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TPO ironing out merger details

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Citrus, Hernando transportation groups in talks about combining boards

By Chris Van Ormer

 

While defining operational details, work on the proposed merger between Citrus and Hernando counties’ transportation planning bodies still is ironing out some wrinkles, an advisory group was told Wednesday.

“We talked about how the meetings would work,” said Bob Clifford, consultant to the Citrus County Transportation Planning Organization (TPO). “They were totally fine if we rotate every other meeting between the two counties. It made sense to them.”

That was an easy one, said Clifford, who also is the executive director of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority, addressing a meeting of the TPO’s Transportation Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) about merging with the Hernando County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Another simple negotiation involved frequency of rotating chairmanships, of which both sides agreement could be reached.

The TPO instructed Clifford in July to explore a merger with another county’s MPO after Citrus County gained the population number where it is required to move to MPO status for federal funding purposes. Hernando MPO was deemed the most likely partner.

Keeping existing staff was a bigger issue for Hernando, Clifford said, because its MPO has two employees who also are Hernando County employees. The solution was seen for the joint MPO board to select its own staff. 

The biggest issue has been apportionment: how many seats on the new board and how they are shared. Hernando, being the larger county, has wanted one more seat than Citrus.

Originally setting out 11 seats — six for Hernando and five for Citrus — Hernando said it wanted to make the board smaller with seven seats, four for Hernando and three for Citrus. Hernando’s members would be three county commissioners and a Brooksville city Council member, while Citrus’ members would be two commissioners and a seat filled by rotation from the two city councils.

TAC members urged Clifford to work toward balance at board and staff levels.

* The next meeting of the TPO will be at 5:15 p.m. Thursday, June 13, at Inverness Government Center, 212 W. Main St., Inverness.

Contact Chronicle reporter Chris Van Ormer at 352-564-2916 or cvanormer@chronicleonline.com.