10/19/17 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — The three former chiefs of the defunct Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department, arrested in September, are collectively accused of defrauding the taxpayers of Hernando Beach, Aripeka and Forest Glenn of tens of thousands of dollars.
The department's annual revenue was just under $250,000.
David Freda is accused of engaging in fraud to obtain property valued at $123,070.14. For Travis Morris, the figure is $57,780.35, and for David Murdock, $44,706.49. Some of that fraud overlaps among the chiefs, according to sheriff's investigators....
10/18/17 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — The City Council has jumped headlong into a discussion about the future of the Brooksville Police Department — specifically, whether to maintain it as is or change the way law enforcement services are provided in an effort to relieve the city's budget woes.
Inspired in part by a Facebook video plea by council member Natalie Kahler, residents crowded into the council chambers Monday night, many of them praising the work of the city police and urging the council to reject disbanding the department....
10/13/17 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — The last few physicians still operating at Pinebrook Medical Center have appealed to county leaders to give them more time and more funding to move as the county prepares to transform the facility into a new home for county offices.
Four doctors wrote to the commission recently, and several representatives appeared before the County Commission this week to say they needed at least a year to secure and prepare new offices. They also have expressed concern that the move will take more money than commissioners had previously approved....
10/12/17 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — The age-old conflicts typical in a developing community are coming to a head again as Hernando County officials consider the first major rewrite in 27 years of their official blueprint for development.
For more than a year, county planning staffers have been working on a new comprehensive plan, which will be in force until 2040. Their work has been shaped by their planning expertise, intermixed with suggestions by members of the public from both ends of the political spectrum. The County Commission and the Planning and Zoning Commission each held public workshops on the proposed changes in the plan earlier this month....
10/11/17 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — The Brooksville City Council has reached a contract agreement with Mark Kutney, and he will start Nov. 6 as the new city manager.
The council voted unanimously Tuesday to bring Kutney on board at an annual salary of $102,500. With other contract provisions, including a car allowance and relocation payment, this year's total compensation package would cost approximately $107,000, which is $1,000 more than what the council had budgeted for the position, said Mayor Robert Battista....
BROOKSVILLE — For years, there have been rumors and anonymous complaints about bad behavior by the leadership of the Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department, ranging from improper spending to firefighters drinking alcohol and having sex in the fire station.
Failure to follow basic protocol — including not responding to all fire calls, not having regular audits done and not having a medical director — cost the department its contract with the county earlier this year. Hernando County Fire and Rescue stepped in to take over in February....
BROOKSVILLE — Three former chiefs of the defunct Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department, including current Brooksville Chief David Freda, were arrested Friday, each was charged with one count of organized fraud.
The charges stem from a seven-month Hernando County Sheriff's Office investigation of misappropriation of public funds.
Freda, 31, was picked up during a traffic stop late Friday at a 7-Eleven store at County Line Road and U.S. 19. Earlier in the day, interim City Manager Lyndon Bonner, who had been made aware of the warrant out for the chief's arrest, placed Freda on unpaid administrative leave....
09/29/17 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — After a day of interviews and a meet-and-greet with city residents, the Brooksville City Council has offered Mark Kutney, the former town manager of Loxahatchee Groves, the job of city manager.
Prior to what ended up a unanimous decision during a special council meeting last Friday, council members discussed a variety of issues before giving Mayor Robert Battista and a representative from the law firm representing the city the go-ahead to negotiate a contract with Kutney. The contract will come back to the council in mid October....
09/28/17 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — As if flooding, no electricity and a significant interruption of normalcy were not enough of a parting gift from Hurricane Irma, Hernando County's east side has also been plagued with a huge uptick in the number of buzzing and biting mosquitoes.
To combat that problem and try to head off any serious diseases the insects can spread, Hernando County notified the Florida Department of Agriculture, which last weekend conducted a major aerial spray of 127,000 acres east of the Suncoast Parkway. The cost will be paid by the Federal Emergency Management Agency....
09/27/17 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission has approved its 2017-18 spending plan with a price tag of $452.9 million and a slightly higher property tax rate.
The general fund budget for the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, ended up at $119.9 million, compared to last year's $103.6 million.
The tax rate for the general fund will be 6.8912 mills, or $6.89 in property tax per $1,000 in appraised taxable property value, a slight decrease from last year's rate. But the county also added a new half-mill tax to help pull Hernando County Fire Rescue out of financial trouble. The two millage changes combined amount to a .4 mill increase, which is 40 cents in tax per $1,000 in appraised taxable property value....
BROOKSVILLE — The long, hot days of late summer and early fall have taken their toll on residents without electricity along the Withlacoochee River and others who are dealing with post-Hurricane Irma flooding.
Judy Yates, whose built-up house in Riverdale Estates isn't flooded — but who has lived without warm water for showers and the simple joy of air conditioning for two weeks — has been frustrated by the county's unwillingness to restore power to her home, even though the river level is below her electrical box....
09/21/17 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission has given tentative approval to a $452.9 million budget, funded partially by a property tax rate that is slightly higher than last year.
County officials said the increase was needed to help stabilize the finances of Hernando County Fire Rescue.
There was no public comment during Tuesday's hearing on the 2017-18 spending plan. The final public hearing is set for 5 p.m. Tuesday....
09/21/17 Local Government
Hurricane Irma's fierce winds are becoming a memory, but the water the storm left behind has become a real threat on Hernando's east side.
The Withlacoochee River has crested just shy of 18 feet at Trilby — about 6 feet above flood stage — and will remain high for several more days. Floodwaters have inundated streets, yards and homes with muddy water.
Air boats, jon boats and other craft manned by uniformed officers and volunteers have been scouring the flooded areas to evacuate those willing to leave their homes....
09/20/17 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — After conducting an intensive examination of the city's financial position over the past couple of months, the Brooksville City Council has settled on its 2017-18 budget and a tax increase and fire fee increase to help pay for it.
The $46.7 million budget, which includes a general fund budget of $7.2 million, reflects an increase of 6.89 percent in revenue from both a property tax rate increase and rising property values. In addition, the fees to pay for the city's fire service increased from 85 cents to 97 cents per $1,000 of appraised taxable property value, plus an increase in the per-lot charge from $125 to $135....
09/20/17 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — A push to publicly identify people who lobby top county officials was rejected by a majority of the Hernando County Commission this week when commissioners decided to pull a proposed lobbying ordinance from the agenda.
The idea to create a lobbyist registry to keep track of who talks to county commissioners, department heads and other decision makers was first suggested by county Commissioner John Allocco....