09/04/15 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission has avoided a potential showdown with Sheriff Al Nienhuis, putting the two sides on the path to a compromise before the county's final budget hearing on Sept. 22.
Before the first hearing Thursday evening, Nienhuis asked for a $1.6 million increase to his office's current budget of $41.3 million.
He argued before the meeting — and at a half-hour presentation during the hearing — that the county could expect to collect an additional $2.5 million in revenue during the coming fiscal year, mostly because of an increase in the taxable value of county property....
09/03/15 Human Interest
Logan Neill caught what was maybe Bill Monroe's last performance 19 years ago, and, while he was at it, caught the great bluegrass musician himself.
Hearing that Monroe might make one of his impromptu appearances at a bar in Tarpon Springs, Neill, who was then this paper's pop music critic, and Dave Scheiber, his editor, raced to the club and took front-row seats shortly before the 84-year-old Monroe began to mount the stage....
The poll results, though preliminary and completely unscientific, were nevertheless encouraging to supporters of renewing the Hernando County School District's half-cent sales tax.
"We're getting a lot of honks," said Melinda Barrett, who stood at Spring Hill Drive and Mariner Boulevard in Spring Hill last week, holding a sign imploring drivers to honk if they supported the tax.
"Once you explain to people exactly what it's for, they seem to be supporting it more," said Barrett, an instructional coach at Explorer K-8 School and first vice chairwoman of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association....
U.S. Rep. Richard Nugent is modest in manner and appearance.
No comb-over, no bombast, no "The" affixed to his first name as a running joke on his pomposity.
Yet if Nugent's style has little in common with front-running Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, his position on Trump's trademark issue, immigration, is in some ways identical — meaning identically outrageous....
BROOKSVILLE — After less than six months on the job, Jimmy Lodato has announced he will step down as chairman of the Democratic Party in Hernando County.
Lodato, a retired businessman who has run unsuccessfully for County Commission as both a Republican and a Democrat, wrote in an email to party members Monday night that his main reason for leaving was the shortage of funds, combined with the expense of maintaining the party's office on Deltona Boulevard in Spring Hill....
BROOKSVILLE — Parents and other interested residents will have one more chance to discuss a rezoning of Hernando County schools that, so far, has avoided the acrimony often associated with the process.
School staffers will host a community forum to explain the current plan at 5 p.m. Thursday at Central High School.
One reason the process has gone smoothly, some staffers said, is that the School Board avoided controversial ideas for creating space in the district's most crowded schools, including moving the International Baccalaureate and magnet programs....
The group Christie Anderberg helped found is called Friends of Chinsegut Hill, and that's what Anderberg has been for many years — a good, devoted friend to Chinsegut.
But now, it needs more than that.
It needs professional help.
It needs a manager who has a record of successfully running a historical event center, someone with a proven ability to generate revenue from such a property without compromising its authenticity....
BROOKSVILLE — Red T-shirts advertising the Sept. 8 school sales tax referendum have been a common fashion accessory at recent Hernando County School Board meetings.
Billboards are going up. Smaller signs supporting restoration of the half-cent tax, which expired at the end of 2014, are showing up on the sides of highways and in residents' yards.
"We are moving forward on the campaign with rapid speed," Jimmy Lodato, co-chairman of the Save Our Schools Hernando political action committee, told the School Board last week....
By, among other things, ignoring voters who asked them to protect natural land, state lawmakers this year set a new standard for arrogant disregard of both the people and the environment.
Last week, the Hernando County Commission just about matched them.
As the Times' Barbara Behrendt has reported, the commission voted to disband the county's Environmentally Sensitive Lands Committee, which was created more than 25 years ago as the result of a majority vote of the people....
BROOKSVILLE — The eight glossy, color-coded maps handed out to parents all had the same basic goal, said Tony Akers.
They all represented strategies to put more schoolchildren into the many empty seats at Pine Grove Elementary School, West Hernando Middle School and Central High School — three schools that sit side by side in central Hernando County.
Thursday night's meeting at Central was the first chance for members of the Hernando County School District's rezoning committee, in several separate classrooms, to explain options to residents and listen to their suggestions....
BROOKSVILLE — Despite the reservations of several members, the Hernando County School Board on Tuesday approved a two-year contract with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office to provide deputies at middle and high schools.
"I have concerns over this," School Board member Susan Duval said.
The board previously had discussed the idea of a shorter contract to allow the district time to consider replacing some of the deputies with private security guards to save money....
BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board on Tuesday tentatively approved a 2015-16 budget of $223 million. That's $28 million lower than last year's budget, but includes $2.1 million more in general fund revenues.
The property tax rate also inched up by .029 mills, to 7.196 mills, because of a mandate by the state Legislature, which largely controls the rate.
A mill is equal to $1 in tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value, and this year's increase would mean $2.18 more in tax on a house valued at $100,000 with a $25,000 homestead exemption. The millage increase and rising property values mean the district will collect 4.2 percent more in local revenues this year than last, according to information provided by the district for the first of two required budget hearings on Tuesday. The district also received a boost in per-student payment from the state....
07/27/15 Public Safety
BROOKSVILLE — All five people inside a pickup were killed Monday after it was struck by a box truck and burst into flames so intense that officials were unable to identify its occupants by nightfall.
The Chevrolet pickup was heading west on U.S. 98 in northern Hernando County about 10:30 a.m. The box truck was traveling south on Citrus Way, about 3 miles south of the Citrus County line, and continued into the intersection without stopping, despite a stop sign and flashing red light, according to the Florida Highway Patrol....
John Athanason pointed to the wavy, white concrete roof over the mermaid theater at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.
The job of restoring the 56-year-old "clamshell roof," which was completed last month, included ripping off asphalt shingles that for unknown reasons were installed over the graceful and nearly indestructible concrete roof in the 1970s.
"I can't imagine why they covered it up in the first place," said Athanason, the park's public relations manager and a frequent visitor as a child. "I always knew, as soon as I saw the clamshell roof, that's where the mermaid show was. … It's iconic."...
The architects hired to create a revival plan for the Kass Circle neighborhood in the heart of old Spring Hill said, basically, that the area currently doesn't look like much.
Nearby houses are "unsightly," according to a report produced by the University of South Florida School of Architecture and Community Design.
The lack of landscaping in the median gives the adjacent stretch of Spring Hill Drive a "minimalist and unfinished appearance."...