Meeting of the legislative delegation – Edition of elected officials

The Hernando County Legislative Delegation was held on Monday, December 6, 2021. This is the meeting where local officials meet with state officials to request changes or additions to the law and request state funding for county projects. This meeting took place in the presence of State representatives Blaise Ingoglia and Ralph Massulo. Senator Wilton Simpson was absent from this meeting.

Next week we will cover the demands and testimonies of the unelected; Dr Timothy Beard, President of Pasco-Hernando State College, Elke Cumming of Gulf Coast JFCS (Jewish Family and Community Services), Chris Lemon of Pace Center for Girls and Ashley Hofecker of Mid Florida Community Services, Inc.

Hernando County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO)

The first to address representatives was Sheriff Al Nienhuis, who called for a three-part plan (Senate Bill (SB) 190 and House Bill (HB) 95) which, s’ it is adopted, will charge an individual who supplies drugs to another individual – and the use of that drug causes death – with first degree murder.

Before these bills were sponsored, on February 28, 2017, Isaac Troy Lemons was charged with third degree murder in the death of Dylan Thornton.

Lemons, 27, reportedly supplied Thornton with a synthetic drug called ‘Flakka’ in 2015. Thornton allegedly took the drug during his 18th birthday celebration, stripped off his clothes and rushed into a wooded area. He was later found dead.

Lemons’ first trial ended in an annulment in August 2021. A new trial is underway.

The Senate and House bills include legislation to increase the cost of selling illicit substances within 300 yards of a drug treatment center or recovery house, commonly known as a sober house. “.

Nienhuis explained that improvements already exist when selling illicit substances within 1000 feet of a school, daycare or church, and explained that the addition of “a treatment center for the Drug addiction is arguably just as important, if not more important in keeping people from distributing drugs than those areas (where) people are trying to recover.

Nienhuis said that generally, methamphetamine is not considered to be an overdose drug, however, its use can cause an elevated heart rate and other physical responses, which can lead to death from an underdose disease. underlying. Methamphetamine will be added to the list of drugs that usually cause overdose, such as heroin and other opiates.

Massulo and Ingoglia posed a few questions to Nienhuis after the initial description of the House and Senate Bills, Ingoglia first asking, “What problem are we trying to solve?” Neinhuis stressed the importance of keeping substances away from vulnerable people who are still in the weak spots of their sobriety. Ingoglia said: “It takes a special kind of scum to do that.”

Nienhuis concluded his intervention by presenting Ingoglia with a Florida Sheriff’s Association “Sheriff’s Friend” award for his work on an issue with Department of Transportation legislation last year. The specific problem was not mentioned during the meeting.

Town of Brooksville

Mayor Pat Brayton outlined four projects for which the Town of Brooksville will need funding in 2022. Major projects include stormwater improvements. The city will need a tractor equipped with a rear-mounted articulated boom, mower and spider shovel. The work is currently done with hand tools such as weedkillers and regular lawn mowers.

The city’s request for $ 312,500 from the state will fund half of the $ 625,000 needed for this equipment.

The plan to safeguard the power supply for critical installations covers six lift stations throughout the city. The generators at these lift stations have exceeded their “life expectancy”. The town also has ski lift stations which do not have generators.

Lifting stations literally lift the wastewater to a higher point so that it can flow again by gravity or be pumped under pressure directly to the wastewater treatment plant. Without electricity, damage to the station can occur, causing damage to homes and businesses as well as sanitation issues.

The six new dedicated generators and one portable generator are estimated at $ 632,000. The city’s claim to the state is $ 316,000.

Other requests from the city include improvements to park infrastructure, which are expected to cost $ 375,000, a request for $ 187,500 from the state, and a water harvesting project estimated at $ 545,000, including $ 272,500. $ from the state.

County Commissioners Council

Ingoglia introduced a local bill that dissolves the Hernando County Port Authority and appoints the County Board of Commissioners as the Port Authority. No one came to ask for public comment and the bill was not debated. The bill was adopted unanimously, with two votes, Ingoglia and Massulo.

County Administrator Jeff Rogers began by describing the “plug and play” project that will rehabilitate the roads of the Brooksville – Tampa Bay Regional Airport (BKV) rail fleet, as well as the extension of a existing road. The cost of the project is $ 2.9 million and the county is able to match $ 919,000.

