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  1. Florida Politics

Brooksville City Council candidates push for similar goals

Candidate Bill Kemerer opposes contracting fire services.
Published Oct. 9, 2014

BROOKSVILLE — The Brooksville City Council will enter a new era when it meets with three new members on the first Monday in December.

Two of these new council members have already been revealed: Neither Robert "Butch" Battista nor Natalie Kahler drew an opponent in their races for council seats.

But on Nov. 4, voters will be able to choose from three first-time candidates vying to fill council Seat 4, currently held by Kevin Hohn, who is not running for re-election.

With the city's financial picture gradually brightening and the city's downtown showing signs of revitalization, hopefuls Vivian "Vi" Coogler, Betty Erhard and William Kemerer all say their primary goal if elected will be to maintain that progress.

But they will still confront major issues.

While the matter of red-light cameras seemed to have been settled by the current council months ago, when it voted to let its three-year contract with the city's camera vendor expire, expectations are that companies may once again attempt to woo the city. None of the three candidates say they want the devices back.

Coogler, 62, who comes from one of Hernando County's pioneering families, says the cameras are a major deterrent to a healthy business atmosphere, despite the revenue they produce for the city.

"I've never found anyone who likes them except for the people on the council who voted for them," he said. "They're just bad news all around."

A 28-year Brooksville resident who made an unsuccessful bid for the council in 2012, Erhard, 50, believes the cameras created a negative image that kept many potential Brooksville visitors away.

"The bad far outweighed the good," she said. "We should be putting our energy as a community toward welcoming people, not driving them away."

Erhard was among about a dozen people who collected signatures for a referendum petition to ban the council from ever bringing them back. In August, however, the council voted to challenge the petition in court, where it is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday.

None of the candidates propose making any major changes to city services, including the city Fire Department, which in the past has been the subject of financial scrutiny by some council members.

Kemerer, 64, a resident of Southern Hills Plantation, said he doesn't believe the city would realize much savings by contracting its fire services.

"You have to ask what kind of impact getting rid of the fire department would have," Kemerer said. "Would it have an effect on response times? I think residents are in favor of keeping things as they are."

Erhard agreed, saying that Brooksville residents are comfortable with what they have. However, she would like the council to take another look at the city's 3-year-old fire assessment, which she believes creates an unfair burden on some taxpayers.

"People know that I've never favored it," she said. "Our current property taxes are adequate to fund what's needed."

All three candidates support the proposed 1-cent Penny for Projects referendum, which would go toward funding three major projects.

These include improvements to south Main Street to create a mixed-use zone that would serve as a corridor into the city's south end, and the construction of a two-lane connector road along a commercial-zoned area on Providence Boulevard.

"These are projects that will bring big benefits to the city for years to come," Kemerer said. "I believe we need to focus our energy on anything and everything that will help bring jobs to Brooksville."

Contact Logan Neill at lneill@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1435.

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