Deputy County Administrator Tobey Phillips presented the Legislative Priority Requests for the 2022-23 State Legislative Agenda last month during a county commission meeting. This packet of priority requests has been developed by staff and the Board of County Commissioners. Phillips stated, “In the end, we are seeking approval for the packet as a whole so that we can complete the required paperwork to file with the Senate and House. We also want to finalize the packet to be presented at our delegation meeting on December 6th.
Hernando County is required to match a percentage of the funds being requested. The House requires at least 25%, but a 50% match is preferred. The projects presented for funding requests are below:
- Brooksville – Tampa Bay Regional Airport and Technology Center, a multi-modal project: This project is to rehabilitate the roadways at the rail park, as well as the extension of an existing roadway at the CSX served Rail Park located at the Brooksville – Tampa Bay Regional Airport and Technology Center (BKV). The roads within the Rail Park are degraded and do not provide the appropriate infrastructure for heavy industrial use. This work will support those projects. Valerie Pianta with Hernando County Economic Development gave a presentation on these projects during the September 20th City of Brooksville Regular Meeting. Phillips is requesting $2.9 million for the project; the county is able to match $919,000.
- BKV – Aviation Expansion Zone: Hernando County is requesting funding for the repair and rehabilitation of the inactive runway at the Brooksville – Tampa Bay Regional Airport and Technology Center (BKV) to a condition compatible with safely receiving aircraft as a newly improved taxi lane. The inactive runway is experiencing significant interest from companies such as cargo operations, Maintenance, and Repair Operators for aircraft ranging in size from regional jets to 747s. This project will provide growth within that area. Phillips stated, “We have already extended Technology and Telecom drives and this is the second phase of that project. We are requesting $2 million, we already have a county match of just over $1.8 million.”
- Central Fueling Facility for Critical Services: By securing funding for a central fueling facility for critical services, it allows Hernando County to proactively invest in both infrastructure and community resilience, especially during a natural disaster. This project was put in the request last year, but approval was not granted. Phillips stated, “We were encouraged to apply for any grant funding that was available. We applied to 2 grants in the past year and did not get approved for either. Came close, but didn’t quite get it. So we bumped up our match a little bit; we are asking for $980,000 and we are matching $311,000, so this should make the project much more marketable so to speak.” This project would cost $1.3 million.
- Public Safety Training Center: This would provide a training center for all first responders, EMS, fire, law enforcement, and special operations. By doing this, Hernando County can invest in the ability of our first responders to be prepared for all emergencies. Hernando County has allocated $2 million in capital improvements. Phillips states, “We would also utilize $1 million in fire impact fees. We are currently negotiating with CEMEX for use of 60 acres on their property. So we would be looking for $3 million from the legislature for that project.”
Phillips stated that they will be filing a local bill to designate the Hernando Board of County Commissioners as the Port Authority.
Phillips also stated that there are some other projects they are looking to get support for. One is to establish no-smoking areas in public parks and beaches. Senate Bill 224 was filed in September, so we should see the support of this across the state.
They are looking for continued funding through the state aids to public libraries grant program.
Phillips said they also would like to provide support for a community partner. In Citrus County, their provider for mental health is Lifestream Behavioral Center. Lifestream will be requesting $1.5 million to support operational expenses, specifically for juvenile baker act cases. Phillips said, “We have been working with Citrus County on how they are going to move forward on that. The first step for us is to provide some support for them to get that money. Next year we would be coming back to you all on the next step of that process to join into maybe a regional arrangement for us to use that facility in Citrus County.” A potential site is the former location of The Centers on 491, with Citrus County still maintaining ownership of that property.
County Administrator Jeff Rogers explained that the plan would be to do both adult and juvenile mental health/baker act facilities. Currently, Citrus County patients are sent to Pine Brook, here in Hernando County for treatment.
County Administrator Jeff Rogers recommended they approve the public safety training facility, but it’s not necessarily ready to go to the legislature yet since they don’t have an arrangement with CEMEX settled for the use of the property. He stated, “I don’t recommend we submit it to the Legislature- the consideration of a bill- because we don’t have control of the land yet with CEMEX. So I would like for us to approve it, just in case between now and December. That (CEMEX property deal) looks like it’s going to happen, then we can submit it as a great project. But I don’t think it’s ready to ask money from the legislature and we don’t necessarily know that it’s going to go there. I think we need to get the land first. I would like to approve- we’ll just hold it and if it doesn’t happen, we won’t submit it without land…”
Champion made the motion to approve the list, but the Public Safety Training Center project will only be submitted if they are able to acquire the land from CEMEX.
Rogers also explained that the county will need to resurface and extend the roadways at the rail park fairly soon, with or without funding from the legislature. “We’re going to have to do that project within the next two years most likely no matter what,” said Rogers. He felt that this is the most pressing item on the list due to the economic development activities at the airport. He suggested they consider getting a little closer to the 50% match in order to improve their odds of receiving funding.
Allocco felt it was more critical to increase the match for the Central Fueling Facility. He pointed out that the $311,000 match for the Central Fueling Facility, wasn’t quite a 25% match.
Rogers stated, “I would suggest the motion be to approve all of these items with a minimum match of 25% on them. Then the public safety training center would be held, if we don’t get the land then we don’t submit it.”
Champion modified his motion to include that. Allocco seconds. The motion passed unanimously.