By JULIE B. MAGLIO
The Hernando County Board of County Commissioners will decide if they’d like to submit a release of land request to the FAA for an 18 acre site at the Brooksville Tampa Bay Regional airport on Tuesday Dec. 17, 2019. The county would like to consider the site as a location for a new government center. Plans show a 104,000 square foot one story building situated on the property with a large parking area. In order for any construction to occur on the site, the FAA will need to release the property as there are currently federal deed restrictions limiting its usage to aviation purposes.
There hasn’t been much visible movement on the government expansion project recently. The last time the BOCC discussed the matter for any length of time was March of 2019. The BOCC voted to not proceed with an unsolicited offer for construction of a new government center, citing overall expense as the major factor.
During budget workshops this year, government (‘admin’) center expenses and the 1 mill tax rate increase were included in financial models that basically saw the county reserves drop below critical thresholds within a few years. Commissioner John Mitten requested the government center expenses be removed from the model and the tax rate set to baseline. Under these conditions, the county finances saw a surplus of reserves after 2021. Mitten suggested they consider a sales surtax to support the costs of the admin building, but no further discussion on the matter occurred.
According to documents requested by the Hernando Sun in July 2019, the new government complex would consist of 104,000 square feet, dedicated to the BOCC and Constitutional Offices as well as warehouse space. It is projected to serve a total staff of 215 in the year 2026. The total cost of the project including debt service would be upwards of $70 million. A level debt service scenario comes out to $72,329,917 and a wrapped debt service scenario is $76,871,250. Both assume a principal of roughly $37 million. The final payments would be made Sept. 30, 2049.
Prior to the unsolicited offer, the county was considering a renovation of the Pinebrook facility which is a medical complex near Bayfront Hospital in Brooksville. The initial estimate for renovation was around $15 million. However, the Veterans Administration currently occupies a portion of the building and is planning on an expansion. Additionally, the county reports that renovations from medical to office space were cost prohibitive after further investigations.
In May of 2018, after voting to proceed with the Pinebrook option (in January 2018), the county commission received a letter from Fifth Judicial Circuit Court Chief Judge Sue Robbins from Marion County. The Hernando County courthouse and the current government center in downtown Brooksville are both located at the 20 N. Main Street complex. The letter stated that the county should build a new county government complex as defined by the Space Needs Assessment CGL Companies report, which cites an overall lack of space. (CGL Companies, a private consultant to the county, provided a range of $100 - $130 million for the construction of a new government center.)
County Attorney Garth Coller has explained, “The standard under law is that you’ve got to provide reasonable space (for the courts). That is obviously going to be subject to different interpretations by the courts and this board. This board does get to make that decision.”
Judge Robbins also listed several security concerns and provided a timeline for which to address them in her correspondence to the county.
The Pinebrook option was abandoned in January 2019, when the unsolicited offer was received as well as another letter from Judge Robbins.
With a BOCC approval for the land release request to FAA pending, funding of $1,700,000.00 has been budgeted in FY 19/20 for the acquisition of the 18 acre airport property from the Impact Fee-Public Buildings Fund.