Bayfront Health discontinued its 10-year-old agreement to help fund the Enrichment Centers Inc.

BROOKSVILLE — Representatives of the Enrichment Centers Inc. of Hernando County seeking a small financial boost to stay afloat got a positive reception from the Hernando County Commission during its Sept. 14 meeting.

“We are looking for a one-time infusion to get us back on our feet,” said Enrichment Centers board chairman Paul Morana. “We’ve served the 60 and over community for over 35 years. We don’t want to close down; we just need some help to keep us going.”

They need $50,000 to stay afloat for the rest of the year, and it would give them time to look for donors.

Joe Mason, a member of the board, said the center had a sponsorship from the former Lykes Memorial Hospital, now called Bayfront Health Brooksville, which fully funded the center and provided several services, but that has ended.

They’re not asking for a handout, Mason said, just a “helping hand.”

COVID has hit the nonprofit hard, and the loss of sponsorship by Bayfront means the Enrichment Centers need a financial lift until it finds another sponsor.

Commissioner Steve Champion said the organization should reach out to Mid-Florida Community Services for assistance. “They are the best-run nonprofit in the state,” he said, and noted that he sits on its board.

Commission Chairman John Allocco said the nonprofit caters to a specific population that has been hit hard by COVID and the lack of a social structure and social opportunities.

“We should come up with assistance to get them back on their feet,” he said.

Commissioner Jeff Holcomb said he favored helping the agency this one time, but worried about setting a precedent.

Commissioner Beth Narverud said she reached out to center executive director Dell Barnes about “100 Women Who Care,” and they could get some help with funding. “We would be remiss to not support it,” she said.

Allocco said the organization should not have trouble raising money so long as it was apolitical and not divisive. Within those rules, he promised that the commission would get something done.

County Administrator Jeff Rogers said they couldn’t use CARES funding since that was only for services during the pandemic.

“It would be terrible if it fell apart,” said Commissioner Wayne Dukes.

Rogers agreed with Champion about some sort of deal with Mid-Florida, and suggested that they talk to the state Department of Elder Affairs.

Way to honor Wilfong

School Board member Jimmy Lodato talked to the commission about the local contributions of the late Dennis Wilfong to the community, and Allocco said he recognized the worth of Wilfong’s work.

“Just an outstanding gentleman who never tried to take the spotlight,” he said. “I believe that we need to give him a spotlight.”

Champion agreed. “He was a great man. He always had an opinion. You’d always call him if you had a question about economic development, especially at the airport.”

Holcomb agreed with Champion. “If you said Dennis, everyone in Brooksville or near the airport knew him.”

Allocco said the way to honor Wilfong was to name a building for him. He sought consensus to name the new facility that will be built “The Dennis Wilfong Technology and Government Center,” for his family and friends, and to know his contributions.

Rogers, the county administrator, said that an ad-hoc committee would be set up with the School Board and other bodies to get it done.

Budget, millage approved

Hernando County has seen a change in taxable value of slightly more than a half-billion dollars for fiscal 2021-22, and plans to hold the line on millage while collecting about $4.7 million more in total taxes. According to a presentation, the county’s taxable value hit $10.4 billion in fiscal 2022, and the population grew by nearly 4,000 to 192,186.

The proposed budget is nearly $621.8 million, according to numbers presented during the Sept. 14 meeting, the first public hearing on the budget.

The tentative total millage rate is 9.4844, 5.26% over the rollback rate.

Other commission action

• Commissioners heard a presentation on the fiscal year 2022 Capital Improvement Program. For fiscal 2022, the amount is $125.6 million, and for fiscal years 2022 to 2026, it’s $356.2 million.

• Commissioners voted 5-0 to continue action to the Oct. 12 planning meeting on a development plan for a subdivision near Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club but with no access to the stores and access to Mariner Boulevard through a narrow road. “I don’t like it,” Allocco said. “There’s a lot of houses squishing down a narrow road.” Neighbors had written letters against the project and spoke vehemently in opposition to the project.

• Held a first hearing on amending land development rules on building heights.

• Voted 5-0 to adopt the state law on construction licensing.

• Commissioners held long discussions on the COVID measures taking place, and blamed the news media for putting out what they called “misinformation” about the alleged “side effects” of vaccines, the “ineffectiveness” of masks and the terrible wrong done to children in the schools who are being “muzzled.” They also discussed the various and disproven therapies such as ivermectin, and their alleged effectiveness.