetups by different groups. [Photo by Park Chapman]
  3. Hernando's assistant county administrator over public works resigns

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County has taken another hit in its public works operation with the resignation this week of Brian Malmberg, the assistant county administrator over several departments.

    Malmberg, who will work through the end of next week, announced his departure to County Administrator Len Sossamon just a week after the resignations of county engineer Mark Guttman and project manager Al Toler, whose departures were tied to the county's conflicts with road-building contractor B.R.W. Contracting Inc., which ran into trouble on several projects, suing the county on one of them....

  4. Hernando commission to seek state audit of sheriff's spending

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The politically volatile idea of using a separate taxing district to fund Sheriff Al Nienhuis' budget is once again off the table.

    But while the sheriff doesn't have to worry about the taxing district, which most recently was suggested by the city of Brooksville, the County Commission has agreed to try the use of an additional mechanism to clear up questions about the way Nienhuis accounts for his money....

    OCTAVIO JONES   |   TimesTo clear up questions about the way Sheriff Al Nienhuis accounts for his agency's money,  county commissioners have asked for a formal audit through the state Auditor General's Office.
  5. Uncertainty delays consideration of plan for cruise boat in Hernando Beach

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — A last-minute effort to keep his options open delayed the public hearing this week for the operator of a proposed scenic dinner cruise boat in Hernando Beach.

    Randall Rossi had proposed lunch and dinner cruises on a 45-foot boat from a 7,562-square-foot lot at the northwest corner of Gulf Coast Drive and Calienta Street. The county's planning staff had recommended approval, with strict limits on passenger numbers and boat size — and with limits on use of the property and a prohibition of any other recreational boats on the site....

    Marina Rose Enterprises is proposing to operate a scenic dinner cruise boat out of Hernando Beach. [Times file photo]
  6. Residents push commissioners to rein in traffic on Weeki Wachee River

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — A new kayak landing spot in the Weekiwachee Preserve, more training for those who rent the popular watercraft, stepped-up enforcement of river protections and some political pressure to urge the state to reduce launches and study just how much is too much traffic on the Weeki Wachee River. Those were just some of the latest suggestions on how to handle growing pressure on the popular coastal destination....

    Residents urged Hernando County commissioners this week to find ways to better control the growing amount of traffic on the Weeki Wachee River.
  7. Hernando officials depart after county settles case with road contractor

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County has reached a settlement with the contractor on the botched Osowaw Boulevard road project, and two top officials in the county's Department of Public Works have resigned, including County Engineer Mark Guttman.

    Another lead inspector in the department also left his job last week over a separate investigation into his vehicle usage.

    Last month, the County Commission offered contractor B.R.W. Contracting Inc. of Land O'Lakes a settlement of $250,000 but declined other provisions the company was seeking, including not placing blame on the company for its part in the work on Osowaw, which gave it a poor driving quality. Local residents compared it to driving on a wavy washboard....

    Mark Guttman has resigned as Hernando County engineer.
  8. Brooksville raises yet again the idea of a separate taxing unit for sheriff

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Creating a separate taxing district to provide funding for Sheriff Al Nienhuis' budget was again on the table this week as the Brooksville City Council discussed asking the county to reconsider the controversial idea.

    On Monday, a divided council agreed to draft a letter to county commissioners, requesting that they revisit the taxing district idea. Council members have not yet voted to send it. But, by Tuesday morning, commissioners had heard about the discussion and found themselves again grappling with the familiar political hot potato....

    Sheriff Al Nienhuis has been consistent in his opposition to a separate taxing unit for his office.
  9. Plan to operate scenic cruises out of Hernando Beach draws concerns

    Local Government

    HERNANDO BEACH — A proposal to allow a 45-foot boat to run scenic cruises from a docking point in Hernando Beach has generated new concerns among residents who have previously questioned other commercial uses in their residential neighborhood.

    The Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission will hear the request Monday, with a final public hearing before the County Commission coming later this summer....

    Marina Rose Enterprises is proposing to dock a boat in Hernando Beach and run scenic cruises. Some residents are concerned of the effects of the cruise. [Times file photo]
  10. Federal agency asks Hernando and Brooksville housing authorities to merge

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — A federal housing official has contacted the Hernando County Housing Authority to gauge interest in whether the agency would be willing to take over the Brooksville Housing Authority.

    In a recent phone call, the official told the county's authority that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development wants to find someone new to manage the properties under the city's authority because HUD does not believe the Brooksville authority has made any progress toward determining the future of its two empty developments. The director of the Brooksville authority has done nothing but making sure the grass is cut, the official said....

    Five years ago, the Brooksville Housing Authority removed the tenants from Hillside Estates, shown here, and Summit Villas. Both remain empty today.
  11. Brooksville looks to cut costs, increase revenues in 2017-18 budget

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The City Council has been through an intense budget season, meeting for more than a dozen hours in public workshops, examining every expenditure in next year's spending plan and discussing uncomfortable options for cutting costs.

    This week, a potential area of savings was dropped on council members without warning. After 10 years as the city's legal adviser, the Hogan Law Firm tendered its resignation, effective Sept. 25....

    Council member Bill Kemerer questions if the city can afford to have both a fire department and a police department.
  12. Company makes case to become second fixed-base operator at Hernando airport

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The five-year effort of one tenant at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport to win the designation of fixed-base operator, known as FBO, might finally be coming to an end if the County Commission approves later this month.

    Frustrated Michael Honeycutt, president and chief executive officer of air ambulance company Jet ICU, stood in front of the commission in late July to plead his case....

    Jet ICU is making a case to become the second fixed-base operator at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.
  13. Hernando Commission to ponder Weeki Wachee River water woes

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Water-based recreation in western Hernando County is a hot topic among county commissioners, but planned discussions about ongoing problems on the Weeki Wachee River and a new proposal for a potential swimming area in the Weekiwachee Preserve slowed to drip Tuesday.

    Instead, the topics are scheduled to start flowing again Aug. 8.

    Tuesday, the commission agenda listed a proposal to spend $200,000 to begin designing a swimming area in the preserve. It is connected to county land at the Hernando Beach water tower site where walkways and parking have been considered....

    Kayaks crowd the Weeki Wachee River. A former Southwest  Florida Water Management District executive believes Hernando County should focus its spending on protecting the river, instead of developing a center and beach at the Weekiwachee Preserve.
Times files (2016)
  14. Hernando approves new trash-collection contract; customers get price increase

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — A unanimous County Commission on Tuesday approved a seven-year extension to the garbage-collection contract with Republic Services, an agreement that will bring higher prices, county-provided garbage cans and automated trucks to lift and mechanically dump cans.

    Commissioners said they liked the idea of the automated system and the uniformity of trash cans to clean up neighborhoods and make it clearer to the trash collection crews which homes had the garbage service....

Republic Services will to switch to automated trucks, similar to this vehicle used by Progressive Waste Solutions in Hillsborough County, under its contract extension with Hernando County.
  15. Hernando commission to discuss extension of Republic Services contract

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Several months ago, Ridge Manor Estates residents Jason and Sara Chase decided to order garbage pickup instead of hauling the weekly trash to the nearby convenience center off State Road 50.

    But their trash was only picked up half the time, so Sara Chase ended up calling Republic Services repeatedly. Then she got the bill and tried to pro-rate her payment. The company said no, so her husband called and read them the riot act....