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NEGOTIATION CONTINUES ON LAND FOR ROAD

Brooksville and the county fair group have until Monday to reach a deal for 2 acres.

Brooksville officials and the Hernando County Fair Association have until Monday to reach an agreement on the value of a nearly 2-acre parcel that will be used for construction of the planned road known as Governor Boulevard.

Otherwise, attorneys could be called in to resolve the dispute.

The Brooksville City Council unanimously approved a motion Monday night to allow another week for the city and fair association to negotiate a settlement before resorting to eminent domain court proceedings. The motion was a substitute for the original resolution that would have initiated a condemnation suit.

The land would connect U.S. 41 to Cortez Boulevard via Southern Hills Boulevard, a route that would run through property owned by the city and the county as well as a portion controlled by the fair association.

"I'd like to come up with a fair resolution," Mayor David Pugh told the council. "I want to try to avoid the condemnation process, if possible."

Pugh and city officials hope to work out a resolution with the fair association before a special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, held just before the council's workshop at City Hall later that night. Should there be no agreement by that time, council members indicated they would vote to pursue eminent domain proceedings at their next meeting on March 3.

Dave Russell, a Hernando County commissioner who serves as a liaison to the fair board, said he planned to meet with Pugh and a fair board member sometime this week.

"We feel confident that we will have achieved an agreement," by Monday, Russell said. "I believe that the fair board has presented a fair compromise on the valuation of the property and I think the city sees that as viable. Now it's just a matter of working out some of the details."

Russell proposed a total payment of nearly $210,000 for the land at Monday's council meeting, an offer that brings both sides much closer. The city recently tendered an offer of $126,345, while the fair association had asked for more than $300,000.

"We're in the ballpark," Russell told the council. "I think we're proffering a reasonable settlement for your consideration."

The council pushed for an alternative solution - for at least a week.

"I think council doesn't want this to be drawn out," said City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha. "And I think the fair association is on that same page.

The council also approved a measure to explore whether a special taxing district is feasible as a way to ensure that all city residents are paying their fair share for fire services.

Money to run the fire department now comes through the general fund and the city is exploring a special taxing district for fire services because not every property owner pays property taxes, but everyone would be obliged to pay the fire service fee.

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or 754-6120.

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