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County Commission rejects purchase of TreeUmph! equipment

 
Auctioneer takes bids last month on equipment from the former TreeUmph! adventure park near Brooksville. JUSTIN TROMBLY | Times
Auctioneer takes bids last month on equipment from the former TreeUmph! adventure park near Brooksville. JUSTIN TROMBLY | Times
Published Dec. 12, 2018

BROOKSVILLE — Just last month, the Hernando County Commission offered $140,000 and was the highest bidder on all the equipment that created the TreeUmph! Adventure Park, built on county land east of Brooksville. This week, commissioners changed course.

They voted 3-2 on Tuesday against purchasing the rope course, zip line, harnesses and other materials, opening the door for a private investor to take over.

The next highest bidder, Canadian businessman Albert Barbusci, has begun talks with SunTrust Bank, which financed the park for Aaron Corr, who also owns the TreeUmph! park in Bradenton.

Barbusci said Wednesday that he cannot say yet whether he is interested in making the purchase. He is co-owner of Orlando Tree Trek, a similar ropes course in Orlando. He was happy to see Hernando County try to preserve the park, but knows that "it takes multiple years to get up and running and build a brand.''

TreeUmph! was preparing to open last year when Hurricane Irma damaged the trees and equipment. The park closed in August, less than a year after it opened. It originally was touted as an important economic development project that helped the county's "Adventure Coast" brand.

Previous coverage: Brooksville's TreeUmph! adventure course closes after less than a year in operation

On Tuesday, Commissioner Jeff Holcomb changed his mind and voted against the purchase, saying the county shouldn't be in the business of running the tree-top park.

Previous coverage: Hernando County swings into auction to buy TreeUmph! equipment

County administrator Len Sossamon suggested packaging the county's land with the equipment and finding a buyer for both. Having the county own the land caused a chilling effect on potential buyers, he said, and the purchase could be made from the county over time.

Commissioner John Allocco said he didn't understand the original vote to buy the equipment, which he said went against a basic tenant of Republican Party philosophy.

"We outbid a private business man by $5,000,'' he said. "It's just bad policy.''

Commission Chairman Steve Champion, who remained in favor of buying the equipment, said he voted the way he did to protect the county. He added that the bank "lost $1.4 million.''

"That's not our problem,'' Allocco responded.

Champion and Commissioner Wayne Dukes voted Tuesday to make the purchase, with Allocco, Holcomb and Commissioner John Mitten voting no.

Contact Barbara Behrendt at bbehrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.