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BROOKSVILLE — The world is a different place from a week or two ago, observed Hernando County Commission Chairman John Mitten at Tuesday’s commission meeting.
With an intentionally sparse audience spaced to meet the rules of social distancing, Mitten spoke about the need to follow the Biblical requirement to “love your neighbor” in a seemingly paradoxical way — by staying away from them to keep everyone safe from the spread of the coronavirus.
The disease — not influenced by military, money or political partisanship — is impacting people in an unprecedented way, he said.
"It’s in America. It’s in Florida. It’s in Hernando County,'' he said. "It’s our homes. It’s our loved ones. It’s our livelihoods at stake.''
Cecilia Patella, Hernando County’s emergency management director, assured commissioners that since the Executive Policy Group declared a local state of emergency last week, her staff has been working closely with the state Department of Health and all other government agencies. She told commissioners that the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Hernando County had risen to seven, although the state Department of Health was still reporting five cases.
Other commissioners talked about the toll on the local economy and the need to be careful with personal interaction, but not too reactionary in a way that would cause long-term damage to Hernando County businesses.
Several also talked about the need to reach out to those who need help.
"Let's do our part to take care of each other,'' Mitten said.
County Administrator Jeff Rogers said the county is still providing services. Some workers are working remotely, he said, but man are still in direct-service mode.
Hernando County government services
Hernando County’s governmental agencies continue to update information on services available during the coronavirus emergency, office closures and other information for local residents.
The county has suspended fare collection for TheBus for the next 30 days. The suspension includes all fixed routes and demand response service for 30 days beginning March 23. Any future changes to service and service updates will be posted on all buses and at HernandoBus.com.
The county Planning and Zoning Commission meeting scheduled for April 13 has been canceled. All public hearings slated for that meeting will be advertised again once a new date is set.
- The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office will not be accepting in-person public records requests until further notice. Public records requests can be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org using the word “records” in the subject line. Requests can be made by phone at (352) 797-3635. No fingerprinting will be done until further notice. Sex offender and felon registration will continue. No vehicle identification number verification will be done at the Sheriff’s Office, but those needing that service can call (352) 754-6830 to request a deputy or technician to respond.
- The Hernando County Supervisor of Elections has temporarily closed the branch office at 7443 Forest Oaks Blvd., in Spring Hill, until further notice. Voter registration applications and vote by mail requests will be available at the front door, with a drop box to place completed applications and requests in. The main office at the Hernando County Government Center, 20 N Main St., Brooksville, Room 165, will remain open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Candidates should call and make an appointment before coming to the office. For voter registration, changes, vote-by-mail ballots and other information, visit hernandovotes.com or call (352) 754-4125.
- The Hernando County Tax Collector has closed its offices for in-person services. The office will continue to process mail and online transactions. For assistance, residents can call or email for services. For motor vehicle questions, call (352) 754-4180 prompt # 3 or email Motorvehicle_BV@hernandocounty.us or Motorvehicle_SH@hernandocounty.us. For driver license questions call (352) 754-4230 or email Driverlicense_98@hernandocounty.us or Driverlicense_SH@hernandocounty.us. For property tax questions, call (352) 754-4180 prompt # 2 or email CCohen@hernandocounty.us.
- The Housing Authority Office is closed to the public, but services continue. The website is hernandocounty.us/departments/departments-f-m/housing-authority/-fsiteid-1. The phone number is (352) 754-4160 and fax number is (352) 754-4168. The office will continue to process applications for housing programs.
- The Veteran Services Office is closed to the public, but services continue. Scheduled appointments will be conducted by phone at the scheduled appointment times. Those needing to turn in paperwork can fax it or use regular mail. People can access the website at hernandocounty.us/departments/departments-n-z/veteran-services/-fsiteid-1. The phone number is (352) 754-4033, and the fax number is (352) 754-4726.
- The Health and Human Services Office is closed to the public, but services continue. All programs and services except for homeless assessments will be available, but face-to-face interviews will not be available. Patrons can use the website at hernandocounty.us/departments/departments-f-m/health-human-services/-fsiteid-1. The phone number is (352) 540-4338, and the fax number is (352) 540-4339.
- The Building and Zoning Division offices, at 789 Providence St. in Brooksville, will remain open to the public as a drop-off and pick-up area only until further notice. Customers can use online services at hernandocountygis-fl.us/BldgDept/. Applications and forms, as well as a permit drop-off area, will be available in the lobby. Permit pick-ups can be scheduled over the phone at (352) 754-4050, and inspections can be scheduled online at https://bit.ly/2IW5sB3 or by phone at (352) 754-4050. Contractors are encouraged to use the online system at https://bit.ly/2IW5sB3 to submit applications and documents andto receive permits. All documents can be submitted electronically via email to BLDG@HernandoCounty.us or by fax at (352) 754-4416. Customers will be contacted as soon as their documents are entered to ensure they are received.
- The Animal Services shelter at 19450 Oliver Street in Brooksville will be handling business by appointment only beginning March 24. The following shelter operations will be handled electronically or by appointment only: initial viewing of animals available for adoption can be done by visiting Facebook.com/HernandoCountyAnimalServices; adoption applications can be found at hernandocounty.us/home/showdocument?id=22 and sent via email to AC@HernandoCounty.us or faxed to (352) 796-3746. Adoptions will be by appointment once an application has been approved. Return-to-owner transactions will be by appointment only. Animals knowingly exposed to COVID-19 will be directed to shelter in place in their households. The Animal Services volunteer program has been suspended. Animal licenses will be available online or by email through PetData. Visit petdata.com/for-pet-owners/hrn/license-online for more information. Contact the shelter at (352) 796-5062 for additional information.
- The Hernando County Utilities Department customer service lobby, at 15365 Cortez Boulevard in Brooksville, is closed, but the department will continue to provide services via phone, email and online. In addition, payments can be submitted in the drive-thru drop box at the utilities office. For credit card payments, customers can go to HernandoCounty.us/Utils or call (352) 754-4037. To establish, close or transfer residential service, go online to HernandoCounty.us/Utils. Call (352) 540-3848 for commercial permitting/fire hydrant meters and (352) 754-4757 for DBPR forms, FDEP forms and building plan submittals. Contact Customer Service at (352) 754-4037 or HCUDCS@HernandoCounty.us for all other inquiries and questions. Normal service hours will continue: Monday – Thursday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; and Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
- The Property Appraiser’s Office on the third floor of Brooksville City Hall at 201 Howell Ave. in Brooksville, will be closed until further notice. The public can reach the appraiser at (352) 754-4190 or by email at email@example.com.
- County officials previously closed all libraries, Pine Island Park and the beach at Rogers Park until further notice.
The Brooksville City Council declared a state of emergency to help make future decisions and possibly be reimbursed for actions it is taking in response to the coronavirus crisis.
During last week’s council meeting, members made the disaster declaration retroactive to March 13, when the city began taking action. State and federal funds could be available at some point to reimburse the city, city staff explained.
Several council members expressed concern that the annual Art in the Park event took place on city property on March 14-15, even though the city told organizers that federal and state health officials recommended canceling events that could draw a crowd.
The council suspended any city street closings for events scheduled through May 30. And members agreed to notify groups who hold events at city venues, including parks and the Jerome Brown Center, that the city may put restrictions on their use.
All city buildings have been closed to the public, and all events at city-owned public venues are canceled through at least April 5.
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