BROOKSVILLE — Over the past six months, they grappled with mental health funding, the future of the Little Rock Cannery and economic incentives to broaden Hernando's tax base and jump-start the local economy.
And while county commissioners were quick to praise their work, the county's standing committees on business and economic development and budget and finance unofficially met their end this week.
Saying it was time to get back to discussing issues themselves, commissioners decided to return to two regular meetings a month and possibly add a third — a workshop — where they can delve into more details.
The committee idea grew out of a goal-setting session in late 2008. The notion was that the groups would meet on the Tuesdays that the full board did not, and that it would allow for more public comment than a typical commission meeting.
The committees were each composed of two county commissioners, one of whom was the chairman, and three citizens, along with alternates as needed.
During a workshop Tuesday, County Administrator David Hamilton gave a synopsis of the work done by the committees, saying there has been a benefit because issues have been discussed at length before going to the full board.
But from the first meeting, the concept was blasted by community activist Janey Baldwin, who said they were a waste of time and electricity because commissioners would still have to discuss the items before making a decision.
"I'd like to see the committees gone,'' Commissioner Rose Rocco said Tuesday. A commission workshop each month would take less staff time and issues could move forward quickly.
"I think we could accomplish more this way,'' Rocco said.
Commissioner Jeff Stabins said the committees were "like Prohibition — a noble experiment'' and agreed with Rocco's conclusion.
Voicing appreciation for the citizens who served and what they accomplished, Commissioner Jim Adkins also sided with his two colleagues. "We need to do our job,'' he said.
"The handwriting is on the wall,'' said Commissioner John Druzbick.
Druzbick said he appreciated the committee members from the public because they brought different perspectives to discussions.
Adkins said he expected the commission will still get plenty of public comment at the workshops.
Commission Chairman Dave Russell, who had pushed hard for the committees during last year's goal setting, praised their work.
"There were a number of tough issues the committees dealt with and dealt with extremely well,'' Russell said. The citizens who volunteered their time "did a great job for us.''
The commission agreed to send out letters of thanks to the former citizen members of the committee.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.