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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

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  1. Oak Hill Hospital ready to get back into the baby business

    Health

    SPRING HILL — Expectant mothers in Hernando County will soon have a new alternative for delivering their babies.

    Oak Hill Hospital is planning to get back into the baby business by adding obstetrics to the long list of services it offers.

    A dozen years ago, the hospital closed its obstetrics unit, deciding to focus on other specialties. That left moms-to-be with just one local alternative — the hospital now known as Bayfront Health Spring Hill....

  2. Hernando commissioners vote to put education, tourism center on county's west side

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — After months of discussion about where to put the planned Nature Coast Education and Tourism Center, a divided Hernando County Commission has chosen the west side of the county, likely attached to the Weekiwachee Preserve.

    The precise site has not yet been decided. Commissioner Nick Nicholson, an advocate for a site in the preserve, said the county should first run the options by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which owns and manages the preserve....

  3. Hernando commissioners to consider restoring school, transportation impact fees

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — With the general election and the failed Penny for Projects sales tax initiative behind it, the Hernando County Commission is resurrecting another funding mechanism for discussion — impact fees, for both the schools and transportation needs.

    During the public comment portion of Tuesday's meeting, commissioners were blistered by several regular speakers over their failure to drop the moratorium on the two largest portions of the county's impact fee package. Restoring the fees, some argued, would show a good-faith effort by the commission to require that new growth pay the cost of needed infrastructure, and not current property owners and those buying goods and paying sales tax....

    After the session, Len Sossamon gave school officials the news.
  4. Teamsters continue contentious talks with Hernando over delayed pay raises

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — In the wake of the fury that erupted among Hernando County government employees last month when the Teamsters delayed pay increases that were recommended in a recent pay study, the union has now requested minimum increases for all of its members of at least 8 percent.

    In a bargaining session last week, the Teamsters also sought to have those raises made retroactive to the start of the budget year Oct. 1 and to provide an appeals process for employees who do not believe they have been placed in the proper pay grade based on the work they perform....

    Members of the Teamsters supported business agent John Sholtes’ action to stop  raises.
  5. Hernando County, Corporate Jet Solutions lease dispute heads to court

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — For several months last year, controversy swirled around the efforts of a Clearwater-based airplane maintenance company to move to Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport and expand its operation.

    The debate sparked a power struggle between Hernando County Administrator Len Sossamon, and the leadership of the airport and the Hernando County Aviation Authority.

    The divisive issues ranged from the financial capabilities of the company, Corporate Jet Solutions, to a debate over whether the county was responsible for repairing its flawed building and site as a condition of the lease that the company ultimately signed in July 2013....

    
Corporate Jet Solutions has acquired the old Brooksville Air Center on July 15, 2013.
  6. Despite questions, Hernando planning commission recommends approval of two projects

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission made two recommendations for approval this week that stirred some controversy.

    The first involved a 1.6-acre parcel at the southeast corner of Spring Hill Drive and Antilles Lane. The applicant, Spring Hill Land Trust, was seeking a rezoning from a multifamily development to commercial zoning for a comparison goods store....

  7. Hernando leaders reflect after failure of penny sales tax for schools, government

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Barbara Kight, eating lunch at the Deli World restaurant in Brooksville last week, didn't buy the argument that one computerized tablet could replace an entire backpack of textbooks.

    She wasn't swayed when told that this new technology is required by the state. She didn't want to hear any other arguments in favor of the Penny for Projects sales tax that would have raised $170 million over 10 years for the tablets and a long list of infrastructure improvements....

  8. Judge backs county in rezoning case for Hernando Beach marina expansion

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County has won its battle over the controversial rezoning of Blue Pelican Marina in Hernando Beach.

    Deputy County Attorney Jon Jouben notified Hernando officials late Wednesday that a judge had ruled against the appeal of the zoning approval that had been filed by neighbors who opposed the marina expansion.

