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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. Commission delays decision on permit for mentoring, training center

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The Born to Win Community Development Corp., which has provided mentoring, training, tutoring and other assistance for children and residents in south Brooksville for 13 years, is facing another hurdle before getting the go-ahead on its proposed new community center.

    County commissioners this week balked at a provision suggested by the Planning and Zoning Commission last month that would allow the organization to take up to a year to build a fence on its property to separate children from a potentially dangerous gully just off the site. The location is on Josephine Street, just south of Dr. M.L. King Jr. Boulevard....

  2. Community organization that helps kids reach potential plans to expand

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Thirteen years ago, Tammy Willis faced both the challenge of raising a special-needs daughter and the reality that her south Brooksville neighborhood offered many more challenges than solutions for youth.

    What started as tutoring sessions and praying with neighbors in her garage became a network of educational, counseling and community resources, which eventually turned into the Born to Win Community Development Corp....

  3. Brooksville moves forward with plan to rename street in honor of Muhammad Ali

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Approximately 28 residents along Union Street in Brooksville will receive formal notice in the coming days that the City Council is considering renaming the road after the late Muhammad Ali.

    The suggestion to honor Ali was made by council member Frankie Burnett just days after the famous boxer and civil rights champion, known as "the Greatest,'' died this month.

    "Muhammad Ali was a great guy, and not only one of the greatest sports figures we've seen in our time,'' Burnett said. "He used his power and fame to uncover the ugly social injustices. He did it worldwide and not just in America, and that made him even greater.''...

    New York now has a Muhammad Ali Way and Brooksville could soon have a Muhammad Ali Boulevard.
  4. Hernando Beach residents hear details regarding improved emergency services

    Public Safety

    HERNANDO BEACH — During a town hall meeting this week, residents of Hernando Beach finally got a look at the details and what it might cost to have paramedics at their doorstep who could treat a heart attack, administer lifesaving medicines and save a choking victim.

    The community is the last in Hernando County to have volunteer first responders capable of providing only basic life support. County fire officials spent more than an hour explaining to about 50 residents how a hybrid fire service could improve response times by more highly trained paramedics....

  5. Brooksville firefighter says her firing over policy question was unwarranted

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — As the first female driver, engineer and captain for the Brooksville Fire Department, Hillary Sanford was proud to wear the uniform and enjoyed being a public face for the agency during community outreach activities.

    But in early April, Sanford's 11-year career with the Fire Department ended when Chief David Freda terminated her for violating a policy he recently had put in place....

    Hillary Sanford was a Brooksville firefighter for 11 years.
  6. Planning commission paves way for development near Oak Hill Hospital

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — A 270-acre mixed-use residential, office-professional and commercial development west of Oak Hill Hospital received initial approval this week from the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission.

    Planning commissioners voted unanimously to send the rezoning to the County Commission for final consideration, as well as a 10-acre change in the comprehensive plan on adjacent property that would switch from residential to commercial. In addition, commission members gave initial approval to a 40-acre zoning change on a parcel to the east for an expansion of the Oak Hill medical campus....

  7. County donates property for facility to provide mental health services

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The longtime dream of a center to assist local residents in need of mental health support services moved a step closer to reality this week when the Henando County Commission agreed to give 7.7 acres to the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

    The property, on Forest Oaks Boulevard, is near the Hernando County Health Department. The land was valued at $200,000, and the local NAMI chapter offered $8,000 for the site in order to build the county's first Vincent House....

  8. Planning commission to consider major development near Oak Hill Hospital

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday will consider a large mixed-use development and an adjacent expansion of the Oak Hill Hospital campus, west of the existing access road to the hospital off Cortez Boulevard.

    The largest part of the development would be on 270 acres along Cortez, approximately 2,000 feet west of the hospital access. The property owners, Christ Charity for Kids Inc. and Father Hamm's Care for Kids, both of Spring Hill, are seeking a change in the county's comprehensive plan for 10 acres of the total. The applicants are also seeking rezoning on the larger parcel from agricultural to planned development project, allowing for a total of 980 residential units....

