02/15/17 Local Government
Because Jennene Norman-Vacha has taken heaps of criticism from her former bosses lately, and because complaints about the city she used to lead are pretty much eternal, let's remember Brooksville as it was before she took the job as city manager.
Let's look at what she did to make the city better.
Previous leadership was so focused on approving new developments that it was content to leave the old downtown as a ghost town. No tumbleweeds, maybe, but several firmly rooted varieties growing through cracks in sidewalks a few blocks from Main Street....
Lorraine Armstrong, a math teacher at West Hernando Middle School, said that only the night before, she had been thinking about how nice it would be to have decent laptop for work.
"I was doing my lesson plans, and my old one quit like five times. It just powered down by itself," Armstrong said. "I had to save every five minutes, and I didn't save, so it was a little bit distressing."...
BROOKSVILLE — West Hernando Middle School posts its latest attendance figures every day on the cafeteria wall.
When students begin to miss school days more than 10 percent of the time, which disqualifies them from participating in sports and other extracurricular activities, teachers talk to them and reach out to parents.
If the trend continues, the conferences include guidance counselors, academic team leaders and administrators....
It's been one of the major head-scratchers of the run-up to this year's session of the Florida Legislature:
Doom-and-gloom budget forecasts, especially from the House of Representatives, at a time when Florida's economy seems to be humming along.
How did we go from a budget surplus of $636 million this year to the forecast of $7.5 million for 2017-18 and, far more concerning, big deficits in the two years after that?...
BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District will not seek additional state funding for Project StarFISH — a program designed to address underserved students with mental illnesses — because of forecasts of a tight state budget and incomplete data about its effectiveness.
"We are going to hold off on adding StarFISH" to the list of budget requests for this year's session of the Florida Legislature, Karen Jordan, the district's spokeswoman and legislative liaison, wrote to School Board lobbyist Brady Benford on Jan. 13....
Most of the diners, the ones who could spend $190 on a five-course lunch, weren't from around here.
Neither were the tattooed and pierced industry pros who prepared the meal and brewed the beer and staged the event last week at Joann Beasley's farm 5 miles east of Brooksville.
Outstanding in the Field, a Santa Cruz, Calif., company that bills itself as a "restaurant without walls," had set up a long table laid with white linens and wine glasses between rows of neatly tended chard and mustard greens....
The career plans of Hernando County Judge Donald "Sonny" McCathran Jr. will be no surprise to defense attorneys who have appeared before him.
When his term ends in January, McCathran will become an assistant state attorney, the same job he held for 14 years before being appointed to his judge's job in March 2014 — and, to hear some lawyers tell it, a job he practically continued to perform on the bench....
11/08/16 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — The Brooksville City Council is moving ahead with a controversial plan to lease the former site of the Quarry Golf Course to the Florida Blueberry Festival for 60 years.
The challenges of continuing to stage the festival downtown, especially the presence of two state-maintained highways, will keep the event from growing, backers of the plan say. The move to dedicated grounds, where festival organizers plan to build an amphitheater, would allow the nonprofit organization to host several other events each year. And it might help fend off blueberry growers from Polk County who have sought to lure the festival away from Brooksville....
There was a nasty discussion at a Hernando County School Board meeting last month.
Board member Beth Narverud said she had heard from parents and teachers about the chaotic situation at Moton Elementary School — now on its third full-time principal in less than six months — and wondered what the district was doing about it.
Board member Gus Guadagnino, a steadfast ally of superintendent Lori Romano, responded by blasting Narverud for "basically crucifying our superintendent without knowing all the details."...
BROOKSVILLE — With broad-based support locally and statewide, three portions of a network of paved walking and cycling trails in Hernando County have hit or are approaching crucial milestones.
And former Brooksville Mayor Lara Bradburn can hardly believe the level of official backing.
"We've gone from a house full of non-believers to a house full of believers," said Bradburn, a trail advocate for about 20 years....
Howard Dunn, like a lot of people who had gathered at the top of Chinsegut Hill, looked down into the grassy valley and imagined what might grow there.
Calves were first on his list.
"I'm a cattleman," said Dunn, who is president of the Florida Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association and whose profession could be guessed by his jeans, denim shirt, cowboy boots and cowboy hat....
11/01/16 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — The city of Brooksville, which held what was billed as its "final budget hearing" in September, will have to reboot the process after the state said its property tax rate was not quite as low as advertised.
The Florida Department of Revenue sent the city a letter dated Oct. 17, saying it had failed to advertise its adopted millage rate, 6.6426 mills, as a tax increase....
BROOKSVILLE — It was only after Brooksville resident K.O. Smith cast his early ballot that he noticed something had been missing.
After leaving the polling place at the Sarah F. Davis Community Center in south Brooksville last week, Smith and his wife, Lynne, saw Brooksville City Council candidate Frankie Burnett sitting nearby in a lawn chair, surrounded by campaign signs.
"I said, 'I need to go over and talk to Frankie.' And my wife said, 'Hey, he wasn't on the ballot,' " Smith said....
10/27/16 Local Government
The signs are up at the county's busiest intersections; the brochures have gone out in the mail.
They are ugly forms of communication that direct eyeballs to an even uglier Internet destination, lennytheliar.com, an aggregation of negative news and baseless insinuations about three county commissioners and County Administrator Len Sossamon.
The overall thrust is that a political insider who has long been in the travel business, Tom Barnette, is the unseen hand behind county government and that Sossamon is his enabler and beneficiary....
10/27/16 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County sent a provocative response to Sheriff Al Nienhuis' appeal of his 2016-17 budget to the state last week, saying the county didn't have the money to provide the added $1.7 million the sheriff requested — and that his office didn't really need it.
The sheriff's appeal, the county's response said, is not so much a legal argument as a "series of angry, hopeful, cathartic screeds against what he perceives as slights. … Trying to identify substantive, relevant arguments from the din of his anger in the petition is a task as difficult as nailing jelly to a wall."...