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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. Hernando commission rejects most requests for added money as it sets tentative tax rate

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Facing a deadline for advertising the worst-case scenario for the property tax rate, the Hernando County Commission got a full menu of 2015-16 budget choices this week from County Administrator Len Sossamon.

    By consensus, each of the five commissioners opted for the diet plan.

    With the exception of a possible small tax increase for emergency medical services, the commission directed its staff to advertise a tax rate that's the same as the current year in every other category, including the general fund, the transportation trust fund and the Health Department fund....

  2. Hernando commission disbands Environmentally Sensitive Lands Program

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — In a surprise move, a divided Hernando County Commission on Tuesday voted to disband the county's Environmentally Sensitive Lands Program, first approved by voters in 1988.

    The action, which abolishes a program designed to purchase and preserve the county's sensitive lands, came after Commissioner Wayne Dukes argued that the current commission does not want to buy more sensitive lands and that it is a waste of resources to have county staffers and a volunteer board continue to meet and plan purchases....

  3. Brooksville seeks to increase fire service fees

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hoping to remove some of the burden of the cost of fire service from the city's general fund, fire Chief Tim Mossgrove this week pitched increasing the fixed portion of the annual fire fee that city property owners pay from $80 to $100 per parcel.

    In order to keep its options open as it prepares to begin discussing the city's 2015-16 budget next week, the City Council opted to approve advertising the increase, plus an increase in the portion of the fire fee tied to property value. The advertisement will say that the portion tied to property value, also known as the Tier 1 portion, would go from 80 cents per $1,000 in value to 85 cents....

  4. Couple charged with fraud in case of undisclosed sinkhole under Spring Hill home

    Courts

    SPRING HILL — Glenn and Kathryn Jasen of Spring Hill have been indicted on a charge of wire fraud, a federal felony, resulting from allegations of sinkhole fraud.

    The couple were arrested last week and posted bail. Each faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the charge. He is 64; she is 63.

    The Jasens are accused of making a sinkhole claim on their home on Kimball Court in 2009 and pocketing the $153,745 in claim money they received through Citizens Property Insurance Co. rather than repairing the sinkhole and the home, according to the federal case file....

  5. Owner says Hernando airport offered everything his aircraft-modification business needed

    Airlines

    BROOKSVILLE — When David Tidwell attended an aviation convention last year in Orlando, he was shopping for information that would help him decide where to start his new aircraft-modification business.

    One of the booths he saw was from Hernando County, and it prominently displayed information about everything Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport had to offer.

    In the months that followed, Tidwell visited the airport nearly a half-dozen times. First, he looked at a site where officials planned a new aviation maintenance hangar. In the end, he settled on an existing hangar and office that had just become available....

  6. Swiftmud backs down from move of headquarters to Tampa from Brooksville

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Facing pressure from government and civic leaders in Hernando County, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, also known as Swiftmud, has decided to drop its effort to move its district headquarters from Brooksville to Tampa.

    In a memo to Swiftmud employees on Friday, executive director Robert Beltran wrote: "Local officials and community leaders made clear the importance they place on the Brooksville campus, its value to the community and the proud heritage associated with the District's history. The District also received letters and resolutions from local governments and members of the community opposing the relocation of the District's headquarters.''...

  7. Facing angry residents, Hernando commission spreads increase in fire fees over five years

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Facing an angry crowd of residents, many of them citing fixed incomes and other financial challenges, the Hernando County Commission this week rejected a new way of figuring fire fees as well as a proposed double-digit increase in those fees.

    Instead, commissioners approved 3 percent increases for each of the next five years and agreed to let Hernando County Fire Rescue cover anticipated budget shortfalls by using reserves....

  8. Despite objections, Hernando planning commissioners approve transitional program for women

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Neighbors near the site of a proposed facility to help formerly incarcerated women integrate back into the community urged the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission this week to reject the project.

    But after hearing details about the program, its purpose, its rules and its security plan, planning commission members voted 3-1 to approve the special exception use permit needed for its operation....

  9. Airplane modification company coming to Hernando airport identified

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Transformation Aviation Services, an airplane modification company, will become the newest tenant at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport, taking over the site previously occupied by Corporate Jet Solutions.

    The identity of the company was revealed to the Hernando County Commission on Tuesday, and commissioners agreed unanimously to approve a $377,000 incentive package to seal the deal....

  10. Brooksville airport lures jet refurbishing company

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Corporate executives who want to build a dream jet out of an old commercial airliner might soon be able to get the work done at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.

    On Tuesday, the Hernando County Commission will consider a lease agreement and incentive package for a new company planning to open at the airport as an airplane modification and repair business.

    If the deal is approved, the company, which has not allowed county officials to disclose its identity, would bring 125 full-time, high-paying jobs in the next three years, making it the largest new business attracted to the Brooksville airport in recent memory....

    On Tuesday, the Hernando County Commission will consider a lease agreement and incentive package for a new company planning to open at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport as an airplane modification and repair business.
  11. Hernando planning board will consider facility for released prisoners

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — John Mitten paints a picture of what a female prisoner faces as she completes her incarceration at midnight of a pre-ordained day.

    Without a place to stay, a plan for reintegrating into society or the skills needed to return to the workforce, she will likely be arrested again and return to jail or prison, he said.

    Mitten and other members of the Cornerstone Baptist Church have a plan for changing that for women who have demonstrated a drive to make better choices....

  12. Brooksville City Council tweaks noise ordinance

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — City Council has given its preliminary approval to changing its noise ordinance to allow more complete enforcement and noise protection from drivers who play their loud stereos in public places.

    While there has been a noise ordinance in place for nearly a decade, the rules have been tweaked several times.

    For a while the city didn't enforce the ordinance because there was a constitutional question about the measure of "plainly audible." But once the Florida Supreme Court settled the question, the ordinance was back in full force. Noise such as loud music, which is plainly audible at 60 feet away from the vehicle, violates the ordinance....

    Trunk car speakers such as this one, if turned up loud, could land drivers a ticket in Brooksville.
  13. Fulfilling budget requests would require Hernando commissioners to approve higher tax rates, fees

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Standing at the microphone before the Hernando County Commission late last month were the passionate leaders of the First Hernando Youth Soccer Club and several of their young members.

    Their plea was for the county to renew its partnership with the group, which they characterized at the largest sports league in the county, by finding $140,000 to resod two soccer fields at Anderson Snow Park....

  14. Muck fire continues to burn on mine property near Brooksville

    Fire

    BROOKSVILLE — A fire ignited by a lightning strike May 31 on Cemex property northwest of Brooksville continues to burn and produce smoke weeks after the original blaze.

    While it began as a grass fire that produced a huge column of smoke seen for miles, the flames took deeper root. The surface fire torched 751 acres but also produced a subsurface muck or peat fire that continues to burn....

  15. Opponents turn out for presentation on Suncoast Parkway extension

    Roads

    LECANTO — On hold for the last six years due to the tanked economy, the reanimation of the Suncoast Parkway extension into Citrus County Thursday evening brought together old foes.

    For nearly two decades, business leaders and government officials have lauded the toll road plan as a much-needed economic shot in the arm. But those voices were not heard Thursday evening during the public workshop and presentation by Florida Turnpike Enterprise at the Curtis Peterson Auditorium....

    An aerial photo shows the Suncoast Parkway in 2011. More than 250 people, including many opponents, came to a public meeting Thursday night to discuss its long-delayed expansion.