The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) at the regular meeting on September 12, 2023, voted 3-1 to approve the county’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). Commissioner Beth Narverud voted against the plan, having received no support from other Commissioners to move up the expansion of Hernando County Animal Services (HCAS). Commissioner Brian Hawkins was absent from the vote.
The county expects to spend $179 million on CIP projects for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024. Over the next five years, these projects are estimated to total $496,867,137. The CIP project that came up for discussion centered around Hernando County Animal Services (HCAS). The county currently has four projects planned for HCAS: Building Expansion and Renovation, Kennel Epoxy, Remodeling of the Pole Barn and Stalls, and Service Area Asphalt.
The county expects to spend $1.3 million on the building expansion and renovation over the next four years: $120,000 in FY 2024, $104,000 in FY 2025, $850,000 in FY 2026, and $250,000 in FY 2027. Planning for the new kennel area is estimated at $120,000. Rebuilding and adding improvements to the livestock barn is expected to cost $85,000 The Epoxy coat will cost roughly $50,000 in Grant Funds.
Commissioner Beth Narverud stressed the importance of the facility expansion, citing space deficits affecting decisions on whether or not to euthanize animals. “One of the things I would like to see in this county is for us to become a no-kill shelter, and we do hit the numbers to [qualify as a no-kill shelter]. However, we are euthanizing dogs because we’ve run out of space.”
Narverud also fears the county’s population growth will add to the overcrowding of the existing facility. She went on to say that some animals that are traumatized may require more time before they can be presented for adoption, but due to a lack of space, such animals are often euthanized. “We end up putting them down because we don’t have the time to let them get past the trauma they’ve been through. So we end up having to euthanize them because we can’t get them from hiding… and we’re out of space, so they get deemed unadoptable. Given a little bit more time, they might have been able to be adopted. If we had space, we would be able to spend a little more time with them.”
County Administrator Jeff Rogers said funding a capital account could speed up expansion. The current design phase is expected to take three to five months to complete and could move forward afterward.
Chairman John Allocco countered that the slim number of animals that are euthanized doesn’t warrant expediting the expansion. “Out of the last 800 dog outcomes, there were 11 that were put down. Nine of them were behavior issues. But we’ve had almost 1600 dogs through that facility this year alone.” No information was available during the meeting about how many animals were euthanized due to space needs.
Commissioner Jerry Campbell reported that he spoke with Animal Services Director James Terry and said, “In [Terry’s] professional opinion, it would greatly hinder the ability for him to do his job effectively if we moved to [be] a no-kill shelter.”
Campbell agrees that “one is too many” when it comes to euthanizing animals; however, he said, “Unfortunately, we don’t have an unlimited checkbook to throw at this problem. I would like to see the community come together… There are people very passionate about this issue, and I applaud that. So, let’s put that passion into action and come up with a solution. Government cannot fix every problem.”
Commissioner Steve Champion agrees with Campbell. Champion stated that since his time in office, the HCAS budget has tripled. “It was $400,000; it’s well over $1 million now. Where is the limit? Where does it stop?” Champion would like to see an approach from another angle: shutting down puppy mills and irresponsible breeders. If irresponsible breeders allow irresponsible owners to adopt, it could result in more intakes at HCAS. “[Becoming a no-kill shelter] is not the real answer. How do we keep the dogs from ending up there?”
Allocco suggested looking into grants or other public sector avenues to fund the expansion.
Other projects that will be funded in FY 2024 were presented by Budget Director Toni Brady but did not lead to significant discussion:
Aquatics and Waterways: Lake Townsend Park boat ramp, Jenkins Creek boat ramp replacement, Hunter’s Lake dredge, and the ongoing artificial reef program
Libraries: Main library electrical remodel, West branch employee parking lot paving
Parks and Recreation: Two athletic fields at Anderson Snow Park; Master plan for the soccer field at Ernie Wever, Lighting for tee ball fields at Anderson Snow Park, Phase 1 of Mermaid Lake
Sensitive Lands: Fickett Hammock, Cypress Lakes observation area, kayak launch and trailhead restroom
County Administration: ERP Software, Westside Tax Collector’s Office, Public Safety Training Complex, Dr. Dennis Wilfong Citizen’s Center for Success
Developmental Services: Building Division office space Master Plan, Replacement of transit vehicles, bus stop ADA improvements, transfer facility
Economic Development – Airport: Runway 27 extension, west side infrastructure improvements, HVAC Replacement in the administration building, Taxiway B and C design construction, Fixed Base Operator apron rehab, Flight Path Drive drainage improvements, westside roadway, wildlife fencing, airfield security and access control upgrades, westside hangar facility, Taxiway A T-hangar development. Brady commented that some of these items are for Fiscal Years beyond 2024.
Economic Development: Cyril Drive Bypass Water and wastewater improvements
Detention Center: Alpha Building and Administration roof replacement, fire alarm replacements, AC Unit replacements, door controls, painting, scullery wall replacement, Bravo unit roof replacement, Bravo unit AC, parking lot resurfacing, and mental health unit.
Housing Support Services: Landscaping improvements of Kass Circle
Public Works: Mariner west frontage road, Westside elementary school turn lane, Ayers / Culbreath / Hayman intersection, Barclay Ave multi-laning, frontage road for SR 50, west of mariner, Weeping Willow road improvement, Coastal Way intersection improvements, Star Road, Anderson Snow and Corporate Blvd.
Please see our “County Projects” article for fire station construction and improvements. County Projects Update