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 will discuss I-75 location for education, tourism center

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission on Tuesday will discuss a proposal to spend $1.7 million to purchase 7 acres on Cortez Boulevard near Interstate 75 for the planned Nature Coast Education and Tourism Center.

    The location is the latest possible landing spot for the center, which would be financed with a $3 million legislative allocation and $3 million in matching dollars from the county....

  2. In face of opposition, owner says marina in Hernando Beach is 'a story of success'

    Local Government

    HERNANDO BEACH — For eight years, Glen Lakes resident Carl Frimodig endured the drive to Homosassa and slow passage down the Homosassa River, where it took "a year and a day" to get his boat into the Gulf of Mexico.

    Then in 2011, the Shell Oil retiree saw that a marina that had sat vacant for more than three years in nearby Hernando Beach was undergoing a metamorphosis.

    The new owners were hauling garbage, from wooden pallets to fluorescent lights, out of the wetlands beside the building, trimming the weeds and preparing the buildings for the opening of a new business — Blue Pelican Marina. Soon after, buildings were renovated, and a store similar to a Bass Pro Shop was added....

    Hernando Beach residents protest the rezoning plan in June. More than 100 pages of comments were entered into the record.
  3. Timing, results of land appraisal at Hernando Beach marina questioned

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The chief opponent of the rezoning at the Blue Pelican Marina in Hernando Beach has raised new questions about whether Hernando County officials were working behind the scenes to help the marina in the months leading up to the controversial rezoning vote.

    Resident Forrest Bennett urged county commissioners Tuesday to avoid any project that would add to the boat and trailer crowding at the Hernando Beach boat ramps, noting that more parking "will only exacerbate the problems because of the bottleneck created by the limited carrying capacity of the ramps."...

    Hernando Commissioner Nick Nicholson said he did not know of the appraisal.
  4. Hernando commission works to close budget gap

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Finding a way to make up for a $548,524 shortfall in the proposed 2014-15 budget proved to be challenging for the Hernando County Commission late Tuesday, but ultimately Sheriff Al Nienhuis gave a little and so did commissioners.

    During talks with county officials earlier in the day, Nienhuis said that he had found he could give back another $200,000 to the county in addition to the $1.35 million in unspent money and revenue collected through his office that he had promised to return earlier....

  5. Staff to gather more information on interstate site for Hernando tourism center

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — A site at Interstate 75 and State Road 50 got the nod of three Hernando County commissioners Tuesday who want more information so they can consider it as an option for the proposed Nature Coast Education and Tourism Center.

    For months, county officials have explored numerous locations for the center, which would be paid for with a special $3 million allocation awarded to the county by the state, plus a $3 million match by the county....

  6. Hernando hopes to increase efficiency of building department by raising fees

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — In his eight months on the job, Hernando County building official Jim Friedrichs has seen how a lack of staff has hampered efforts by the building department to improve service to the public.

    On Tuesday, Friedrichs pitched an across-the-board 12.5 percent increase in building permit fees for the 2014-15 fiscal year and another 12.5 percent for the year that follows.

    The County Commission approved the increases unanimously, and there was nary a word of protest from the local building community. Friedrichs told commissioners he had pitched the increases to the Hernando Builders Association several weeks ago and that members understood what he was trying to do....

  7. Hernando commissioners must cut a half-million to balance their 2014-15 budget

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County commissioners have a half-million-dollar question to answer during today's first public hearing on the county's 2014-15 budget and property tax rate.

    George Zoettlein, the assistant county administrator for the budget, will ask where commissioners want to trim $548,524 to balance the general fund budget. He says he will not recommend digging deeper into reserves, something the county did for several years while property values were falling....

  8. Election Day problems in Hernando started early — and ended late

    Elections

    BROOKSVILLE — In 14 years of voting in Hernando County, Spring Hill resident Diana Thomas says she had never experienced what she did in the Aug. 26 primary election.

