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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. Dispute over right-of-way stalls construction project at busy Barclay intersection

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Plans for improvements at the busy intersection of Cortez Boulevard and Barclay Avenue hit a roadblock late last month when the Hernando County Commission decided to abandon efforts to acquire a key piece of right-of-way.

    The decision brought to an end a legal squabble in which the attorney of the landowner claimed Hernando County didn't follow the rules for taking private property for public use....

    Brian Malmberg: “The four-laning ... will be placed on hold at this time.”
  2. Residents urge Hernando County to ban unattended tethering of dogs

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County commissioners listened recently as a parade of concerned citizens urged the board to adopt an ordinance that would prohibit dog owners from tethering their pets outside unattended.

    From a woman who wore a leash around her neck and pulled it tight as she talked about the need for the new law, to a couple who live next to a man with 10 pit bulls tied up in his yard, the residents argued that an anti-tethering ordinance would prevent dog cruelty and also keep the public safe....

    Hernando County residents are urging the county to ban unattended tethering of dogs. This is Honey, a dog found in Palm Harbor in 2010 with a rope embedded in her neck. It’s believed she was tied as a puppy, got away and grew into the too-tight rope. She eventually received surgery.
  3. Sheriff's spending plan likely to be focal point during county's first 2015-16 budget hearing

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — All eyes will likely be on Sheriff Al Nienhuis on Sept. 3, when the Hernando County Commission holds the first of two public hearings on the county's 2015-16 budget.

    Several weeks ago, the commission set its property tax rates for the new spending plan, freezing all of the rates except for a small tentative increase for emergency medical services. That action in essence cut $4.18 million in spending from the wish lists of the departments controlled by the commission, the sheriff and the supervisor of elections....

  4. Commissioners debate purchase of SunTrust Bank building in Brooksville

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission is not finished as it continues to look at the possibility of acquiring more office space.

    Less than two weeks after commissioners voted to spend $4.15 million to buy the Hernando office of the Tampa Bay Times to consolidate Utilities Department offices, County Administrator Len Sossamon led an entourage of county officials through the 33,000-square-foot SunTrust Bank building in downtown Brooksville....

    The County Commission is debating buying the downtown Brooksville SunTrust bank building for more office space.
  5. Chinsegut director angry over dismissal, but board president says it was necessary

    Human Interest

    BROOKSVILLE — Citing concerns about the dwindling cash reserve needed to renovate and operate the historic Chinsegut manor house, the board of Friends of Chinsegut Hill last week let go of its only paid staff member, executive director Christie Anderberg.

    A longtime advocate for preservation of the stately antebellum home, built north of Brooksville in the 1800s, Anderberg expressed sorrow over the board's decision, concern for the future of the facilities at Chinsegut and disappointment in the way her ouster was handled....

     Citing concerns about the dwindling cash reserve needed to renovate and operate the historic Chinsegut manor house, the board of Friends of Chinsegut Hill last week  let go of its only paid staff member, executive director Christie Anderberg.  Brendan Fitterer   |   Times
  6. Motorists, rejoice! End is near for Cortez widening project in Hernando

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE

    Hernando County commissioners, who have heard and lived through three years of war stories about the Cortez Boulevard widening project, can hardly wait to see the last of the orange barrels disappear.

    Soon, they should get their wish.

    Officials from the Florida Department of Transportation have told the commission that they expect the $58 million widening project to be completed by early October....

    Nick Nicholson, commission chairman on  
the Cortez Boulevard work
  7. Group believes single-member districts would make for more accountable County Commission

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando Beach resident Lisa Bambauer worries that the way Hernando County voters choose their county commissioners is misleading.

    So, in recent months, Bambauer and a core group of supporters began gathering signatures to change the method of election. And now, she says, she's even more certain that people don't understand how the system works.

    About 80 percent of the voters her group has approached have said they did not realize that when they vote for a commissioner in their own district, they also get to vote for other districts' commissioners....

  8. Coding error results in mailing of incorrect delinquent tax notices

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — An error in coding forced Hernando County Tax Collector Sally Daniel to re-send delinquent tax notices to many of the 4,679 county property owners who received incorrect bills earlier this month.

    An employee with the office of the property appraiser, with which Daniel shares an information technology department, accidentally keyed in the 2013 tax year when preparing the bills. That meant all of the bills were lower than the actual taxes owed....

  9. Commission rejects mini storage facility near Timber Pines entrance

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — For months, the 7,000 residents of Timber Pines have been in the looming shadow of a proposed 60,000-square-foot, three-story mini storage facility near the main entrance to their neatly manicured, gated community in Spring Hill.

    Many of them signed petitions blasting the plan; others wrote letters filling 99 pages as part of the county's rezoning file on the project.

