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Emergency Management Stripped from HCSO, Higher Taxes Looming

BROOKSVILLE – Last year’s shenanigans between the Hernando Board of County Commissioners and Sheriff Al Nienhuis overshadowed almost every issue brought before the former board. Despite promises by new commissioners that things would be different this year, it appears that we are still in for a roller coaster ride over the same old issues and a few new ones.

You may recall the fiasco over the BOCC’s decision to short the Sheriff’s Office budget by $1.7 million late last year. (Click for full story) Commissioner Nick Nicholson said the decision to reduce the budget was in line with his promise never to raise taxes on the community. But Sheriff Nienhuis says the cut severely compromised his ability to fight crime and keep the community safe. Nienhuis says the additional funding would have been used to increase the number of K-9 units and employee new investigators to keep track of the rising number of sexual predators in the County. But those pleas fell on deaf ears, which prompted the Sheriff to file an appeal with the Governor’s Office. That case is still pending.crystal-ad-paragraphEarlier this month Sheriff Nienhuis found himself standing in front of the Board once again, fighting to keep Emergency Management under the Sheriff’s Office Control. On February 28th the BOCC entertained discussion over relinquishing control of EM and giving it back to the County Administrator, Len Sossaman. The “discussion” was supposed to be just that, a discussion, say Nienhuis, and he was shocked to discover that the BOCC voted to remove control from HCSO without so much as a meeting between all parties involved.

Nienhuis told RNRF during an exclusive interview, “I was a little dismayed and surprised at the process. The agenda item appeared without any prior conversation with me or the command staff.” He went on to say, “The concern I have is that there was very little research into the cost or difficulty in taking it back. In 2009 they asked for the Sheriff’s Office to take back control and that time there was trouble, and there was dysfunction, and I think by all accounts it had been running smoothly.”

Sheriff Nienhuis was forced to leave the meeting before its conclusion, due to a bomb threat investigation what was taking place at a local pharmacy. Deputy Chief Mike Maurer stepped to the podium in his place and stated “It was a dysfunctional, problematic, inefficient operation, with personnel problems, communication problems, and operational problems.” referring to how the County controlled Emergency Management prior to Sheriff’s Office takeover in 2009.

Commissioner Wayne Dukes responded to opposition by stating “If something actually happens and we go into an emergency situation the responsibility immediately switches from the Sheriff’s Office to the then-sitting chairman and the administrator, and mostly the administrator.” Dukes goes on to say “To me it would be so much more efficient if the EOC reported directly to the administrator – period.”

Commissioner John Allocco, the lone dissenter, questioned the move and said “One of my concerns and I brought it up in the last segment, Sossamon overseas economic development, he’s keeping tabs on what’s going on at the airport and that’s been a little bit of an issue lately” I don’t know that I want to add one more thing on top of Mr. Sossamon’s list of responsibilities right now.” Allocco went on to ask “Can’t we just “CC” him (Len Sossamon) instead of moving the entire operation?” Dukes replied firmly “NO!”

Commissioner Steve Champion also questioned the move but eventually agreed and voted yes on the agenda item. Champion told RNRF during an interview “The move will only shift responsibility to the County Administrator. All decisions to respond to incidents will still be in the hands of the Sheriff’s Office.” Champion says there will be no additional cost to the taxpayer, despite claims by the Sheriff’s Office that the county will have to purchase new vehicles and other equipment to complete the transition.

Sheriff Nienhuis says that it will definitely cost more because health benefits alone are twice the cost of what the Sheriff’s Office pays.

But that’s not the only struggle facing the BOCC and HCSO, on March 28th the BOCC will vote to establish a Municipal Service Taxing Unit (MSTU) for Law Enforcement in the unincorporated areas of Hernando County. If established, the MSTU would result in a mandatory equivalent reduction to the General Fund millage rate, according to a County Government media release.

