Commissioners vote in favor of submitting $1.4 million proposal for taking over city's fire service

On Feb. 15, 2018 Brooksville City Manager Mark Kutney, contacted Hernando County Administrator Len Sossamon at the direction of the City Council for the purpose of having Hernando County propose provisions and terms connected with Hernando County providing fire and rescue services to the incorporated areas of Hernando County.

The move is seen as “a long time coming” and supported by Commissioner Wayne Dukes, as well as the rest of the board. Commissioner Steve Champion cautioned the public that is not to be perceived as “the county is the big brother trying to take over Brooksville... This is initiated by the city.” Champion did state also that with the county taking over fire and rescue and the possibility of Brooksville eliminating the police department, “There’s no reason to have a city.”

Not expecting Champion’s comment, Commissioner John Allocco said “We’ve got a lot of research … infrastructure upgrades that are going to be needed, that’s a very expensive proposition for the county.” Utilities and other services would need to be considered as well.

Commissioner Jeff Holcomb acknowledged that if the county does take on Brooksville’s Fire Service, residents with larger homes will see a drastic decrease in their fire assessment, since home size is part of the calculation to determine the assessment.

With services being absorbed into the county, possibly resulting in the loss of jobs, Champion asked why the county couldn’t employ the former city fire department employees. Deputy County Administrator Jeff Rogers explained that acquiring the city staff is not necessary to continue the same level of service in Hernando County as well as Brooksville.

If the choice to acquire additional staff were made, Rogers said the county could consider which additional services could be provided. “Taking on additional staff is a long-term funding issue… and reserves are not where they need to be at this time.”

Commissioner Nick Nicholson mentioned that Hernando County has been subsidizing the City of Brooksville “for a long time… because they cannot provide Basic Life Support (BLS), and we don’t really get paid for it.” The entire board agreed that the move could potentially save residents county-wide a lot of money.

Presently, Brooksville is expected to receive state grants for building repairs. The provisions of the grants will need to be amended and directed to Hernando County in the event the repairs do become the responsibility of the county. The provisions will also include a 30-year contract to preclude complications arising from possible future boards reversing the agreement, and leading to a chain of upheaval.

The motion to submit the interlocal agreement to the city was made by Commissioner Nicholson, seconded by Commissioner Dukes and passed unanimously. The Interlocal Agreement will be forwarded to Brooksville City Council to be reviewed at a workshop on March 12th. If the proposal is agreed upon, Hernando county could see revenue of $1,400,000 and additional debt service of $64,832 annually.

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