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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. Residents invited to learn about latest effort to improve south Brooksville drainage

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The need for drainage relief in portions of south Brooksville can be demonstrated in the old pictures of floods past, pictures of roads running like rivers and residents standing in homes with water up to their knees.

    For several years, the county, the city and the Southwest Florida Water Management District have been paying for drainage projects in various parts of the community, following a detailed drainage improvement plan....

    Completion of a drainage pond in 2014 at the site of the South Brooksville Community Center, on what is known as the Dauson property, provides nearly 3.5 acres for storing storm water.
  2. Two GOP candidates announced intent to run for commission seat

    Elections

    BROOKSVILLE — It may be a year and a half before the 2018 elections, but two candidates already have pre-filed paperwork to run for the District 2 Hernando County Commission seat now held by Republican Wayne Dukes.

    The candidates are Beth Narverud, who is a member of the Hernando School Board, and political newcomer Timothy "Tim" Liberty. Both are Republicans.

    Narverud, 53, said she has developed an interest in the County Commission seat because she believes she can help focus the county's growth and direction....

  3. Hernando commission moves supermajority repeal to public hearing

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Making it easier to pass future changes in the county's comprehensive plan by eliminating the need for a supermajority vote would undermine the work of the county's professional planners, negatively affect the property values of residents and allow politically influential business leaders to more easily sway public officials to their benefit.

    Those were among the arguments of county residents who this week urged the Hernando County Commission to maintain the status quo, which requires four votes to pass any change in the comp plan. Most other decisions require a simple majority of three votes from the five commissioners....

    Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes initially raised the issue.
  4. Brewery, tavern at Spring Hill Drive and Barclay Avenue gain initial approval

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Plans for a small-scale brewery and tavern at Spring Hill Drive and Barclay Avenue got a boost this week when the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission voted to recommend to the County Commission that the property be rezoned.

    Applicant David Peitzman, a teacher who formerly worked at Marker 48 Brewing in Spring Hill, told planning commission members that he had been brewing for about seven years and found the site at the northwest corner of Spring Hill and Barclay — a storefront and a former carwash — to be perfect for his new venture....

  5. Multiple plans for property south of Brooksville called 'unique'

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County planning commissioners weren't quite sure what the development might look like someday. But they found the ideas intriguing enough that they tentatively approved the necessary zoning change on a 25-acre parcel on the south side of Powell Road.

    The list of possible uses for the site, which is west of U.S. 41, includes a country-themed restaurant as a first phase, artisan gift shops, a 30-room bed-and-breakfast, a spa, a microbrewery or distillery, a tree house, a botanical garden, an event venue and an equestrian center....

  6. Despite concerns, Brooksville won't privatize ambulance service

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — After reviewing research, riding with a county ambulance crew and hearing pitches from emergency services providers, the Brooksville City Council has rejected privatizing the city's emergency medical services.

    The council voted unanimously to reject the one bid it received from private ambulance provider MedFleet, deciding to stay with the county's ambulance and advanced life support medical response....

    Brooksville City Council member Bill Kemerer wants to get advanced life support on a city truck.
  7. Hernando moves toward short- and long-term solutions to government space needs

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission this week gave tentative approval to a series of county office shuffles that will provide short-term relief to crowded conditions while a long-term solution is considered.

    Commissioners will formally approve leases and other details for the short-term plans next month, but also agreed to allow County Administrator Len Sossamon to begin work with the county's financial experts to come up with options to pay for new construction — with a price tag that could reach $100 million, based on a long-term solution being recommended by a consultant....

    County Commissioner Nick Nicholson warned about expense.
  8. Arbitrator rules fired Brooksville Fire Department captain should be reinstated

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The city of Brooksville wrongfully fired its Fire Department's first female driver, engineer and captain last year, an arbitrator has ruled.

    Hillary Sanford, who took issue with the city's actions and contacted news outlets and used social media to tell her story, should be reinstated and be made whole for the year she was gone, the ruling concludes.

    After sitting through two days of testimony and reviewing a pile of documents, arbitrator Douglas Coleman determined that the firing was "clearly excessive.''...

