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Fire rate increase approved

The Hernando County Commission approved a fire fee increase for the former Northeast Fire District on Tuesday despite objections of about 40 Nobleton and Istachatta residents.

Residents called the increase from $30 to $83 per home a "bombshell" that would hurt their pocketbooks without improving services.

"We understand we are rural, and we accept the risk that we will not get the coverage of being in the city," said Larry Stevens, manager of the Istachatta Mobile Home Park. "We want to be left alone, and our service is fine."

County Fire Services Director Mike Nickerson contended that the area would receive better fire and emergency response under the new county district, which takes effect Oct. 1. He said a new station at U.S. 41 and Lake Lindsey Road would improve many residents' insurance rates as well.

Commissioners approved his recommendation, 3-2, with Bobbi Mills and Pat Novy opposed.

County services fees go up for some

BROOKSVILLE _ The cost of doing business with Hernando County has begun to rise for residents who participate in municipal service benefit units for street lighting.

County commissioners on Tuesday approved a new fee structure to better reflect the actual costs these districts incur through their use of county services such as billing and legal advice. In the past, the county has subsidized the fee structure. Some residents opposed the move, calling it a surprise that hurts their budget planning.

"If you're going to do this to all the MSBU's, I guarantee you they're going to be wanting to get out of the MSBU's because they're not doing a favor to anyone," said John Murphy of the Orchard Park subdivision. Commissioners set the fee structure for one year only, asking for a review after that to see if there might be a better way to accomplish the same result without putting a burden on smaller areas, which experienced more drastic fee increases than larger ones.

County joins attack on blasting law

BROOKSVILLE _ Hernando County commissioners do not plan to give up local control of blasting restrictions without a fight.

On Tuesday they agreed to join Miami-Dade County in a lawsuit against the state Legislature, which gave the state fire marshal the sole power to regulate mine blasting. The lawsuit, to be filed later this month, will contend that the Legislature violated the state's single subject rule.

Under that rule, the Legislature may not adopt a law that deals with more than one subject, said Thomas Goldstein, assistant Miami-Dade County attorney. The statute also had a title defect, Goldstein said, because it said nothing about mining or blasting.

"What we're talking about here is the issue of how this law was passed," he said. "They did not provide an opportunity for people interested in this matter to discuss it in an open forum."

Hernando County Attorney Garth Coller said that by joining the lawsuit, Hernando gains the benefit of Miami-Dade's political power, and Miami-Dade can show the issue affects more than one part of the state. Commissioner Nancy Robinson said the county has a vested interest in regulating blasting because county rules appear more stringent than the ones proposed by the state.