City Manager Mark Kutney introduced Shawn Foster and Sam Wagoner from Sunrise Consulting, the firm that represents the interests/needs of Brooksville and Hernando County to the Florida legislature. In addition to the information presented in the agenda packet, Kutney stated that council members were provided maps, additional funding costs, etc. The project packet is virtually the same as last year.
Kutney stated the delegation must have their recommendations by Nov. 26 so they can meet to discuss the City’s needs on Dec. 3, 2018. Council members could re-assign priority of the projects. Projects are as follows:
• Modify the master pump station at Cortez and Broad Street
• Southway Estates/Candlelight Blvd drainage systems
• Water service with fire protection at Hernando St. and Bayport St.
• Reuse Water to Hernando Oaks Golf Course/Cascades subdivision
• Sewage collection system rehabilitation
• Main Street streetscape
Wagoner grew up in Brooksville and graduated from Central High School, then attended college and law school. He stated Foster recruited him from his lobbying work with the legislature. Wagoner said he is pleased to work with the City since he still has family here and wants to see his home town succeed.
Foster explained the need to return to Tallahassee as the legislature is already beginning to assemble, selecting new leadership. The governor’s race has been decided and resignations are being submitted in some of the departments Sunrise Consulting works with. There will be some changes in personnel and in the way things are done with the new governor.
Heading the governor’s transition team is Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, which Foster believes gives an idea of the difficulty they will have this term, particularly with regard to giving more authority and autonomy to local governments. James Blair, former advisor to Corcoran, will be director of policy.
Foster summarized that Republicans lost six House seats in the recent election and lost two Senate seats. Democrats picked up the seats, and while they are still the minority, they will have more influence. The Hernando County delegation will not change. Leadership in the legislature is still deciding committee appointments for incoming representatives and senators.
Foster believes more funding will be designated for hurricane needs. The legislative session will be very busy, he said, due to the implementation of 11 constitutional amendments.
Last year, Foster said, some items on the prepared list were changed. Having a conversation with the representatives as to what they feel the community needs can be more productive than just handing them a list. One such conversation resulted in $353,000 for a fire station.
Looking at the figures, Vice Mayor Robert Battista stated that it didn’t appear that an engineer had given input or an estimate. City Manager Mark Kutney referred to proposed initiative #5, Sewer Collection System Rehabilitation, as being “shovel-ready” for the next phase. At a cost of $3 million, Battista stated his opinion that it was unlikely they would get approved for even $2 million. Modifying the Master Pump Station (#1 on the list) would be the best chance for approval.
Council member William Kemerer stated that brought up more unanswered questions. A housing project by DR Horton would likely need a sewage pump and a connector. Kemerer also asked about the next phase of the sewer system repair and whether that would help with excess rainwater. “I’m not so sure that the solution we’re asking for is the solution that might be the most cost effective,” he said. Battista said the issue seems to be the location, which causes it to fill so quickly during heavy downpours, and that getting even $2 million was doubtful.
Foster stated that projects like this fall under a larger category where $37 million is split among the 67 counties. Because priority is given to the home districts of legislature leadership, the general disbursement could be between $50,000 – $750,000.
Kemerer turned the discussion to project #2: Southway Estates/Candlelight Boulevard Drainage Systems, which refers to an Alternatives Analysis Study. The study should have been completed in early 2018 but does not appear to have been completed. Kemerer expressed concern about bringing projects to the legislature without full preparation. Battista stated that there are many “fingers” bringing water to those housing areas and more study is needed to find all the sources.
Kutney reminded the council that the list also includes two economic development projects under the Penny for Projects headline: North Avenue Sidewalk Project (estimated $175,000 construction cost) and Main Street Corridor. Battista, who is also on the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) board, stated that the North Avenue Project has been discussed frequently and is a low priority. The County may provide the engineering services, he said, but the MPO will not purchase the land needed.
Battista stated having generators is extremely important. While the generators could handle sewage, they need them to pump water also. John Dowler, DPW Project Manager, advised the council that the City has been approved for $86,000 from FEMA. With an additional $25,000 from the City, DPW will purchase three generators to be used at Moton Elementary, Pasco Hernando State College, and Brooksville Elementary, where there are sewage lift stations. Battista agreed that was good, but that there was a need to pump water from wells. When the schools are used as emergency shelters, with no power, Dowler said, the lift stations will be filled in just a couple of hours. Once the drawings are received, DPW can put the jobs out for bid. Generators to pump the water have been repaired or are in the process of repair.
Foster was asked about obtaining more funding for the fire department. Because Rep. Blaise Ingoglia would not be chairing the appropriations committee, obtaining funding for additional building projects would be unlikely. However, there is a possibility that equipment needs could be met. Mike Walker, Parks and Recreation Department, said that $375,000 is needed to replace lighting at the adult softball field and $150,000 would replace lights at one youth field. If the City agrees to pay toward the cost, then approval is more likely. Foster suggested up to 20% and said it could be in the form of matching grants or in-kind donations.
Kutney suggested that the council consider adding additional security measures, known as “hardening” to the legislative initiatives for the next year. Foster stated this is being done in other places, separately from the safe schools initiatives.
Foster recommended choosing three water projects and two others, but to choose them quickly. Kutney agreed as the deadline was scheduled for Nov. 26, 2018. The council discussed submitting three water or sewer projects, obtaining funding to pay for engineering assessments for the North Avenue sidewalks, and identifying equipment needs for the fire department.
Kemerer made the motion identifying the ranking of the projects. Bernardini seconded, and the motion passed 4-0.