    Sanford
  9. Hernando commission takes cautious approach on airport issue

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County commissioners, already stung by a series of apparent missteps at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport in recent months, decided this week to take a more cautious approach in deciding what to do with an airport facility with an already snakebit reputation.

    Recently, the county sought bids for the property on Technology Drive known over the years by the names of its various business entities: the Brooksville Air Center, Corporate Jet Solutions and Transformation Aviation Services. The first ended in bankruptcy; the second and third landed the county in lawsuits that remain unresolved....

    County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes wanted to see the county work out a deal to keep Global Jetcare at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport. But when questions about bids arose, other commissioners wanted to look at other options.
  10. Judge rules in Hernando County's favor in annexation spat with Brooksville

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The city of Brooksville did not follow the rules when it annexed five county properties in 2015, and the annexations have been quashed by Circuit Judge Donald Scaglione.

    The judge ruled last week in favor of Hernando County in a legal complaint brought by the county in early 2016. The ruling focused on the legal requirements to conduct a "voluntary annexation'' and did not make any finding regarding what had become a central controversy in the legal debate, the contention by the county that the annexations furthered Brooksville's history of racial discrimination....

    Circuit Judge Donald Scagione made no finding on the question of racial discrim-ination.
  11. Hernando commission, sheriff settle differences with $1.26 million budget increase

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — A familiar proposal to fund a portion of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office through a special taxing district came to a familiar end Tuesday when the County Commission turned down the idea with an informal vote before a packed house of residents who opposed the idea.

    It took less than five minutes.

    A few minutes later, the commission approved by formal vote a $1.26 million settlement of the budget dispute between the county and the sheriff that has raged for six months, driving a wedge between county commissioners and Sheriff Al Nienhuis....

    Al Nienhuis resolved his budget dispute Tuesday.
  12. Slow progress frustrates those looking to protect Weeki Wachee River

    Environment

    WEEKI WACHEE

    Nearly a year ago, lovers of the Weeki Wachee River — concerned that it was overcrowded with kayaks, muddied by public use, sanded over by drifting sediment and clouded by nutrient-fed algae — mobilized like never before.

    They mobbed a meeting of the Hernando County Port Authority in April and the next month held a packed town hall meeting at the Coast Guard Auxiliary building....

    A steady stream of kayaks passes by the shoreline at Rogers Park on the Weeki Wachee River on March 4.
  13. Surprise cancellation of bids raises questions about status of hangars at airport

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Several months ago, the county's manager at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport allowed American Aviation, the airport's fixed-base operator, to move into two empty hangars and use them for storage and for renovation of airplane interiors.

    Airport manager Kevin Daugherty accepted a payment for $50,000 for the purchase of the hangars before asking the Hernando County Commission for approval, then had to give that money back. American Aviation also signed a lease for the space, but that too was canceled....

    County Commissioner Steve Champion said he was surprised to learn that bids for hangars at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport were canceled. He said he was eager to hear an official explanation.
  14. Hernando planning board rejects plans for retreat

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Plans to use a 20-acre tract near the Croom Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest for a healing center and retreat were derailed this week with a thumbs down from the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission.

    Residents who live near the rural property on Walking Horse Trail sent letters and lined up at the microphone for the public hearing Tuesday. They argued that the planned retreat violated community restrictions, brought strangers and transients into the area, had started operations without any of the necessary permits and compounded problems on the narrow dirt access road serving the community....

  15. State plans roundabout for dangerous Hernando intersection

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — While setting up a presentation for the County Commission this week, county engineer Mark Guttman called the corner of U.S. 98 and Citrus Way "the infamous intersection.''

    Others referred to it as the corner where motorists hold their breath and hope for the best.

    And representatives of the state's Department of Transportation see the crossroads as an ongoing traffic conundrum where more than a half dozen people have lost their lives in recent years, including five in one fiery crash in 2015. Many of the fatal crashes and numerous serious-injury accidents have happened since flashing red and yellow lights were installed there in 2007....