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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

Sossamon gets open-ended contract to be economic development director


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BROOKSVILLE - County Administrator Len Sossamon will have longer than six months to prove he can perform his current job and take on the duties of county economic development director.

Commissioners on Tuesday voted 5-0 to give Sossamon an open-ended contract to take on the dual responsibilities and will review his efforts at the end of a half year.

Originally, the board had discussed giving Sossamon a six-month trial.

However, commissioners said it shows a lack of confidence in Sossamon and sends a wrong message to potential business owners looking to relocate to Hernando County. Some would likely be turned off from doing business if they believe Sossamon was a short-timer, they reasoned.

Commissioner Dave Russell said the flexible contract allows Sossamon to get out of the contract at any time if he thinks it is interfering with his administration duties.

"We're not boxed in," he said. "But the message is sent that (Sossamon) is our economic development director."

Commissioner Diane Rowden said limiting Sossamon to half a year would hinder economic development.

"If you hired someone, it takes longer than six months just to build up steam," Rowden said.

The board agreed to contract terms drawn up by the legal office that would pay Sossamon an extra $3,333.33 for each month he performs the extra duties.

Commissioners have said that is cheaper than hiring someone to do the job and the taxpayers benefit from the savings.

Sossamon on Tuesday submitted an outline of what he plans to accomplish as economic development director.

His plans include the creation of a business development council to strengthen communication between the private and public sector; an update of existing economic incentives for businesses considering relocating to Hernando County; new shopping center opportunities, such as an outlet mall; and the feasibility of a nature-based recreation facility or sports complex in Hernando County.

Sossamon said he subscribes to the "rising tide lifts all boats" theory in that attracting high-tech, high-paying jobs will benefit other businesses that are already operating in Hernando County and that includes service jobs.

It's beneficial, he said, to build more homes and boost construction trades. But for long-term vitality, he added, the county needs to get in the higher-tech game. Cell phone and smart phone manufacturing, now predominately done overseas, would be an ideal venture for Hernando County, he said.

Also Tuesday:

Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve a revised volunteer policy that spells out in greater detail the role of volunteers representing Hernando County on various agency boards.

It also removes the requirement that volunteers who serve on an advisory board or committee sign a liability wavier form, which had been controversial and led to the resignation of a member of an Aviation Authority member last year.

The new policy stresses that such volunteers will undergo training, complete an orientation program and undergo background checks. Such a requirement was on the old policy but was vague, said Christi Charlow, the county's risk management director, who wrote the revised document.

Commissioners also agreed to rescind the resignation of aviation authority member Derrill McAteer, who resigned because of the waiver liability rule.

(352) 544-5290

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