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Lawns, damaged by winter freezes, can be sprinkled twice a week the next six months.

In an effort to help residents restore their lawns to health after the winter freezes, the Hernando County Commission dropped once-a-week watering restrictions Tuesday, returning to a twice-a-week limit for the next six months.

Commissioner Dave Russell had raised the water restriction issue, noting that Hernando had chosen to keep the once-a-week restrictions even after the Southwest Florida Water Management District went to twice a week. With many lawns in the county damaged by last winter's cold temperatures, the tighter restrictions have posed a problem for people wanting to sod or seed dead patches in their yards, Russell said.

The Wellington Patio Homeowners Association also recently requested that the county allow shorter periods of twice-a-week watering to establish sod on damaged lawns in the neighborhood.

Raising water use significantly would be a problem for the county, officials have noted. The county has an agreement with Swiftmud to keep water usage at 150 gallons per day per person, and usage is near the maximum.

The county already allows more water usage by people who are trying to establish new sod, said county environmental services director Joe Stapf. He recommended the temporary new restrictions, saying he hoped the county's conservation-based water fees would help limit usage "through the pocketbook."

That rate structure charges residents more for the consumption of larger quantities of water.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at or (352) 848-1434.

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Rules for the next six months

For the next six months in Hernando County, odd-numbered addresses will be able to water their lawns Wednesdays and Saturdays, even addresses Thursdays and Sundays, and common areas Tuesdays and Fridays. The rules take effect immediately.

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In other business

The Hernando County Commission on Tuesday:

- Voted 4-1 to approve the final payment to the engineer of record on the Hernando Beach Channel dredge. The final supplemental agreement added $241,780.50 to the total for Halcrow Inc. That will bring the total paid to the firm to $2.53 million. Commissioner Jeff Stabins questioned transportation services director Susan Goebel on her process for approving past payments and asked to meet with her, Halcrow representatives and the news media to go over the details. He voted against the payment.

- Heard an update on county efforts to find a better location for ballot boxes and other voting supplies now kept for Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams in a warehouse at the contaminated old Department of Public Works compound in south Brooksville. The discussion got heated when Williams said it was unacceptable to keep equipment and materials at multiple sites. County Administrator David Hamilton said the county staff would continue to work with Williams to resolve the storage issue. The county is looking at available space at the Westside Government Center and at the Building Department.

- Agreed to hire Russell Wetherington as supervisor of procurement for a $75,000 annual salary. Currently the purchasing manager for Flagler County, Wetherington has years of experience in the field and the proper certifications. He will lead a purchasing staff much smaller than it was just a year ago.