By LISA MACNEIL
UPDATE April 23, 2021
The City of Brooksville provided a copy of the Letter of Violation that was sent to the Hernando County Fair Association following an inspection on Monday, April 19th. According to the documents, of the 75 support poles supporting the pole barn, 8 require replacement or repair. One of the supports is steel, and could be repaired by welding steel plates to the base.
According to the document, “Eight (8) purlins will need to be replaced to avoid falling and endangering the general public.” A purlin is a longitudinal or horizontal structure in a roof.
The documents also state that according to state statute, the violations must be corrected on or before May 31, 2021. Failure to correct the violations may result in Civil penalties, which are steep, reported at up to $500.00 per violation, per day.
Following our coverage of the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting on April 13, 2021, Hernando Sun spoke with City Manager Mark Kutney who advised that members of Brooksville’s Code Enforcement department would be visiting the Hernando County Fairgrounds before the City Council Meeting on April 19, 2021.
At the beginning of the April 19th meeting, Kutney reported that the inspection did take place and that some issues were found, and a letter to the Fair Association would be finalized and sent the following day. He added, “However the items (found) do not go to the point of condemnation of any of the structures, they’re more code-enforcement-type items.”
We contacted the City Manager’s office for further comment on the letter, but have not received a response as of this writing.
On Friday, April 16, Hernando Sun met with Richard Klimas, leader of the Hernando County Fair Association, who provided a tour of the facilities while the fair was opening on its sixth night. Klimas acknowledged that there are areas for improvement, and stated, “Anyone can point a finger.”
He showed us the main barn, with areas of light coming through several holes the size of coins. A branch from a nearby oak tree had pierced the sheet metal roof some time ago, causing the holes. Pointing out other areas of recent repairs, as well as those pending, the roof trusses were noticeably newer than some of the beams in disrepair.
In response to an allegation made at last week’s BOCC meeting, Klimas said that the soil in the former horse area was not contaminated by cars used in the demolition derby, because clay had been installed over the soil to prevent oil and other fluids from seeping into the soil.
When asked about the 6% fee of the winners of the livestock competition, Klimas told us that the money went to various items surrounding the livestock shows, such as meals and awards.
Klimas did not attend the City Council meeting held on April 19th but intends to attend the BOCC meeting on April 27th.
Commissioner Jeff Holcomb also attended the City Council meeting and spoke during the Citizen’s Comments segment. Holcomb called photos submitted to the council as “damning information of the structure that the children are using…” and largely disagreed with findings of city building officials.
Holcomb went on to caution the city to closely oversee and administer a $450,000 grant which the Fair Association applied for in 2019.
Donnie Arnold, a parent who attended and spoke at the BOCC meeting on April 13, also attended the City Council meeting on April 19. Arnold submitted photos to the council showing barrels allegedly used to store oil. Arnold read material from a report where a city inspector wrote, “Regarding the complaint of barrels being stored in the shed and causing an environmental concern… These barrels are empty and have been for over 10 years.” Arnold stated this is a lie.
Council Member David Bailey asked Mayor Pat Brayton about the problems cited by the citizens and what the city should do going forward. Brayton described the deficits posed at the meeting as “management issues” that are outside of the city’s jurisdiction.
Brayton said, “We don’t control management. That’s a private organization.
Council Member Blake Bell asked about a letter supporting the county’s decision to have the fair audited following a BOCC meeting in December 2020. Brayton said that the city did not vote on such a letter.
Council Member Robert Battista recalled that Brayton supported the prospect of submitting the issues to the Legislative Delegation, and ultimately to the Auditor General to perform an audit of the fairgrounds. Conversation between Battista, Brayton, and Bell indicated that the city supports the county’s position on an audit of the fairgrounds. According to Bell, the matter is to be voted on in the final two weeks of the currently ongoing legislative session.