The county is also seeking to rehabilitate an inactive runway at BKV so that it can be used for airport operations and maintenance. The state’s request is $ 2 million, with the county matching $ 1.8 million. Rogers also told representatives that a new aircraft maintenance facility is expected to be built nearby, creating 20 well-paying jobs.

A central refueling station for critical services was back on the county’s list of demands. This facility will power first responder vehicles and provide fuel for generators in the event of a general blackout. At a BOCC meeting in October, deputy administrator Tobey Phillips said that request had not been granted previously, so the county increased its correspondence. Rogers requested that the $ 1.3 million project be funded by a state grant of $ 980,000, doubled by the county of more than $ 300,000.

Hernando County School District

President Gus Guadagnino spoke first, expressing gratitude for the state grant that will be used to fund the Dr Dennis Wilfong Center for Success, which is expected to lead the way in 2022.

Superintendent John Stratton also thanked officials, adding that education in the county is “in a much better place.”

Stratton’s first request was for a change in the language of state law that governs scarcity. Scarce funds are available for schools with a sparse student population, according to a statutory designation.

Stratton has indicated that due to growth in the county, the school district will lose more than $ 2 million as they will no longer be eligible for this designation. The initial request is a change in the wording of the law to reflect the fact that scarce funds become a permanent change in the law rather than an adjustment of appropriations for the school board each year.

After a discussion, it was clarified that the school district is asking that the population threshold be adjusted so that they do not lose scarce funds. Massulo added, “I have a question about scarce funds, not just for Hernando County, but statewide as we continue to grow. More kids are going to come here, and that’s what we want, we want our school districts to grow. I think it’s a bit on the expensive side that you lose all that money right away.

Massulo commented on mediating the sudden drop in funding with a “runway” approach, slowing the drop. He asked if the school board had considered other funding or spoken to any bill sponsors. Ingoglia said he believes the easiest way to solve the problem is to make an amendment to the Education Omnibus.

Stratton reported that there is currently a bill introduced to reduce the radius of the bus for students from two miles to one mile. The district is asking the state to fully fund student transportation, which is now 50% state funded.

The district is also asking $ 2,500,000 for the new Dr. Dennis Wilfong Success Center. This amount is intended to cover the increase in construction costs.

Stratton also said the school board fully supports current efforts to locate a mental health facility in Citrus County, Florida. Currently, children under the age of 18 who are involuntarily committed under the Baker Act of Florida are taken to a facility in Ocala or Orlando.

At the end of Stratton’s time, Ingoglia said, “I have another question on my favorite subject with you.”

On September 2, 2020, a photo of a presentation slide containing a quote regarding “Black Lives Matter” surfaced in a US government classroom at Hernando High School, triggering a school board investigation based on concern that the Dr. Christina Torres-Velazquez shared her personal political opinions and beliefs with the students. Torres-Velazquez has been cleared of the allegations by the school district.

Ingolia questioned the result of the school district’s investigation. Stratton responded that the case had gone to the state-level ethics committee, which dismissed it. He also said the case was still under investigation by the commissioner’s office.

Doug Chorvat, Court Clerk

Court Clerk Doug Chorvat thanked officials for legislation passed last year that “will make significant progress in solving our funding issues and stabilizing our services.”

SB 838, enacted last year, allows registrars to maintain responsible statewide reserves, carry over certain income from year to year, and promote payment plans. Chorvat said that “people are paying their obligations and reducing driver’s license suspensions”.

This year, the Clerk’s Office continues to work on its revenue structure and on reducing license suspensions. Chorvat outlined its “2022 At Your Service” milestones which will focus on four areas. First, the ministry will close a backlog of court cases by seeking funds as part of the court clerk’s pandemic recovery plan. These priorities are entered in (SB) 552 and (HB) 397.

To increase and improve income acquisition, the bills aim to “establish a process for court clerks to submit quarterly claims for reimbursement to the state for unpaid mental health services and national injunctions, contribute to reduce driver’s license suspensions by further standardizing monthly payments. plans and initial down payment amounts to make attendance easier and more affordable, realign revenue streams by allowing clerks to retain and redirect more stable fees and revenues to better support so dependent court services traffic quotes.

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