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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


  1. Job skills program for high school students considering new Hernando location to save money

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Still faced with challenges to find students to enroll and manufacturers to participate, the fledgling AMskills program recently found one way to improve its bottom line.

    After a discussion with the Hernando County Commission about its issues, the organization is considering new quarters for its Hernando operation, possibly at a county school site where it would save money by not having to continue to pay rent....

  2. Hernando County may suspend contract of company that did work on Osowaw Boulevard

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — At the end of last month, Hernando County asked the contractor that constructed a bumpy stretch of Osowaw Boulevard to fix the problem. Now, county officials are considering terminating the contract entirely.

    The contract that the county signed with B.R.W. Contracting Inc. specifies a series of steps between the parties if there is a dispute over the work. After the county requested that the company fix Osowaw, B.R.W. responded this month....

  3. Commissioners say they want control of waste-to-energy decisionmaking process

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Noting that a plan to convert waste into energy could be the biggest and most important public works project in recent memory, Hernando County commissioners this week made it clear that they want to be deeply involved in the decisionmaking process.

    The county is again preparing to send out a request for proposals to lure a company that would take solid waste and turn it into some form of energy....

    Diane Rowden wants to eliminate any initial internal screening of companies.
  4. Proposal withdrawn for independent fire district in Hernando Beach

    Public Safety

    HERNANDO BEACH — A proposal to ask residents of Hernando Beach, Aripeka and Forest Glenn if they want an independent fire district with taxing authority to operate their volunteer fire department has been extinguished.

    Earlier this week, Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department Chief Travis Morris announced at a meeting of local residents that the department had chosen to pull the proposed legislative bill, which would have called for a vote on the district, because the community didn't understand what the department was trying to accomplish....

  5. Hernando planning commission rejects plan for outdoor gun range

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The outdoor gun range proposed for 3.75 acres north of Weeki Wachee near the gated Glen Lakes community was dealt a blow Monday by the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission.

    Planning commissioners echoed concerns previously expressed by county planning staffers and voted unanimously to recommend that the Hernando County Commission deny Christopher Russo's rezoning request....

  6. Controversial gun range plan comes to Hernando planning board with recommendation to deny

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County's planning staff has recommended denial of a controversial gun range planned just south of the gated Glen Lakes community, north of Weeki Wachee. But the property owner says he is prepared to defend his rights.

    The Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday will consider a proposal to rezone 3.75 acres north of Long Lake Avenue, west of U.S. 19, from agricultural to planned development project/recreational for use as a firearms supply shop, a firearms training center and an outdoor gun range....

  7. Commissioners back Hernando County administrator amid opposition

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — At a meeting late last month, the county's economic development supervisor, Valerie Pianta, touted new projects that have brought in hundreds of jobs and filled several vacant industrial sites.

    People need to pay attention, said County Commissioner Diane Rowden, because the rumor mill has been churning with stories that Pianta's boss, County Administrator Len Sossamon, has a target on his back....

    County Administrator Len Sossamon also serves as Hernando’s economic development director.
  8. Hernando County issues notice to contractor regarding work on Osowaw Boulevard

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County officials have put the contractor that applied the bumpy layer of pavement on Osowaw Boulevard on notice that it must make repairs or formulate plans for a fix immediately.

    The county also has stopped B.R.W. Contracting Inc. of Land O'Lakes from moving forward with a similar project on Shoal Line Boulevard after the contractor told county officials that parts of that road would end up in the same condition....

  9. Brooksville considering red-light camera settlement

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Motorists traveling through the city of Brooksville will likely have to wait longer than they had hoped to see the unpopular red-light cameras disappear from key intersections.

    On Monday, the Brooksville City Council will consider a settlement of the court action the city filed in April seeking a judge's ruling on when the contract the city has with the red-light camera company, Sensys America, comes to an end....

  10. New traffic light planned to fix traffic problems on Mariner Boulevard

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — County officials have finally found a solution to the access problems on Mariner Boulevard created by the new Cortez Commons shopping center: a new traffic light farther south on Mariner.

    When the county completed a frontage road to run behind the stores at Cortez Commons, it had to block vehicles from turning north on Mariner Boulevard from the streets and the church to the south of the shopping center....

  11. Hernando residents level long list of complaints against road contractor

    Local Government

    HERNANDO BEACH — From a distance, drivers approach newly paved Osowaw Boulevard anticipating a smooth ride that the fresh pavement and bright lane stripes promise.

    But the road doesn't quite deliver.

    When tires touch pavement, the effect is an undulating ride that some residents of coastal Hernando Beach liken to riding over a washboard.

    In recent days, dozens of residents have given an earful to Brian Malmberg, the county's assistant administrator for operations, about the road project and its contractor, B.R.W. Contracting Inc., of Land O'Lakes....

  12. Redevelopment district would continue momentum of Kass Circle improvements, official says

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — A year and a half and dozens of Post-it notes later, Hernando County's effort to revitalize what was once the town center of Spring Hill is about to reach a new plateau.

    On Tuesday, the County Commission will consider making the area around Kass Circle a community redevelopment district. The designation would provide new funding opportunities to improve and develop Spring Hill Plaza into a vibrant business location and community gathering spot....

    Empty store fronts at Spring Hill Plaza on Spring Hill Drive. Tuesday, the County Commission will consider making the area around Kass Circle a community redevelopment district.
  13. Commission backs away from taxing district for sheriff, but further discussions set for new year

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Over the past 14 years, the concept of giving Hernando County's sheriff his own taxing district has been talked up and voted down several times.

    In recent days, it seemed that the idea might have gathered enough support from county commissioners for it to fly. But despite the fact that at least three commissioners had said they favored the plan, the board voted unanimously Tuesday to pull it off the agenda. They also agreed to bring Sheriff Al Nienhuis to the table early next year to talk about how to solve the ongoing problem of contentious budget negotiations....

    Sheriff Al Nienhuis recently waged a social media campaign critical of the county.
  14. Citing concerns over cleanliness and health, commission ends Bark Island program at beach

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — An eight-year tradition that afforded dogs and their owners a little bit of beach time came to an end this week when the Hernando County Commission voted unanimously to end the Bark Island program.

    Dogs generally are not allowed at Alfred A. McKethan Park on Pine Island. But on select Saturday mornings from September through March, dog owners have been allowed to pay a fee to allow their animals to play in the water. It was the owners' job to clean up after their pets....

    The Hernando County Commission voted unanimously to end Bark Island.
  15. Proposal for separate taxing district for Hernando sheriff dies

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — In the days after it was revealed that the Hernando County Commission was considering a separate taxing district to fund Sheriff's Office operations, social media exploded in a tense dialogue about the pros and cons of the idea.

    The culmination of the battle was expected to play out at Tuesday's commission meeting. But the debate ended when commissioners pulled the item from the agenda, though the verbal tussle continued over the aggressive campaign Sheriff Al Nienhuis had mounted to combat the taxing district....

    Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis gives a press conference on the departments criminal investigation involving Hernando County Sheriff's Office Deputies Michael Glatfelter and Joseph Reid on Friday, December 27, 2013. Glatfelter and Reid both have resigned from the department.