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New Hernando government center could be at the county’s airport

Commissioners agree to begin securing the airport site by seeking federal approval.
Hernando County Government Center    Times (2018)
Hernando County Government Center Times (2018)
Published Dec. 17, 2019

BROOKSVILLE — County officials voted unanimously Tuesday to begin securing an 18-acre site at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport for a new county government center.

The airport property has federally-imposed deed restrictions, so the county first must seek a release from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The plan, if approved, could allow the county to spend impact fees to buy the land, said County Administrator Jeff Rogers. Those funds would go into county airport accounts, because the airport operates under its own budget.

The site plan proposal presented Tuesday includes a 100,000-square-foot, single-story building on the south side of Spring Hill Drive. Commissioners discussed building it to allow for a second story later, if that doesn’t interfere with adjacent airport uses. The center would house administrative offices and leave the county’s court functions in its downtown Brooksville buildings.

"It’s the best location I’ve seen yet,'' said Commissioner Steve Champion, who remained concerned about how the county will pay for the building.

The site is close to main highways -- U.S. 41 and the Suncoast Parkway -- and centrally located in the county.

"I think it makes sense,'' said Commissioner John Allocco.

The site also sends a pro-business message. The government center would sit in the hub of the county’s economic development efforts at the airport, said Commissioner John Mitten.

And the relatively flat property would remove the challenging access issues of the current government center, which is at the top of a steep hill, said county attorney Garth Coller.

For more than a dozen years, the county’s judges have urged commissioners to give them more space. They identified needs for courtrooms, offices, storage, witness waiting areas and a variety of security measures that the current government center doesn’t allow.

Some in county government argued the need for so much room, especially during the financial downturn, when money was tight.

Last year, the chief judge formally notified the county that the needs were immediate, and discussions began in earnest.

The commission has explored various combinations of government and non-government buildings in Brooksville over the years to accommodate the needs of the judges, prosecutors, public defender, the Clerk of the Circuit Court and other court-related spaces.

They considered space at the old SunTrust building beside the courthouse, considered building office space over a parking garage and looked at converting their records building at the far end of the courthouse parking lot. They briefly considered accepting an unsolicited proposal from an outside developer.

In early 2018, commissioners settled on a plan to move key elements of county government outside the city of Brooksville to land the county owns at the Pinebrook Medical Center on Cortez Boulevard. The site is used as a medical center by the federal Veteran’s Administration. County officials determined that remodeling the facility would be cost-prohibitive and were concerned about traffic access into and out of the site.

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VA officials now want to purchase the Pinebrook building and land, Rogers said, and expand services at the site. That could help raise money to build the new government center and would provide much-needed veterans’ services to the community, Rogers said.

County commissioners set aside $1.7 million in the current capital budget to purchase land for the government center, with impact fees as the funding source. They did not set up funding to build the facility, which could run as much as $60 million, according to some estimates.

The new government center could house county commissioner offices, county administrators, the county attorney, human resources, the Emergency Operations Center and other county departments. The site also would have room to house several constitutional officers, who are now in crowded conditions, including the Supervisor of Elections, the Property Appraiser, the Tax Collector and a portion of the Clerk of the Circuit Court offices.

Rogers said that after the county talks with federal aviation officials, he will bring a report back to the board.