At the February 23, 2021 Board Of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting, an ordinance to form the Waterways Advisory Committee was unanimously approved. This new advisory board will be composed of members of the current Port Authority and will largely act in the same capacity. The BOCC will act as the Hernando County Port Authority, announcing during regular meetings when they are voting as that entity.
A similar structure is in place when the BOCC or City Council votes as the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA).
Members of the Port Authority were present and supported the new ordinance. Deputy County Attorney Jon Jouben introduced the history and language that will better define the duties of the two agencies. “The special act that created (the Port Authority) in 1965 listed a ream of powers that they could have, including building an airport and issuing bonds,” but there was no funding mechanism provided for such activities.”
Jouben went on to say that, “In 1969 the legislature then amended the special act to limit the amount of the money that the (BOCC) can handily allocate to them to subsidize them to $5,000 a year.” The amendment rendered the Port Authority’s various powers useless.
Port Authority member Chuck Morton made the joke during his comments, “We’re the port non-authority.”
The Port Authority members also expressed an interest in being allowed to have within their purview waterways beyond the “port area” such as lakes and other bodies of water in the county.
Steve Barton, a member of the Port Authority for 10 years asked the commissioners to clarify within the ordinance that the largest stakeholder base is not the Advisory Committee or the Port Authority, but the public. The agendas for the Waterways Advisory Committee will contain time for citizen input.
The new ordinance remedies a problem with the existing ordinance that came to light recently when a member of the Port Authority was appointed to another public office. The question arose whether or not the Port Authority is actually public office given the 1965 ordinance language and limitations. Holding two public offices is prohibited.