City of Brooksville disbands police department
On March 5, 2018 the City of Brooksville voted to seek an Interlocal Agreement with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office. This effectively disbanded the Brooksville Police Department. The Sheriff’s Office started providing law enforcement services to the city on June 1, 2018. Nine officers of the former Brooksville Police Department (BPD) were sworn in as Hernando County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) deputies on June 1, 2018.
Commissioners approve CEMEX comp plan amendment and rezoning
At the regular Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on June 12, 2018 the commissioners voted unanimously to approve the Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPA), CPAM 1702 that will allow the Cemex Corporation to expand mining operations between Cortez Blvd and Fort Dade in Brooksville.
Spring Center comprehensive plan amendment and rezoning approved
On August 13, 2018 the Hernando County Commission voted to approve the rezoning necessary to develop Spring Center, a proposed 440-acre central hub of retail stores, restaurants and office space, surrounded by multi- and single-family homes. The following day (August 14, 2018), the commissioners unanimously approved Spring Center’s amended comprehensive plan. Spring Center will be located in the area between Mariner Blvd and Deltona Blvd that is south of Northcliff Blvd. Spring Center is expected to add around 3000 dwelling units.
County Commissioner Nick Nicholson was arrested April 19, 2018 on counts relating to owning, maintaining or operating an establishment of prostitution and “purchasing the services of any person engaged in prostitution.” The arrest stems from an investigation in relation to domestic disturbance arrests that occurred at Nicholson’s Spring Hill residence on Feb. 20, 2018. Mr. Nicholson was not involved in the domestic disturbance. Gov. Scott ordered Mr. Nicholson’s immediate suspension as a County Commissioner on April 26, 2018. On June 14, 2018, Governor Rick Scott announced the appointment of John Mitten to the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners to fill the vacant spot for the remainder of the term which ends November 16, 2020. Mr. Nicholson plead nolo contendere (no contest) to the charges on November 16, 2018. Hitzemann formally withheld adjudication, and required Nicholson to pay $729 in court fees. All three charges were misdemeanors.
TreeUmph! opens Dec. 2017 then closes Aug. 2018
The owners of TreeUmph! Adventure Course in Brooksville decided to close the park on Monday Aug. 20, 2018. TreeUmph! off of Cedar Lane in Brooksville, got a rough start despite a healthy economic incentive package from the county. They were planning to open last summer, but plans were thwarted by hurricane Irma, which took down many trees on the property that were incorporated into the adventure course. TreeUmph’s $650,000 incentive package from the county included a rent payment of $1 for the first two years. The plan was for TreeUmph! to repay that $650,000 in incentive money via its lease. After they repaid the lease, they would be able to purchase the land, appraised at $306,447 (prior to the project buildout), for $100.
Live Oak Theatre gets a building
The Live Oak Theatre company took possession of the former Hernando County Utilities Building on Friday, May 4. All future events will now take place at its new Center for the Performing Arts. Live Oak Theatre undertook a capital campaign to purchase a home of its own and on January 23, 2018, the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners agreed to sell the former utilities building to the theatre company. Live Oak Theatre company received substantial support from Mr. & Mrs. Morsani who made an initial donation of $100,000 to kick start the campaign and then awarded an additional matching grant of $100,000 after the theatre group successfully raised $100,000 on their own. The theatre group purchased the 11,500 square foot two-story building on Cortez Boulevard. The building itself once served as popular restaurants, then was purchased by the county for $500,000 to become the Utilities Department headquarters. With the Utilities Department now relocated to the former Tampa Bay Times building on Cortez Blvd, the building was placed on the county’s surplus properties list. The sale of the building to Live Oak Theatre for $500,000 was by the county commission.
Superintendent Dr. Lori Romano is fired
On Tuesday, June 10, 2018, the Hernando County School Board voted 3-2 to terminate the contract of Superintendent Dr. Lori Romano. The three board members who voted in favor of ending the contract were Beth Narverud, Susan Duval and Linda Prescott. The two opposed were Mark Johnson and Gus Guadagnino. Dr. Lori Romano’s last day was June 30, 2018.The Hernando County School Board had approved a new 4 year contract with Superintendent Dr. Lori Romano on January 26, 2016. Dr. Romano’s most controversial action was the firing of 47 Moton Elementary School (MES) teachers in May 2018, which she defended as necessary to avoid another year of being classified as a ‘D’ school, and possibly resulting in closure of the school, or relinquishing control to an outside agency. This action seemed to be the impetus for the school board’s decision.
Election recounts, new and familiar faces
2018 was an election year. The two county commissioners Wayne Dukes and Jeff Holcomb both won re-election. The school board has two new members Jimmy Lodato and Catherine “Kay” Hatch. Even though Jimmy Lodato is new on the school board he is well known their as one of the chief advocates of the half cent sales tax for schools which passed in 2015. In the statewide elections the Governor, Senator, and Agriculture Commissioner races were the subject of a recount. Hernando’s smooth election could be seen as a model for other parts of the state.
Flooding throughout the county
This year saw significant rainfall for the county. One of the worst hit areas was around Mondon Hill. Cheryl Clanton wrote, “Bystre Lake overflows once again, flooding the pastures along Mondon Hill Rd, closing side street WPA. Typically, by the time the floodwaters of Bystre Lake reach WPA Rd, residents are already dealing with the flooding of their driveways, yards and homes. Flood waters are now creeping closer to Mondon Hill Rd.” WPA road was closed for several weeks until the flood waters receded. In other areas of the county water levels are at the highest level seen in decades.
HCA $78 million investment for Oak Hill
A new set of multi-million dollar projects totaling more than $78 million are on the horizon for Oak Hill Hospital. Three major expansions are planned. The North Tower expansion is the first major project costing approximately $40 million and adding 48,000 square feet of patient care. The second project will be the Emergency Room Expansion estimated to cost $23 million and take two to three years. It will increase the Emergency Department square footage by almost 50 percent adding 12,000 square feet. The third project is a new Medical Office Building which is expected to cost $13 million and add 42,000-square feet. A host of other infrastructure renovations are also planned.
Frigitek (Project Diamond) makes a $22 million investment
Frigitek a cold-storage company headquartered in Georgia has agreed to build a 200,000 square foot warehouse on a 20 acre leased parcel at the airport and create at least 60 jobs with an average wage over $37,000. The construction of the 200,000 square foot facility represents a $22 million investment.