Interim Deputy County Administrator Scott Herring started the four-part discussion at the May 23rd Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting. The discussion was the result of a request at the May 9th BOCC meeting for Herring and staff to provide updates on the South Brooksville Drainage Study, Twigg Street Drainage Easements, Code Enforcement options for South Brooksville, and the clean-up of county properties.
Herring turned the discussion over to Interim Public Works Director Todd Crosby, who has been the Project Manager on the South Brooksville Drainage Study. Crosby reported that four areas have been identified as BMPs, or Best Management Practice areas, that have existing issues to be addressed and handled.
A BMP area near Twigg Street is currently being investigated to determine if it is large enough to mitigate flooding in the area. The BMP is bordered by Twigg Street on the east side, Emerson Road on the west, and its southern boundary is just north of Cortez Blvd.
Culverts under Cortez and the construction of a Drainage Retention Area (DRA) to its north are also being considered as a mechanism to ease flooding. A cost-benefit analysis is underway for this BMP, as well as others, to ensure the costs will be justified.
The BMPs are situated on both city and county-owned property, as well as property owned by the Hernando County School District (HCSD).
Herring added that not only is the amount of water an issue but also the engineering of storage. “It’s more of a storage issue. Between the water table and what I can excavate, am I going to have enough storage to make a significant impact to the area?”
“We’re still trying to figure out of the number of properties taken out of the flood plain will be worth the expenditure, Crosby added. “We’re trying to find the best option to get the biggest bang for the buck.” Crosby pointed out that another factor hindering the progress is that there are multiple properties along Twigg Street to which the county does not have legal access for easements. “The main ditch line runs right through the back of these properties … one’s in probate with 12 owners, one has four owners, one property has two active mortgages, one is in Code Enforcement lien … there’s a number of hurdles we’ll have to jump through to get the legal access.”
Herring said the County will require temporary construction easements and permanent maintenance easements. “This is where we will need a community champion or champions from the community to help us get these easements signed and approved.” Court challenges may be in store in the case of properties in probate or otherwise hindered by complications.
Public meetings will be held on the subject of easements. Herring went on to say that the community is important in accomplishing these goals. “We’re here to assist the community on this, but the community’s got to assist us. One of the phrases I heard earlier in some of the public comments is that all of these improvements will involve pride in the community, ownership of the community, and a community effort. You can’t just leave it to government to do everything for you. We’re here to partner with you, we’re here to work with you, and we want to work with you.”
The Twigg Street easements are expected to serve as a model for future easements to be considered in the neighborhood.
Connie Green, President of the South Brooksville Tax Redevelopment Advisory Committee (TRAC), asked about studies that were supposed to be ordered to determine the feasibility of building a community center on HCSD-owned property in South Brooksville. Herring summarized, “Until we know what the drainage requirements are and what properties are needed for that, we don’t know how much land is going to be left.”
With those questions answered Herring said Administration would take direction from the BOCC and go forward with those studies. According to maps shown during the meeting, roughly 50-60 percent of the proposed Community Center property lies in a flood plain. General clean-up will be another joint effort between the County and the South Brooksville community. Herring stated that the county would also like to work with Republic Services to obtain dumpsters either via donation or low-cost rental.
Herring asked those present from the community to communicate clean-up priorities to the county to ensure dumpsters can be placed appropriately. He estimates the cleaning of city, county, HCSD, and private properties to be completed over a weekend. After the clean-up effort, Herring expects to have a clean slate to work from to determine if the Code Enforcement department should address persisting issues.
Anyone can report a suspected violation online at https://hernandocountyfl.customerportal.help/en/report-an-issue . The website also allows for photos to be submitted. In accordance with a 2021 change in the Florida Statute (162.06(1)(b)), individuals submitting Code Enforcement violations must also submit their name and contact information.
Herring requested patience as the County moves forward with these items and projects. He anticipates working closely with Green and TRAC and Reverend Dr. Emery Ailes of Pristine Baptist Church to lead the effort. “The one thing I’m going to ask for is your patience. Government does not move quick, but we have been moving forward … I look forward to working with you all. If I need some funding, I will be back to the board, or we will see what we can raise from the community … I’ve got my marching orders, and I know which way to go.”