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New Capital Improvement Plan Discussed at County Workshop

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Last week, Hernando’s Board of County Commissioners held a special meeting to discuss the Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for Fiscal Year 2025. Hernando County Budget Director Albert Bertram presented the plan at the Tuesday workshop, with local leaders speaking on the topics that applied to their respective organizations.

In the plan, the amounts for designing and construction are incorporated into building construction projects, but aspects like staffing and operating costs are separate. Different projects such as the Barclay Avenue Multilaning, the Pine Island Stem Wall, and the conversion of Delta Woods’ tennis courts to pickleball courts were considered the highest priorities in their respective fields. The most pressing proposals were designated with a (1), while the least urgent projects could be listed as high as (40).

There were ten areas of discussion proposed by Bertram regarding the CIP and they are listed from top to bottom in the order in which they were addressed on Tuesday:

• Utilities (includes Fleet)
• Public Works
• Jail
• Health and Human Services
• Development Services
• Economic Development
• County Administration/Board of County Commissioners
• Fire and Emergency Services
• Community Services

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Brad Smith with Hernando County Utilities was up first to briefly discuss the upcoming projects in the proposal. There are several wastewater treatment plant expansions that are under design including one in the Ridge Manor area. An expansion of the plant on Lockhart Road and a new facility on Wiscon are also on the horizon for Smith and company. Other treatment plant expansions are on the way, too. Smith and his team are working on a fueling facility for the Fleet department as well as a septic-to-sewer infrastructure project that is going out to bid on June 19.

During Public Works Director and County Engineer Scott Herring’s presentation, several road projects were touched on, including the effort to multi-lane Barclay Avenue. Herring noted that this is his team’s “number one priority,” and they have sent letters to property owners in the hopes of acquiring a pair of land parcels for the intersection of Barclay and State Road 50. Only one of the owners on the southern side of the project has responded so far.

Later in the meeting, County Administrator Jeff Rogers suggested the use of eminent domain, a practice that involves the government purchasing private property for public use, for that stretch of Barclay to expedite the process if need be. Commissioner John Allocco does not want the government to grow too large, but he agreed with the use of eminent domain in this specific instance if the property owners remain unresponsive. Mr. Allocco’s reasoning was that this issue is “a problem that is bad. We have been working on it way too long.”

One of the highest priority projects for Community Services Director Chris Linsbeck and company is the re-engineering of the existing seawall at Pine Island. This is necessary considering all of the sand that has been depleted from the area and shifted around the island due to the tides. Gaps in the current wall have forced Linsbeck’s department to replenish a large volume of sand, so the director is hoping a better structure will allow them to “try to retain as much of our beach as possible,” said Linsbeck. The proposal is so important to his team that the venture is being moved up to next year despite having already been on the CIP.

Airport Manager Steve Miller noted an offer for a $2.6 million grant from FDOT for the runway 321 shift construction at the local airport. Improved security is also a priority as Miller feels that the current system that uses codes is not exactly up to par and that replacing it with gates that require the use of proximity cards would be the safer way forward. The plan also calls for obligatory pavement projects due to “never-ending pavement deterioration,” Miller stated.

There is also a proposal to make some of the tennis courts at Delta Woods into pickleball courts. Considering the tremendous growth of the sport around the community and across the country, Director Linsbeck and company are looking to have the upper set of tennis courts (four courts) converted to accommodate pickleball.

“The board and staff has been hearing constantly, ‘there’s not enough pickleball courts.’ So, we are listening to the public, to the demand and that is pretty much what we want to do,” Linsbeck said.
The board touched on a variety of other projects in the proposal, including the future of Anderson Snow Park. After the completion of the splash park next year, Administrator Rogers shared that Anderson Snow will be looking to add more facilities, whether it is a “quad-plex” for the stick sports or even a recreation center. A building could house office rooms and a gymnasium for a host of activities.

Commissioner Allocco added that a simple “covered recreation area” to shield people from the intense Florida rays could be enough and save on cost.

Rogers noted that “we are in the final days,” and the plan will be completed after a “couple weeks of putting together the proposed budget for the next year.” He will be taking feedback from Tuesday’s meeting and making further determinations based on the responses. The county leaders will share the adjusted plan at the upcoming workshop in July and other public hearings in the future. Citizens can review other details addressed at the roughly 1 hour and 45-minute meeting by visiting Hernando County’s website.

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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