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City Parks and DPW Facility Among Issues Discussed at Brooksville City Council Meetings

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Editor’s Note: The author of this article accepted a proclamation from city council for National Author’s Day, because she is also the author of several books.

On Monday, Nov. 6, the Brooksville City Council held its regular meeting. Present at the meeting were Mayor Blake Bell, Vice Mayor David Bailey, and Council members Christa Tanner and Thomas Bronson. Absent was Council member Casey Thieryung. Also attending were City Clerk Jennifer Battista, City Manager Charlene Kuhn, and City Attorney Becky Vose with the Vose Law Firm.

Prior to the meeting, there was a workshop to discuss potential improvements and expansions to the existing city parks, in addition to possibly building more. Representatives from Ayres Associates, a company in Tampa that plans, designs, and facilitates infrastructure, did a PowerPoint presentation showing proposed plans for each of the city parks – Tom Varn and Bud McKethan Parks; Jerome Brown Community Center; and Quarry, Russell Street, Hernando, and Kennedy Parks. They also discussed an increase in smaller neighborhood parks with walking paths, playgrounds, sports fields and other amenities., as well as a proposal for a Regional Park/Sports Facility on U.S. 41 where large events would take place to attract people from out of town.

One of the major questions brought up by several council members was funding these projects. Binoy Paniker, Principal Planner with Ayres Associates, brought up the idea of federal and state grants, as well as partnerships at the grassroots level with schools, the YMCA and public institutions. He emphasized that these plans are comparable to what other cities of similar size and budget to Brooksville are doing. He also emphasized that these improvements wouldn’t be overnight but over the long term. Paniker also stated that these plans are not in stone and that over the next few months, the public will have an opportunity to respond to online surveys about the plans and give input at later meetings.

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“You’re looking at somewhere over $100 million in works and programs over the next twenty years,” Paniker remarked.

Another topic that the representatives brought up was improving the Good Neighbor Trail that traverses Brooksville. This trail is part of the larger network of Rails to Trails throughout the state. One suggestion was to encourage businesses such as a bike repair shop to be located on a section of the trail. Another suggestion was to make the trail more handicapped-accessible. The consultants also suggested increasing the number of bike lanes.

After a short break, the regular City council meeting was called to order at 7 pm.

Proclamations included:
Councilwoman Tanner read a proclamation honoring the small businesses of Hernando County and their contribution to the local economy. The proclamation recognized Nov. 25, as Small Business Saturday and urged people to shop local and support small businesses. Ashley Hofecker, CEO of the Greater Hernando Chamber; Jared Tanner, Chair of the Chamber Board of Directors and Board Members Don Webb and Dana Cutlip were there to accept the proclamation.

Councilman David Bailey read a proclamation declaring November 1st as National Authors Day. The purpose of setting aside this day is to honor authors, past and present, for their contributions to literature and for enriching our lives with their works. Encouraging people to pursue writing is another purpose in setting aside this day. Sarah Nachin and John David Hanna, two local authors, accepted the proclamation.

Mayor Blake Bell read a proclamation honoring Veterans’ Day. November 11th was originally designated Armistice Day in 1938 to celebrate the end of World War II. It was renamed Veterans’ Day in 1954 by an act of Congress to honor veterans of all the military branches who served in peacetime, as well as in war.

First Citizens Input Included:
Mary Ellen Urban brought up the idea of a bicycle hostel to be located in the downtown area to accommodate cyclists from out of town who want to stay overnight.

Tanya Myers, co-owner of Broad Street Brewing, discussed the possibility of downtown business owners renovating and leasing the upstairs portion of their buildings for tenants to live in. She mentioned that the federal government has grants available for this purpose. She feels that this would boost the economy.

Maureen Cavallero asked about improvements to the sidewalks. Mayor Bell stated that this was not included in the budget this year. However, he added that Vice Mayor Bailey had stated in an earlier comment that this needs to be a priority.

From left to right: Mary Ellen Urban, Linda Grass. [Credit: Sarah Nachin]

Regular Agenda Items Included:
David Hainley, Community Development Director, asked for the council to approve Duke Energy’s request for the removal of certain trees on city property. The council unanimously approved the request.

Several representatives from Scorpio Construction Company of Gainesville appeared to discuss their plans for the new Department of Public Works (DPW) facility. Jimi Penley with Lunz Architects presented detailed renderings of the inside and outside of the building.
Councilwoman Tanner voiced objections to the “industrial look” of the building and how it would be out of place in an area designated as historic. She asked if some alterations to the façade could be made without running up the costs too much. Ken Brown with Scorpio Construction mentioned that the renderings make the building look more “industrial.” After a brief discussion, the council approved the design unanimously.

Next on the agenda was the approval of Carl Hankins, Inc. to relocate the sewer line for the new DPW facility. Richard Weeks, Public Works Director, stated that the work could not be done “in-house,” meaning that bids had to be sent out to contractors. Carl Hankins, Inc. was the only company that came back with a bid. After negotiating with the company, the city was able to get the cost down from $64,190.00 to $60,550.00. Weeks assured the council that, although they only received one bid, Carl Hankins, Inc. is reputable and the City has worked with the company before. City Manager Charlene Kuhn brought up the fact that the bidding process is publicized and companies have to respond with a bid, although they don’t have to be on a pre-approved list. The city cannot reach out to companies and solicit bids. The bid by Carl Hankins, Inc. was approved unanimously by the city council.

Richard Weeks. [Credit: Sarah Nachin]

Articles covering additional agenda items are:
Brooksville Council Approves Chinsegut Management Agreement
Brooksville City Council Ponders Speed Humps, New Traffic Policy Development

Second Citizens’ Input (General Topics) Included:
Linda Grass asked that the City look at speeding issues on VFW Road and U.S. 41. Other issues she mentioned were the culverts on Corliss Road nearby that need to be cleaned out because of the drainage problem these can create with the businesses in that area and the need for a street light for the safety of the people there.

Cindy Gandy commented on the fact that there isn’t enough of a police presence in Brooksville to catch people speeding. She mentioned that years ago, when Brooksville had its own police department, there would be an officer stationed on Howell Avenue near the high school every day who would write numerous tickets. Ms. Gandy expressed the hope that, with the increasing population in Brooksville, more deputies would be hired for the City.

Nina Mattei stated her hope that there will be some way to preserve the green space around Russell Street Park despite the fact that the DPW building will be located there.

In response, Ms. Kuhn remarked that the city is working on the Russell Street Art to Start program, which will add to the beautification of the area and draw attention to the artwork as opposed to the building.

In addressing the issue of stormwater drainage, Councilman Bronson suggested getting local land-clearing business owners to volunteer their equipment, reimburse them for the cost of fuel and the city would pay their workers a wage of $15/hour in lieu of paying a contractor to do the work. This would only have to be done once to get the situation under control and after that, the city workers would be able to handle it.

Councilwoman Tanner thanked everyone who volunteered their time to come out for the brick-cleaning project.

Councilman Bailey reiterated Ms. Tanner’s appreciation for those who participated in the project and suggested that another one be organized. He also commented that perhaps the county could help out on clearing the drainage ditches since they have a Gradall (excavator) and the city doesn’t.

The meeting adjourned at 8:22 p.m. The next meeting will be on Monday, Dec. 4.

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