Tuesday was one of those challenging County Commission meetings to write about.
It’s not due to an extreme amount of news. Rather, the opposite.
The board met six hours and conducted lots of business but none created its own headline.
I used to call these “in other business” days. That’s the phrase we government writers use once dispensing with the big news of the day.
It looks like this:
Big news opening paragraph.
More on the big news.
A quote about the big news.
Wrapping up the big news.
In other business, the board…
(I used to write “in other action,” until realizing one day that county commission meetings have, in general, little or no “action.”)
With all that said…in other business, the board Tuesday:
— Doubled transportation impact fees and no one showed up to complain. That has never, ever happened in the modern history of impact fees. I don’t recall attending a single impact fee public hearing where someone didn’t accuse the county commission of trying to put people out of work, because that’s what the builders said would happen if we bumped impact fees.
Well, guess what? Everybody and his brother wants to build here and the county is scrambling for money to improve our road network.
I’ve mentioned before that charging the max for road impact fees is the best the county can expect in its attempts to have growth pay for itself. Commissioners couldn’t pull this off fast enough.
Still, it’s a sign of our current situation that NO ONE griped even out of principle.
— Betz Farm is back on the market but nearly not. Commissioners Jeff Kinnard and Holly Davis seemed ready to give Tampa real estate developer Hamid Ashtari another 60-day extension, which would have had this property under contract for one year without a closing.
Commissioners Diana Finegan and Rebecca Bays said the time is long past to give Betz Farm another spin on the open market.
Ashtari’s accepted bid was for $6.6 million. Is that still the appetite for 350 acres in a flood zone? We’re going to find out.
— Commissioners gave County Administrator Steve Howard the go-ahead to explore buying the Adams Building now under construction in downtown Inverness.
The motion was vague so I’m not sure what authority commissioners actually gave Howard. I’m guessing he can have an appraisal done, but more likely he’s figuring out a plan that involves moving county commissioners and their staff out of the Courthouse to provide more room for courts. That’s where the Adams Building may come in.
—This is fodder for another day, but the county approved $2 million for LifeStream to build its behavioral health center, formerly known as the Baker Act project. With the county’s $2 million, plus $2 million committed by Hernando County and $2 million from the state, that’s $6 million for a $12 million project.
CEO Rick Hankey told me LifeStream is committed to building the facility without another dime from either county, so it’s up to LifeStream to pay for it or come up with other funds.
Devil is still in the details. Before the county cuts a check, it needs to approve a contract with LifeStream that states what’s being built and when.
— Veterans Village is one project I just can’t wrap my head around. The concept — an assisted living facility for military veterans on county-owned property in Lecanto — seems simple enough.
A group of citizens led by Drs. Paresh Desai and William Dixon have tried for eight years to secure financing and federal government backing for the project. It’s gotten nowhere and the group returns to the county commission every year for an extension on the property.
It came up again Tuesday and it was Finegan who openly suggested whether this makes sense for Citrus County veterans or not.
Finegan said the county’s own Veterans Services Advisory Board has no confidence in the project ever coming to fruition. Meanwhile, valuable county property sits unused when it could be sold for needed revenue.
“We have to stop tying up this asset,” she said. “It’s gotten to the point of ridiculous.”
The board voted 3-2 to give the group another year. Finegan and Chairman Ruthie Davis Schlabach were the no votes.
And that’s the other business from Tuesday. Enjoy your Wednesday, friends.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.