    But the order filed by Circuit Judge Donald Scaglione does leave open the possibility of future action because of a procedural rule overlooked by the residents' attorney, Ralf Brookes....

  9. Happiness, relief — and questions — in aftermath of Tuesday's election in Hernando

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County's newest county commissioner, software consultant Jeff Holcomb, found himself preparing to switch gears in the aftermath of Tuesday's general election.

    After more than a year of pouring himself into the race for the District 4 seat on the commission, he said that it was time to actually get ready to take office. He will be sworn in later this month, along with commission Chairman Wayne Dukes, who won re-election....

    Blaise Ingoglia won the state House District 35 seat.
  10. Republicans take two seats on Hernando County Commission

    Elections

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County voters gave District 2 County Commissioner Wayne Dukes a second term in a hard-fought race against challenger Jimmy Lodato on Tuesday.

    In his campaign, Dukes, a Republican, focused on his fiscal conservatism and attacked Lodato for statements he made favoring a tax increase. Both Dukes and Lodato supported the failed sales tax initiative on Tuesday's ballot, and Dukes voted for the most recent increase in the property tax....

    Johnson
  11. Hernando voters say no to Penny for Projects sales tax

    Elections

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County voters overwhelmingly rejected the Penny for Projects sales tax initiative on Tuesday, leaving school, county and city of Brooksville officials looking for a Plan B to fund a variety of projects.

    "We're going to have to regroup and develop a plan to move forward," said school district spokesman Eric Williams.

    Williams said the district had not banked on receiving the money in its current budget. He also said that cuts since the start of the recession had provided the district with "a lot of practice in doing whatever it takes with limited resources."...

    Hernando County voters overwhelmingly rejected the Penny for Projects sales tax initiative on Tuesday, leaving school, county and city of Brooksville officials looking for a Plan B to fund a variety of projects.
  12. Hernando Republican Party chairman runs up big lead on challenger in state House 35 race

    Elections

    BROOKSVILLE — The leader of Hernando County's Republican Party, Blaise Ingoglia, was headed for an easy victory Tuesday night in the race for the District 35 state House seat.

    The seat is being vacated by Republican Rob Schenck because of term limits.

    Ingoglia, a Spring Hill homebuilder who has several related businesses, has been a visible force in Hernando since the housing collapse about seven years ago, when he created a series of public presentations titled "Government Gone Wild." In those presentations, he blasted government spending and called out government employees for what he considered their bloated salaries and poor fiscal choices....

    Ingoglia
  13. Speeches, campaigning wind down; voters head to polls Tuesday

    Elections

    Earlier this week, Democratic congressional candidate Dave Koller stood before an audience at Brooksville City Hall, questioning why his opponent, U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent, was missing from yet another political forum.

    Koller talked about bringing back the middle class and standing up for the environment and how, if voters wanted to move forward, they needed to shift to the "D" as in "drive" and "Democrat." If they wanted to move backward, then pick "R" as in "reverse" and "Republican."...

    Early voting in Hernando County continues through Saturday.
  14. Theft of campaign signs results in charges against one, review of another case

    Local Government

    During each election season, political candidates and their supporters scout out locations along roadways and erect hundreds of bright signs seeking votes.

    And each year, candidates find that signs sometimes go missing.

    But what has been unusual this year is that at least two men have been boasting about their sign-stealing escapades on Facebook. One has been charged; the other has had his case sent to the State Attorney's Office for review....

  15. Critical of candidates, Hernando blogger has own election law issue

    Politics

    BROOKSVILLE — During the weeks leading up to the August primary election, local news junkies could read one posting after another critical of local Democratic candidates on a new Internet blog.

    Admittedly conservative blogger Samuel Martin McCall was particularly focused on Jay Rowden. Though he was running in a nonpartisan race for Hernando School Board, Rowden is a registered Democrat and prominent in the party. He is the former head of the Hernando County Democratic Executive Committee and the husband of the only Democrat on the County Commission, Diane Rowden....

    Samuel M. McCall may have voted after a felony conviction.