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    MICHAEL D. BATES | Hernando Today 

     

    The Family Motor Coach Association has severed longstanding ties with Hernando County and will not hold its annual RV rally at the airport next year.

     Jim Duncan, president of the Family Motor Coach Association Southeast Area, wrote to airport Manager Kevin Daugherty that the organization will not renew its lease for 2015.

     “It has certainly been a pleasure working with your staff and the county over the past 16 years,” Duncan wrote. “We all will hold Hernando County with fond memories and regret, due to (the) cost of temporary structures for the rally, that we had to move our venue.”

     County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes said he is sorry to lose the rally but there was no way to accommodate the organizers’ needs, which included building a permanent multi-use building at Brooksville - Tampa Bay Regional Airport.

     Also, with only 300 or 400 people attending each year, it’s not worth spending the money, he said.

     “It was a mutual kind of parting of the ways,” Dukes said. “We couldn’t do all they wanted and they didn’t want to stay.”

     Earlier this year, Duncan presented the county with a list of demands for wholesale infrastructure changes to parts of the airport, a possible re-working of the airport’s master plan and a zoning modification.

     Dukes said fulfilling the FMCA’s requests would cost millions of dollars and Hernando County is in no position to spend that much money.

     County Administrator Len Sossamon, after reviewing Duncan’s demands, came up with a rough estimate of how much the utility and infrastructure would cost. He guessed $7 million to $8 million.

     And that doesn’t include an estimated $3 million more for one of the two buildings requested, he said.

     In its heyday, the annual RV rally was one of the largest tourism events in Hernando County and injected an estimated $10 million into the economy.

     But rally organizers have lost money due to a fall-off of members, a weak economy and escalating costs of staging the event.

     The FMCA in January voted 46-0 to move the rally to Sarasota’s fairgrounds, where there is a large indoor facility to house rally participants and vendors. But Hernando officials were hoping a last-minute change of heart would lure the event back to the county.

     Rally representatives said the move was made reluctantly because of increasing costs of the annual event.

    Conrad Kleinpeter, an FMCA regional vice president, has said this year’s rally, held in February, stood to lose $40,000.

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    An RV dealer convicted of defrauding 36 people of thousands of dollars listened expressionless as some of them told their stories in an Edmonton court room on Wednesday.

    Arnold Donszelmann sold motorhomes to people through his dealership Leisure RV in Millett, Alta. and leased the vehicles for them.

    His victims later discovered that the RVs either didn’t exist or were sold more than once to the same person.

    Arnold Donszelmann listened to victim impact statements from some of the customers he defrauded through his RV business.

    Beryle and Stan Pledge lost $165,000 when they bought two RVs from Donszelmann,  who sold one of them to someone else.

    “I want to get up there and smack him,” Beryle Pledge said outside court. “I want to beat him with a stick. He’s just destroyed our lives. It’s devastating.”

    Stan Pledge says they have lost their retirement savings.

    “I’m 67 years old. Back to work. That’s it.”

    Valda Timmons wants Donszelmann to spend the rest of his life in jail.

    “It’s not just us. There’s so many people he did this to. And this is just one case.”

    The Crown is asking Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Terry Clackson to impose a sentence of eight to 10 years in prison.

    Donszelmann’s lawyer plans to ask for a sentence of about half that length.

    The sentencing hearing will resume July 10.