BROOKSVILLE — The scenic city of Brooksville may not have a Brooklyn Bridge to sell. But recently — and accidentally — the city sold its water tower.
Lucky for city fathers, the accidental buyer, Bobby Read, agreed to deed the tower back to Brooksville after the mistake was made. But the error has caused a flurry of social media attention and a rift between residents and political figures.
The issue began last year, when Read approached the city. He asked about the small building with a garage at the water tower’s base. It had been used as storage for various city departments, but Read was hoping to use it as a gym. That began discussions with city leaders who had specific tasks to complete, including declaring the building surplus and subdividing the land.
The pandemic delayed city action in 2020. But at their April 19 meeting, the city council members, sitting as the Brooksville Community Redevelopment Agency, heard the formal request by community redevelopment director Chris Anderson the Brooksville to sell Read the building.
“We see no reason not to sell this site for commercial,” Anderson said.
The sale price was $55,000. City Council unanimously approved the sale.
Then, the seemingly routine deal when awry.
City Council member Blake Bell said he was told that during the closing of the sale, which was May 5, Read told city officials he thought the legal description was more extensive than what he was buying. But officials signed over the property anyway, using the legal description they had.
Several days later, when Read went to the Hernando County Property Appraiser’s office to get an address for his new business location, he was told that the parcel he bought included the entire water tower site.
County official records show that a warranty deed, recorded May 14, then transferred the water tower site back to the city.
While Read acknowledged the city’s mistake to the Tampa Bay Times, he said he did not want to comment on the situation.
Council member Bell said he is happy that Read will get to redevelop the building, but he is not happy with the mistakes that were made. He said he believes the city lost needed parking in the deal.
“I don’t know where the blame falls here,” Bell said. “We’re council members and we rely on the city manager. We assume that he has done his due diligence.
“I’m unhappy that we lost control of our water tower but, number two, we also gave away a lot of parking with it,” Bell said, noting that city residents had been asking him if public parking would be lost and he gave them bad information that had been given to him.
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John Lee, owner of Brooksville’s Coney Island Drive Inn, was also upset about what happened, along with the fact that the city didn’t make a general offering when it decided to sell the parcel to Read in the first place.
“Last month we accidentally sold the water tower. What should we do today,” Lee posted on his Facebook page Thursday, calling out city leaders.
“This is encouraging me to inform voters to replace the city council and the city manager,” Lee told the Times.
City Manager Mark Kutney said that there were only a few parking spaces that were part of the deal with Read, and the city is working with Hernando County officials to secure more parking spaces nearby.
He also said the issue with the tower is now resolved, blaming the use of a bad legal description for what happened. Anderson, the redevelopment agency director, resigned after the incident, he said.
“We’re human,” Kutney said. “Sometimes we make a mistake.”
Anderson said he did not handle either the legal description or the sales contract on the site.
As for the community uproar about the incident, Kutney said it was simply a sign of political divisions “and a lot of sour grapes.”
Brooksville Mayor Pat Brayton said he hopes that all is well now that the tower is back in city hands.
“It’s all taken care of now. We’re all good,” he said. “We just need to be darn sure that it doesn’t happen again.”