04/18/14 Public Safety
BROOKSVILLE — Brooksville police Sgt. Robert Dixon will attest that preparations for the department's accreditation renewal began the moment the agency earned its original endorsement in 2011 from the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation.
In fact, said Dixon, the department's accreditation program coordinator, the process "never really stops," as department policies and procedures are constantly reviewed and refined....
BROOKSVILLE — Lynn Hutchinson, a former owner of a Spring Hill pain management clinic that was the target of an 18-month investigation by the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, will avoid prison, but will spend 10 years on probation and perform community service as the result of a deal that takes into account her failing health.
After pleading no contest last year to a dozen charges, including multiple counts of practicing medicine without a license, Hutchinson was due to be sentenced last May. But her attorney, Jimmy Brown of Brooksville, said that a series of health setbacks and subsequent hospitalizations caused the matter to be postponed several times....
04/15/14 Human Interest
BROOKSVILLE — If Hernando County roads seemed a little more crowded this past weekend, there was good reason. The convergence of the 63rd Hernando County Fair and Youth Livestock Show and the Florida Blueberry Festival, plus near-perfect spring weather, combined to attract huge crowds, leaving organizers of both events pleased.
The fair wrapped up its nine-day run Saturday with what spokeswoman Sandra Nicholson called "a huge crowd" on the final day. Fears that the fair's finale might be competing with the opening day of the blueberry festival didn't materialize, she said...
04/11/14 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — Internal strife isn't unfamiliar to the Hernando County Fine Arts Council. Rarely in the 27-year history of the nonprofit organization have things run silky smooth. Members of the council's volunteer board of directors have come and gone for various reasons, always replaced by others who have their own vision for how they want the organization to move forward.
The past couple of months certainly have seen that trend continue with the departure of four members of the council, including three members of the executive board, leaving vacant the critical positions of vice chairperson, secretary and treasurer....
04/10/14 Public Safety
LECANTO — Lt. Steve Vitt said he seldom has encountered vegetation as thick and arduous as what he rode through Thursday as his team searched for missing 74-year-old pilot Theodore Weiss of Zephyrhills.
At times, Vitt, who commands the volunteer Citrus County Sheriff's Office mounted posse, and the others were forced to dismount and use machetes to hack away the thick vines that ensnared their horses....
BROOKSVILLE — For chairwoman Michael Heard, preparations for the 2014 Florida Blueberry Festival are vastly different than they were three years ago, when she was handed the reins to turn downtown Brooksville into Blueberry Central.
Yes, the pace is still hectic. It's not as manic, though, as it was for the inaugural event in 2012, when it seemed everything came with a huge learning curve....
04/07/14 Music & Concerts
SPRING LAKE — Ray Wylie Hubbard still has his "outlaw" sound, and often regales his audiences with his one and only genuine cult hit, Up Against the Wall (Redneck Mother), a song made famous by his longtime friend, Jerry Jeff Walker. But fans who have followed Hubbard over the years know that his musical vision goes beyond his ability to write novelty songs.
Hubbard, 67, comes from the old stock of Texas singer/songwriters that produced notable legends such as Walker, Billy Joe Shaver, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and, of course, Willie Nelson. His vivid, earthy, facts-of-life songs deal with everything from religion to snake farms to strippers and Les Paul guitars. And while the progressive country that typified his early career can still be heard, he admits that he has always connected more with blues than country....
While the latest numbers may point to a rosier statewide employment picture, the same isn't so for Hernando County, where the February jobless rate rose to 8.6 percent, according to the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What had been a slowly improving trend began turning worse in January, when the unemployment jumped from a five-year low of 7.6 percent in December to 8.4 percent. The latest figures put the county fourth-highest in the state in unemployment behind Hendry, Flagler, Hamilton and Putnam counties....
04/02/14 Real Estate
SPRING HILL — One could call the revived sponsorship by the Hernando Builders Association of the 2014 Parade of Homes of the Nature Coast a sign of faith that the county's building industry finally is climbing out of its long slumber.
Last year saw 239 permits issued for single-family home construction, a marked increase from the 160 issued in 2012, and the most issued in any single year since 2008, when home sales and prices everywhere in Florida began slumping and consumer confidence was plummeting. So dismal was the housing picture that the Hernando builders chose to simply skip their spring home showcase in 2010, opting to combine efforts with the Citrus County Builders Association the next four years....
04/01/14 Real Estate
If there's one hopeful sign that the residential construction industry is creeping back in Hernando County, it would be this year's Parade of Homes of the Nature Coast, hosted by the Hernando Builders Association.
The association has not sponsored the event, which runs through April 13, since 2009.
Last year saw 239 permits issued for single-family homes in Hernando. And while that may pale in comparison to the record 4,185 permits issued in 2005, the number was the highest it has been since 2008....
03/25/14 Music & Concerts
They've won just about every noteworthy music accolade imaginable, from the International Bluegrass Music Association's coveted Entertainer of the Year honor to four nods as Grammy Award finalists, and have appeared on a multitude of nationally televised TV shows. So it's fairly safe to note that the Grascals rank as one of the country's best-known bluegrass acts.
For a group that's only been around 10 years, that's saying a lot. But founding member Terry Smith will tell you there's a lot of hard work and effort behind it all....
BROOKSVILLE — Before Sunday, life for Harry Weber was better than he ever imagined it would be. His waking moments when he wasn't at work were spent adoring the two most important people in his life: his wife, April, and his 6-week-old daughter, Aubrie.
Aubrie, born just a few weeks before the couple's first wedding anniversary, was their first child. In posts to his Facebook page, Harry Weber often referred to her as his "lil monkey."...
BROOKSVILLE — Good old boy, wheeler-dealer, smooth talker.
Every small town has one, and for the past 40 years, the man who best fits that image in Brooksville is Paul Clark. He's been the guy people go to when they're looking for a nice used bass boat or a car that fits their budget. Need a utility shed or a topper for your pickup? He's got those, too.
Easily recognizable with the white wide-brimmed hat he sports, Clark is proud of his entrepreneurial skills. He'll sell just about anything if he can "turn a buck at it." But he insists that being a businessman isn't all about making money....
03/18/14 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — The Brooksville City Council has authorized the city's Brownfields Task Force to contact the owners of 19 properties suspected of containing pollutants for permission to further investigate the sites.
The properties were pared from an initial list of about 90 sites by a citizens task force appointed eight months ago. The work is being done with a $400,000 grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency that seeks to identify sites that are historically linked to contaminants such as petroleum, cleaning chemicals and solvents, pesticides and other industrial wastes. The council's approval Monday night paves the way for project staffers to contact property owners to explain the benefits of participating in the Brownfields assessments, which could lead to additional state and federal cleanup money for mitigation....
BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Fair Association needs to get its financial and procedural act together because past practices have put the organization in a bad light with the community, have put board members at risk and have generated questions about conflicts of interest.
That was the message sent to the association by its own financial expert when he provided the fiscal statements the organization needed to receive its permit for the event several weeks ago....