BROOKSVILLE — Hernando School Board Chairman Gus Guadagnino raised the question about a possible special election for a half-cent sales tax — "Is this something we should do?" he asked Tuesday — then delivered the most definite "yes."
"One way or another, we have to take care of our school system," said Guadagnino, who at last week's board workshop framed the passage of the tax as a moral imperative — and as a measure with a good chance of passing....
01/22/15 Local Government
It seemed unlikely that a former tournament poker player who made his name bashing government and his fortune in speculative housing could be elected statewide leader of the Republican Party.
But then again, his opponent was a stand-in for a governor who has an even more questionable business history, and who recently has seemed intent on irritating loyal Republicans and undermining his own credibility....
WEEKI WACHEE — The three-member Weeki Wachee City Council has approved an 86-unit apartment complex on one of the city's few remaining vacant lots — a 9-acre parcel on U.S. 19 across from the entrance to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.
The apartments will be available only to renters 55 and older, and the land is owned by Greystone LLP of Clearwater, which also owned the site of the nearby Dollar General store....
BROOKSVILLE — Last spring, when state law was changed to give Hernando County schools the extra state funding granted to small districts, it was hailed as a great victory.
"It's huge for us, a huge win for the district," superintendent Lori Romano said at time.
Now it appears the district might not be quite small enough — and that the law might not have changed enough — for cash-strapped Hernando schools to receive this small-district bonus....
It looks like a bold move, but is actually a play for safety.
It looks as if U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent, R-Spring Hill, is willing to take on the very model of an entrenched politician, when the idea is to become more entrenched himself.
Nugent, as you've no doubt heard by now, voted for Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden, instead of incumbent John Boehner for House speaker earlier this month. On Saturday, he doubled down, releasing a statement that blasted Boehner's leadership....
01/14/15 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — Brooksville's Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade on Monday will be part of celebration lasting several days, drawing participants and spectators from around the region and, organizers hope, all sections of the community.
"This is not just a black holiday for black residents," said Billy Healis, a local Walmart executive who has helped organize the parade the past two years. "It is national holiday for all members of the community."...
BROOKSVILLE — After coming home from a shift as a Hernando County Sheriff's Office detention deputy, Cody Marrone used a hair dryer to burn the buttocks and genitals of his girlfriend's 3-year-old son.
Marrone first waited for the metal grill of the dryer to heat up, Circuit Judge Stephen E. Toner said at a sentencing hearing on Thursday. He then pressed hard enough for the grill, which was recessed from the end of the dryer, to touch the boy's skin, and held it there long enough to inflict several permanent scars....
01/08/15 Real Estate
Hernando County's housing market, though much improved at the end of 2014, is still is far from recovery.
In Pasco County, on the other hand, houses are selling fast enough that some people have dared to call it a boom.
"Jobs, jobs — everything is jobs," said Vladimir Hucko, a veteran Spring Hill Realtor.
That may be true. But the employment that has boosted Pasco's housing market is not necessarily in Pasco....
01/08/15 Human Interest
Gary Sechen and Wynn Miller, like a lot of gay men their age, have tended to move to places where they felt accepted:
New York City in the 1980s, Key West in the 1990s and, three years ago, Brooksville.
Of course, Sechen, 60, and Miller, 70, didn't know for sure whether Brooksville would fit in so well with those famously tolerant cities.
But it's Brooksville — or, actually their home in the country a few miles to the east — where they've developed a close friendship with one neighbor and have been left in peace by others, even the ones who fly Confederate flags....
TAMPA — Before she presided over a mass wedding ceremony Tuesday, Hillsborough Clerk of Court Pat Frank asked the dozens of gay couples how many years they had waited for the moment.
"Forty three!" said Frank. "Well, you have waited a long time."
No longer. At that park in Tampa and across Florida, wedding bells rang for same-sex couples, the result of a successful court challenge to the state's 2008 ban on gay marriages....
01/04/15 Human Interest
The fire-groomed forest — the tall, well-spaced longleaf pines, the floor of ferns and wire grass speckled with the last of the fall wildflowers — was proof that nature can thrive with a little help.
So was the particular pine that Vince Morris approached on an overcast afternoon in mid November. The artificial cavity he'd placed in the trunk nearly a decade ago had gone native. Its residents had drilled into the surrounding bark, striking resin that had hardened like wax on a candle and formed an ancient form of protection against snakes....
01/01/15 Human Interest
My annual update on selected stories and columns from the past year.
It was nearly a year ago that Walmart, the Hernando County chapter of the NAACP and the city of Brooksville hosted the county's most stirring Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in years: marching bands, floats and the appearance of a distinguished parade marshal, former professional football player Maulty Moore....
At one point, the state was prepared to sell the historic Chinsegut Hill Manor House and its surrounding property to the highest bidder.
And for many years, the organization devoted to saving the house, Friends of Chinsegut Hill, struggled to raise enough money to keep it from further decay.
But in 2014, thanks to a $1.5 million state grant, the group was able to restore most of the structure's former glory. The money allowed the group to shore up the sagging foundation, replace rotting window frames, install heart-pine floors and, of course, repair the house, the first part of which was built in 1849....
First came the fire at Papa Joe's Italian Restaurant. Then the rallying of a grateful community. Now the rebuilding.
The fire, which started in building's wiring after midnight on Jan. 24, quickly consumed the 5,000-square-foot restaurant east of Brooksville.
Owners Joe and Donna Giarratana, who had a long tradition of fundraising and providing food for worthy causes, were on the receiving end for a change — or at least their employees were....
BROOKSVILLE — Sometimes the reasons for a shortage of a particular species of bird on a particular day are obscure and might include shifts in weather patterns or changing agricultural practices in distant countries.
And sometimes the causes are as obvious as the hunter's shotgun blast that rang out over Bystre Lake on Saturday morning.
"I'm going to guess that's going to hurt our chances for a whole lot of ducks," said Mike Liberton, the leader of a crew of birders that had met for Brooksville's contribution to the National Audubon Society's 115th annual Christmas Bird Count....