BROOKSVILLE - Hernando County has ceased providing mosquito control service to Brooksville until the city pays its $15,214 bill.
County Administrator Len Sossamon said in a letter to Brooksville City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha that the county was forced to take the action after the city's "surreptitious removal of itself" from the Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU) that funds mosquito control.
Norman-Vacha said the city is not obligated to pay the bill because both municipalities could not reach an agreement by the July 1. A that point, the existing agreement became null and void, she said.
Norman-Vacha said she was surprised by the tone of Sossamon's letter and that he didn't choose to meet with her before firing it off to her and council members. She said it's all a misunderstanding.
Norman-Vacha said she and staff are preparing a report that will show that the city is not on the hook for any outstanding money and that Hernando County is obligated to spray. Brooksville residents pay taxes into the county's general fund which, in part, goes into the cost of mosquito spraying, she said.
Norman-Vacha said the city continued to negotiate after July 1 and reached out several times to the county.
"It's not like we were trying to hide anything," she said. "I had no idea until I got the letter on Friday that they had a different understanding."
Norman-Vacha said she thought the city and county had a better working relationship than that.
Sossamon said he had a letter from City Clerk Jean Peters that said since the two parties did not enter into an agreement by July 1, the ordinance creating the taxing unit was invalid and asked the county's property appraiser to remove the city from the MSTU for mosquito control.
"Pointedly, Ms. Peters did not copy the board of county commissioners or any of its employees on her letter," Sossamon wrote. "The fact that Ms. Peters sent her letter to the property appraiser so soon after the county commission's request for the city to remove its red-light cameras has not gone unnoticed."
Hernando County has been providing mosquito control services to the city without knowing that those services were unfunded since Oct. 1, 2013, Sossamon wrote.
However, the county will not continue to do so until the matter is resolved, he said.
Included with the letter was an invoice billing the city $15,214 for mosquito services performed from Oct. 1 through Feb. 26.
Brooksville Mayor Kevin Hohn said he was surprised when the received the letter because he thought negotiations had been continuing.
There were a couple items that still needed to be discussed, including a timetable from the county as to where and when mosquito spraying would be going on so residents could be notified.
Hohn said it is imperative the city move quickly to resolve what he calls a misunderstanding.
"We certainly want to work with the county on this," Hohn said. "This is a very important service that the county provides and we need to get up and running. We're heading into mosquito season (and) I would hate for something to happen because the county stopped spraying."