Thursday, Nov 27, 2014
News

Hernando, Citrus leaders work out details of transportation merger

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BROOKSVILLE - Now that Hernando County transportation officials have agreed to form a merger with their Citrus County counterparts, it is time to discuss the nuts and bolts of the partnership.

Both sides plan to do that Wednesday when the Metropolitan Planning Organization meets to discuss the make-up of the merged MPO.

Staff has already established some ground rules and will present them as concept issues at Wednesday's meeting.

They include:

? Rotating the board members and committee chairs annually

? Hiring an executive director who would report to the MPO board

? Determining staffing levels of the MPO

Hernando County would do the administrative functions for the MPO and be responsible for such areas as grants management, financial management, and accounting and auditing, according to the agenda item.

Grant fund matches would be funded by equal contributions from both Hernando and Citrus counties.

Hernando County MPO members in August agreed to a merger which they hope will benefit both regions because of common transportation concerns, especially the possible expansion northward of the Suncoast Parkway corridor.

But there was division on the board as to how much clout each county should yield.

For example, members were divided on how many seats should be allocated to respective municipalities, including the city of Brooksville, Hernando County, Crystal River and Citrus County.

The Citrus County Transportation Planning Organization in January expressed interest in merging with Hernando County's MPO.

Both counties met and in February, the Hernando County MPO was given a draft member apportionment plan showing 11 seats on the merged board. Thinking that number was too unwieldy, staff was asked to come back with a different plan.

In August, MPO staff presented a draft that reduced the number of seats from 11 to seven: Hernando County would have the lion's share with three seats. Citrus County would seat two members, Brooksville with one, and Crystal River-Inverness would also seat one.

However, the membership plan requested by the Citrus County transportation board provides for 11 seats: five seats for Hernando County, one seat for Brooksville, three seats for Citrus County, one seat for Inverness, and one seat for Crystal River.

The final apportionment plan must be approved by the Hernando MPO board with subsequent resolutions of support passed by each of the member local governments.

The joint board would hire an independent director and Hernando County would provide the administrative, clerical and financial support. The cost has not been determined.

The meetings would be rotated, with some taking place in Hernando County and others in Citrus County.

Bob Clifford, executive director of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority, said Citrus County suffered a great economic blow when the Crystal River nuclear plant closed.

The public is invited to the MPO meeting at 1 p.m. today in the jury assembly room, first floor, room 164 at the Hernando County Government Center, 20 North Main Street, Brooksville,

To view the entire agenda, visit http://hernandocountyfl.iqm2.com/citizens.

mbates@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5290

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