    Instead of simply scanning her driver's license and handing her a ballot, a poll worker had Thomas recite her personal information, including her date of birth. Then the worker repeated the information over the phone to someone in the elections office, which Thomas considered an invasion of privacy....

  9. Hernando commissioners look to Bayport as possible solution to coastal parking problem

    Local Government

    HERNANDO BEACH — Last weekend, one of the biggest challenges in this coastal community was finding a place to park the family boat trailer after launching at the Hernando Beach channel.

    Most holiday weekends can be that way. But this one gave Blue Pelican Marina owner Gordon Wolf and his brother, Ron, a chance to distribute fliers encouraging boaters and other visitors to write to their county commissioners to support expanded boat trailer parking nearby and construction of a new road with a straight shot between Shoal Line Boulevard and the ramps....

  10. Hernando hires two companies to assist with marketing plan

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County commissioners have voted to move ahead with a marketing plan for the county, one that could include the popular Weeki Wachee mermaids.

    In June, commissioners heard marketing pitches from five companies, two of which tied for first place when commissioners voted their preference. The commission asked Russ Wetherington, the assistant county administrator for general services, to negotiate with the two top firms, Gold & Associates, based in the Jacksonville area, and Business Development Strategies of Brooksville....

  11. Hernando tourism center could be headed to I-75 interchange

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The proposed Nature Coast Education and Tourism Center might be on the move again, this time to a location considered the gateway to Hernando County — at Interstate 75 and Cortez Boulevard.

    Ever since the county got word of a $3 million state allocation to build the center and agreed to a $3 million local match, officials have searched for the perfect site to draw visitors into the county, teach them about the area's unique natural features and recreational opportunities, and entice them to stay awhile....

  12. Motocross land issue in Hernando back in hands of Swiftmud

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The ongoing controversy surrounding a motocross track carved into a 13.5-acre site on Spike Road near Hickory Hill has landed back in the hands of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

    That means property owner Steven Schryver will have to do what Swiftmud has been asking him to do for two years — prepare a detailed application for an environmental resource permit — or face a court challenge....

    Property owner Steven Schryver will have to prepare a detailed application for the proper permit or face a court challenge.
  13. Cyclists, pedestrians to have easier trip in Spring Hill, Hernando Beach

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Three long-anticipated sidewalk and bicycle trail projects moved a step closer this week when the Hernando County Commission approved agreements with the Florida Department of Transportation that will translate into more than $1.2 million to help pay the bill.

    The projects are at Kass Circle in Spring Hill and along Osowaw and Shoal Line boulevards in Hernando Beach.

    • A sidewalk will run across the north side of Spring Hill Drive from existing walkways at Kass Circle to the west and Kass Circle to the east. Pedestrians now must walk through parking lots and business driveways to get across that congested stretch....

  14. After primary, candidates — and elections supervisor — move on to November

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — After the last vote was finally tallied during a frustrating election night Tuesday, Supervisor of Elections Shirley Anderson vowed to take the lessons learned from her first election and forge forward into the busy weeks leading up to the Nov. 4 general election.

    Candidates not on the primary ballot and those who won their way into the November contest will now begin to ratchet up their campaigns. So will those supporting the Penny for Progress sales tax initiative....

    Voters walk into Grace World Outreach Church on Tuesday. The protracted vote count was concluded well after 11 p.m.
  15. After slow vote count, Jeff Holcomb prevails in Hernando commission primary

    Elections

    BROOKSVILLE — At a victory party Tuesday night, Republican Jeff Holcomb waited with other candidates to hear how he had fared against Laurie Pizzo, who was also seeking a shot at the District 4 seat on the Hernando County Commission.

    Holcomb watched vote totals trickle in and witnessed the celebration as a School Board candidate became the clear victor and another made it through to a November runoff....

    Republican Jeff Holcomb moves on in the District 4 race for County Commission.