“I asked for this item to be placed on the agenda for Board discussion so we can resolve the budget appeal with the Sheriff once and for all,” Chairman Wayne Dukes said. “I believe the best way to do this while providing full transparency to our taxpayers is to establish a MSTU. In addition to the millage rate needed to maintain the Sheriff’s approved budget, I’m prepared to transfer an additional $1.2 million to his current budget to settle the budget appeal and fully fund the Sheriff.”

So in essence, the Sheriff will get the funding he requires but not without the BOCC implementing the MSTU and what he says is “a new tax.”

Animal Control is next on the “chopping block” as the BOCC plans to decide on whether the Sheriff’s Office should retain control of enforcement operations. Nienhuis says “If they think it will work better in their control then by all means take it over.”

It should be noted that local business owner John Mitten was recently appointed by Governor Rick Scott to serve as interim Commissioner, while Commissioner Jeff Holcomb is on military leave.

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  • Just to let everyone know when there is a disaster the SHERIFF is the number 1 person in charge. The county Commission don’t know there ass from a hole in the ground. They would not know what to do in an emergency.
    They have no law enforcement experience!!!! We need all new commission Dukes and Nicholson have to GO!!!

    Monday, 27 March 2017, 7:40 am
    • Totally agree, as I posted earlier.

      Thursday, 30 March 2017, 1:09 pm
  • As I read this stuff, I start to wonder which one of them wears a white suit and drives around in a white Cadillac convertible with bull horns on the front.

    Sunday, 26 March 2017, 8:36 am
  • I have no plan to disparage those for or against a special taxing fund for the sheriff’s department, I will say this however, do not expect the general fund millage rate to drop as much as is expended by the sheriff’s portion currently. AND the ten mill cap will still allow commissioners to increase every year. AND you will still be paying for the sheriff. I am not telling you what to do or not, just stating reality. You need to express your wishes during the discussions and at election time, vote accordingly.

    Friday, 24 March 2017, 1:31 pm
  • were’d the money for all those new white unmarked cars come from roaming springh hill streets lately ? Guess they are being used to get more money from travelers.

    Thursday, 23 March 2017, 7:20 pm
    • Follow the laws and you won’t get stopped. It’s that easy.

      Friday, 24 March 2017, 6:06 am
      • Your an idiot write some tickets help the budget ??

        Friday, 24 March 2017, 2:17 pm
  • You got to be me.This incompetent sheriff lets two guys go after flying in with 200 lbs of pot? Mind you,no sniffing dogs(that he wants more of) and he does not even put a tail on them.Instead he posed with those ninja looking homeland security imposters( the guy resembles Mascettelli) and he looks like Barney Phife without a clue,……LUDECRIS ! This dumb SOB has got to go !

    Thursday, 23 March 2017, 6:00 pm
    • He had to wait for a search warrant and those just aren’t handed out. You aren’t man enough to go tell him this to his face instead you hide behind a fake name and act like a keyboard bigshot. We have a Sheriff that is doing a fine job. He’s not going anywhere. He’s better than the guy we had before him. Now Nugent couldn’t be trusted and he was as corrupt as they come.

      Friday, 24 March 2017, 6:05 am
      • Reply to Bobby; I was expressing my opinion as a resident and a tax payer.Tell me,why did they not detain those guys until the warrant?(I believe you can hold them for twenty four hours without charging them).And why weren’t they tailed by those guys in all the white cars?It was said that they would be in custody soon(?)Furthermoore,how about a paper trail on the hanger(owners,leases ect),the plane,pilot and money trail and such? There appears to be more on this than meets the eye.I suspect the feds will soon have some folks in shiny bracelets,some dressed in green.And yes,Al is an on the way he handled the Mascettelli situation. Disgusting! Ps: Feel free to question my manhood,your wife doesn’t………

        Friday, 24 March 2017, 8:20 am
        • Good one Roger also H.S can hold without warrant for how ever long and you are right sheriff can hold 24 hrs in that situation without. But weed is least of worries but very good point.Best comments.?

          Friday, 24 March 2017, 2:07 pm
          • To Mike, The fact that is”just”weed is irrelevant.If it was unstamped tobacco,liqueur,guns,or any other untaxed or illegal contraband it is just the same.The money from the proceeds of the sales winds up in the hands of very bad guys,and yes,probably some meth……..organized crime and corrupt officials…ya think?

