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Brooksville Blueberry Festival organizers to try again

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Published:   |   Updated: March 22, 2013 at 08:49 PM
BROOKSVILLE -

Denied two weeks ago by county commissioners, Blueberry Festival organizers are hoping a plea for assistance is more fruitful on Tuesday.

This time, Cliff Manuel Jr., president of Coastal Engineering Associates Inc., who has been helping out with the festival, will appeal to the county commission.

Organizers say they need $20,683 to pay for signs, message boards, barricades and other traffic devices to guide motorists to the May 4-5 event at Hernando Park in downtown Brooksville.

Michael Heard, Blueberry Festival coordinator, said Friday she is hoping for better luck this time around.

“I’m hoping they’ll step up to the plate,” Heard said. “They should. This is a big thing from economic development for the community.”

Two weeks ago, commissioners voted unanimously to deny paying out $20,683 and suggested organizers approach the city for financial assistance.

Commissioners tabled discussion of the other requests, including permit waivers and early closing of the government center.

Heard said she has not spoken to commissioners since the March 12 meeting but was encouraged by Commissioner Jim Adkins’ comments in Hernando Today.

Adkins said he was successful in soliciting donations from the sheriff’s office, Florida Department of Transportation and local businesses, all of whom agreed to provide message boards for motorists, signs instructing people where to go and other items needed for traffic purposes.

He said the county’s tourism development group also kicked in money.

“It’s all done,” Adkins told Hernando Today.

Heard, in a letter sent to commissioners, also is asking for the waiving of county permit fees for the event and permission to sell wine and beer at Hernando Park. Permit fees are about $360-$525.

Organizers also want permission to close the downtown government center as early as noon or no later than 2 p.m. on Friday, May 3 to accommodate visitors.

If that is not possible, then Heard wants the county to provide staffing to assist city workers and volunteers to cone off street parking lanes on Jefferson and Broad streets the night before, on May 2.

Finally, Heard wants permission to use several downtown parking lots for the event.

Heard said that in consideration of its contributions, the county would be named a co-sponsor of the 2013 Florida Blueberry Festival.

County commissioners will consider the festival during their business meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Hernando County Government Center, 20 North Main St. in downtown Brooksville.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting:

Property Appraiser John Emerson will discuss guidelines for the low-income senior property tax exemption, which provides an additional homestead exemption of up to $50,000 for eligible people.

Assistant County Administrator for Planning and Development Ron Pianta will update the board on the county’s environmentally sensitive lands program.

Public Safety Director Mike Rampino will update the board on the consolidation of Hernando County Fire Rescue and Spring Hill Fire Rescue and Emergency Medical Services Districts.

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