Logan Neill, Times Staff Writer

Logan Neill

Logan Neill covers arts and entertainment in Hernando County for the Tampa Bay Times.

Phone: (352) 848-1435

Email: lneill@tampabay.com

  1. Signs of an improving economy lead to cautious budget optimism in Brooksville

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The opening strains of budget season in Brooksville on Monday night lacked the ominous tone of the past few years.

    Optimism about rising property values, some cautious improvement in the county's jobless numbers and even signs of new construction in places such as Southern Hills Plantation Club and the Cascades have been hopeful indicators that the Great Recession is finally abating....

    ht_316109_vrag_norman_01 of 2 (12/16/09 Brooksville) Portrait of Brooksville City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha. [WILL VRAGOVIC, Times]
  2. Hernando fair finances are priority, new president says

    Human Interest

    BROOKSVILLE — With some formidable challenges ahead, incoming Hernando County Fair Association President Shari Klimas says she is counting on the community, volunteers and board members to work together and come up with ideas on how to improve the organization's financial picture.

    Klimas, who has been on the board for seven years, six as treasurer, said renewing the community's faith is key to propelling the fair association out of the financial doldrums that have led the organization to continue spending more money than it takes in each year. She wants the board to take a hard look at ways to save money and raise more revenue....

    Fairgoers ride the wave swinger during the annual Hernando County Fair & Youth Livestock Show at the Hernando County Fairgrounds on April 4 in Brooksville. The fair has had decreasing revenues and had a $104,871 loss for the fiscal year that ran from June 2013 through May 2014.
  3. Hernando historian Virginia Jackson, 84, dies


    BROOKSVILLE — Virginia Jackson always loved old photographs because when she looked at them it made her feel like she had been invited on a journey back in time.

    "I've always felt that knowledge of the past is key to the future," Mrs. Jackson once said. "If we ignore who we are and how we got here, we miss out on a lot of good things in life."

    For more than three decades as perhaps Hernando County's best-known historian and community volunteer, Mrs. Jackson lent her expertise and knowledge to the Hernando County Historical Society and Heritage Museum, where she served as executive director for more than 20 years....

    Virginia M Jackson, this year's recipient of the Great Brooksvilliam of the Year 2004 award, listens to comments made about her by friends at a reception held in her honor at City Hall on Monday, Oct. 11, 2004, as part of the 4th Annual Founders Week Celebration.  Jackson, who is known by some as the official "historian" of Hernando County, serves as the executive director of the Heritage Museum of Brooksville.  [Times]
  4. Brooksville Raid helped Union in Civil War 150 years ago

    Human Interest

    BROOKSVILLE — Every January, a couple of thousand Civil War re-enactors gather at Spring Hill to commemorate the area's only notable military action during the war. But while the grand spectacle known as the Brooksville Raid — with its legions of blue- and gray-coated soldiers firing barrage after barrage of rifle and cannon volleys — might make for fascinating battle theater, it doesn't exactly square with historical fact....

    Capt. Leroy G. Lesley led about 60 to try defending the county.
  5. Was tarpon season good as ever off Hernando?


    HERNANDO BEACH — On any given day from May to early July, one or two dozen boats, most manned by experienced guides, troll the shallow waters off Hernando County. Their hunted game is silver king tarpon, a behemoth of a sport fish that's considered among the Gulf Of Mexico's most elusive species.

    The hope of landing a prized tarpon lures some of the most dedicated saltwater anglers in the world. And to those in the know, the area from Bayport north to Homosassa Springs is prime ground where migrating tarpon gather before heading into deeper waters to spawn. Baseball great Ted Williams fished the area often. So have singer Harry Connick Jr. and golf legend Jack Nicklaus....

    Fishing guide Jonathan Hamilton catches and releases a tarpon on the Gulf of Mexico. Hernando waters are revered for tarpon fishing, but one angler cautions that exploitation of the fish must end.
  6. Brooksville fire captain says he regrets resigning after unauthorized use of ladder truck


    BROOKSVILLE — Former Brooksville Fire Department Capt. Sam Schey says that even though he resigned after an incident involving his unauthorized use of a fire truck on April 6 to demonstrate the apparatus to a family member, he regrets doing so.

    In an interview this week with the Times, Schey, 37, said an internal affairs investigation done by the Brooksville Police Department contained several factual errors and its conclusion painted an inaccurate picture of the events that occurred that day. The incident led not only to Schey's resignation but the firing of another department captain, Bill Kaplan, who was terminated for unacceptable conduct as a supervisor and inefficiency of performance of duties....

  7. For the first time in years, Hernando County property values rise

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Property Appraiser John Emerson delivered some positive news this week to the county's taxing authorities: Based on preliminary tax roll values, the governmental bodies stand to collect significantly more in revenue this year.