            Monday, 27 March 2017, 10:53 am
  • The Commissioners are not perfect. Neither is Sheriff nutjob. If we give them more money are they going to be smarter or more responsible? I think not. Look at Deputy George. Look at the lawsuit facing Hernando County that you and I the taxpayers will be paying for as a result of his heinous, irresponsible acts.

    Thursday, 23 March 2017, 5:29 pm
    • We have already paid for lawsuits. The county has insurance for when the deputies or the Sheriff’s Department get sued. That’s where the money comes from not the taxpayers. What is knucklehead George getting them sued for? I know but go ahead and tell everyone else. More of this information needs to be made public just like they did when the deputy got fired. George needs to be gone along with a few of those other deputies. At least this Sheriff is doing that when McNugget wouldn’t. A lot of the apples that were spoiling the bunch are gone under this guys watch.

      Thursday, 23 March 2017, 9:54 pm
      • Look up Michael Bratt. Look what Deputy George did to him.

        Sunday, 26 March 2017, 4:49 pm
  • Taxes are driven by population. There is no need for greater tax rates or extra taxes. Once that extra is in there it doesn’t go away and sooner or later many won’t be able to pay. After enough of those people are stripped of what little they have it’s off to jail and eventually the entire system will collapse.

    Thursday, 23 March 2017, 1:23 pm
  • This is probably a stupid question, but I don’t know much about the BOCC.. Why do we have an administrator who doesn’t live in the County? I noticed some one said Sossaman lives in North Carolina???

    Thursday, 23 March 2017, 9:11 am
  • AS long as the voters keep putting these idiots into the commission (DUKES) you will have problems as such. WAKE UP VOTERS

    Thursday, 23 March 2017, 4:32 am
    • Dukes & Nicholson both need to go!

      Thursday, 23 March 2017, 10:44 am
      • Sam: Dukes & Nicholson both need to go!
        Me: To prison.

        Thursday, 23 March 2017, 7:52 pm
        • 100% agree!

          Monday, 27 March 2017, 8:41 am
  • Disappointed Champion went along with this BS!

    Wednesday, 22 March 2017, 11:27 pm
    • Agree Sam….

      Thursday, 23 March 2017, 7:33 am
    • Very much so. I thought Champion was going to be for the people but I guess not. He had us all fooled.
      No more buying anything from his store. I’ll boycott it and spread the word.

      Thursday, 23 March 2017, 4:20 pm
      • Please don’t spread this garbage. I am looking our for the people with every decision. Watch the meeting.

        Friday, 24 March 2017, 1:22 pm
  • What a scam! They say they will lower the millage rate, which they will. But before you can blink, it will go back up again. This is just a lowlife douche move to bypass the constitutional limit on the millage rate. When it gets to close, the criminals, I mean commissioners, created a MSTU to pay for what was previously paid by the millage rate. Any commissioner that votes for the MSTU needs to be outed the next election, this is a scam, plain and simple!

    Wednesday, 22 March 2017, 8:58 pm
  • The County Commission sucks

    Wednesday, 22 March 2017, 8:44 pm
  • Obviously the BOCC can’t stand effective and efficient management of a vital program. Just remember where to place blame when things turn to crap when the services are needed the most! You voted for these ppl, now the rest of us w I’ll LL probably pay the price!

    Wednesday, 22 March 2017, 8:23 pm
  • Emergency Management should STAY with the Sheriff’s office. What are they going to do….have duplicate jobs….one for the Sheriff’s office, one for the EM, in case of a real emergency? Who is going to be telling who what to do is such a case?. Suppose something happens on a weekend….when Sossaman is in his HOME, in North Carolina? At the very least, the Sheriff lives in Hernando County. It looks like the democrats are trying to stack the deck against the taxpayers in Hernando County, by putting all their eggs in one basket, Sossaman’s.

