By LISA MACNEIL
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the release of 17.94 acres of land at the airport last month that the county has slated for government expansion. The county sent the request for land release in Dec. 2019 so the county could construct a 104,000 square foot government center. The plan for development of the property is still under consideration.
Airport Operations Manager Kevin Daugherty presented the resolution at the March 23, 2021 Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting which will release a portion of airport property from the FAA ownership to Hernando County. According to County Administrator Jeff Rogers, the land is being considered for construction of new administration buildings for county offices. The board approved unanimously. Plans for the site have not been finalized. An illegible copy of a site plan was included in the agenda documents which depicting several smaller buildings, parking areas and warehouses but text is not legible. The county was not able to send us a higher quality site plan by press time.
The county is temporarily leasing an 18,000 square foot building from Dennis and Pamela Wilfong also located at the Airport Industrial Park (15470 Flight Path Dr.) for several government offices displaced by the courthouse expansion project. The leased building houses County Administration, Human Resources, Public Information, Purchasing and Contracts, Office of Management and Budget, and Fire & Emergency Services Administration.
When the lease was approved in November 2020, County Administrator Rogers remarked, “In the end, we’ll figure out where the government building needs to be at-- if anywhere. My real goal is to probably not to build a government building. I really think a lot of these retail dinosaurs in the community- my thought is to use one of these eventually.”
Commissioner Allocco explained that as a board they made a decision to start moving forward to construct a building because “there were no options.”
“And now, as options are opening up, we’re changing the pathway, trying to be more responsible, as responsible as we can to the taxpayer and still fill those needs,” stated Allocco.
Commissioner Champion remarked that he has been in favor of using retail space “since day 1” and spoke to Rogers several times about it.
“I said it doesn’t have to be a fancy government building. We don’t have to spend $80 million.”
On March 23, Rogers cited other community needs that could be filled through developing the property, such as the need for a workforce training center, for which the central location would be ideal. Commissioner John Allocco made the suggestion for the inclusion of a dedicated emergency shelter, citing increased school budgets due to a mandate that schools must be built to double as hurricane shelters when necessary. Aside from budgetary concerns, the closure of schools is necessary as a hurricane approaches to prepare shelter areas, regardless if they are actually used.
The 17.94 acre parcel is located on the south side of Spring Hill Drive, at the north end of the airfield. The southwest corner of the parcel borders the north side of a portion of Helicopter Drive. The parcel was appraised on April 14, 2020 and valued at $1,794,000. It is a prime location, stay tuned for what the county decides to do with this parcel of property.