BROOKSVILLE - County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday for airport staff to move forward with a Florida Department of Transportation grant to install a radar system to better guide pilots in for a landing.
Currently, air traffic controllers rely on pilots' audible reports while they are still in the air, which sometimes leads to unreliable tracking, according to Commission Chairman Dave Russell.
The Stars Lite Radar System costs $375,000 and FDOT would kick in $300,000.
County Commissioner Wayne Dukes said the radar system is the next logical step in the growth of the airport.
Incoming airport manager Kevin Daugherty, in town for vacation, agreed that the use of radar would enhance operations.
Resident and retired pilot David Lemon said the county should have done a cost benefit analysis before voting on the system.
Resident Shirley Miketinac questioned whether the airport needed more "bells and whistles" and said $375,000 is still taxpayer money, even when it's in the form of a grant.
Outgoing Airport Manager Don Silvernell anticipated delivery and installation of the radar system within six months.
The radar agreement covers most of the costs of operating and maintenance for two years.
At the end of two years the airport will be responsible for annual maintenance, engineering and support at an approximate cost of $31,000.
This system is specifically designed for use at medium- and low-density airports, according to a memo.
Commissioners voted 3-2 to remove an agenda item placed there by board member Diane Rowden, who wanted to discuss policies and procedures governing the airport operations.
Commissioners agreed to pull the item for future discussion after Commissioner Jim Adkins cautioned the board that Tuesday was not the time to talk about it while the county is negotiating a lease with Clearwater-based Creative Jet Solutions.
Adkins said the county could also be facing litigation from another company that also was vying for the lease of a vacant airport building.
Rowden later said she doesn't understand why there seem to be paranoia against discussion of protocol between the airport aviation authority and the county and suggested there has been "arm-twisting" done to some of her colleagues.
Commissioner Wayne Dukes said this is the second time Rowden has made veiled accusations against the board and resented the implication, calling it unprofessional.
Rowden also denied a comment made to a Hernando Today reporter last week by Aviation Authority Gary Schraut who suggested that - while she is getting better - she is still perceived as anti-business.
"I am not anti-business," Rowden said. "I want us to have more business in Hernando County."
Commissioners presented Don Silvernell, manager of the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport, with an award for his years of service. Silvernell is retiring effective July 1.
Commissioners asked fire and rescue staff to return with more data on in-county and out-of-county emergency transports.
Currently, Hernando County Fire Rescue operates 10 advanced life support ambulances, with one eight-hour car.
The fire department does transports to offset the cost associated with operating a countywide fire and rescue department.
The transport call load is managed by the on-duty district chief based on a rotating list, taking into consideration the emergency 911 call load.