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County scraps library privatization plans

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Published:   |   Updated: May 13, 2013 at 04:42 PM
BROOKSVILLE -

Talk of privatizing Hernando County's library system was permanently shelved Tuesday.

County commissioners had flirted with the idea of outsourcing services to a private company to deal with a projected $10 million revenue shortfall next year.

But a petition drive from citizens, combined with strong criticism from library patrons during the past few weeks, convinced commissioners to find other ways of saving money. The vote was 5-0.

Commissioners had received just one sales proposal from a Maryland-based company claiming it could save the county $500,000 if it turned operations over to its staff.

Also Tuesday:

• Commissioners voted 5-0 to create a "dedicated industrial development fund" earmarked for economic development to attract industry.

The fund will start with $500,000 and come out of the budget reserve stabilization fund, a general fund account.

The half-million would be used at the discretion of Office of Business Development Director Michael McHugh, using criteria established by county commissioners.

The competition for new industry is fierce, said McHugh, who has to get county commissioners' approval before spending any of the money.

"The bar is even higher now than it has ever been," he said.

• Jack Sullivan, director of the Withlacoochee Regional Water Supply Authority, gave a slide presentation showing how Hernando County would fit in to a regional water system.

The authority has been preparing a long-range plan for new groundwater sources.

The current groundwater supply cannot meet the future needs of the area, Sullivan said. He said commissioners need to plan now to identify sources of supply for an integrated system that would cover Hernando, Citrus, Sumter and Marion counties.

Commissioners agreed to continue discussing the matter.

• Commissioners moved forward with construction of a new 41,000-square-foot health department on 3.5 acres adjacent to the Westside Government Complex off Forest Oaks Boulevard in Spring Hill.

Commissioners purchased the property in 2000 for the purpose of building a new health facility. State legislators had already set aside $14 million for the design, engineering, construction and equipping of the new building.

• Commissioners voted 5-0 to relocate the code enforcement department from its current location on the first floor of the government center into the expanded animal services building at 19450 Oliver St. in Brooksville.

The county will also downgrade the director position of code enforcement to a manager slot and eliminate one customer service position at animal services, saving the county about $87,920.

The move will free up space for judicial services, County Administrator David Hamilton said.

Hamilton said code enforcement and animal services frequently work on shared projects and this consolidation makes logistical sense.

• Commissioners voted 5-0 to hold a public workshop from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. April 30 to hear economist William Fruth.

Fruth was the speaker at the recent community summit hosted by Hernando Progress.

The workshop will be held at the Hernando County Association of Realtors office on Sunshine Grove Road.

• Board members asked staff to draft a resolution noting Hernando County's opposition to legislation that would establish a federal carbon tax.

The commission reached a consensus on the issue after a presentation by Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative spokesman David Lambert, who claimed the tax would have to be passed on to consumers and could increase the average cooperative customer's bill by $338 per year and cost county government an additional $845,000 annually.


Reporter Tony Marrero contributed to this story. Reporter Michael D. Bates can be reached at 352-544-5290 or mbates@hernandotoday.com.

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