    Wednesday, 22 March 2017, 8:13 pm
  • The good ole Hill. Let’s face it, Hernando County needs help. The crazies are getting crazier and the old people are getting older, so I agree with The Tax Payer about “shut up or run for a seat”, the same goes for voting – vote or quit complaining. Even then people will still complain, because that’s what we do best. Wake up people, be part of the solution not the problem.

    Wednesday, 22 March 2017, 8:04 pm
  • Most of the people causing the crime issues are not property owners. This is the worst County government that I have ever seen. We are losing high paying jobs because commissioners want the airport for their private use and instead they are bringing in minimum wage and less than minimum wage paying businesses. That is no way to grow a county economically.

    Wednesday, 22 March 2017, 7:33 pm
    • Source that renters cause all the crime. So poor people cause all they crime your special. Give me a source not your opion.

      Friday, 24 March 2017, 1:58 pm
  • Why do you all blame Mr Dukes this started way be fore he came on the board .l never seen him do what you all are saying he dose. If you Don’t like the board members run for the seat. You people think it’s a easy job .lets see what you can do quit bitching and run for office . As far as the sheriff goes how much more money dose he want from the tax payers.Do the really need a F 350 4 wheel Drive or new cars . We put a office over in the subs how many officer have you seen there. If a officer stop you for a ticket 2 or 3 comes . Look on sun shine grove rd by the power plant 2 or 3 will sit there doing what .

    Wednesday, 22 March 2017, 7:05 pm
    • It’s DOES not DOSE. Dukes is dosing us all that’s for sure. Dosing us all with his bs. I wish Sheriff Al would investigate the blatant corruption that’s been going on for years in our county. Yes we need those vehicles. Can you comprehend how many miles are on our older units? Maintaining older vehicles gets expensive. When we are 55 deputies lower then comparable counties our Sheriff needs more money. Maybe Dukes and sticky Nick are afraid that they’ll get caught in their own crimes and that’s why they don’t want to support our Sheriff Al. I’ll be at the board meeting and I’ll gladly stand up and make myself heard. As for the subs office did that not close under Dick Nuggets watch?

      Wednesday, 22 March 2017, 8:20 pm
  • Give the cops the money you cheap

    Wednesday, 22 March 2017, 6:42 pm
  • An MSTU sounds like a workable solution. Having not read the actual plan, on the surface at appears the MSTU will collect the revenue needed to fund the sheriff’s budget. Public services cost money. The money comes from taxes.

    Wednesday, 22 March 2017, 6:40 pm
  • Dukes is ruining our county, pushing people around (including commissioners) and getting away with it.

    Get the the meetings and speak up Hernando.

    Stop letting him drag this county down so he can get his personal vendetta.

    He’d like to watch segments fail, just cause he doesn’t like them, not for our best interest.

    Wednesday, 22 March 2017, 6:35 pm
  • Sheriff Al needs to investigate the corruption of this county. Wayne Dukes needs to be in prison along with the others.

    Wednesday, 22 March 2017, 5:53 pm
    • 100% agree

      Wednesday, 22 March 2017, 6:05 pm
    • Wayne Dukes is a sycophantic a-hole, and yes sold be behind bars as well as Nicholson

      Wednesday, 22 March 2017, 10:06 pm
      • Nicholson is a fine representative for this county. All those hookers and cocaine and stuff, well he was just having fun!

        Thursday, 23 March 2017, 11:02 am
        • Ummm hmmm. Nicholson needs to be in prison with Dukes.

          Thursday, 23 March 2017, 8:43 pm
          • Bobby, YOU go to jail, do not pass Go and do not collect 200 dollars.

            Friday, 24 March 2017, 12:38 pm
    • How about Thomas Gibbs, he says he has the county in his back pocket that is why he gets away with all his zoning violations. Should be zoned for commercial or a junk yard. Sure would like to know who he is paying off.

      Thursday, 23 March 2017, 7:23 am
    • It isn’t as if he hasn’t been handled a few cases. He just doesn’t have the stomach for real crime fighting.

      Thursday, 23 March 2017, 10:49 am

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