    It effectively signals an end to the seven-year downturn in property values across Hernando.

    The county's certified taxable value of $7.112 billion was roughly a 2.32 percent increase over last year's preliminary certified value and is the final key factor in the formula used by government officials to construct their annual spending plans for the 2014-15 fiscal year....

  8. 3-D video of Chinsegut Hill manor house provides new view of history

    Human Interest

    BROOKSVILLE — Most people would agree that the 163-year-old Chinsegut Hill manor house is among the most photographed edifices in Hernando County, with the earliest known images dating to the early 1900s.

    But thanks to advanced 3-D technology and the endeavors of a team of spatial engineers from the University of South Florida, the storied structure now has a new photographic record that will provide valuable information to future generations of historians....

    A University of South Florida team used terrestrial laser scanning cameras to make a 3-D image of the house.
  9. Humane Society of the Nature Coast names new executive director

    Human Interest

    BROOKSVILLE — The Humane Society of the Nature Coast has announced the hiring of longtime Pasco County animal welfare advocate Dina Athanassie as its new executive director. She will assume the duties held for 11 years by Joanne Schoch, who retired in February.

    "I'm looking forward to working with the staff, volunteers and board members to raise awareness about our mission and to expand our facilities and services," Athanassie said. ...

    Dina Athanassie is the new executive director of the Humane Society of the Nature Coast.
  10. One captain resigns after jaunt in Brooksville fire engine; second is fired


    BROOKSVILLE — No one knows for sure what prompted Brooksville Fire Department Capt. Sam Schey to climb aboard a city fire truck and cruise through the darkened streets of Brooksville on the night of April 6 — emergency lights and siren on and an unauthorized passenger by his side.

    Schey's journey in the $250,000 ladder truck lasted only a few minutes, but the veteran firefighter, who spent 10 years with the department, wasn't in pursuit of a fire. In fact, he wasn't even on duty that Sunday night....

    Bill Kaplan has filed a grievance over his firing.
  11. Downtown Brooksville cafe changing hands; new owners plan menu additions


    BROOKSVILLE — Ten years ago, Lisa Callea saw great potential in an old warehouse building at 10 S Main St. in the heart of Brooksville's business district.

    Her goal: to offer an alternative to the downtown office crowd that had been deprived of the big-city Starbucks experience. In addition to top-notch coffees, cappuccino and lattes, the menu offered breakfast and lunch fare with a nod to healthy choices such as fresh salads, homemade soups and vegetarian dishes....

    Criss Holzaepfel, left, and Catherine Reeves are the new owners of the Rising Sun Bistro and Market in Brooksville.
  12. Work of Brooksville artist chosen for national show

    Human Interest

    BROOKSVILLE — Karen Heidler has become one of the best-known artists in Hernando County in recent years, and her watercolors have adorned gallery walls throughout the state.

    But this past week, the work of the 42-year-old Brooksville painter earned even broader recognition: one of her paintings was included in the National Watercolor Society's annual members show in San Pedro, Calif....

    Karen Heidler’s The Reader shows a girl who was so captivated by a book that she didn’t notice the artist taking her picture.
  13. Brooksville seeks court ruling on red-light camera petition

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — What many people thought was a surefire measure to forever rid Brooksville of red-light cameras is now a question for a judge.

    On Wednesday, the city filed a request with the Hernando County Circuit Court for a ruling about the validity of a grass roots petition that seeks to change the city charter and permanently ban cameras and other automated traffic-monitoring devices....

    A petition seeks to change the city charter and ban red-light cameras, such as this one at U.S. 41 near Wiscon Road.
  14. Petition may bring permanent end to Brooksville's red-light cameras


    BROOKSVILLE — The big issue in Brooksville used to be whether red-light cameras would go; now the question is whether they will be gone forever.

    Three months ago, a Brooksville City Council with several lame-duck members agreed not to renew the city's contract with its red-light camera vendor, and leaving the long-term decision to newly elected members.

    More recently, residents successfully pushed a petition that calls for adding a permanent ban on cameras to the city's charter. In a special meeting today at 7 p.m. at City Hall, council members will gather to discuss the petition with city staff....

    Council member Kevin Hohn likes having the cameras.
  15. Weeks Hardware does its part to spruce up Brooksville


    BROOKSVILLE — Although most would say it's a small part of a very big job — revitalizing downtown Brooksville — Joe and Otella Weeks have long wanted to do their share.

    So last week, crews began sprucing up the 104-year-old home of Weeks Hardware, the city's oldest business.

    Work began with pressure-washing, removing mold and mildew from the two-story building on Main Street. Plans also call for painting, window work and replacing a canvas awning. ...

    Joseph Weeks Sr., 82, left, was named the Great Brooksvillian of 2009 at his hardware store in downtown Brooksville. The century-old store recently got a facelift with the help of a city fund.