  9. As local governments prepare 2016-17 budgets, property values continue to rise

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County property values are continuing to rise, with approximately $200 million in taxable value added to existing properties this year over last, according to John Emerson, county property appraiser.

    This week, Emerson's office notified various taxing authorities of the taxable property values for the purpose of early planning for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The so-called "good-faith estimate" indicates that, for county budgeting purposes, the total taxable value has climbed to $7.45 billion, or about 2.8 percent higher than last year's estimate....

    As Hernando County governments prepare 2016-17 budgets, property values continue to rise.
  10. Hernando sheriff seeks higher budget to add staff, cover needs

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Citing the need for additional staff, funds for making employee compensation more fair and the ability to build a fund for capital needs, Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis has submitted a 2016-17 budget request to the county totaling $45.9 million, a 3.6 percent increase over his request for the current year.

    "These proposed expenditures are reasonable and necessary for the proper and efficient operation of the office for the next fiscal year,'' Nienhuis wrote in his annual budget letter to the County Commission....

    “These proposed expenditures are reasonable and necessary for the proper and efficient operation of the office for the next fiscal year.”
Al Nienhuis, Hernando County sheriff
  11. Troubled road builder will return to fix problems on Hancock Lake Road

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Months after Hernando County sent troubled road builder B.R.W. Contracting Inc. packing for failure to complete several projects satisfactorily and on time, the county is bringing the company back.

    That's because the project that was the first red flag, on Hancock Lake Road south of Brooksville, where the contractor used the wrong road base, is now falling apart.

    Residents, who paid two-thirds of the cost to pave the road two years ago, recently notified the county that the new pavement was beginning to deteriorate. The problems with the project foreshadowed a number of other work quality and timeliness issues with projects B.R.W. was awarded in the months that followed....

  12. Commission rejects proposal to expand commercial fishing in Hernando Beach

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — A proposal to expand the commercial fishing fleet further south in Hernando Beach failed Tuesday when the Hernando County Commission voted unanimously to reject the idea.

    The vote means residents along Cheeks Creek will not see more commercial fishing boats traveling up and down their residential canal.

    Sportfisherman's Landing Inc. was seeking to rezone a lot at Calienta Street and Gulf Coast Drive. Daniel Ebbecke, who has one-third interest in the lot, represented the company, which was seeking permission for six boats over 26 feet in length to be moored at the site....

  13. Senator promises to study issues of concern to residents on Weeki Wachee River

    Environment

    WEEKI WACHEE

    For nearly two hours last week, state Sen. Wilton Simpson listened to a crowd of people worried about the condition of the Weeki Wachee River.

    Some told stories about the river filling in with sand and becoming nearly impossible to navigate in some areas. Others complained about the thousands of kayakers paddling past their riverfront homes in any given week. Some voiced concerns that the growing river use will someday steal the beauty that first drew residents and tourists to the area....

    State Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, vowed to get a task force on the river problem.
  14. Former head of road contracting company found guilty on perjury counts

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The former president of the road contracting company that botched several major county projects has been found guilty on 10 counts of perjury in connection with those projects.

    Phyllis Blankenship paid fines and fees topping $1,500 earlier this month after pleading no contest and facing judgment. She was arrested in February after the Times published an investigation into the projects performed by her company, B.R.W. Contracting Inc., and problems such as poor ride quality, substandard road-building materials and falling behind schedule on jobs....

    Phyllis Blank-enship was found guilty on 10 counts of perjury.
  15. Politics shows in selection of waste-to-energy contractor

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County's search for an eco-friendly method of solid waste disposal — a process supposedly insulated from politics — has turned into a clash between opposing camps of influential business leaders.

    On one side is the company chosen last month as first pick by the County Commission for the multimillion-dollar job of turning waste to energy, Freedom Energy Hernando LLC. Its local backers include Brooksville businessman Tom Barnette, who has political ties to County Commissioners Wayne Dukes, Nick Nicholson and Diane Rowden — and who stands to benefit financially if Freedom Energy holds on to the job....