    While the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval several months ago, applicant Paul Chipok sought two delays in taking the plan to the County Commission....

  10. County purchase of Times building ends long effort to consolidate utilities functions

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Years of talk about consolidating Hernando County's utilities services came to fruition this week when the County Commission voted 4-1 to spend $4.15 million to purchase the Hernando office of the Tampa Bay Times.

    The deal for the 29,000-square-foot, two-story office building west of Brooksville came with furniture and fixtures. Closing will be within 90 days, and the Times will pay rent if the newspaper stays longer than that while new office space is found, according to county officials....

  11. After backlash, Hernando commission restores Environmentally Sensitive Lands Committee

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — After stirring up a firestorm when it suddenly and without warning disbanded the county's Environmentally Sensitive Lands Committee two weeks ago, the Hernando County Commission voted Tuesday to reinstate the committee — but with some changes.

    A discussion of the Environmentally Sensitive Lands program had been placed on the commission's July 28 agenda, but no backup material was included. Commissioner Wayne Dukes made a motion to immediately disband the advisory committee, which helped guide the program, and his motion passed....

    Diane Rowden asked that the item be revisited.
  12. Despite objections, Hernando planning commissioners give thumbs-up to auto repair shop

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Residents, representatives and the developer of a new senior apartment complex east of High Point are not happy with a planned automotive repair and body shop proposed at Cortez Boulevard and Rolling Rock Drive.

    Despite their concerns about noise, odors and traffic, the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday voted to recommend approval of the rezoning of the 5.5-acre, L-shaped property. The application now goes to the County Commission for a final vote....

    PT_348814_CODD_STEVENS_1 PHOTO 1 OF 1 CAPTION: (01/12/2012, NEW PORT RICHEY) Gary Blackwell is seen at the intersection of Gulf Dr. and U.S. Hwy. 19 in New Port Richey Thursday (01/12/2012) morning. Blackwell received a ticket in the mail for running a red light that was caught on one of the city's red light cameras. Blackwell successfully argued that the duration of the yellow light was shorter than the time the D.O.T. mandated for that intersection. SUMMARY: Gary Blackwell doesn't deny he ran the red light at US 19 and Gulf Drive in New Port Richey. But he sensed the yellow light wasn't on long enough. Turns out he was right, but he still had to fight city hall, so to speak. He won, and in the process has exposed a flaw in the controversial red light camera program. Need a shot of Blackwell at the red light. He'll meet us at the corner of Gulf and 19 in the CVS parking lot. [STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON, Times]
  13. Disbandment of Environmentally Sensitive Lands Committee in Hernando draws both criticism and praise

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The massive cypress trees and rare flowers that travel writer Sandra Friend saw on her visit to the Cypress Lakes Preserve late last month were a real treat.

    But they weren't enough to earn Hernando County the valuable high praise she could have offered readers of her blog and articles.

    That's because while she was visiting, she learned that the Hernando County Commission had just decided, without notice or warning, to disband the county's Environmentally Sensitive Lands Committee, killing the land purchase program approved by voters in 1988 — a program that had created the Cypress Lakes Preserve....

  14. Hernando commission set to decide on purchase of Times office

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission on Tuesday will consider spending $4.15 million to purchase the Tampa Bay Times office west of Brooksville.

    The county would consolidate its Utilities Department offices in the two-story, 29,000-square-foot building, which the Times built and opened in 2003.

    If approved, the purchase would allow the county to vacate its utilities customer service office at the West Hernando Government Center in Spring Hill and its 12,000-square-foot administration and engineering building on the south side of Brooksville....

    Hernando County will consider spending $4.15 million to purchase the Tampa Bay Times office west of Brooksville. The county would consolidate its Utilities Department offices in the 29,000-square-foot building, which the Times built and opened in 2003. [MAURICE RIVENBARK   |   Times (2003)]
  15. Marina comes under watch of agencies as fill dirt washes into coastal waters

    Local Government

    HERNANDO BEACH — Todd Zernick first got a glimpse of the beauty of western Hernando County when he was working on a job at the education center behind Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.

    He walked down to the Weeki Wachee River to touch the water and admire its clarity, and vowed to find a place in the area to live, which he did seven years ago.

    A boater and a fisherman, Zernick watched last year as his neighbors tried and failed to block Blue Pelican Marina in Hernando Beach from expanding, and he feared for the sensitive environment nearby. Then in April, he watched the marina illegally dump fill on its property one Saturday; the business was told to stop, but continued the next week....

    Muddy water runs in the drainage canal on Shoal Line Boulevard after rains last month washed fill dirt off the property of the Blue Pelican Marina in Hernando Beach.